Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Gospel for Palm Sunday

Because of its great length, the Gospel, the Passion of Our Lord will not posted...However, the commentary for the Gospel from: Mark 14:1-15:47, The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, is posted below

In addition, there are several reflections available:

Homily/Reflection for Palm Sunday

A Meditation for Palm Sunday - His Dying Words

Meditation for Palm Sunday - Faith

Why is this day called Palm Sunday?

A Meditation for Palm Sunday - Duties of Teachers

A Meditation for the Week - Eucharistic Devotions

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

From: Mark 14:1-15:47

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark


1. The Passover was the main national and religious festival. It lasted one week, during which the eating of leavened bread was forbidden, which is why the period was known as the Azymes, the feast of the Unleavened Bread. The celebration opened with the passover meal on the night of the 14th to 15th of the month of Nisan. The essential rite of the meal consisted in eating the paschal lamb sacrificed in the temple the afternoon before. During the meal the youngest member of the family asked what was the meaning of the ceremony; and the head of the household explained to those present that it commemorated God’s liberation of the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt, and specifically the passing of the angel of Yahweh, doing no harm to the first-born of the Hebrews but destroying the first-born of the Egyptians (cf. Ex 12).

2. The chief priests and the scribes sought every means to ensure the condemnation and death of the Lord prior to the Passover, for during the festival Jerusalem would be thronged with pilgrims and they feared that Jesus’ popularity might cause the complications referred to in the Gospel text. Cf. the note on Mt 26:3-5.

3-9. It was a custom at the time to honour distinguished guests by offering them scented water. This woman treated the Lord with exquisite refinement by pouring a flask of nard over his head: and we can see that he was very appreciative. Three hundred denarii was approximately what a worker would earn in a year: so her action was very generous. Breaking the flask to allow the last drop to flow, so that no one else could use it, implies that Jesus merited everything.

It is important to notice the significance our Lord gave to this gesture: it was an anticipation of the pious custom of embalming bodies prior to burial. This woman would never have thought that her action would become famous throughout the world, but Jesus knew the transcendence and universal dimension of even the smallest episodes in the Gospel story. His prophecy has been fulfilled: "Certainly we hear her story told in all the churches. . . . Wherever in the world you may go, everyone respectfully listens to the story of her good service. . . . And yet hers was not an extraordinary deed, nor was she a distinguished person, nor was there a large audience, nor was the place one where she could easily be seen. She made no entrance onto a theatre stage to perform her service but did her good deed in a private house. Nevertheless . . . , today she is more illustrious than any king or queen; no passage of years has buried in oblivion this service she performed" (St John Chrysostom, "Adversus Iudaeos", 5, 2).

This episode teaches us the refinement with which we should treat the holy humanity of Jesus; it also shows that generosity in things to do with sacred worship is always praiseworthy, for it is a sign of our love for the Lord. Cf. the note on Mt 26:8-11.

10-11. In contrast with the generous anointing by the woman, the Gospel now reports Judas’ sad treachery. Her magnanimity highlights the covetousness of Jesus’ false friend. "O folly, or rather ambition, of the traitor, for ambition spawns every kind of evil and enslaves souls by every sort of device; it causes forgetfulness and mental derangement. Judas, enslaved by his mad ambition, forgot all about the years he had spent alongside Jesus, forgot that he had eaten at his table, that he had been his disciple; forgot all the counsel and persuasion Jesus had offered him” (St John Chrysostom, "Hom. de prodit. Judae).

Judas’ sin is always something Christians should he mindful of: ‘‘Today many people are horrified by Judas’ crime -- that he could he so cruel and so sacriIegious as to sell his Master and his God; and yet they fail to realize that when they for human reasons dismiss the rights of charity and truth, they are betraying God, who is charity and truth” (St Bede, "Super qui audientes" ... ).

12-16. At first sight our Lord’s behaviour described here seems quite out of character. However, if we think about it, it is quite consistent: probably Jesus wanted to avoid Judas knowing in advance the exact place where the Supper will be held, to prevent him notifying the Sanhedrin. And so God’s plans for that memorable night of Holy Thursday were fulfilled: Judas was unable to advise the Sanhedrin where they could find Jesus until after the celebration of the passover meal (during which Judas left the Cenacle): cf. Jn 13:30.

St Mark describes in more detail than the other evangelists the place where the meal took place: he says it was a large, well-appointed room -- a dignified place. There is an ancient Christian tradition that the house of the Cenacle was owned by Mary the mother of St Mark, to whom, it seems, the Garden of Olives also belonged.

17-21. Jesus shows that he knows in advance what is going to happen and is acting freely and deliberately, identifying himself with the will of his Father. The words of vv. 18 and 19 are a further call to Judas to repent; our Lord refrained from denouncing him publicly, so making it easier for him to change his mind. But he did not want to remain silent about the incipient treachery; they should realize that the Master knew everything (cf. Jn 13:23ff).

22. The word "this” does not refer to the act of breaking the bread but to the "thing” which Jesus gives his disciples, that is, something which looked like bread and which was no longer bread but the body of Christ. "This is my body. That is to say, what I am giving you now and what you are taking is my body. For the bread is not only a symbol of the body of Christ; it becomes his very body, as the Lord has said: the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. Therefore, the Lord conserves the appearances of bread and wine but changes the bread and wine into the reality of his flesh and his blood” (Theophylact, "Enarratio in Evangelium Marci", in loc.). Therefore, any interpretation in the direction of symbolism or metaphor does not fit the meaning of the text. The same applies to the "This is my blood” (v. 24). On the realism of these expressions, see the first part of the note on Mt 26:26-29.

24. The words of consecration of the chalice clearly show that the Eucharist is a sacrifice: the blood of Christ is poured out, sealing the new and definitive Covenant of God with men. This Covenant remains sealed forever by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, in which Jesus is both Priest and Victim. The Church has defined this truth in these words: "If anyone says that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God, or that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, "De S. Missae sacrificio", chap. 1, can. 1).

These words pronounced over the chalice must have been very revealing for the apostles, because they show that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were in fact a preparation for and anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice. The apostles were able to grasp that the Covenant of Sinai and the various sacrifices of the temple were merely an imperfect pre-figurement of the definitive sacrifice and definitive Covenant, which would take place on the cross and which they were anticipating in this Supper.

A clear explanation of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist can be found in the inspired text in chapters 8 and 9 of the Letter to the Hebrews. Similarly, the best preparation for understanding the real presence and the Eucharist as food for the soul is a reading of chapter 6 of the Gospel of St John.

At the Last Supper, then, Christ already offered himself voluntarily to his Father as a victim to be sacrificed. The Supper and the Mass constitute with the cross one and the same unique and perfect sacrifice, for in all these cases the victim offered is the same -- Christ; and the priest is the same -- Christ. The only difference is that the Supper, which takes place prior to the cross, anticipates the Lord’s death in an unbloody way and offers a victim soon to be immolated; whereas the Mass offers, also in an unbloody manner, the victim already immolated on the cross, a victim who exists forever in heaven.

25. After instituting the Holy Eucharist, our Lord extends the Last Supper in intimate conversation with his disciples, speaking to them once more about his imminent death (cf. Jn, chaps. 13-17). His farewell saddens the apostles, but he promises that the day will come when he will meet with them again, when the Kingdom of God will have come in all its fullness: he is referring to the beatific life in heaven, so often compared to a banquet. Then there will be no need of earthly food or drink; instead there will be a new wine (cf. Is 25:6). Definitively, after the resurrection, the apostles and all the saints will be able to share the delight of being with Jesus.

The fact that St Mark brings in these words after the institution of the Eucharist indicates in some way that the Eucharist is an anticipation here on earth of possession of God in eternal blessedness, where God will be everything to everyone (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). "At the Last Supper,” Vatican II teaches, "on the night he was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” ("Sacrosanctum Concilium", 47).

26. "When they had sung a hymn”: it was a custom at the passover meal to recite prayers, called "Hallel”, which included Psalms 113 to 118; the last part was recited at the end of the meal.

30-31. Only St Mark gives us the exact detail of the two cockcrows (v. 30), and Peter’s insistence that he would never betray Jesus (v. 31). This is another sign of the connexion between St Mark’s Gospel and St Peter’s preaching; only Peter, full of contrition and humility, would so deliberately tell the first Christians about these episodes in which his presumption and failures contrasted with Jesus’ mercy and understanding. The other evangelists, surely out of respect for the figure of Peter, pass over these incidents more quickly.

This account shows us that our Lord takes into account the weaknesses of those whom he calls to follow him and be his apostles. Peter is too self-confident; very soon he will deny him. Jesus knows this well and, in spite of everything, chooses him as head of the Church. "They [the disciples] remain just like that until they are filled with the Holy Spirit and thus become pillars of the Church. They are ordinary men, complete with defects and shortcomings, more eager to say than to do. Nevertheless, Jesus calls them to be fishers of men, co-redeemers, dispensers of the grace of God. Something similar has happened to us. . . . But I also realize that human logic cannot possibly explain the world of grace. God usually seeks out deficient instruments so that the work can more clearly be seen to be his” ([St.] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 2 and 3).

32-42. The very human way Jesus approaches his passion and death is noteworthy. He feels everything any man would feel in those circumstances. "He takes with him only the three disciples who had seen his glorification on Mount Tabor, that these who saw his power should also see his sorrow and learn from that sorrow that he was truly man. And, because he assumed human nature in its entirety, he assumed the properties of man -- fear, strength, natural sorrow; for it is natural that men approach death unwillingly” (Theophylact, "Enarratio in Evangelium Marci", in loc.).

Jesus’ prayer in the garden shows us, as nothing else in the Gospel does, that he prayed the prayer of petition -- not only for others, but also for himself. For, in the unity of his Person there were two natures, one human and one divine; and, since his human will was not omnipotent, it was appropriate for Christ to ask the Father to strengthen that will (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, "Summa theologiae", III, q. 21, a. 1).

Once more, Jesus prays with a deep sense of his divine sonship (cf. Mt 11:25; Lk 23:46; Jn 17: 1). Only St Mark retains in the original language his filial exclamation to the Father: "Abba”, which is how children intimately addressed their parents. Every Christian should have a similar filial trust, especially when praying. At this moment of climax, Jesus turns from his private dialogue with his Father to ask his disciples to pray so as not to fall into temptation. It should be noted that the evangelists, inspired by the Holy Spirit, give us both Jesus’ prayer and his commandment to us to pray. This is not a passing anecdote, but an episode which is a model of how Christians should act: prayer is indispensable for staying faithful to God. Anyone who does not pray should be under no illusions about being able to cope with the temptations of the devil: "If our Lord had said only "watch", we might expect that our own power would be sufficient, but when he adds "pray", he shows that "if he keeps not" our souls in time of temptation, in vain shall they watch who keep them (cf. Ps 127:1)” (St Francis de Sales, "Treatise on the Love of God", book 11, chap. 1).

34. "But when he had gone on a little way, he suddenly felt such a sharp and bitter attack of sadness, grief, fear, and weariness that he immediately uttered, even in their presence, those anguished words which gave expression to his overburdened feelings: ‘My soul is sad unto death.’ For a huge mass of troubles took possession of the tender and gentle body of our most holy Saviour. He knew that his ordeal was now imminent and just about to overtake him: the treacherous betrayer, the bitter enemies, binding ropes, false accusations, slanders, blows, thorns, nails, the cross, and horrible tortures stretched out over many hours. Over and above these, he was tormented by the thought of his disciples’ terror, the loss of the Jews, even the destruction of the very man who so disloyally betrayed him, and finally the ineffable grief of his beloved Mother. The gathered storm of all these evils rushed into his most gentle heart and flooded it like the ocean sweeping through broken dikes” (St Thomas More, "De tristitia Christi", in loc.).

35. "Therefore, since he foresaw that there would be many people of such a delicate constitution that they would be convulsed with tenor at any danger of being tortured, he chose to enhearten them by the example of his own sorrow, his own sadness, his own weariness and unequalled fear, lest they should be so disheartened as they compare their own fearful state of mind with the boldness of the bravest martyrs that they would yield freely what they fear will be won from them by force. To such a person as this, Christ wanted his own deed to speak out (as it were) with his own living voice: ‘O faint of heart, take courage and do not despair. You are afraid, you are sad, you are stricken with weariness and dread of the torment with which you have been cruelly threatened. Trust me; I conquered the world, and yet I suffered immeasurably more from fear; I was sadder, more afflicted with weariness, more horrified at the prospect of such cruel suffering drawing eagerly nearer and nearer. Let the brave man have his high-spirited martyrs, let him rejoice in imitating a thousand of them. But you, my timorous and feeble little sheep, be content to have me alone as your shepherd; follow my leadership. If you do not trust yourself, place your trust in me. See, I am walking ahead of you along this fearful road. Take hold of the border of my garment and you will feel going out from it a power which will stay your heart’s blood from issuing in vain fears, and will make your mind more cheerful, especially when you remember that you are following closely in my footsteps (and I am to be trusted and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but I will give together with the temptation a way out that you may be able to endure it) and likewise when you remember that this light and momentary burden of tribulation will prepare for you a weight of glory which is beyond all measure. For the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come which will be revealed in you. As you reflect on such things, take heart, and use the sign of my cross to drive away this dread, this sadness, and weariness like vain specters of the darkness. Advance successfully and press through all obstacles, firmly confident that I will champion your cause until you are victorious and then in turn will reward you with the laurel crown of victory’" (ibid.).

36. "Jesus prays in the garden. "Pater mi" (Mt 26:39), "Abba Pater!" (Mk 14:36). God is my Father, even though he may send me suffering. He loves me tenderly, even while wounding me. Jesus suffers, to fulfil the Will of the Father. . . . And I, who also wish to fulfill the most holy Will of God, following the footsteps of the Master, can I complain if I too meet suffering as my traveling companion?

"It will be a sure sign of my sonship, because God is treating me as he treated his own divine Son. Then I, just as he did, will be able to groan and weep alone in my Gethsemane; but, as I lie prostrate on the ground, acknowledging my nothingness, there will rise up to the Lord a cry from the depths of my soul: 'Pater mi, Abba, Pater, . . . fiat!'” ([St]. J. Escriva, "The Way of the Cross", I, 1).

41-42. "See now, when Christ comes back to his apostles for the third time, there they are, buried in sleep, though he commanded them to bear up with him and to stay awake and pray because of the impending danger; but Judas the traitor at the same time was so wide awake and intent on betraying the Lord that the very idea of sleep never entered his mind.

"Does not this contrast between the traitor and the apostles present to us a clear and sharp minor image (as it were), a sad and terrible view of what has happened through the ages from those times even to our own? [. . .] For very many are sleepy and apathetic in sowing virtues among the people and maintaining the truth, while the enemies of Christ in order to sow vices and uproot the faith (that is, insofar as they can, to seize Christ and cruelly crucify him once again) are wide awake -- so much wiser (as Christ says) are the sons of darkness in their generation than the sons of light (cf Lk 16:8)” (St Thomas More, "De tristitia Christi", in loc.).

43-50. The Gospel reports the arrest of our Lord in a matter-of-fact sort of way. Jesus, who was expecting it, offered no resistance, thereby fulfilling the prophecies about him in the Old Testament, particularly this passage of the poem of the Servant of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah: "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth . . . because he poured out his soul to death . . ." (Is 53:7 and 12). Dejected only moments earlier at the beginning of his prayer in Gethsemane Jesus now rises up strengthened to face his passion. These mysteries of our Lord, true God and true man, are really impressive.

51-52. This detail about the young man in the linen cloth is found only in St Mark. Most interpreters see in it a discreet allusion to Mark himself. It is probable that the Garden of Olives belonged to Mark’s family, which would explain the presence there at night-time of the boy, who would have been awakened suddenly by the noise of the crowd.

"One sees rich men -- less often, it is true, than I would like -- but still, thank God, one sometimes sees exceedingly rich men who would rather lose everything they have than keep anything at all by offending God through sin. These men have many clothes, but they are not tightly confined by them, so that when they need to run away from danger, they escape easily by throwing off their clothes. On the other hand we see people -- and far more of them than I would wish -- who happen to have only light garments and quite skimpy outfits and yet have so welded their affections to those poor riches of theirs that you could sooner strip skin from flesh than separate them from their goods. Such a person had better get going while there is still time. For once someone gets hold of his clothes, he will sooner die than leave his linen cloth behind. In summary, then, we learn from the example of this young man that we should always be prepared for troubles that arise suddenly, dangers that strike without warning and might make it necessary for us to run away; to be prepared, we ought not be so loaded with various garments, or so buttoned up in even one, that in an emergency we are unable to throw away our linen cloth and escape naked” (St Thomas More, "De tristitia Christi", in loc.).

53-65. This meeting of the Sanhedrin in the house of the high priest was quite irregular. The normal thing was for it to meet during the daytime and in the temple. Everything suggests that the rulers arranged this session secretly, probably to avoid opposition from the people, which would have thwarted their plans. The direct intervention of the high priest and the ill-treatment of the prisoner before sentence were also illegal. The Jewish authorities had for some time past been of a mind to do away with Jesus (cf., e.g., Mk 12:12; Jn 7:30; 11:45-50). Now all they are trying to do is give their actions an appearance of legality -- that is, looking for concurring witnesses to accuse him of capital crimes. Because they do not manage to do this, the chief priest goes right to the key issue: was Jesus the Messiah, yes or no? Jesus’ affirmative answer is regarded as blasphemy. Appearances are saved; they can now condemn him to death and ask the Roman procurator to ratify the sentence (cf. the note on Mt 27:2). Despite the irregularities and even though not all the members of the Sanhedrin were present, the significance of this session lies in the fact that the Jewish authorities, the official representatives of the chosen people, reject Jesus as Messiah and condemn him to death.

57-59. From the Gospel of St John (2:19) we know the words of Jesus which gave rise to this accusation: "Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Now they accuse him of having said three things: that he is going to destroy the temple; that the temple of Jerusalem is the work of human hands, not something divine; and that in three days he will raise up another one, not made by hands of men. As can be seen, this is not what our Lord said. First they change his words: Jesus did not say he was going to destroy the temple; and, secondly, they apply what he said to the temple of Jerusalem, not understanding that Jesus was speaking about his own body, as is made plain in St John (2:21-22). After the Resurrection, the apostles understood the depth of Jesus’ words (Jn 2:22): the temple of Jerusalem, where God’s presence was manifested in a special way and where he was offered due worship, was but a sign, a prefiguring of the humanity of Christ, in which the fullness of divinity, God, dwelt (cf. Col 2:9).

The same accusation is made at the martyrdom of St Stephen: "We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14). In fact, St Stephen knew that the true temple was no longer that of Jerusalem but Jesus Christ; but once again they misinterpreted his meaning and accused him as they had our Lord.

61. As at other points during his passion, Jesus kept completely silent. He appeared defenseless before the false accusations of his enemies. "God our Saviour,” St Jerome says, "who has redeemed the world out of mercy, lets himself be led to death like a lamb, not saying a word; he does not complain, he makes no effort to defend himself. Jesus’ silence obtains forgiveness for Adam’s protest and excuse” ("Comm. on Mark", in loc.). This silence is another motive and encouragement to us to be silent at times in the face of calumny or criticism. "In quietness and in trust shall be your strength,” says the prophet Isaiah (30:15).

"‘Jesus remained silent, "Jesus autem tacebat."’ Why do you speak, to console yourself, or to excuse yourself?

"Say nothing. Seek joy in contempt: you will always receive less than you deserve.

"Can you, by any chance, ask: ‘Quid enim malifeci', what evil have I done?’” ([St.] J. Escriva, "The Way", 671).

61-64. The high priest was undoubtedly trying to corner Jesus: if he replied that he was not the Christ, it would be equivalent to his contradicting everything he had said and done; if he answered yes, it would be interpreted as blasphemy, as we shall see later. Strictly speaking it was not blasphemy to call oneself the Messiah, or to say one was the Son of God, taking that phrase in a broad sense. Jesus’ reply not only bore witness to his being the Messiah; it also showed the divine transcendence of his messianism, by applying to him the prophecy of the Son of man in Daniel (7:13-14). By making this confession, Jesus’ reply opened the way for the high priest to make his theatrical gesture: he took it as a mockery of God and as blasphemy that this handcuffed man could be the transcendent figure of the Son of man. At this solemn moment Jesus defines himself by using the strongest of all the biblical expressions his hearers could understand – that which most clearly manifested his divinity. We might point out that had Jesus said simply "I am God” they would have thought it simply absurd and would have regarded him as mad: in which case he would not have borne solemn witness to his divinity before the authorities of the Jewish people.

63. The rending of garments was a custom in Israel to express indignation and protest against sacrilege and blasphemy. The rabbis had specified exactly how it should be done. Only a kind of seam was torn, to prevent the fabric being damaged. With this tragi-comic gesture Caiaphas brings the trial to an end, cleverly sabotaging any later procedure that might favour the prisoner and show up the truth.

64. Through Luke 23:51 and John 7:25-33 we know that not all the members of the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus, for Joseph of Arimathea did not consent in this act of deicide. It maybe supposed, therefore, that they were not present at this meeting of the council, either because they had not been summoned or because they absented themselves.

66-72. Although the accounts given by the three Synoptic Gospels are very alike, St Mark’s narrative does have its own characteristics: the sacred text gives little details which add a touch of colour. He says that Peter was "below” (v. 66), which shows that the council session was held in an upstairs room; he also mentions the two cockcrows (v. 72), in a way consistent with our Lord’s prophecy described in v. 30. On the theological and ascetical implications of this passage, see the note on Mt 26:70-75.

Chapter 15

1. At daybreak the Sanhedrin holds another meeting to work out how to get Pilate to ratify the death sentence. And then Christ is immediately brought before Pilate. It is not known for certain where the governor was residing during these days. It was either in Herod’s palace, built on the western hill of the city, south of the Jaffa Gate, or the Antonia fortress, which was on the north-east of the temple esplanade. It is more than likely that, for the Passover, Pilate lived in the fortress. >From there he could have a full view of the whole outside area of the temple, where unrest and riots were most likely to occur. In the centre of this impressive building there was a perfectly paved courtyard of about 2,500 square meters (approximately half an acre). This may well have been the yard where Pilate judged our Lord and which St John (19:13) called The Pavement ("Lithostrotos", in Greek). Philo, Josephus and other historians depict Pilate as having the defects of the worst type of Roman governor. The evangelists emphasize his cowardice and his sycophancy bordering on wickedness.

2. Jesus’ reply, as given in St Mark, can be interpreted in two ways. It may mean: You say that l am king; I say nothing; or else: I am a king. The second interpretation is the more common and logical, since in other Gospel passages he affirms his kingship quite categorically (cf. Mt 27:37 and par.; in 18:36-38). In St John’s Gospel (18:33-38) Jesus tells Pilate that he is a King and explains the special nature of his kingship: his Kingdom is not of this world; it transcends this world (cf. the note on Jn 18:35-37).

3-5. On three occasions the evangelists specify that Jesus remained silent in the face of these unjust accusations: before the Sanhedrin (14:61); here, before Pilate; and later on, before Herod (Lk 23:9). From the Gospel of St John we know that our Lord did say other things during this trial. St Mark says that he made no further reply, since he is referring only to the accusations made against our Lord: being false, they deserved no reply. Besides, any attempt at defense was futile, since they had decided in advance that he should die. Nor did Pilate need any further answer, since he was more concerned to please the Jewish authorities than, correctly, to find Jesus innocent.

6-15. Instead of simply coming to the rescue of this innocent prisoner, as was his duty and as his conscience advised him, Pilate wants to avoid a confrontation with the Sanhedrin; so he tries to deal with the people and have them set Jesus free. Since it was customary to release a prisoner of the people’s choice to celebrate the Passover, Pilate offers them the chance of selecting Jesus. The priests, seeing through this maneuver, incite the crowd to ask for Barabbas. This was not difficult to do, since many felt disillusioned about Jesus because he had not set them free of the foreign yoke. Pilate could not oppose their choice; and so it became even more difficult for him to give a just decision. All he can do now is appeal to the people on behalf of ‘the King of the Jews”. The humble and helpless appearance of Jesus exasperates the crowd: this is not the sort of king they want, and they ask for his crucifixion.

In the course of the trial Pilate was threatened with being reported to the emperor if he interfered in this affair (cf. Jn 19:12); he now accedes to their shouting and signs the warrant for death by crucifixion, to protect his political career.

15. Scourging, like crucifixion, was a degrading form of punishment applied only to slaves. The whip or flagellum used to punish serious crimes was strengthened with small sharp pieces of metal at the end of the thongs, which had the effect of tearing the flesh and even fracturing bones. Scourging often caused death. The condemned person was tied to a post to prevent him collapsing. People condemned to crucifixion were scourged beforehand.

These sufferings of Jesus have a redemptive value. In other passages of the Gospel our Lord made carrying the cross a condition of following him. Through self-denial a Christian associates himself with Christ’s passion and plays a part in the work of redemption (cf. Col 1:24).

"Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds. The blows of the lash sound upon his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More blows. More fury. Still more . . . It is the last extreme of human cruelty.

"Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and falls limp, broken and half dead.

"You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed. Look at him, look at him . . . slowly.

"After this . . . can you ever fear penance?” ([St.] J. Escriva, "Holy Rosary", second sorrowful mystery).

16-19. The soldiers make Jesus object of mockery; they accuse him pretending to be a king, and crown him and dress him up as one.

The image of the suffering Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns, with a reed in his hands and an old purple cloak around his shoulders, has become a vivid symbol of human pain, under the title of the "Ecce homo”.

But, as St Jerome teaches, "his ignominy has blotted out ours, his bonds have set us free, his crown of thorns has won for us the crown of the Kingdom, wounds have cured us” ("Comm. in Marcum", in loc.).

"You and I . . . , haven’t we crowned him anew with thorns and struck him and spat on him?” ([St.] J. Escriva, "Holy Rosary", third sorrowful mystery).

21. "Jesus is exhausted. His footsteps become more and more unsteady, and the soldiers are in a hurry to he finished. So, when they are going out of the city through the Judgment Gate, they take hold of a man who was coming in from a farm, a man called Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, and they force him to carry the Cross of Jesus (cf. Mk 15:21).

"In the whole context of the Passion, this help does not add up to very much. But for Jesus, a smile, a word, a gesture, a little bit of love is enough for him to pour out his grace bountifully on the soul of his friend. Years later, Simon’s sons, Christians by then, will be known and held in high esteem among their brothers in the faith. And it all started with this unexpected meeting with the Cross.

"'I went to those who were not looking for me; I was found by those who sought me not (Is 65:1)'".

"At times the Cross appears without our looking for it: it is Christ who is seeking us out. And if by chance, before this unexpected Cross which, perhaps, is therefore more difficult to understand, your heart were to show repugnance . . . don’t give it consolations. And, filled with a noble compassion, when it asks for them, say to it slowly, as one speaking in confidence: ‘Heart: Heart on the Cross! Heart on the Cross!'" ([ST]. J. Escriva, "The Way of the Cross", V).

St Mark stops for a moment to say who this Simon was: he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. It appears that Rufus, years later, moved with his mother to Rome; St Paul sent them affectionate greetings in his Letter to the Romans (16:13). It seems reasonable to imagine that Simon first felt victimized at being forced to do such unpleasant work, but contact with the Holy Cross -- the altar on which the divine Victim was going to be sacrificed -- and the sight of the suffering and death of Jesus, must have touched his heart; and the Cyrenean, who was at first indifferent, left Calvary a faithful disciple of Christ: Jesus had amply rewarded him. How often it happens that divine providence, through some mishap, places us face to face with suffering and brings about in us a deeper conversion.

When reading this passage, we might reflect that, although our Lord has rescued us voluntarily, and although his merits are infinite, he does seek our cooperation. Christ bears the burden of the cross, but we have to help him carry it by accepting all the difficulties and contradictions which divine providence presents us with. In this way we grow in holiness, at the same time atoning for our faults and sins.

>From the Gospel of St John (19:17) we know that Jesus bore the cross on his shoulders. In Christ burdened by the cross St Jerome sees, among other meanings, the fulfillment of the figure of Abel, the innocent victim, and particularly of Isaac (cf. Gen 22:6), who carried the wood for his own sacrifice (cf. St Jerome, "Comm. in Marcum", in loc.). Later, weakened from the scourging, Jesus can go no further on his own, which is why they compel this man from Cyrene to carry the cross.

"If anyone would follow me . . . Little friend, we are sad, living the Passion of our Lord Jesus. See how lovingly he embraces the Cross. Learn from him. Jesus carries the Cross for you: you . . . carry it for Jesus.

"But don’t drag the Cross . . . . Carry it squarely on your shoulder, because the Cross, if you carry it like that, will not be just any Cross. . . . It will be the Holy Cross. Don’t carry your Cross with resignation: resignation is not a generous word. Love the Cross. When you really love it, your Cross will be . . . a Cross without a Cross. And surely you will find Mary on the way, just as Jesus did” ([ST]. J. Escriva, "Holy Rosary", fourth sorrowful mystery).

22. There is no doubt about where this place was: it was a small, bare hill, at that time outside the city, right beside a busy main road.

23. Following the advice of Proverbs (31:6), the Jews used to offer dying criminals wine mixed with myrrh or incense to drug them and thus alleviate their suffering.

Jesus tastes it (according to Mt 27:34), but he does not drink it. He wishes to remain conscious to the last moment and to keep offering the chalice of the Passion, which he accepted at the Incarnation (Heb 10:9) and did not refuse in Gethsemane. St Augustine ("On the Psalms", 21:2 and 8) explains that our Lord wanted to suffer to the very end in order to purchase our redemption at a high price (cf. 1 Cor 6:20).

Faithful souls have also experienced this generosity of Christ in embracing pain: "Let us drink to the last drop the chalice of pain in this poor present life. What does it matter to suffer for ten years, twenty, fifty . . . if afterwards there is heaven for ever, for ever. . . for ever?

"And, above all rather than because of the reward, ‘propter retributionem’ what does suffering matter if we suffer to console, to please God our Lord, in a spirit of reparation, united to him on his cross; in a word: if we suffer for Love? ([ST]. J. Escriva, "The Way", 182).

24-28. Crucifixion, as well as being the most degrading of punishments, was also the most painful. By condemning him to death, Jesus’ enemies try to achieve the maximum contrast with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem some days previously. Usually, the bodies of people crucified were left on the gibbet for some days as a warning to people. In the case of Christ they also sought death by crucifixion as the most convincing proof that he was not the Messiah.

Crucifixion took various forms. The usual one, and perhaps the one applied to Jesus, consisted of first erecting the upright beam and then positioning the crossbeam with the prisoner nailed to it by his hands; and finally nailing his feet to the lower part of the upright.

According to St John’s Gospel (19:23-25) the seamless tunic -- that is, woven in a piece -- was wagered for separately from the rest of his clothes, which were divided into four lots, one for each soldier. The words of this verse reproduce those of Psalm 22:18. Any Jew versed in the Scriptures reading this passage would immediately see in it the fulfillment of a prophecy. St John expressly notes it (cf. 19:24). St Mark, without losing the thread of his account of the Passion, implicitly argues that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, for in him this prophecy is fulfilled.

Looking at Jesus on the cross, it is appropriate to recall that God "decreed that man should be saved through the wood of the Cross. The tree of man’s defeat became his tree of victory; where life was lost, there life has been restored” ("Roman Missal", Preface of the Holy Cross).

25. "The third hour”: between nine o’clock and noon. St Mark is the only evangelist who specifies the time at which our Lord was nailed to the cross. For the relationship between our clock and the Jewish system in that period, see the note on Mt 20:3.

26. This inscription was usually put in a prominent place so that everyone could see what the prisoner was guilty of. Pilate ordered them to write "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” in Latin, Greek and Hebrew; St Mark summarizes the inscription.

Motivated by malice, these Jews accuse Jesus of a political crime, when all his life and preaching left it quite clear that his mission was not political but supernatural. On the meaning of the inscription over the cross and the circumstances surrounding it, see John 19:19-22 and note.

27. Jesus is thus put to further shame; his disciples will also experience the humiliation of being treated like common criminals.

But in the case of Jesus this was providential, for it fulfilled the Scripture which prophesies that he would be counted among the evildoers. The Vulgate, following some Greek codexes, adds: "And the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘He was reckoned with the transgressors’" (v. 28; cf. Lk 22:37). "Positioned between the evildoers,” St Jerome teaches, "the Truth places one on his left and one on his right, as will be the case on the day of judgment. So we see how distinct the end of similar sinners can be. One precedes Peter into Paradise, the other enters hell before Judas: a brief confession brings eternal life, a momentary blasphemy is punished with eternal death” ("Comm. in Marcum", in loc.).

The Christian people have from early on given various names to these thieves. The most common in the West is Dismas for the good thief and Gestas for the bad thief.

29-32. Christ’s suffering did not finish with the crucifixion: there now follows a form of mockery worse (if possible) than the crowning with thorns. He is mocked by passers-by, by the priests chanting insults with the scribes, and even by the two crucified thieves (cf., however, the clarification in Lk 23:39-43). They combine to reproach him for his weakness, as if his miracles had been deceptions, and incite him to manifest his power.

The fact that they ask him to work a miracle does not indicate that they have any desire to believe in him. For faith is a gift from God which only those receive who have a simple heart. "You ask for very little,” St Jerome upbraids the Jews, "when the greatest event in history is taking place before your very eyes. Your blindness cannot be cured even by much greater miracles than those you call for” ("Comm. on Mark", in loc.).

Precisely because he was the Messiah and the Son of God he did not get down from the cross; in great pain, he completed the work his Father had entrusted to him. Christ teaches us that suffering is our best and richest treasure. Our Lord did not win victory from a throne or with a sceptre in his hand, but by opening his arms on the cross. A Christian, who, like any other person, will experience pain and sorrow during his life, should not flee it or rebel against it, but offer it to God, as his Master did.

33. The evangelist reports this as a miraculous phenomenon signaling the magnitude of the crime of deicide which was taking place. The phrase "over the whole land” means over all the immediate horizon, without specifying its limits. The normal interpretation of the meaning of this event is dual and complementary; Origen (In "Matth. comm.", 143) sees it as an expression of the spiritual darkness which overtook the Jewish people as a punishment for having rejected – crucified – him who is the true light (cf. Jn 1:4-9). St Jerome ("Comm. on Matthew", in loc.) explains the darkness as expressing, rather, the mourning of the universe at the death of its Creator, nature’s protest against the unjust killing of its Lord (cf. Rom 8:19-22).

These words, spoken in Aramaic, are the start of Psalm 22, the prayer of the just man who, hunted and cornered, feels utterly alone, like "a worm, and no man; scorned by men and despised by the people” (v. 7). From this abyss of misery and total abandonment, the just man has recourse to Yahweh: "My God, my God, why art thou so far from helping me. . . . Since my mother bore me thou has been my God. . . . But thou, O Lord, be not far off! O thou my help, hasten to my aid!” (vv. 2, 10 and 19). Thus, far from expressing a moment of despair, these words of Christ reveal his complete trust in his heavenly Father, the only one on whom he can rely in the midst of suffering, to whom he can complain like a Son and in whom he abandons himself without reserve: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46; Ps 31:5).

One of the most painful situations a person can experience is to feel alone in the face of misunderstanding and persecution on all sides, to feel completely insecure and afraid. God permits these tests to happen so that, experiencing our own smallness and world-weariness, we place all our trust in him who draws good from evil for those who love him (cf. Rom 8:28).

"So much do I love Christ on the Cross that every crucifix is like a loving reproach from my God: ‘. . . I suffering, and you . . . a coward. I loving you, and you forgetting me. I begging you, and you . . . denying me. I, here, with arms wide open as an Eternal Priest, suffering all that can be suffered for love of you . . . and you complain at the slightest misunderstanding, over the tiniest humiliation . . .‘" ([ST]. J. Escriva, "The Way of the Cross", XI, 2).

35-36. The soldiers near the cross, on hearing our Lord speak, may have thought, wrongly, that he was calling on Elijah for help. However, it seems it is the Jews themselves who, twisting our Lord’s words, find another excuse for jeering at him. There was a belief that Elijah would come to herald the Messiah, which is why they used these words to continue to ridicule Christ on the cross.

37. The evangelist recalls it very succinctly: "Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last.’ It is as if he did not dare make any comment, leaving it to the reader to pause and meditate. Although the death of Christ is a tremendous mystery, we must insist: Jesus Christ died; it was a real, not an apparent, death; nor should we forget that our sin was what caused our Lord’s death. "The abyss of malice, which sin opens wide, has been bridged by his infinite charity. God does not abandon men. His plans foresee that the sacrifices of the Old Law were insufficient to repair our faults and re-establish the unity which has been lost: a man who was God must offer himself up. To help us grasp in some measure this unfathomable mystery, we might imagine the Blessed Trinity taking counsel together in its uninterrupted intimate relationship of infinite love. As a result of its eternal decision, the only-begotten Son of God the Father takes on our human condition and bears the burden of our wretchedness and sorrows, to end up sewn with nails to a piece of wood. Let us meditate on our Lord, wounded from head to foot out of love for us” (St. J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 95).

". . . Now it is all over. The work of our Redemption has been accomplished. We are now children of God, because Jesus has died for us and his death has ransomed us.

"Empti enim estis pretio magno! (1 Cor 6:20), you and I have been bought at a great price.

"We must bring into our lives, to make them our own, the life and death of Christ. We must die through mortification and penance, so that Christ may live in us through Love. And then follow in the footsteps of Christ, with a zeal to coredeem all mankind.

"We must give our lives for others. That is the only way to live the life of Jesus Christ and to become one and the same thing with him” ([St.] J. Escriva, "The Way of the Cross, XIV).

38. The strictly sacred precinct of the temple of Jerusalem had two parts: the first, called "the Holy Place,” where only priests could enter for specific liturgical functions; the second, called "the Holy of Holies” ("Sancta Sanctorum"). This was the most sacred room where once the Ark of the Covenant stood, containing the tablets of the Law. Above the Ark was the "propitiatory” with figures of two cherubim. Only once a year did the high priest have access to the Holy of Holies, on the great Day of Atonement, to perform the rite of purification of the people. The curtain of the temple was the great curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place (cf. 1 Kings 6:15f).

The prodigy of the tearing of the curtain of the temple -- apparently of no great importance -- is full of theological meaning. It signifies dramatically that with Christ’s death the worship of the Old Covenant has been brought to an end; the temple of Jerusalem has no longer any raison d’être. The worship pleasing to God -- in spirit and truth (cf. in 4:23) -- is rendered him through the humanity of Christ, who is both Priest and Victim.

39. Regarding this passage St Bede says that this miracle of the conversion of the Roman officer is due to the fact that, on seeing the Lord die in this way, he could not but recognize his divinity; for no one has the power to surrender his spirit but he who is the Creator of souls (cf. St Bede, "In Marci Evangelium expositio", in loc.). Christ, indeed, being God, had the power to surrender his spirit; whereas in the case of other people their spirit is taken from them at the moment of death. But the Christian has to imitate Christ, also at this supreme moment: that is, we should accept death peacefully and joyfully. Death is the point planned by God for us to leave our spirit in his hands; the difference is that Christ yielded up his spirit when he chose (cf. Jn 10-18), whereas we do so when God so disposes.

"Don’t be afraid of death. Accept it from now on, generously . . . when God wills it, where God wills it, as God wills it. Don’t doubt what I say: it will come in the moment, in the place and in the way that are best: sent by your Father-God. Welcome be our sister death!” (St. J. Escriva, "The Way", 739).

43-46. Unlike the apostles, who fled, Joseph of Arimathea, who had not consented to the decision of the Sanhedrin (cf. Lk 23:51), had the bold and refined piety of personally taking charge of everything to do with the burial of Jesus. Christ’s death had not shaken his faith. It is worth noting that he does this immediately after the debacle of Calvary and before the triumph of the glorious resurrection of the Lord. His action will be rewarded by his name being written in the Book of Life and recorded in the Holy Gospel and in the memory of all generations of Christians. Joseph of Arimathea put himself at the service of Jesus, without expecting any human recompense and even at personal risk: he ventured his social position, his own as yet unused tomb, and everything else that was needed. He will always be a vivid example for every Christian of how one ought to risk money, position and honour in the service of God.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Principles and Practices - April 5

The Sacred Heart

The pious soul will find in the Heart of Jesus a sure refuge against all the attacks of Satan, and at the same time a sweet place of rest. Let us not stand outside it, but enter deep within.

-St. Anthony of Padua.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

Thoughts of St Augustine for April 5

WHY then, brethren, should we doubt that the Lord will make us gentle, if we give up ourselves to be tamed by him?
Click here for more information.

From Thoughts of St Augustine for Every Day
by Kathleen Mary Balfe (© 1926)
Nihil Obstat: Georgius D. Smith, S.T.D
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont

Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day-April 5

THE true servants of Jesus Christ neither have, nor desire to have, anything but Christ. Christ lived poor, and he at last died poor; for Joseph of Arimathea was obliged to give him a burial-place, and others out of charity provided a sheet in which to wrap his dead body.
From Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day
Compiled by Rev. C. McNeiry, C.SS.R.
Imprimatur: Joseph Hull, C.SS.R., Prov. Angl. Sup.
Nihil Obstat: Innocentlus Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor Deptutatus.
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius Generalis.
Westmonasterii, Die 9a Junii, 1927.
First published 1927

Friday, April 03, 2009

Principles and Practices - April 4

Christ's Purpose in Marriage

Instituted for the three-fold purpose of propagating the human race, of securing the mutual happiness of the husband and wife, and of educating the offspring, neither husband nor wife might by a guilty abuse of their powers frustrate the divine purpose. They might not be blind to the respect and love and confidence due to their helpmate. They might not criminally neglect the physical or moral well-being of their little ones, or omit to train them to be useful to them­selves and society in life and to fit them for citizen­ship in the eternal kingdom of heaven.

-Lonergan, S.J.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

Thoughts of St Augustine for April 4

THERE are then in faith these three things. He in whom that faith is which worketh by love must necessarily hope for that which God doth promise. Hope therefore is the associate of faith. And then charity also by which we long and strive to attain, and glow with desire and hunger and thirst. This, then, is taken in also; and so there will be faith, hope, and charity.
Click here for more information.

From Thoughts of St Augustine for Every Day
by Kathleen Mary Balfe (© 1926)
Nihil Obstat: Georgius D. Smith, S.T.D
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont

Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day-April 4

RAISE thy eyes, and behold that crucified Man-God. Behold the divine Lamb sacrificed on that altar of pain. See how his arms are stretched out to embrace thee; his head bowed down to give thee the kiss of peace; his side open to receive thee. What dost thou say? Does not a God so loving deserve to be loved?
From Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day
Compiled by Rev. C. McNeiry, C.SS.R.
Imprimatur: Joseph Hull, C.SS.R., Prov. Angl. Sup.
Nihil Obstat: Innocentlus Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor Deptutatus.
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius Generalis.
Westmonasterii, Die 9a Junii, 1927.
First published 1927

News Updates, 4/3

Exclusive Interview: Head of Holy Cross Order on Sanctions against Notre Dame Pres., "That's Rather Extreme"
When asked, "Should Obama have been invited?" Cleary responded, "I don't know what to say about that."

Archbishop of Denver on denying Holy Communion
Chaput explains a few things to ignorant journalists
[Still doesn't abide by Canon 915]

Legion sex abuse probe could uncover more victims
...similar to those committed by founder Fr. Maciel

Texas priest feared murdered in Mexico
Reported missing in the border city of Nuevo Laredo

Armed group threatens Rio de Janeiro parish
Demands archdiocese close down church and aid center

Vatican: China mounting obstacles to dialogue
Holy See denounces new arrests of Catholic bishops

Vandals steal Catholic University newspapers
Homosexuality debate may have prompted crime

Vatican investigates John Paul II 'miracle'
Man shot in head recovers after prayer to late Pope

Why Catholics in Vietnam are vanishing
Population of other Christian denominations has risen

Sweden votes to legalize same-sex marriage
Swedish Lutheran Church says it will comply

Other News

“Fetal containers” ( Asst. A.G. nominee views pregnancy as "slavery" )
The president of the Susan B. Anthony List has characterized as “bizarre” the views of pro-abortion activist Dawn Johnsen as a vote nears in the U.S. Senate on her nomination as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

House approves $3.6 trillion budget blueprint
The Democratic-controlled House approved a budget blueprint drawn to President Barack Obama's specifications Thursday and the Senate hastened to follow suit after administration allies rejected alternatives from liberals and conservatives alike...

Cap and tax collapse
Please pass Al Gore a Valium -- and better make it a double -- because his cap-and-trade dreams just took a dive in the U.S. Senate...

Health Plan Could Feed Your Gun-related Data Into A National Database
--- And charge you $10,000 a year for the privilege

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gospel for Friday, 5th Week of Lent

From: John 10:31-42

Jesus and the Father Are One (Continuation)

[31] The Jews took stones again to stone Him (Jesus). [32] Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone Me?" [33] The Jews answered Him, "We stone you for no good work but for blasphemy; because You, being a man, make Yourself God." [34] Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said you are gods'? [35] If He called them gods to whom the word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken), [36] do you say of Him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'? [37] If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; [38] but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father." [39] Again they tried to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands.

[40] He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there He remained. [41] And many came to Him; and they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this Man was true." [42] And many believed in Him there.

31-33. The Jews realize that Jesus is saying that He is God, but they interpret His words as blasphemy. He was called a blasphemer when He forgave the sins of the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), and He will also be accused of blasphemy when He is condemned after solemnly confessing His divinity before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:63-65). Our Lord, then, did reveal that He was God; but His hearers rejected this revelation of the mystery of the Incarnate God, refusing to examine the proof Jesus offered them; consequently, they accuse Him, a man, of making Himself God. Faith bases itself on reasonable evidence--miracles and prophecies--for believing that Jesus is really man and really God, even though our limited minds cannot work out how this can be so. Thus, our Lord, in order to affirm His divinity once more, uses two arguments which His adversaries cannot refute--the testimony of Sacred Scripture (prophecies) and that of His own works (miracles).

34-36. On a number of occasions the Gospel has shown our Lord replying to the Jews' objections. Here He patiently uses a form of argument which they regards as decisive - the authority of Sacred Scripture. He quotes Psalm 82 in which God upbraids certain judges for acting unjustly despite His reminding them that "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you" (Psalm 82:6). If this psalm calls the sons of Israel gods and sons of God, with how much more reason should He be called God who has been sanctified and sent by God? Christ's human nature, on being assumed by the Word, is sanctified completely and comes to the world to sanctify men. "The Fathers of the Church constantly proclaim that what was not assumed by Christ was not healed. Now Christ took a complete human nature just as it is found in us poor unfortunates, but one that was without sin, for Christ said of Himself that He was the one `whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world'" (Vatican II, "Ad Gentes", 3).

By using Sacred Scripture (cf. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 4:1, 17) Jesus teaches us that Scripture comes from God. Therefore, the Church believes and affirms that "those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Holy Mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles, holds that the books of both the Old and New Testament in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:15-16) they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church. [...] Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scriptures must be acknowledged as teaching firmly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation" (Vatican II, "Dei Verbum", 11).

37-38. The works which our Lord is referring to are His miracles, through which God's power is made manifest. Jesus presents His words and His works as forming a unity, with the miracles confirming His words and His words explaining the meaning of the miracles. Therefore, when He asserts that He is the Son of God, this revelation is supported by the credentials of the miracles He works: hence, if no one can deny the fact of the miracles, it is only right for Him to accept the truth of the words.

41-42. The opposition offered by some people (cf. John 10:20, 31, 39) contrasts with the way other people accept Him and follow Him to where He goes after this. St. John the Baptist's preparatory work is still producing results: those who accepted the Baptist's message now look for Christ and they believe when they see the truth of what the Precursor said: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 1:34).

Work done in the Lord's name is never useless: "Therefore, My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Just as the Baptist's word and example had the effect of helping many people later to believe in Jesus, the apostolic example given by Christians will never be in vain, even though the results may not come immediately. "To sow. The sower went out... Scatter your seed, apostolic soul. The wind of grace will bear it away if the furrow where it falls is not worthy.... Sow, and be certain that the seed will take root and bear fruit" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 794).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Principles and Practices - April 3

The Good Shepherd

The first of all 'special devotions' practised by the children of the Church - the devotion of the Church in the Catacombs - was devotion to the Good Shepherd. They were in conflict with the world, with the persecutor's cruel power, with the unbeliever's immorality; and they turned from strife and conflict for rest and peace, to the Good Shepherd, who still seemed to say to them, 'Fear not, little flock.'... Then, too, Our Lord Himself displayed an evident preference for this name, for He said, speaking of Himself: 'I am the Good Shepherd.'

-Rev. Kenelm Digby Best.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

Thoughts of St Augustine for April 3

HUMILITY qualifies for the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven; meekness qualifies for possessing the earth; mourning for consolation; hunger and thirst after righteousness for being filled; mercy for the obtaining mercy; a pure heart for seeing God.
Click here for more information.

From Thoughts of St Augustine for Every Day
by Kathleen Mary Balfe (© 1926)
Nihil Obstat: Georgius D. Smith, S.T.D
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont

Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day-April 3

Why did Jesus pray to his Father to pardon his enemies, when he himself could have for­given their injuries?

St Bernard replies that he prayed to his Father, not because he could not himself forgive them, but that he might teach us to pray for those who persecute us.
From Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day
Compiled by Rev. C. McNeiry, C.SS.R.
Imprimatur: Joseph Hull, C.SS.R., Prov. Angl. Sup.
Nihil Obstat: Innocentlus Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor Deptutatus.
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius Generalis.
Westmonasterii, Die 9a Junii, 1927.
First published 1927

Statist Jack Booted Thugs in St Louis

Man detained and harassed at airport for carrying CASH!
[And he had (shudder) literature and bumper stickers for Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty...

I was at the event on Friday night for the book signings by Thomas Woods, Ron Paul, and Judge Napalitano...I spoke with Lt Gov Peter Kinder (whO I went to high school with) and he told me that the MIAC report has been rescinded - evidently he was lied to.

Fr. Corapi on the Evils of Socialism

via email:

At a time when it surely seems that capitalism has run amuck and poised the world on the edge of economic ruin, the temptation is very strong for the pendulum to swing too far left into the failed and immoral territory of socialism. Historically pure socialism has never worked, philosophically it cannot work, and morally it is inherently evil (because it undermines the right of private property ownership, an inherent human right) and hence should not be given a chance to work.

The response might be that what we have at the moment isn’t pure socialism. The problem is that the moment is incredibly fluid and the direction toward a more radical form of socialism under way with frightening speed. Unless, of course, you believe the politicians and their appointees whose stock-in-trade has become lies, deception, and self-interest.

The common error is to think that socialism helps the poor and disenfranchised. As Pope Leo XIII pointed out as long ago as 1891 in his Encyclical “Rerum Novarum”, socialism does not help the poor. Rather, it reduces everyone to the same lowest common denominator of poverty and misery, while at the same time drying up the very sources of capital.

I recently prepared a half hour video presentation for the “Fullness of Truth” conference in Corpus Christi, Texas that speaks of the Church’s social teaching relative to socialism. This is a brief synthesis of some of the problems we face economically and how socialism is not the answer to these problems.

We are making this half hour DVD available to our customers free with a regular purchase of $50.00 or more for a limited time only.

God Bless You
Fr. John Corapi

More here

News Updates, 4/2

USCCB: Notre Dame is 'extreme embarrassment'
Says university doesn't know 'what it means to be Catholic'

Obama nominee: Pregnant women are losers
Johnsen criticized for 'bizarre' defenses of abortion

Obama nominee: Sharia should be legal in US
Harold Koh wants US courts to apply 'world law'

Archbishop: Christianity may disappear from Iraq
750 Christians had been murdered over past five years

State Dept overlooks Iraq religious violations
US ignores 'especially dire' threats to minorities

Pope Benedict prays for John Paul saint move
But Karol Wojtyla 'not on list of upcoming cases'

Vatican orders apostolic visitation of Legionaries
Following disclosures of founder's sexual impropriety

Pro-Lifers: Reveal Sebelius' true abortion record
Confirmation hearings open for HHS Secretary nominee

Richard Dawkins says Pope is 'stupid'
Atheist media darling pokes Benedict over condom comment

Other Updates

Mortgage Insurance Woes Grow for Fannie, Freddie Imagine paying full premium for an insurance contract, and receiving only 60 percent on any claim you make — that’s the unsavory situation now being faced by both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as a bevy of private-market lenders, on their mortgage insurance contracts with troubled mortgage insurer Triad Guaranty Inc....“This is regulated highway robbery,” said one senior banking executive...

Muslim-in-Chief Bows to Saudi King
[The video and picture will be in every Arab and Muslim and ME home by tonight. Usurping imbecile!]

Planned Economy or Planned Destruction?

Chicago Tribune 1934

Geithner's Gift To Pimco
Geithner's Heist America Plan is receiving words of self-serving praise from Pimco's Bill Gross. Indeed, Geithner’s Non-Recourse Gift Keeps on Giving to Bill Gross....

"Seen in this context, the payments made to AIG by the Fed and Treasury, which were then passed-through to dealers such as Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), can only be viewed as an illegal taking that must be reversed once the US Trustee for the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York is in control of AIG’s operations..."
[Fraud on such a grand scale and encouraged by the government!]

UN chief says crisis could result in failed states
UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned Thursday that failing to act to halt the global economic crisis could lead to widespread social unrest and failed states..."I fear worse to come -- a full-blown political crisis defined by growing social unrest, weakened governments and angry publics who have lost all faith in their leaders and their own future."

Doctors Are Opting Out of Medicare

Former AIG chief says bailout 'failed'
Former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg says the bailout has "failed" and he's proposing a 10-point alternative focused on saving, not breaking apart, the mega-insurer.

Social Security Stunner; Bankruptcy of Nation Moved Up Several Years

Return of Debtor's Prison?
Judge Must Release Woman Sentenced to Jail for Being Poor, ACLU Says in Court Papers

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Receive $46 Billion From Treasury
April 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury injected $46 billion in emergency funds into government-controlled mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...

Queen's IPOD Loaded with Obama [Teleprompter] Speeches
Uploaded onto the iPod: * Photos from the Queen's 2007 White House State Visit * Photos from the Queen's 2007 Jamestown, Va., Visit * Photos from the Queen's 2007 Richmond, Va., Visit * Video from the Queen's 1957 Jamestown Visit * Video from the Queen's 2007 Jamestown Visit * Video from the Queen's 2007 Richmond Visit * Photos from President Obama's Inauguration * Audio of then-state senator Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and * Audio of President Obama 2009 Inauguration Address
[This clown is one sick individual (I can't bring myself to calling him a "man") - I'll bet he's certifiably mental with NPD!]

A Split At Justice On D.C. Vote Bill
AG Holder Overrides Finding that bill is Unconstitutional

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Gospel for Thursday, 5th Week of Lent

Optional Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, hermit
Old Calendar: St. Francis of Paola, confessor

From: John 8:51-59

Jesus Warns the Unbelieving Jews (Continuation)

(Jesus said to the Jews,) [51] "Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps My word, he will never see death." [52] The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and You say, `If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death.' [53] Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do You claim to be?" [54] Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. [55] But you have not known Him; I know Him. If I said I do not know Him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know Him and I keep His word. [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see My day; he saw it and was glad." [57] The Jews then said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" [58] Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." [59] So they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

51-53. "He will never see death": our Lord promises eternal life to those who accept His teaching and remain faithful to it.

Sin, as the Fourth Gospel teaches, is death of the soul; and sanctifying grace, life (cf. John 1:4, 13; 3:15, 16. 36; etc.). Through grace we enter eternal life, a pledge of the Glory we shall attain beyond this earthly life and which is the true Life. Blinded by their hostility, the Jews do not want to listen to the Lord and therefore they fail to understand Him.

55. The knowledge our Lord is speaking about implies more than intellectual knowledge. The Old Testament speaks of this "knowing" in the sense of love, faithfulness, generous self-surrender. Love for God is a consequence of the certain knowledge we have of Him, and at the same time the more we love God, the better we get to know Him.

Jesus, whose holy human nature was intimately united (though not mixed) with His divinity in the one Person of the Word, continues to assert His singular and ineffable knowledge of the Father. But this accurate language of Jesus is absolutely incomprehensible to those who close themselves to faith: they even think He is blaspheming (cf. verse 59).

56. Jesus presents Himself as the fulfillment of the hopes of the Old Testament patriarchs. They had stayed faithful, eager to see the Day of Salvation. Referring to their faith, St. Paul exclaims: "These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). The most outstanding of those patriarchs was Abraham, our father in faith (cf. Galatians 3:7), who received the promise of being father of an immense people, the chosen people from whom would be born the Messiah.

The future fulfillment of the messianic promises was a source of great joy for Abraham: "Abraham, our father, who was set apart for the future accomplishment of the Promise, and who hoped against hope, receives when his son Isaac is born the prophetic firstfruits of this joy. This joy becomes transfigured through a trial touching death, when this only son is restored to him alive, a prefiguring of the resurrection of the One who was to come: the Son of God, promised for the redeeming sacrifice. Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing the Day of Christ, the Day of Salvation: he "saw it and was glad" (Paul VI, "Gaudete In Domino", II).

Jesus moves on a plane superior to that of the patriarchs, for they only saw prophetically, from "afar", the day of Christ, that is, the actual event of the Redemption, whereas it is Christ who brings it to pass.

58. Jesus' reply to the skeptical remarks of the Jews contains a revelation of His divinity. By saying "Before Abraham was, I am" our Lord is referring to His being eternal, because He is God. Therefore, St. Augustine explains: "Acknowledge the Creator, discern the creature. He who was speaking was a descendant of Abraham, but that Abraham might be made, before Abraham He was" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 43, 17).

The Fathers recall, in connection with the words of Christ, the solemn theophany of Sinai: "I AM WHO I AM" (Ex 3:14), and also St. John's distinction in the prologue to his Gospel, between the world which "was made" and the Word which "was" from all eternity (cf. John 1:1-3). The words, "I am", used by Jesus so absolutely are the equivalent therefore, of His affirming His eternity and His divinity. Cf. note on John 8:21-24.

[The note on John 8:21-24 states:

21-24. At the outset of His public ministry, Jesus could be seen to have all the features of the promised Messiah; some people recognized Him as such and became His followers (cf. John 1:12-13; 4:42; 6:69; 7:41); but the Jewish authorities, although they were expecting the Messiah (cf. John 1:19ff), persisted in their rejection of Jesus. Hence the warning to them: He is going where they cannot follow, that is, He is going to Heaven, which is where He has come from (cf. John 6:41ff), and they will keep looking out for the Messiah foretold by the prophets; but they will not find Him because they look for Him outside of Jesus, nor can they follow Him, for they do not believe in Him. You are of the world, our Lord is saying to them, not because you are on earth but because you are living under the influence of the prince of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); you are his vassals and you do his deeds (cf. 8:44); therefore, you will die in your sin. "We are all born with sin", St. Augustine comments, "all by our living have added to what we were by nature, and have become more of this world than we then were, when we were born of our parents. Where would we be if He had not come, who had no sin at all, to loose all sin? The Jews, because they did not believe in Him, deserved to have it said to them, You will die in your sin" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 38, 6).

The salvation which Christ brings will be applied to those who believe in His divinity. Jesus declares His divinity when He says "I am He", for this __expression, which He repeats on other occasions (cf. John. 8:28; 13:19), is reserved to Yahweh in the Old Testament (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10-11), where God, in revealing His name and therefore His essence, says to Moses "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). In this profound way God says that He is the Supreme Being in a full, absolute sense, that He is dependent on no other being, that all other things depend on Him for their being and existence. Thus, when Jesus says of Himself, "I am He", He is revealing that He is God.]
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Dr Edward Peters: A few thoughts on "de-baptism"

Dr Peters writes:
Britons, we are told, have downloaded some 100,000 "de-baptism" forms, and another 1,500 blokes have paid some $ 5 each for a "de-baptism" parchment. Presumably, people sign these forms and what, we're not sure, hang them up on the wall or something.

A few thoughts on the "de-baptism" fad, beginning with: there's no such thing as "de-baptism"
Read more here:

Sounds like a money maker for someone...???

Principles and Practices - April 2

How Venial Sin Spoils

Venial sin is a very great evil in its effects. As dying flies spoil the sweetness of the ointment, so venial sin corrupts virtuous actions; and when it affects the foundation or prin­cipal intention of them it diminishes their value to such a degree that, ceasing to be acts of a supernatural order, they no longer merit eternal rewards.

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

Thoughts of St Augustine for April 2

ENTER into thine own self; separate thyself from all tumult. Look into thine inner self; see if thou have there some sweet retiring place of conscience, where there may be no noise, no disputation, no strife or debatings....Be meek and hear the word that so thou mayest understand.
Click here for more information.

From Thoughts of St Augustine for Every Day
by Kathleen Mary Balfe (© 1926)
Nihil Obstat: Georgius D. Smith, S.T.D
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont

Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day-April 2

O SACRED hands, which by your touch have healed so many invalids, why are you now pierced on the cross? O sacred feet, so often wearied in seeking after lost sheep, why are you now transfixed with nails? O my sweet Saviour, how dearly has my salvation and the desire of gaining my love cost thee!
From Thoughts from St Alphonsus for Every Day
Compiled by Rev. C. McNeiry, C.SS.R.
Imprimatur: Joseph Hull, C.SS.R., Prov. Angl. Sup.
Nihil Obstat: Innocentlus Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor Deptutatus.
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius Generalis.
Westmonasterii, Die 9a Junii, 1927.
First published 1927

News Updates, 4/1

Notre Dame Appoints New Law School Dean Who Donated to Pro-Abortion Obama
Adding insult to injury, the University of Notre Dame announced today the appointment of a new law school dean who made donations to pro-abortion candidates, including President Barack Obama. The Catholic college is already under intense criticism for inviting Obama to give its commencement speech...
[ND leadership has made a deal with the devil-Scandalous!]

Vatican to inspect Legionaries after scandal
Sending a team of inspectors to their institutions

Bishop accuses Jews of being propagandists
Says 'more Catholics died than Jews in the Holocaust'

Secretary Clinton Praises Margaret Sanger: 'In awe of her'
A day before receiving the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s highest honor – the “Margaret Sanger Award” – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, leaving a bouquet of white flowers “on behalf of the American people,” and asking the basilica’s rector, “Who painted it?”

United Church of Christ: condoms at church
Obama's religious denomination's new bright idea
[Soetoro is a Mohammedan]

Facebook group attacks Vatican over condoms
Tens of thousands bombarding Holy See with protest emails

US names religious freedom violators
Waived possible sanctions against Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan

Cardinal Egan named in sex abuse lawsuit
What did bishop know and when did he know it?

Poll: U.S. Catholics lean left on social issues
Many okay gay rights, divorce, and extramarital sex
[These "Catholics" aren't Catholic, they're frauds]

Judge: Release priest killer from hospital
Man claimed to be a prophet sent to 'cleanse' parish

Chinese police arrest underground bishop conjunction with the meeting at the Vatican

Judicial Nominee Says Prayers to Allah Okay, But Not to Jesus
True to his campaign promises, [Fraudster in Chief] B Hussein Obama has picked a rabid judicial activist as his first federal court pick. Judge David Hamilton has been chosen by Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Hamilton is precisely what Obama wants in a judge: Someone who ignores the Constitution and imposes his own liberal ideas on each case. Hamilton will have what Obama calls “empathy” for the poor, child molesters, abortionists, murderers, etc....

Other News

Northeast lower Michigan unemployment at 17.4%
Unemployment rates are up substantially in all labor regions since a year ago. The highest February jobless rate was in northeast lower Michigan at 17.4 percent. The lowest was the Ann Arbor region's 7.4 percent

GMAC resumes loans to subprime borrowers
GMAC Financial Services said it will lower vehicle financing costs and resume making loans to subprime borrowers, part of a series of moves that could stimulate sales at General Motors Corp.
[GM has a simple three Step Plan: 1. US Taxpayers Buy the Car, 2. GM goes Bankrupt, 3. US Taxpayer pays for the warranty.]

U.S. private sector axes 742,000 jobs in March
Job losses in the U.S. private sector accelerated in March, more than economists' expectations, according to a report by ADP Employer Services on Wednesday.

Senate Legislation Would Federalize Cybersecurity
Key lawmakers are pushing to dramatically escalate U.S. defenses against cyberattacks, crafting proposals that would empower the government to set and enforce security standards for private industry for the first time.

Hundreds of Iowans thrown out of public hearing
More than 500 people who are upset with a plan to change Iowa's tax laws were cleared from a hearing tonight at the Iowa House after they interrupted multiple times.

Obama/Soetoro said prepared to let Chrysler go bankrupt and be sold
Obama has determined that a prepackaged bankruptcy is the best way for General Motors Corp. to restructure and become a competitive automaker...Obama also is prepared to let Chrysler LLC go bankrupt and be sold off piecemeal...

U.S. Bailouts So Far Total $2.98 Trillion, Official Says
A special inspector general overseeing government efforts to bail out portions of the private sector said Tuesday the U.S. so far has committed nearly $2.98 trillion toward stabilizing financial companies and rescuing domestic auto makers...

PPIP = Poorly Planned Investment Program
TALF = Treasury Approved Larceny Facility
TARP = Treasury Approved Ripoff Program

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gospel for Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent

From: John 8:31-42

Jesus Warns the Unbelieving Jews (Continuation)

[31] Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." [33] They answered Him, "We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, `You will be made free'?"

[34] Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave of sin. [35] The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. [36] So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. [37] I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word finds no place in you. [38] I speak of what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have heard from your father."

[39] They answered Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did, [40] but now you seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did. [41] You do what your father did." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God." [42] Jesus said of them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not on My own account, but He sent Me."

30-32. Of those Jews who do believe in Him Jesus asks much more than a shallow faith resulting from superficial enthusiasm: they should be true disciples; Jesus' words should imbue their whole life. That kind of faith will bring them to know the truth and to become really free persons.

The knowledge of the truth which Christ is speaking about is not just intellectual knowledge; it is rather the maturing in the soul of the seed of divine Revelation. That Revelation's climax is to be found in Christ's teaching and it constitutes a genuine communication of supernatural life (cf. John 5:24): He who believes in Jesus, and through Him in the Father, receives the wonderful gift of eternal life. Knowing the truth is, in the last analysis, knowing Christ Himself, God become man to save us; it means realizing that the inaccessible God has become man, our Friend, our Life.

This is the only kind of knowledge which really sets us free, because it removes us from a position of alienation from God--the state of sin and therefore of slavery to the devil and to all attachments of our fallen nature--and puts us on the path of friendship with God, the path of grace, of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the liberation we obtain is not just light which shows us the way; it is grace, which empowers us to keep to that way despite our limitations. "Jesus Christ meets the man of every age, including our own, with the same words: `You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free' (John 8:32). These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world. Today also, even after two thousand years, we see Christ as the One who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man's soul, his heart and his conscience. What a stupendous confirmation of this has been given and is still being given by those who, thanks to Christ and in Christ, have reached true freedom and have manifested it even in situations of external constraint!" (John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 12).

"Christ Himself links liberation particularly with knowledge of the truth; `You will know the truth and the truth will make you free' (John 8:32). This sentence testifies above all to the intimate significance of the freedom for which Christ liberates us. Liberation means man's inner transformation, which is a consequence of the knowledge of truth. The transformation is, therefore, a spiritual process, in which man matures `in true righteousness and holiness' (Ephesians 4:24). [...] Truth is important not only for the growth of human knowledge, deepening man's interior life in this way; truth has also a prophetic significance and power. It constitutes the content of testimony and it calls for testimony. We find this prophetic power of truth in the teaching of Christ. As a prophet, as a witness to truth, Christ repeatedly opposes non-truth; He does so with great forcefulness and decision and often He does not hesitate to condemn falsehood" (John Paul II, "General Audience", 21 February 1979).

St. Thomas Aquinas explains the meaning of these words of our Lord in this way: "In this passage, being made free does not refer to being freed of every type of wrong [...]; it means being freed in the proper sense of the word, in three ways: first, the truth of His teaching will free us from the error of untruth [...]; second, the truth of grace will liberate us from the slavery of sin: `the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death' (Romans 8:2); third, the truth of eternity in Christ Jesus will free us from decay (cf. Romans 8:21)" ("Commentary on St. John, in loc.").

"The truth will set you free. How great a truth is this, which opens the way to freedom and gives it meaning throughout our lives. I will sum it up for you, with the joy and certainty which flow from knowing there is a close relationship between God and His creatures. It is the knowledge that we have come from the hands of God, that the Blessed Trinity looks upon us with predilection, that we are children of so wonderful a Father. I ask my Lord to help us decide to take this truth to heart, to dwell upon it day by day; only then will we be acting as free men. Do not forget: anyone who does not realize that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love our Lord above all else" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 26).

33-34. For centuries the people of Israel were ruled by other nations (Egypt, Babylon, Persia...), and now they were under the dominion of Rome. Therefore, the Jews thought that He was referring to political bondage or dominion--which in fact they had experienced but never accepted. In addition, since they belong to the people chosen by God, they regarded themselves as free of the moral errors and aberrations of Gentile nations.

They thought that true freedom was a matter of belonging to the chosen people. Our Lord replies that it is not enough to belong to the line of Abraham: true freedom consists in not being slaves of sin. Both Jews and Gentiles were subject to the slavery of original sin and personal sin (cf. Romans 5:12; 6:20 and 8:2). Only Christ, the Son of God, can liberate man from that sorry state (cf. Galatians 4:21-51); but these Jews do not understand the redemptive work which Christ is doing and which will reach its climax in His death and resurrection

"The Savior", St. Augustine comments, "is here explaining that we will not be freed from overlords, but from the devil; not from captivity of the body but from malice of soul" ("Sermon", 48).

35-36. The words slave and son are reminiscent of the two sons of Abraham: Ishmael, born of the slave woman Hagar, who would be given no part in the inheritance; and Isaac, son of the free woman Sarah, who would be the heir to God's promises (cf. Genesis 21:10-12; Galatians 4:28-31). Physical descent from Abraham is not enough for inheriting God's promises and attaining salvation: by faith and charity one must identify oneself with Jesus Christ, the true and only Son of the Father, the only one who can make us sons of God and thereby bring us true freedom (cf. Romans 8:21; Galatians 4:31). Christ gives "power to become children of God [to those] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Thus, a person who identifies himself with Christ becomes a son of God and obtains the freedom proper to sons.

"Freedom finds its true meaning when it is put to the service of the truth which redeems, when it is spent seeking God's infinite Love which liberates us from all forms of slavery. Each passing day increases my yearning to proclaim to the four winds this inexhaustible treasure that belongs to Christianity: `the glorious freedom of the children of God!' (Romans 8:21). [...] Where does our freedom come from? It comes from Christ our Lord. This is the freedom with which He has ransomed us (cf. Galatians 4:31). That is why He teaches, `if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36). We Christians do not have to ask anyone to tell us the true meaning of this gift, because the only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 27 and 35).

37-41. Our Lord replies to the Jew's objection: yes indeed, they are Abraham's children, but only in a natural sense, according to the flesh; this is something which does not count any more; what matters now is acceptance of Jesus as the One sent by the Father. Jesus' questioners are spiritually very far away from being true children of Abraham: Abraham rejoiced to see the Messiah (cf. John 8:56); through his faith he was reckoned righteous (cf. Romans 4:1ff), and his faith led him to act consequentially (cf. James 2:21-24); this was how he attained the joy of eternal blessedness (cf. Matthew 8:11; Luke 16:24). Although those Jews "derived from him the generation of the flesh, they had become degenerate, by not imitating the faith of him whose sons they were" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 42, 1). Those who live by faith, St. Paul says, are the true sons of Abraham and like him they will be blessed by God (cf. Galatians 3:7-9). In point of fact, the people who are arguing with our Lord have not only rejected His teaching: their own deeds indicate that they have a radically different affiliation: "You do what your father did" is a veiled accusation that they are children of the devil (cf. verse 44).

The false security Jews felt on the grounds of being descended from Abraham has its parallel in a Christian who is content with being baptized and with a few religious observances, but does not live up to the requirements of faith in Christ.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.