Saturday, April 09, 2011

Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent

John 11:1-45

The Raising of Lazarus

[1] Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. [2] It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, who brother Lazarus was ill. [3] So the sisters sent to Him (Jesus), saying, "Lord, he whom You love is ill." [4] But when Jesus heard it He said, "This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it."

[5] Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [6] So when He heard that he was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. [7] Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go into Judea again." [8] The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?" [9] Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. [10] But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." [11] Thus He spoke, and then He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep." [12] The disciples said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." [13] Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He meant taking rest in sleep. [14] Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead; [15] and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." [16] Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

[17] Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. [18] Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, [19] and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. [20] When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, while Mary sat in the house. [21] Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. [22] And even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You." [23] Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." [24] Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." [25] Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, [26] and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" [27] She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world."

[28] When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." [29] And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to Him. [30] Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. [31] When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. [32] Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw Him, fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." [33] When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; [34] and He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." [35] Jesus wept. [36] So the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" [37] But some of them said, "Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

[38] Then Jesus deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. [39] Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." [40] Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" [41] So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted His eyes and said, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. [42] I knew that Thou hearest Me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me." [43] When He had said this, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." [44] The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go.

[45] Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him.


1-45. This chapter deals with one of Jesus' most outstanding miracles. The Fourth Gospel, by including it, demonstrates Jesus' power over death, which the Synoptic Gospels showed by reporting the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:25 and paragraph) and of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12).

The Evangelist first sets the scene (verses 1-16); then he gives Jesus' conversation with Lazarus' sisters (verses 17-37); finally, he reports the raising of Lazarus four days after his death (verses 38-45). Bethany was only about three kilometers (two miles) from Jerusalem (verse 18). On the days prior to His passion, Jesus often visited this family, to which He was very attached. St. John records Jesus' affection (verses 3, 5, 36) by describing His emotion and sorrow at the death of His friend.

By raising Lazarus our Lord shows His divine power over death and thereby gives proof of His divinity, in order to confirm His disciples' faith and reveal Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Most Jews, but not the Sadducees, believed in the resurrection of the body. Martha believed in it (cf. verse 24).

Apart from being a real, historical event, Lazarus' return to life is a sign of our future resurrection: we too will return to life. Christ, by His glorious resurrection through He is the "first-born from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5), is also the cause and model of our resurrection. In this His resurrection is different from that of Lazarus, for "Christ being raised from the dead will never die again" (Romans 6:9), whereas Lazarus returned to earthly life, later to die again.

2. There are a number of women in the Gospels who are called Mary. The Mary here is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus (v. 2), the woman who later anointed our Lord, again in Bethany, at the house of Simon the leper (cf. John 12:1-8; Mark 14:3): the indefinite or aorist "(she) anointed" expresses an action which occurred prior to the time of writing, but the anointing took place after the resurrection of Lazarus.

Were Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene and the "sinful" woman who anointed Jesus' feet in Galilee (cf. Luke 7:36) one, two or three women? Although sometimes it is argued that they are one and the same, it seems more likely that they were all different people. Firstly, we must distinguish the Galilee anointing (Luke 7:36) by the "sinner" from the Bethany anointing done by Lazarus' sister (John 12:1): because of the time they took place and particular details reported, they are clearly distinct (cf. note on John 12:1). Besides the Gospels give us no positive indication that Mary of Bethany was the same person as the "sinner" of Galilee. Nor are there strong grounds for identifying Mary Magdalene and the "sinner", whose name is not given; Mary Magdalene appears among the women who follow Jesus in Galilee as the woman out of whom seven demons were cast (cf. Luke 8:2), and Luke presents her in his account as someone new: no information is given which could link her with either of the two other women.

Nor can Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene be identified, for John differentiates between the two: he never calls Lazarus' sister Mary Magdalene, nor does he in any way link the latter (who stays beside the Cross--John 19:25--and who goes to the tomb and sees the risen Lord) with Mary of Bethany.

The reason why Mary of Bethany has sometimes been confused with Mary Magdalene is due (1) to identification of the latter with the "sinner" of Galilee through connecting Magdalene's possession of the devil with the sinfulness of the woman who did the anointing in Galilee; and (2) to confusing the two anointings, which would make Lazarus' sister the "sinner" who does the first anointing. This was how the three women were made out to be one, but there are no grounds for that interpretation. The best-grounded and most common interpretation offered by exegetes is that they are three distinct women.

4. The glory which Christ speaks of here, St. Augustine says, "was no gain to Jesus; it was only for our good. Therefore, Jesus says that this illness is not unto death, because the particular death was not for death but rather for a miracle, which being wrought men should believe in Christ and thereby avoid the true death" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 49, 6).

8-10. Stoning was the form of capital punishment applying to blasphemy (cf. Leviticus 24:16). We have seen that people tried to stone Jesus at least twice: first, when He proclaimed that He was the Son of God and that He existed from eternity (by saying that He "was" before Abraham lived)--John 8:58-59; second, when He revealed that He and the Father were one (cf. John 10:3-31).

These attempts by the Jewish authorities failed because Jesus' 'hour' had not yet arrived--that is, the time laid down by His Father for His death and resurrection. When the Crucifixion comes, it will the hour of His enemies and of "the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). But until that moment it is daytime, and our Lord can walk without His life being in danger.

16. Thomas' words reminds us of the Apostles saying at the Last Supper that they would be ready to die for their Master (cf. Matthew 26:31-35). We have seen how the Apostles stayed loyal when many disciples left our Lord after His discourse on the Bread of Life (John 6:67-71), and how they remained faithful to Him despite their personal weaknesses. But when, after Judas Iscariot's betrayal, Jesus lets Himself be arrested without offering resistance--in fact, forbidding the use of weapons (cf. John 18:11)--they become disconcerted and run away. Only St. John will stay faithful in Jesus' hour of greatest need.

18. Fifteen stadia, in Greek measurement: three kilometers (two miles).

21-22. According to St. Augustine, Martha's request is a good example of confident prayer, a prayer of abandonment into the hands of God, who knows better than we what we need. Therefore, "she did not say, But now I ask You to raise my brother to life again. [...] All she said was, I know that You can do it; if you will, do it; it is for you to judge whether to do it, not for me to presume" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 49, 13). The same can be said of Mary's words, which St. John repeats at verse 32.

24-26. Here we have one of those concise definitions Christ gives of Himself, and which St. John faithfully passes on to us (cf. John 10:9; 14:6; 15:1): Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Resurrection because by His victory over death He is the cause of the resurrection of all men. The miracle He works in raising Lazarus is a sign of Christ's power to give life to people. And so, by faith in Jesus Christ, who arose first from among the dead, the Christian is sure that he too will rise one day, like Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23; Colossians 1;18). Therefore, for the believer death is not the end; it is simply the step to eternal life, a change of dwelling-place, as one of the Roman Missal's Prefaces of Christian Death puts it: "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in Heaven".

By saying that He is Life, Jesus is referring not only to that life which begins beyond the grave, but also to the supernatural life which grace brings to the soul of man when he is still a wayfarer on this earth.

"This life, which the Father has promised and offered to each man in Jesus Christ, His eternal and only Son, who 'when the time had fully come' (Galatians 4:4), became incarnate and was born of the Virgin Mary, is the final fulfillment of man's vocation. It is in a way the fulfillment of the 'destiny' that God has prepared for him from eternity. This 'divine destiny' is advancing, in spite of all the enigmas, the unsolved riddles, the twists and turns of 'human destiny' in the world of time. Indeed, while all this, in spite of all the riches of life in time, necessarily and inevitably leads to the frontiers of death and the goal of the destruction of the human body, beyond that goal we see Christ. 'I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in Me...shall never die.' In Jesus Christ, who was crucified and laid in the tomb and then rose again, 'our hope of resurrection dawned...the bright promise of immortality' ("Roman Missal", Preface of Christian Death, I), on the way to which man, through the death of the body, shares with the whole of visible creation the necessity to which matter is subject" ([Pope] John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 18).

33-36. This passage gives an opportunity to reflect on the depth and tenderness of Jesus' feelings. If the physical death of His friend can move Him to tears, what will He not feel over the spiritual death of a sinner who has brought about his eternal condemnation? "Christ wept: let man also weep for himself. For why did Christ weep, but to teach men to weep" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 49, 19). We also should weep--but for our sins, to help us return to the life of grace through conversion and repentance. We should appreciate our Lord's tears: He is praying for us, who are sinners: "Jesus is your friend. The Friend. With a human heart, like yours. With loving eyes that wept for Lazarus.

"And He loves you as much as He loved Lazarus" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 422).

41-42. Through His sacred humanity Jesus is expressing Himself as the natural Son of God, that is, He is the metaphysical Son of God, not adopted like the rest of men. This is the source of Jesus' feelings, which helps us to understand that when He says "Father" He is speaking with a unique and indescribable intensity. When the Gospels let us see Jesus praying, they always show Him beginning with the invocation "Father" (cf. note on Luke 11:1-2), which reflects His singular trust and love (cf. Matthew 11:25 and par.). These sentiments should also in some way find a place in our prayer, for through Baptism we are joined to Christ and in Him we became children of God (cf. John 1:12; Romans 6:1-11; 8:14-17), and so we should always pray in a spirit of sonship and gratitude for the many good things our Father God has given us.

The miracle of the raising of Lazarus, which really is an extraordinary miracle, is a proof that Jesus is the Son of God, sent into the world by His Father. And so it is, that when Lazarus is brought back to life, people's faith in Jesus is increased--the disciples' (verse 15), Martha's and Mary's (verses 26, 40) and that of the people at large (36, 45).

43. Jesus calls Lazarus by name. Although he is really dead, he has not thereby lost his personal identity: dead people continue to exist, but they have a different mode of existence, because they have changed from mortal life to eternal life. This is why Jesus states that God "is not God of the dead, but of the living", for to Him all are alive (cf. Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:38).

This passage can be applied to the spiritual resurrection of the soul who has sinned and recovers grace. God wants us to be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4); therefore we should never lose heart; we should always desire and hope to reach this goal: "Never despair. Lazarus was dead and decaying: ' Iam foetet, quatriduanus enim est". By now he will smell; this is the fourth day", says Martha to Jesus.

"If you hear God's inspiration and follow it--'Lazare, veni foras!: Lazarus, come out!'--and you will return to Life" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 719).

44. The Jews prepared the body for burial by washing it and anointing it with aromatic ointments to delay decomposition and counteract offensive odors; they then wrapped the body in linen cloths and bandages, covering the head with a napkin--a method very like the Egyptians', but not entirely extending to full embalming, which involved removing certain internal organs.

Lazarus' tomb would have consisted of a subterranean chamber linked to the surface by steps, with the entrance blocked by a slab. Lazarus was moved out to the entrance by a supernatural force. As happened in the case of the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5;42-43), due to their astonishment no one moved until our Lord's words broke the atmosphere of silence and terror which had been created.

St. Augustine sees in the raising of Lazarus a symbol of the Sacrament of Penance: in the same way as Lazarus comes out of the tomb, "when you confess, you come forth. For what does 'come forth' mean if not emerging from what is hidden, to be made manifest. But for you to confess is God's doing; He calls you with an urgent voice, by an extraordinary grace. And just as the dead man came out still bound, so you go to Confession still guilty. In order that his sins be loosed, the Lord said this to His ministers: 'Unbind him and let him go'. What you will lose on earth will be loosed in Heaven" (St. Augustine "In Ioann. Evang.", 49, 24). Christian art has used this comparison from very early on; in the catacombs we find some one hundred and fifty representations of the raising of Lazarus, symbolizing thereby the gift of the life of grace which comes through the priest, who in effect repeats the words to the sinner: "Lazarus, come out."
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.

Prayers & Reflections for April 9

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


Enlighten me, O Good Jesus, with the brightness of internal light, and cast out all darkness from the dwelling of my heart.

Restrain my many wandering thoughts and suppress the temptations that violently assault me.

Fight strongly for me, and overcome these wicked beasts, I mean these alluring concupiscences: that peace may be made in thy power, and the abundance of thy praise may resound in thy holy court, which is a clean conscience.

Command the winds and storms; say to the sea, Be thou still; and to the north wind, Blow thou not; and a great calm shall ensue.

Send forth thy light and thy truth, that they may shine upon the earth; for I am as earth that is empty and void, till thou enlightenest me (Gen. 1).

Pour forth thy grace from above; water my heart with the dew of heaven; send down the waters of devotion to wash the face of the earth, to bring forth good and perfect fruit.

Lift up my mind oppressed with the load of sins, and raise my whole desires towards heavenly things, that having tasted the sweetness of the happiness above, I may have no pleasure in thinking of the things of the earth.

Draw me away, and deliver me from all unstable comfort of creatures; for no created thing can fully quiet and satify my desires.

Join me to thy self by an inseparable bond of love; for those alone canst satisfy the lover, and without thee all other things are frivolous.
-Imitation of Christ, Book III.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Friday, April 08, 2011

Prayers & Reflections for April 8

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


O Lord, my God, depart not from me. O my God! have regard to help me; for divers evil thoughts and great fears have risen up against me, afflicting my soul.

How shall I pass them without hurt?

How shall I break through them?

I will go before thee, and will humble the great ones of the earth (Isa. 14: 2).

I will open the gates of the prison, and reveal to thee hidden secrets.

Do, Lord, as thou sayest, and let all these wicked thoughts flee from before thy face.

This is my hope and my only comfort, to fly to thee in all tribulations, to confide in thee, to call on thee from my heart, and patiently to look for thy consolation.
-Imitation oj Christ, Book III.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Gospel for Friday, 4th Week of Lent

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem During the Feast of Tabernacles

[1] After this Jesus went about in Galilee; He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. [2] Now the Jews' feast of Tabernacles was at hand. [10] But after His brethren had gone up to the feast, then He also went up, not publicly but in private.

[25] Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, "Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? [26] And here He is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to Him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? [27 Yet we know where this man comes from; and when the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from. [28] So Jesus proclaimed, as He taught in the temple, "You know where I come from? But I have not come of My own accord; He who sent Me is true, and Him you do not know. [29] I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent Me." [30] So they sought to arrest Him; but no one laid hands on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

1-2. The Jewish custom was for closer relatives to be called "brothers", brethren (cf. notes on Matthew 12:46-47 and Mark 6:1-3). These relatives of Jesus followed Him without understanding His teaching or His mission (cf. Matthew 3:31); but because He worked such obvious miracles in Galilee (cf. Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10, 22-26) they suggest to Him that He show Himself publicly in Jerusalem and throughout Judea. Perhaps they wanted Him to be a big success, which would have indulged their family pride.

2. The name of the feast recalls the time the Israelites spent living under canvas in the wilderness (cf. Leviticus 23:34-36). During the eight days the feast lasted (cf. Nehemiah 8:13-18), around the beginning of autumn, the Jews commemorated the protection God had given the Israelites over the forty years of the Exodus. Because it coincided with the end of the harvest, it was also called the feast of ingathering (cf. Exodus 23:16).

10. Because He had not arrived in advance of the feast (which was what people normally did), the first caravans would have reported that Jesus was not coming up, and therefore the members of the Sanhedrin would have stopped planning anything against Him (cf. 7:1). By going up later, the religious authorities would not dare make any move against Him for fear of hostile public reaction (cf. Matthew 26:5). Jesus, possibly accompanied by His disciples, arrives unnoticed at Jerusalem, "in private", almost in a hidden way. Half-way through the feast, on the fourth or fifth day, He begins to preach in the temple (cf. 7:14).

27. In this chapter we often see the Jews disconcerted, in two minds. They argue with one another over whether Jesus is the Messiah, or a prophet, or an impostor (verse 12); they do not know where He gets His wisdom from (verse 15); they are short-tempered (verses 19-20); and they are surprised by the attitudes of the Sanhedrin (verse 26). Despite the signs they have seen (miracles, teaching) they do not want to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Perhaps some, thinking that He came from Nazareth and was the son of Joseph and Mary, cannot see how this fits in with the notion usually taken from Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 53:1-8) about the Messiah's origin being unknown--except for His coming from the line of David and being born in Bethlehem (cf. Matthew 2:5 which quotes Micah 5:2; cf. John 7:42). In fact Jesus did fulfill those prophetic predictions, though most Jews did not know it because they knew nothing about His virginal birth in Bethlehem or His descent from David. Others must have known that He was of the house of David and had been born in Bethlehem, but even so they did not want to accept His teaching because it demanded a mental and moral conversion which they were not ready to make.

28-29. Not without a certain irony, Jesus refers to the superficial knowledge these Jews had of Him: however, He asserts that He comes from the Father who has sent Him, whom only He knows, precisely because He is the Son of God (cf. John 1:18).

30. The Jews realized that Jesus was making Himself God's equal, which was regarded as blasphemy and, according to the Law, was something punishable by death by stoning (cf. Leviticus 24:15-16, 23).

This is not the first time St. John refers to the Jews' hostility (cf. John 5:10), nor will it be the last (8:59; 10:31-33). He stresses this hostility because it was a fact and perhaps also to show that Jesus acts freely when, to fulfill the Father's will He gives Himself over to His enemies when His "hour" arrives (cf. John 18:4-8). "He did not therefore mean an hour when He would be forced to die, but one when He would allow Himself to be put to death. For He was waiting for the time in which He should die, even as He waited for the time in which He should be born" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang., 31, 5).
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.

Prayers & Reflections for April 7

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


Son, I came down from heaven for thy salvation; I took upon me thy miseries, not of necessity, but moved thereto by charity, that thou might learn patience, and might bear, without repining, the miseries of this life.

For, from the hour of my birth till my expiring on the cross, I was never withouts uffering.

Lord, because thou wast patient in thy lifetime, in thus chiefly fulfilling the commandment of thy Father, it is fitting that I a wretched sinner, should, according to thy will, take all with patience; and, as long as thou please, support the burden of this corruptible life, in order to my salvation.

Oh! how great thanks am I obliged to return to thee, for having vouchsafed to show me and all the faithful a right and good way to an everlasting kingdom.

If thou hadst not gone before and instructed us, who would have cared to have followed?

Behold, we are still tepid, notwithstanding all the miracles and instructions we have heard: what, then, would it be, if we had not this great light whereby to follow thee?
-Imitation of Christ, Book III.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Gospel for Thursday, 4th Week of Lent

Optional Memorial: St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, Priest
(Preference Given to Liturgical Season)

John 5:31-47

Christ Defends His Action (Continuation)
(Jesus said to the Jews,) [31] "If I bear witness to Myself, My testimony is not true; [32] there is another who bears witness to Me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to Me is true. [33] You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. [34] Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. [35] He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. [36] But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted Me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear Me witness that the Father has sent Me. [37] And the Father who sent He has Himself borne witness to Me. His voice you have never heard, His form you have never seen; [38] and you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He has sent. [39] You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me; [40] yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life. [41] I do not receive glory from men. [42] But I know that you have not the love of God within you. [43] I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. [44] How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? [45] Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. [46] If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"

31-40. Because Jesus is Son of God, His own word is self-sufficient, it needs no corroboration (cf. 8:18); but, as on other occasions, He accommodates Himself to human customs and to the mental outlook of His hearers: He anticipates a possible objection from the Jews to the effect that it is not enough for a person to testify in his own cause (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15) and He explains that what He is saying is endorsed by four witnesses--John the Baptist, His own miracles, the Father, and the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament.

John the Baptist bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God (1:34). Although Jesus had no need to have recourse to any man's testimony, not even that of a great prophet, John's testimony was given for the sake of the Jews, that they might recognize the Messiah. Jesus can also point to another testimony, better than that of the Baptist--the miracles He has worked, which are, for anyone who examines them honestly, unmistakable signs of His divine power, which comes from the Father; Jesus' miracles, then, are a form of witness the Father bears concerning His Son, whom He has sent into the world. The Father manifests the divinity of Jesus on other occasions--at His Baptism (cf. 1:31-34); at the Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:1-8), and later, in the presence of the whole crowd (cf. John 12:28-30).

Jesus speaks to another divine testimony--that of the Sacred Scriptures. These speak of Him, but the Jews fail to grasp the Scriptures' true meaning, because they read them without letting themselves be enlightened by Him whom God has sent and in whom all the prophecies are fulfilled: "The economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so orientated that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, Redeemer of all men, and of the Messianic Kingdom (cf. Luke 24:44; John 5:39, 1 Peter 1:10), and should indicate it by means of different types (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11). [...] Christians should accept with veneration these writings which give _expression to a lively sense of God, which are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way" (Vatican II, "Dei Verbum", 15).

41-47. Jesus identifies three obstacles preventing His hearers from recognizing that He is the Messiah and Son of God--their lack of love of God, their striving after human glory and their prejudiced interpretation of sacred texts. His defense of His own actions and of His relationship with the Father might lead His adversaries to think that He was looking for human glory. But the testimonies He has adduced (the Baptist, the miracles, the Father and the Scriptures) show clearly that it is not He who is seeking His glory, and that the Jews oppose Him not out of love of God or in defense of God's honor, but for unworthy reasons or because of their merely human outlook.

The Old Testament, therefore, leads a person towards recognizing who Jesus Christ is (cf. John 1:45; 2:17, 22; 5:39, 46; 12:16, 41); yet the Jews remain unbelievers because their attitude is wrong: they have reduced the Messianic promises in the sacred books to the level of mere nationalistic aspirations: this outlook, which is in no way supernatural, closes their soul to Jesus' words and actions and prevents them from seeing that the ancient prophecies are come true in Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16).
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.

Prayers & Reflections for April 6

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


Grant me thy grace, most merciful Jesus, that it may be with me, and continue with me to the end.

Grant me always to will and desire that which is most acceptable to thee, and which pleaseth thee best.

Let thy will be mine, and let my will always follow thine, and agree prefectly with it.

Let me always will or not will the same with thee: and let me not be able to will or not will otherwise than as thou willest or willest not.

Grant that I may die to all things that are in the world; and for thy sake love to be despised, and not to be known in this world.

Grant that I may rest in thee above all things desired, and that my heart may be at peace in thee.

Thou art the true peace of the heart; Thou art its only rest: outside of thee all things are hard and uneasy.

In this peace, in the self-same that is in thee, the one sovereign eternal Good, I will sleep, and I will rest. Amen (Ps. 4:9)
-Imitation of Christ, Book III.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Gospel for Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

From: John 5:17-30

The Cure of a Sick Man at the Pool at Bethzatha (Continuation)
[17] But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working." [18] This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but also called God His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Christ Defends His Action
[19] Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever He does, that the Son does likewise. [20] For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel. [21] For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. [22] The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, [23] that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. [24] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

[25] "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. [26] For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself, [27] and has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [28] Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice [29] and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

[30] "I can do nothing on My own authority; as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me."

17-18. "My Father is working still, and I am working": we have already said that God is continually acting. Since the Son acts together with the Father, who with the Holy Spirit are the one and only God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can say that He is always working. These words of Jesus contain an implicit reference to His divinity: the Jews realize this and they want to kill Him because they consider it blasphemous. "We all call God our Father, who is in Heaven (Isaiah 63:16; 64:8). Therefore, they were angry, not at this, that He said God was His Father, but that He said it in quite another way than men. Notice: the Jews understand what Arians do not understand. Arians affirm the Son to be not equal to the Father, and that was why this heresy was driven from the Church. Here, even the blind, even the slayers of Christ, understand the works of Christ" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang., 17, 16). We call God our Father because through grace we are His adopted children; Jesus calls Him His Father because He is His Son by nature. This is why He says after the Resurrection: "I am ascending to My Father and your Father" (John 20:17), making a clear distinction between the two ways of being a son of God.

19. Jesus speaks of the equality and also the distinction between Father and Son. The two are equal: all the Son's power is the Father's, all the Son does the Father does; but they are two distinct persons: which is why the Son does what He has seen the Father do.

These words of our Lord should not be taken to mean that the Son sees what the Father does and then does it Himself, like a disciple imitating his master; He says what He says to show that the Father's powers are communicated to the Son through generation. The word "see" is used because men come to know things through the senses, particularly through the sight; to say that the Son sees what the Father does is a way of referring to all the powers which He receives from Him for all eternity (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, "Comm. on St. John, in loc.").

20-21. When He says that the Father shows the Son "all that He Himself is doing", this means that Christ can do the same as the Father. Thus, when Jesus does things which are proper to God, He is testifying to His divinity through them (cf. John 5:36).

"Greater works": this may be a reference to the miracles Jesus will work during His lifetime and to His authority to execute judgment. But THE miracle of Jesus was His own resurrection, the cause and pledge of our own (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20ff), and our passport to supernatural life. Christ, like His Father, has unlimited power to communicate life. This teaching is developed in verses 22-29.

22-30. Authority to judge has also been given by the Father to the Incarnate Word. Whoever does not believe in Christ and in His word will be condemned (cf. 3:18). We must accept Jesus Christ's lordship; by doing so we honor the Father; if we do not know the Son we do not know the Father who sent Him (verse 23). Through accepting Christ, through accepting His word, we gain eternal life and are freed from condemnation. He, who has taken on human nature which He will retain forever, has been established as our judge, and His judgment is just, because He seeks to fulfill the Will of the Father who sent Him, and He does nothing on His own account: in other words, His human will is perfectly at one with His divine will; which is why Jesus can say that He does not do His own will but the Will of Him who sent Him.

22. God, being the Creator of the world, is the supreme Judge of all creation. He alone can know with absolute certainty whether the people and things He has created achieve the end He has envisaged for them. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, has received divine authority (cf. Matthew 11:27; 28:18; Daniel 7:14), including the authority to judge mankind. Now, it is God's will that everyone should be saved: Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save it (cf. John 12:47). Only someone who refuses to accept the divine mission of the Son puts himself outside the pale of salvation. As the Church's Magisterium teaches: "He claimed judicial power as received from His Father, when the Jews accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by the miraculous cure of a sick man. [...] In this power is included the right of rewarding and punishing all men, even in this life" (Pius XI, "Quas Primas, Dz-Sch 3677"). Jesus Christ, therefore, is the Judge of the living and the dead, and will reward everyone according to his works (cf. 1 Peter 1:17).

"We have, I admit, a rigorous account to give of our sins; but who will be our judge? The Father [...] has given all judgment to the Son. Let us be comforted: the eternal Father has placed our cause in the hands of our Redeemer Himself. St. Paul encourages us, saying, Who is [the judge] who is to condemn us? It is Jesus Christ, who died [...] who indeed intercedes for us (Romans 8:34). It is the Savior Himself, who, in order that He should not condemn us to eternal death, has condemned Himself to death for our sake, and who, not content with this, still continues to intercede for us in Heaven with God His Father" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, "The Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ Reduced To Practice", Chapter 3).

24. There is also a close connection between hearing the word of Christ and believing in Him who sent Him, that is, in the Father. Whatever Jesus Christ says is divine revelation; therefore, accepting Jesus' words is equivalent to believing in God the Father: "He who believes in Me, believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me.... For I have not spoken on My own authority; the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me the commandment what to say and what to speak" (John 12:44, 49).

A person with faith is on the way to eternal life, because even in this earthly life he is sharing in divine life, which is eternal; but he has not yet attained eternal life in a definitive way (for he can lose it), nor in a full way: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2). If a person stays firm in the faith and lives up to its demands, God's judgment will not condemn him but save him.

Therefore, it makes sense to strive, with the help of grace, to live a life consistent with the faith: "If men go to so much trouble and effort to live here a little longer, ought they not strive so much harder to live eternally?" (St. Augustine, "De Verb. Dom. Serm.", 64).

25-30. These verse bring the first part of our Lord's discourse to a close (it runs from 5:19 to 5:47); its core is a revelation about His relationship with His Father. To understand the statement our Lord makes here we need to remember that, because He is a single (divine) person, a single subject of operations, a single I, He is expressing in human words not only His sentiments as a man but also the deepest dimension of His being: He is the Son of God, both in His generation in eternity by the Father, and in His generation in time through taking up human nature. Hence Jesus Christ has a profound awareness (so profound that we cannot even imagine it) of His Sonship, which leads Him to treat His Father with a very special intimacy, with love and also with respect; He is aware also of His equality with the Father; therefore when He speaks about the Father having given Him life (verse 26) or authority (verse 27), it is not that He has received part of the Father's life or authority: He has received absolutely all of it, without the Father losing any.

"Do you perceive how their equality is shown and that they differ in one respect only, namely, that one is the Father, while the other is the Son? The _expression `He has given' implies this distinction only, and shows that all other attributes are equal and without difference. From this it is clear that He does everything with as much authority and power as the Father and is not endowed with power from some outside source, for He has life as the Father has" (St. John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St. John", 39, 3).

One of the amazing things about these passages of the Gospel is how Jesus manages to express the sentiments of God-Man despite the limitations of human language: Christ, true God, true man, is a mystery which the Christian should contemplate even though he cannot understand it: he feels bathed in a light so strong that it is beyond understanding, yet fills his soul with faith and with a desire to worship his Lord.
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.

Lenten Reflection: Avarice, The Second Capital Sin

"Covetousness is the root of all evils, and some in their eagerness to get rich have strayed from the faith and have involved themselves in many troubles." 1 Timothy, 6:10.

The story is just as pointed as it is old of the man whose soul was con­trolled by the devil of avarice. He had a lot of money, but he wanted more. In his fear that thieves might learn of his riches and come to steal them he had a strong room built deep down beneath the foundations of his house. The door to this room was made of iron and was cleverly concealed in the wall.

Every time he got hold of some more gold this grasping fellow would hurry to his hiding place and add it to his heaps of coins. One day he acquired a particularly large amount of money, and he was particularly eager to add it to his treasures. He hurried to his secret chamber, but in his haste he forgot to take the key from the outside of the lock. He entered, quickly closed the door, dropped the new-won coins one by one on the piles of gold and silver, gloating over every piece. As he started to leave he dis­covered to his horror that the door was locked and could be opened only from the outside. He screamed and shouted for help; he tried to dig and scrape his way out. But the room was so strongly built that there was no hearing him and there was no escape.

Meanwhile his family wondered where he was. They thought some mis­fortune had befallen him. They searched everywhere. They asked his friends and business acquaintances. No one had seen him. At last the news reached a locksmith who immediately remembered that this miser had engaged him to make a strong door with a spring lock that would lock itself when the door was closed. He hurried to the home, told the family and rushed to the secret door. There was the key in the lock - outside. They opened the door and found the dead body of the man sprawling with his arms extended over the heaps of coins, embracing his treasures in his death­struggle, still worshipping in death the god of gold he had adored during life.

1. That man had been killed by the devil of avarice, the second capital sin. Avarice or covetousness means an excessive love of money and worldly goods. Those material possessions may take the form of books or pictures, buildings or land, cars or jewelry. Usually, however, to the avaricious man gold is god. All his affection, all his ambition, all his talents and all his energies are principally and often exclusively devoted to getting more and more gold, money and goods.

2. Avarice attacks in every walk of life. It is a vice that affects both the rich and the poor, the high and the lowly. Have we not all seen men of means, men who have plenty of this world's goods, still straining with every ounce of their strength, and with every power of mind and body, to build up a still bigger bank account? Have we not seen men and women who own several houses or hundreds of acres of land or boxes full of jewelry, still striving to get more? But the covetous are not limited to the wealthy. There are avaricious people among the poor. They would give anything to have more of this world's goods. Their hearts are set on riches, even though they do not have them. They strive for things which are beyond their reach.

3. The more food you give this devil of avarice, the more he wants. The covetous heart is ever adding to what it has; it is never satisfied. St. Bern­ardin of Siena brings this out in a conversation he carries on with a money­grabber:
"Now, 0 miser, how much money do you want?" asks our saint.

"If I had ten thousand florins," replied the miser, "I would consider myself
well off."

A florin was worth about 50 cents. Let's say the man wanted ten thousand dollars. Suppose St. Bernardin gives him the ten thousand and a few days later asks what he has done with them. "Oh, I have spent them," answered the miser, "and I need some more. There was a tenant of mine to whom I lent a hundred. Then I spent some on cattle, and fifty I used to repair a house, oh, more than fifty."

When our saint asked him how much he now wanted the avaricious one exclaimed:

"Oh, I need fifteen thousand at least."

"What are you going to do with that much money?" asked St. Bernardin.

"Oh, there is a house beside mine that I would do very well to possess. And between the two houses there is a plot of land. If I could have that, nobody would be able to get at me to do me any harm."

No sooner did he spend the fifteen thousand than he wanted twenty-­five thousand. When the saint asked him why, the fellow declared:

"What would I do with it? Well, to begin with, there is a certain castle that greatly attracts me. And I want to have a room by each one of the gates. You know I can't bear foggy weather. And so if it is foggy in one place, I must have somewhere to go where it is clear."

St. Bernardin winds up his sermon on the subject by sarcastically saying that the man would then want grand clothes and equipment, and would not be satisfied even if he had a hundred thousand dollars.

Revise this story and the amounts of money, and you have a picture of many people, including some Catholics. Indeed, some of our modern gold-seekers would not stop at a hundred thousand or a million.

4. Such covetous hearts are also wretched and miserable. They cannot be content. They never relax. They never rest. They never sleep. They never stop grasping.

5. The covetous man has many marks, many characteristics by which we can recognize him. Pay close attention to these marks. Some of these labels may fit you:
A. He is heartless and inhuman toward everyone, including those who are in extreme need. His condition is brought out in the famous German folk story about a poor charcoal burner who in the kindness of his heart always tried to do good turns for others. Often he wished for riches that he might help others still more. One day a wicked-looking spirit met him in the woods and told him he would make him rich on condition that he exchange his heart of flesh for a wonderful mechanical heart. The poor man did not fancy the con­dition, but he consented to the bargain. The evil spirit cast him into a deep sleep. When he awoke he could feel the mechanical heart beating regularly in his breast but it, felt cold, very cold. Riches came to him, but his heart was harsh and stony, his manner over­bearing. Everything he touched turned to gold, but the more money he made, the harder his heart became. As old age crept upon him he longed, but in vain, for his warm human heart. The man who gives in to a greed for gold, always has to make this cruel exchange. His heart becomes hard.

B. The avaricious man is mean and stingy. He becomes what we call in common language a "skinflint," a "cheapskate," a "tightwad." He shows this stinginess everywhere:
i. He shows it at home where he scarcely allows enough money to pay for the necessities of life. The skimpy allowance he gives his wife scarcely pays for the groceries and running expenses. He denies his wife and children any pleasure or amusement that costs money, not because he does not have the money, but because he wants to build up a bank account.

ii. The avaricious man is stingy outside the home. Ask him to help in a charity drive of any kind and he will try to find an excuse for not giving. If he does weaken he will give a dollar when he should give a twenty. His support of the Church is as cheap as he can pos­sibly make it. To cover up his stinginess with the Lord he will rant and rave about expensive church furnishings, about the priests bleed­ing the parishioners, and winds up demanding where all the money goes to.

iii. This stingy fellow is stingy also in his social life. That is where he gets the nickname of "cheapskate." He will never treat unless he is forced. He lets others pay the way, and pick up the bill.

For tips he picks the smallest coins out of his pocket. It is not a question of prudent economy; it is miserliness and meanness with regard to money.
C. When you see a Catholic who gives little or nothing to the missions, who gripes about the orphan collection, who waits and waits to make his measly contribution to the building fund, mark him down as a miser. The man who thinks only of his own bank account will be blind and deaf to all the good work of the Church.

D. Because it might cost him something in the way of money, time, or energy, the covetous man will avoid serving on committees or as an officer of parish organizations. He is stingy not only with his silver; he is stingy with his service. He takes no practical interest in parish or community affairs.

E. He delays in paying his bills, causing needless expense and incon­venience to his debtors. He figures that in the meantime he can draw the interest on the money which should be used for meeting his obligations.

F. He becomes uneasy and even angry at trifling losses or expenses. He flies into a rage if one of the family accidentally breaks some­thing, or if something is spoiled or lost.

G. Often the avaricious man is guilty of violating the Tenth Command­ment, namely, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." Covet here means to want in the wrong way. He cannot bear to see another with a better car or more property or a bigger bank account. He is miserable at the financial success of others. The good fortune of his neighbor makes him unhappy.

An old legend brings out this con­nection between avarice and jealousy. A business man, while on a journey, overtook two travelers. One was a greedy, avaricious man; the other was of a jealous and envious make-up. When they came to the parting of their ways, the merchant said he wanted to give them a parting gift. Whoever made a wish first would have his wish ful­filled, and the other man would get a double portion of what the first had asked for. The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to express his wish, because he wanted a double portion, and could not bear to think of his companion getting twice as much as he would receive. Meanwhile the envious man was unwilling to wish first, because he could not stand the idea that his companion would get twice as much as he would get. Each waited and waited for the other to wish first. Finally the covetous man took the envious man by the throat and threatened to choke him to death unless he made his wish. At that threat the envious man said:

"All right, I will make my wish. I wish to be blind in one eye."

At once he lost the sight of one eye, and his avaricious companion went blind in both eyes. That is how avarice and the other capital sin of envy blind and curse the souls of men.

H. Avarice is also one of the principal causes of the controversy and struggle between labor and management that has brought on so much bitterness and so many costly, crippling strikes and violence. Not always, but often, the demands of labor rise from avarice and not from justice. On the other hand, the refusal of management to grant just demands finds its foundation in covetousness, a desire for greater profits.

This vice creeps into other business and social relations. The grocer who cheats, the butcher who gives unjust weights, as well as the customer who tries to outdo the merchant, all are inspired by avarice. Yes, it is one of the capital, principal vices of mankind, a vice we must weed out at all costs and at all efforts.
6. We must keep clearly in mind the difference between avarice and prudent economy. It is not wrong to be thrifty, to be saving and economical. In fact, wasteful and extravagant living is the opposite vice. How can a person tell whether he is stingy or merely economical?

By asking himself whether he is guilty of anyone of the indications or marks of the covetous person, as I have just outlined them for you. If your saving makes you unfeeling toward the poor and suffering, if it makes you stingy toward your family, your parish, and other charities, if it keeps you from cooperating in parish affairs, if it prompts you to delay paying your debts, if it makes you extremely sad when you lose something or miss a chance to make money - then you can be sure that the devil of avarice has a hold on your heart.

7. Once you have recognized this evil spirit of greed in your make-up, start at once to root it out. How can a covetous man overcome this vice?
A. He should realize that he is merely a pilgrim on this earth, and that he cannot take his treasures with him. He should recall the words of St. Paul to St. Timothy, words which are divinely addressed to all of us :
"Godliness with contentment is indeed great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and certainly we can take nothing out." 1 Timothy, 6:6-7.

B. He should think less of earth and more of heaven, recalling and living the words of that same letter of St. Paul to St. Timothy regarding the rich:
"Let them do good and be rich in good works, giving readily, sharing with others, and thus providing for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, in order that they may lay hold on the true life." 1 Timothy, 6:18.

C. The avaricious man must consider the emptiness of mere things, helpless things, like money and land and belongings. Think of the wretched man in the story with which we started tonight - the man who was accidentally locked in the secret room with all his treasures. His piles of gold were helpless to open a door or secure him assist­ance. Stocks and bonds and bank accounts will be worthless on the day of doom. They will be worse than worthless, if we have violated God's law in acquiring them.

D. The covetous soul should weigh the evils of avarice: it hardens the heart, it blinds the eyes, it cripples the hand of giving, it limits the joys of life to cold, unsatisfying gold.

E. He should seek to know the will of God, especially as expressed in the Tenth Commandment: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods."

F. Above all he should strive to acquire that virtue which is the direct opposite of avarice, namely, generosity.
8. Generosity is that virtue which withdraws the affections from earthly goods and prompts a person to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It shows itself:
A. In active charity toward the poor. Suppose you suspect that you are covetous. Test yourself by giving to some poor person or some charitable cause at the next opportunity.

B. In supporting good works. The next time there is a collection for the missions, the orphans, or war relief, double your contribution. Prove to yourself that you are not avaricious. Incidentally, you will double your blessings.

C. In developing greater confidence in God. The more you put your trust in earthly treasures, the less you put your confidence in God. Yes, be thrifty, be economical, be saving, but be so in a prudent, reasonable way. We find generous souls in every walk of life.
9. About twenty years ago there died in Davenport, Iowa, a man who was nicknamed "Hummer." His real name was Henry Kahl, but they called him "Hummer" Kahl because he got things done efficiently and quickly. His life reads like an Alger story - poverty to riches. Born in 1875, he had to go to work at the age of 12. At 16 he was driving a team for a con­tractor. He worked energetically and efficiently, became a foreman and then a partner in the business. As head of a contracting firm he never asked his men to do anything that he could not do. He was fearless as well as tireless. No one was surprised when he became a millionaire. And no one was surprised at his generosity in the giving of time and energy and money to individuals and worthy causes. His keenest delight was to do someone a kindness unnoticed. He was the very opposite of an avari­cious man, so that the then Bishop Rohlman could say of him:
"To his fellow citizens he remains a demonstration that a man can reach wealth and success through honesty and hard work. To those of our faith he will be a challenging example of a man who made his mark in a material way, and was withal a thoroughly practical Catholic."
Would that this could be said of everyone of you.

10. Finally, in this question of avarice and liberality, we can do no better than think of our Lord and how He purposely gave everything He had in the service of others. Think of how He was stripped of even His clothing in His passion and death.

By way of contrast, recall the avaricious Judas who sold His Master for thirty pieces of silver. What a contrast! Tonight and during this Lent choose to be more like the Master and less like Judas. Trust not riches. Trust in God. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Prayers & Reflections for April 5

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


Happy is that soul, which heareth the Lord speaking within her; and from his mouth receiveth the word of comfort.

Happy ears which receive the accents of the divine whisper, and take no notice of the whisperings of the world.

Happy ears, indeed, which hearken to truth itself teaching within, and not to the voice which soundeth without.

Happy eyes, which are shut to outward things, and attentive to the interior.

Happy they who penetrate into internal things; and endeavour to prepare themselves more and more by daily exercises for the attaining to heavenly secrets.

Happy they who seek to be wholly intent on God, and who rid themselves of every wordly impediment.

Mind these things, O my soul, and shut the doors of thy senses, that thou mayest hear what the Lord thy God speaks within thee.

Thus saith thy Beloved: I am thy salvation, thy peace, and thy life; abide in me, and thou shalt find peace.

Let alone all transitory things, and seek things eternal.

What are all temporal things, but deceit? and what will all things created avail thee, if thou be forsaken by thy Creator?

Cast off then all earthly things, and make thyself agreeable to thy Creator, and faithful to him that so thou mayest attain to true happiness.
-Imitation oj Christ, Book III.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Monday, April 04, 2011

Gospel for Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent

John 5:1-16

The Cure of a Sick Man at the Pool at Bethzatha
[1] After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [2] Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. [3] In these lay a multitude of invalid, blind, lame, paralyzed. [5] One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. [6] When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there for a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" [7] The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me." [8] Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk." [9] And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. [10] So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet." [11] But he answered them, "The man who healed me said to me, `Take up your pallet, and walk.'" [12] They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, `Take up your pallet, and walk'?" [13] Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. [14] Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you." [15] The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. [16] And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because He did this on the Sabbath.
1. We cannot be certain what festival this was; it probably refers to the Passover, known the world over at the time as the national festival of the Jewish people. But it could refer to another festival, Pentecost, perhaps.

2. This pool was also called the "Probatic" pool because it was located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, beside the Probatic Gate or Sheep Gate (cf. Nehemiah 3:1-32; 12:39) through which came the livestock which was going to be sacrificed in the temple. Around the end of the nineteenth century the remains of a pool were discovered: excavated out of rock, it was rectangular in shape and was surrounded by four galleries or porches, with a fifth porch dividing the pool into two.

3-4. The Fathers teach that this pool is a symbol of Christian Baptism; but that whereas the pool of Bethzatha cured physical ailments, Baptism cures those of the soul; in Bethzatha's case only one person was cured, now and again; shown through the medium of water (cf. Chrysostom, "Hom. on St. John", 36, 1).

The Sixto-Clementine edition of the Vulgate includes here, as a second part of verse 3 and all of verse 4: "waiting for the moving of the water; [4] For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and troubled the water' whoever stepped in first after the troubling of the water was healed of whatever disease he had." The New Vulgate, however, omits this passage, assigning it to a footnote, because it does not appear in important Greek codexes and papyri, nor in many ancient translations.

14. The man may have come to the temple to thank God for his cure. Jesus goes over to him and reminds him that the health of the soul is more important than physical health.

Our Lord uses holy fear of God as motivation in the struggle against sin: "Sin no more, that nothing worse may befall you". This holy fear is born out of respect for God our Father; it is perfectly compatible with love. Just as children love and respect their parents and try to avoid annoying them partly because they are afraid of being punished, so we should fight against sin firstly because it is an offense against God, but also because we can be punished in this life and, above all, in the next.

16-18. The Law of Moses established the Sabbath as a weekly day of rest. Through keeping the Sabbath the Jews felt they were imitating God, who rested from the work of creation on the seventh day. St. Thomas Aquinas observes that Jesus rejects this strict interpretation: (The Jews), in their desire to imitate God, did nothing on the Sabbath, as if God on that day had ceased absolutely to act. It is true that He rested on the Sabbath from His work of creating new creatures, but He is always continually at work, maintaining them in existence. [...] God is the cause of all things in the sense that He also maintains them in existence; for if for one moment He were to stop exercising His power, at that very moment everything that nature contains would cease to exist" ("Comm. on St. John, in loc.").

"My Father is working still, and I am working": we have already said that God is continually acting. Since the Son acts together with the Father, who with the Holy Spirit are the one and only God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can say that He is always working. These words of Jesus contain an implicit reference to His divinity: the Jews realize this and they want to kill Him because they consider it blasphemous. "We all call God our Father, who is in Heaven (Isaiah 63:16; 64:8). Therefore, they were angry, not at this, that He said God was His Father, but that He said it in quite another way than men. Notice: the Jews understand what Arians do not understand. Arians affirm the Son to be not equal to the Father, and that was why this heresy was driven from the Church. Here, even the blind, even the slayers of Christ, understand the works of Christ" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang., 17, 16). We call God our Father because through grace we are His adopted children; Jesus calls Him His Father because He is His Son by nature. This is why He says after the Resurrection: "I am ascending to My Father and your Father" (John 20:17), making a clear distinction between the two ways of being a son 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.

Prayers & Reflections for April 4

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Evening Prayers

PSALM 33: ii:

Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Who is the man that desireth life: who loveth to see good days?

Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the just: and his ears unto their prayers.

But the countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil things: to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

The just cried, and the Lord heard them: and delivered them out of all their troubles.

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart: and he will save the humble of spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the just; but out of them all will the Lord deliver them.

The Lord keepeth all their bones, not one of them shall be broken.

The death of the wicked is very evil: and they that hate the just shall be guilty.

The Lord will redeem the souls of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall offend.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lenten Reflection, Lent and the Capital Sins - Pride

Pride, the First Capital Sin

"Now when he had risen from the dead early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalen, out of whom he had cast seven devils." St. Mark, 16:9.

No doubt many have seen the movie, "King of Kings." Produced years ago by Cecil De Mille, and shown throughout the country, the film is an understanding and respectful life of Christ, the King of kings. Many scenes are dramatic and stirring.

One of the most interesting parts of the play is that which pictures Mary Magdalen meeting our Lord for the first time. She came to Christ - ­a sinner; she left - a saint. She came - proud, sensual, and vain; she left­ - humble and mortified. She came - guilty; she left - forgiven. It was intensely interesting to see how this change took place.

Christ merely looks at Mary, looks into her very soul. And that look of our Lord softens her proud heart. She draws back some distance. She cannot bear that sad, loving look. The struggle in her soul is clearly shown in the picture. Each in its turn, the seven deadly sins come in the guise of devils and whisper into the ear of Magdalen. Each in turn is repulsed by her, as she drinks in grace from the gaze of Christ. The devil of pride and the devil of avarice, together with the devils of lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth, are firmly brushed aside. Finally Mary is free of her old tempters. In shame she drops her head. In modesty she covers her half­-nude body. She rushes to Christ and falls at His feet. There she secures the forgiveness for which her entire being is crying out.

Like Mary Magdalen, we also are beset and enslaved by at least some if not all of these same death-dealing devils, the seven capital sins. It is not our privilege to look into the physical face of Jesus, as she did. Never­theless, we can go before Christ present in the tabernacle, and by faith look into His face as He looks into our hearts. We should plan to do just that during this Lent. We want to consider the seven deadly or capital sins. We want to let the grace of God work in us as it did in Magdalen. Gradually we will gain the grace to cast off, as she did, our habits of pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.

We call these the seven capital sins because each is a source and seed from which all other sins proceed. They are the seven principal devils who deal out spiritual death. They are the seven principal diseases of the soul, the causes of all spiritual sickness. Christ drove them out of Mary Mag­dalen; He will drive them out of us, as we come into His Eucharistic presence during these Lenten days of penance and prayer. May the love of Christ drive out these seven sources of sin - His greatest enemies and our greatest enemies.

1. The first capital sin and leader of them all is pride, which means an unregulated opinion and love of one's own excellence. The proud man con­siders himself greater and more important than he really is. He thinks he has some greatness which actually does not belong to him. The proud man considers himself more than he is in the eyes of God. He forgets that he is a creature; he forgets that all his gifts have come from God. It is a vice that can creep into any heart.

The following story is told of the famous preacher Abraham of Santa Clara. One day a lady came to him tearfully bewailing the fact that she was the greatest of all sinners. She told the illustrious pulpit orator that no one could compare with her in the number and seriousness of spiritual crimes. The wise Father Abraham knew that this lady was always praying in church. In his good sense and experience with souls he saw at once that this lady was accusing herself and humbling herself, not out of true humil­ity, but from deep-rooted pride. He knew that one who is truly humble does not display her humility. Accordingly he told her:
"It is much to be regretted that you publish the fact that you are such a great sinner. I do not wish to have anything to do with an individual who proclaims herself to be the greatest sinner in the world."
At this the would-be humble one became very angry and exclaimed:
"Who can say a word against me? I have done nothing wrong. I spend the greater part of my time in church. I fast frequently, and perform other good works."
The preacher smiled, bowed, and left. That woman was proud. She had a high opinion of herself. She considered herself better than others. She displayed one of the signs of pride.

2. Pride shows itself in various ways:
A. By giving to oneself the credit for all the good one has and all the good one does. All our talents, all our blessings, are from God. To Him belongs the credit.­

B. By disobedience to lawful authority, and by insisting on one's own will in everything or most things. In our day of license this is a common occurrence. We do have freedom, but freedom does not mean that we can do anything we want. Obedience to the laws of God's Church and to the laws of the land is still our duty. To con­sider oneself above such laws and directions and regulations is a mark of the proud man.

C. By stubborn unwillingness to consider or to cooperate with the desires and plans of others. How often we find this type of pride in our homes and places of work. Such a simple thing as planning a picnic may make the proud man or woman insist on what he or she wants as to time and place and food and the form of fun to be enjoyed on that outing.

D. By refusing advice or assistance. Pity the man who will never ask for advice. Double pity on the man who never seeks spiritual or religious advice. Many more Catholics, especially the young, should ask their spiritual leaders, their priests, about their plans with regard to a vocation or to marriage or some other important step in life. The man who tries to travel an unknown wilderness or to scale the Alps without a competent guide is no more senseless than the Cath­olic who refuses to ask and accept advice on his spiritual path through life.

E. By growing impatient at correction by lawful authorities. It does hurt our pride to be told that we have done wrong or have made a mistake. It hurts our pride to take directions and orders from others. When a young person, for example, refuses to accept the advice and admonition of his or her parents or teachers, he proves himself a proud person. In the pulpit and in the confessional your priests have to correct, and point out what is wrong. A proud person will resent such correction.

Two young fellows were once arguing about what day Christmas would fall on that year. One maintained that it would be Wednesday. The other stoutly asserted that it would come on Thursday. After a great deal of heated debate and betting of hundreds of dollars, they decided to consult a calendar, only to learn that it would fall on Friday. Both were wrong. Did they admit it? Not on your life. The Wednesday debater laughed:
"Oh, I knew it was Friday all the time."
And the Thursday fellow declared that he was one day closer than the other to the actual day. How often such scenes take place in our homes and offices.

F. By looking down upon and criticizing others, The lady with a new hat will look down upon the woman wearing last year's headgear. The woman with the new bonnet should not take the credit to her­self. She should give it to the ostrich who supplied the feathers and to the milliner who designed and made the hat.

The same holds for the critic. Pointing out the faults of others is one of the easiest and trickiest habits to fall into. Whether the action we criticize is intentional or not, we do not know what caused the person to do it, how much he was tempted, and how often.

G. By boasting and bragging about our accomplishments. Knowing that people despise a bragger, the proud man will find clever ways of letting it be known what wonders he has performed.

Here we must point out that there is such a thing as just pride. We should have a reasonable pride in our appearance, in our family, our school, our work, and above all in our Church. It is the right kind of pride when we strive to excel in our studies, in our profes­sion or in our trade.

H. By ignoring, forgetting and passing over our own faults. What a miserable wretch is the fellow who never admits a fault, who blinds himself to the mistakes he has made, who even thinks that he cannot make a mistake.

I. By an unreasonable fear of failure. Some Catholics never can make up their minds to attempt anything worthwhile, because they are senselessly afraid that they might fail and others might laugh. This is one reason many young people never make a start in some profes­sion or career, a frequent reason many boys and girls do not tryout a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life. At bottom it is a proud fear of failure, in addition to a lack of self denial.

J. By being needlessly concerned about the impression we are making on others. Why worry what others think, as long as you are doing your best and looking your reasonable best. In general, other people bother about us much less than we think. There are other ways in which pride shows itself, but these I mentioned are the most com­mon.
3. Pride is definitely a sin:
A. It was the first sin committed in heaven and on earth. It was the sin of Lucifer who shouted:
"I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." (Isaias, 14:13).
It was the sin of our first parents who ate of the forbidden tree because Satan promised that it would make them like God.

B. For that very reason pride is the greatest sin - it is aimed directly against God, and is the breeding place of all other vices. How much God hates this vice the Bible tells us:
i. "God resists the proud." 1 Peter, 5:5.

ii. "I will not give my glory to another." Isaias, 42:8.

iii. "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled." Luke, 18:14.
C. Pride is also the most dangerous vice, because it is so natural and sly. One can easily be tricked into thinking one is better than others. It is dangerous also because it leads to other sins, as Sacred Scrip­ture declares:
"From pride all perdition took its beginning." Tobias, 4:14.

"Pride goes before destruction." Proverbs, 16:18.
4. Suppose you suspect that you are proud, that you are guilty of one of these ways in which pride betrays itself. What can you do about it?
A. Study the life of our Lord, especially His forty days of penance and prayer during that first Lent. Recall His humility all through life, particularly during His passion and death. Look at our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani, and listen to His prayer: "Not my will, but thine be done."

B. Read and imitate the lives of the saints. They were all humble souls, no matter what they had accomplished for the Lord, no matter what their success, what their virtues, and what their position.

C. Consider the emptiness of created things. How empty is fame, how empty is praise, how empty the little satisfactions we get from boast­ing and criticizing.

D. Remember that you came from nothing, you are nothing, and you
can do nothing, except in so far as God helps you.

E. Realize the hatred and dislike that God has for pride, and how He has punished the proud: pride plunged Lucifer from the heights of heaven; pride brought on the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel; pride brought defeat to Pharao and to Goliath; pride reduced Nabuchodonosor to the condition of an animal; pride drew Christ's divine criticism upon the Pharisees and the Scribes.

F. See the beauty and the excellence of humility, as the Book of Prov­erbs, 11:2, tells us:
"Where humility is, there also is wisdom."
5. The best way to overcome pride is to learn the meaning, the value, and the necessity of humility, the foundation of all other virtues. Humility is that virtue which teaches us to look on all good as coming from God. If we could only get this thought into our living - everything worthwhile is from God. Essentially humility is the truth, and the truth is that all we have is from God.

6. True humility brings in its train many virtues pleasing to God. Among them we might mention:
A. Meekness and gentleness.
B. Confidence and trust in God alone.
C. Charity and genuine sympathy.
D. Sorrow for our sins and the sins of the world.
E. Deep gratitude to God for all His gifts.
7. How does humility prove itself? How can I be sure that I am prac­tising this essential virtue? It is proven by­:
A. Ready obedience to superiors, whether it be at home, at school, at work, in your parish, or in public life. Christ gives the perfect exam­ple of such obedience. He was obedient even unto death.

B. Yielding your opinion to that of others, even in unimportant matters, such as come up constantly in daily life.

C. Moderation and modesty in the way you dress, in the carriage of your body, in the tone of your voice, and in the expression of your opinions.

D. Willingness and readiness to ask advice and to accept it when given.

E. Gentleness and kindness in our dealings with others, especially with those who are inferior in social status, education, wealth, or talents. Christ continually showed gentleness toward the sick and the poor and the outcast.

F. Willingness to do big and little favors for others that take time and effort on our part. Look at Christ. Nothing was too much for Him, when it was a question of doing good to someone.

G. Keeping calm and undisturbed amid insults, misfortunes, delays, and interference with our plans and programs. Look at our Lord during His passion and death. How patient, how uncomplaining, how for­giving.

H. Accepting humiliations when they come. This is extremely impor­tant. There can be no humility without humiliations, and humilia­tions come every day. A correction by a teacher, a mistake in making change, even a breach of etiquette, can be an occasion for practicing humility. Christ accepted the bitterest humiliations, not because He deserved them, but because He wanted to take them in our place.

I. Avoiding praise of oneself and of one's accomplishments.

J. Performing humble tasks, whether they are in our everyday line of duty, or whether we must go out of our way to perform them.

This point is illustrated by a story from the beginning of the last century. A well-dressed young man bought several things at a store, and asked for a boy to carry them home for him. The clerk told him they had no boy at the time, and that the packages could be easily carried. "What!" exclaimed the youth, "Carry them myself? Don't you know that I belong to one of the oldest families in Vir­ginia ?"

Just then an elderly, distinguished looking gentleman stepped up, took the packages, and said:
"Come on, I'll carry them for you."

On reaching his home, the young man wanted to pay his elderly helper, but the gentleman refused with these words:
"I did not carry them for money."

The young man asked someone standing near who the old man was. The bystander replied:
"Why, that is John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."

The surprised young man had the good sense to take the lesson in humility.
8. In a similar way the supreme lesson in humility is taught us as our Lord carries the cross for us, as He submits to ridicule and torture, as He dies the humiliating death on a cross.

9. As we enter this sacred season of Lent Mother Church puts ashes on our brow to remind us of our humble origin and to remind us of what will be­come of all earthly things - they will turn to dust. What a lesson in humility!

10. They tell of a very bright boy who always knew his lessons perfectly, who was well-behaved and courteous at all times. He was the pride and joy of his teacher, a discerning person who did not want her pupil to become unreasonably proud. She brought to class one day two pictures­ - one of Jesus talking to the doctors in the temple and answering all their questions, the other a picture of Jesus hanging in death upon the cross.

At once the bright boy saw the point. There was Jesus, who knew all things, who could do all things, yet who humbled Himself to a shameful death upon the cross.

May Christ's humility drive out our pride, as His love and grace drove pride from the heart of Mary Magdalen. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Prayers & Reflections for April 3

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Evening Prayers


I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be always in my mouth.

In the Lord shall my soul be praised; let the meek hear and rejoice.

O magnify the Lord with me; and let us extol his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he heard me; and he delivered me from all my troubles.

Come ye to him and be enlightened: and your faces shall not be confounded.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him: and saved him out of all his troubles.

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him: and shall deliver them.

O taste and see that the Lord is sweet: blessed is the man that hopeth in him.

Fear the Lord, all ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.

The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons