Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gospel for Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord

From: John 20:1-9

The Empty Tomb
[1] Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. [2] So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." [3 ]Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. [4] They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; [5] and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. [6] Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, [7] and the napkin, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. [8] Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; [9] for as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.

1-2. All four Gospels report the first testimonies of the holy women and the disciples regarding Christ's glorious resurrection, beginning with the fact of the empty tomb (cf. Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1ff; Luke 24:1-12) and then telling of the various appearances of the risen Jesus.

Mary Magdalene was one of the women who provided for our Lord during His journeys (Luke 8:1-3); along with the Virgin Mary she bravely stayed with Him right up to His final moments (John 19:25), and she saw where His body was laid (Luke 23:55). Now, after the obligatory Sabbath rest, she goes to visit the tomb. The Gospel points out that she went "early, when it was still dark": her love and veneration led her to go without delay, to be with our Lord's body.

4. The Fourth Gospel makes it clear that, although the women, and specifically Mary Magdalene, were the first to reach the tomb, the Apostles were the first to enter it and see the evidence that Christ had risen (the empty tomb, the linen clothes "lying" and the napkin in a place by itself). Bearing witness to this will be an essential factor in the mission which Christ will entrust to them: "You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem...and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8; cf. Acts 2:32).

John, who reached the tomb first (perhaps because he was the younger), did not go in, out of deference to Peter. This is an indication that Peter was already regarded as leader of the Apostles.

5-7. The words the Evangelist uses to describe what Peter and he saw in the empty tomb convey with vivid realism the impression it made on them, etching on their memory details which at first sight seem irrelevant. The whole scene inside the tomb in some way caused them to intuit that the Lord had risen. Some of the words contained in the account need further explanation, so terse is the translation.

"The linen clothes lying there": the Greek participle translated as "lying there" seems to indicate that the clothes were flattened, deflated, as if they were emptied when the body of Jesus rose and disappeared--as if it had come out of the clothes and bandages without their being unrolled, passing right through them (just as later He entered the Cenacle when the doors were shut). This would explain the clothes being "fallen", "flat" "lying", which is how the Greek literally translates, after Jesus' body--which had filled them--left them. One can readily understand how this would amaze a witness, how unforgettable the scene would be.

"The napkin...rolled up in a place by itself": the first point to note is that the napkin, which had been wrapped round the head, was not on top of the clothes, but placed on one side. The second, even more surprising thing is that, like the clothes, it was still rolled up but, unlike the clothes, it still had a certain volume, like a container, possibly due to the stiffness given it by the ointments: this is what the Greek participle, here translated as "rolled", seems to indicate.

From these details concerning the empty tomb one deduces that Jesus' body must have risen in a heavenly manner, that is, in a way which transcended the laws of nature. It was not only a matter of the body being reanimated as happened, for example, in the case of Lazarus, who had to be unbound before he could walk (cf. John 11:44).

8-10. As Mary Magdalene had told them, the Lord was not in the tomb; but the two Apostles realized that there was no question of any robbery, which was what she thought had happened, because they saw the special way the clothes and napkin were; they know began to understand what the Master had so often told them about His death and resurrection (cf. Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; etc....)

The empty tomb and the other facts were perceptible to the senses; but the resurrection, even though it had effects that could be tested by experience, requires faith if it is to be accepted. Christ's resurrection is a real, historic fact: His body and soul were re-united. But since His was a glorious resurrection unlike Lazarus', far beyond our capacity in this life to understand what happened, and outside the scope of sense experience, a special gift of God is required--the gift of faith--to know and accept as a certainty this fact which, while it is historical, is also supernatural. Therefore, St. Thomas Aquinas can say that "the individual arguments taken alone are not sufficient proof of Christ's resurrection, but taken together, in a cumulative way, they manifest it perfectly. Particularly important in this regard are the spiritual proofs (cf. specially Luke 24:25-27), the angelic testimony (cf. Luke 24:4-7) and Christ's own post-resurrection word confirmed by miracles (cf. John 3:13; Matthew 16:21; 17:22; 20:18)" (St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae", III, q. 55, a. 6 ad 1).

In addition to Christ's predictions about His passion, death and resurrection (cf. John 2:19; Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22), the Old Testament also foretells the glorious victory of the Messiah and, in some way, His resurrection (cf. Psalm 16:9; Isaiah 52:13; Hosea 6:2). The Apostles begin to grasp the true meaning of Sacred Scripture after the resurrection, particularly once they receive the Holy Spirit, who fully enlightens their minds to understand the content of the Word of God. It is easy to imagine the surprise and elation they all feel when Peter and John tell them what they have seen in the tomb.
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.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reflections for Holy Week

A Meditation for the Week - Eucharistic Devotions
At the blessing of the palms, the priest reads the following:
GOSPEL (Matt. XXI. 1-9.) At that time, when Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem, and was come to Bethphage, unto Mount Olivet; then he sent two disciples, saying to them...

Vigilate et orate...
"Watch and pray." Matthew 26:41
The words I have chosen for my text today were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ to His three disciples - Peter, James, and John - in the Garden of Gethsemani. Entering that garden of sorrow with the three whom He had chosen as His companions at that awful hour, He said to them: "Stay you here, and watch with me." And when, returning from His agony and prayer, He found those three asleep, His words of reproach were: "What! are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour with me? Peter, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour! Watch, and pray that you enter not into temp­tation." And at last, when the time of His prayer and agony, and of His disciples' sleep was over, "Rise," said He, "Rise, pray that you enter not into temptation."...

A Meditation for Palm Sunday - Duties of Teachers
"Blessed is he who comes in the_name of the Lord." St. Matthew, 21:9

The great Italian artist, Michaelangelo, was one day walking with some friends through a back street of Florence, Italy. He noticed a block of marble lying in a yard, half buried with dirt and rubbish. He stopped, and regardless of his holiday attire, fell to clearing away the filth and dirt, and trying to lift it from the slime and mire. When his companions asked him what he wanted with that worthless chunk of rock, he gave his famous answer: "Oh, there's an angel in that stone, and I must let it out."...

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." St. Matthew, 21:9.

A wealthy business man in the middle west had large signs printed and placed all over the town. He stated that if any man in the town owed debts, and would come to his office on a certain day between nine and twelve in the morning, he would pay the debts. Naturally that promise was the talk of the town. Very few believed it. They thought there was a catch somewhere....

His Dying Words
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." St. Matthew, 21:9
"He was crucified." Creed.

Surely, you have all read the tragic tale of Evangline, especially as told by the poet Longfellow. The people of Acadia were being driven from their homes on orders, from the king of England. By some deceit the men had been lured into the church, there to learn that the entire village was to be exiled. Feelings ran high; bitter resentment and open defiance were evident. They were helpless to resist. When the tension was at its height, the village priest, Father Felician, took his place before them. He counselled patience and resignation and forgivness. He reminded them of the inno­cent Christ and His sufferings. Then pointing to the crucifix, he went on...

Pilate asks Jesus, "What is truth?"
When Pilate asks, "Quid est veritas?" (What is truth?), Jesus does not answer him.
This is because the answer to Pilate's question is contained within the question itself.
By rearranging the letters of the words in the question, one can find the answer to it:
"Est vir qui adest."

Tuesday of Holy Week - "I Am Thirsty!"
Presence of God. Stop for a few minutes from your day, retreat from the world and think about the serious and important act of speaking to God - This act of prayer which you are beginning.

The Presence of Christ
"This is my body...this is my blood." St. Matthew, 26:27,28.

In the not so distant days of persecution in old Mexico, it was against the law to meet and conduct any kind of religious service without permission. Despite this devilish regulation, many groups of Catholics met se­cretly to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. A spy betrayed one of these groups to the police. An officer with several soldiers surprised them one night at their place of prayer. The officer was angry; he was deter­mined to punish everyone present. He ordered a soldier to count all present and write down their names....

Your Crucifix
"Wear your crucifix with reflection," St. Andre-Hubert Fournet, "this other Cure of Ars" as he was so fittingly called, used to say to the Daughters of the Cross....

More Reflections for Good Friday
Good Friday-Dispositions for Holy Communion

Good Friday - Charity

Good Friday - Christ, Model of Obedience

Alter Christus - Fulget Crucis Mysterium

A Reflection for Good Friday - The Two Thieves

Prayers & Reflections for April 21

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers

PSALM 34 - Prayer for Victory

Judge thou, O Lord, them. that wrong me; overthrow them that fight against me.

Take hold of arms and shield: and rise up to help me.

Bring out the sword, and shut up the way against them that persecute me: say to my soul: I am thy salvation.

Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek after my soul.

Let them be turned back and be confounded that devise evil against me.

Let them become as dust before the wind: and let the angel of the Lord straiten them.

Let their way become dark and slippery; and let the angel of the Lord pursue them.

For without cause they have hidden their net for me unto destruction: without cause they have upbraided my soul.

Let the snare which he knoweth not come upon him: and let the net which he hath hidden catch him: and into that very snare let them fall.

But my soul shall rejoice in the Lord: and shall be delighted in his salvation.

[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 20, 2011

Gospel for Holy Thursday: Mass of Chrism

From: Luke 4:16-21

Jesus Preaches in Nazareth
[16] And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and He went to the synagogue, as His custom was, on the Sabbath Day. And He stood up to read; [17] and there was given to Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, [18] "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, [19] to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." [20] And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. [21] And He began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

16-30. For the Jews the Sabbath was a day of rest and prayer, as God commanded (Exodus 20:8-11). On that day they would gather together to be instructed in Sacred Scripture. At the beginning of this meeting they all recited the "Shema", a summary of the precepts of the Lord, and the "eighteen blessings". Then a passage was read from the Book of the Law--the Pentateuch--and another from the Prophets. The president invited one of those present who was well versed in the Scriptures to address the gathering. Sometimes someone would volunteer and request the honor of being allowed to give this address--as must have happened on this occasion. Jesus avails Himself of this opportunity to instruct the people (cf. Luke 4:16ff), as will His Apostles later on (cf. Acts 13:5, 14, 42, 44; 14:1; etc.). The Sabbath meeting concluded with the priestly blessing, recited by the president or by a priest if there was one present, to which the people answered "Amen" (cf. Numbers 6:22ff).

18-21. Jesus read the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 where the prophet announces the coming of the Lord, who will free His people of their afflictions. In Christ this prophecy finds its fulfillment, for He is the Anointed, the Messiah whom God has sent to His people in their tribulation. Jesus has been anointed by the Holy Spirit for the mission the Father has entrusted to Him. "These phrases, according to Luke (verses 18-19), are His first messianic declaration. They are followed by the actions and words known through the Gospel. By these actions and words Christ makes the Father present among men" (John Paul II, "Dives In Misericordia", 3).

The promises proclaimed in verses 18 and 19 are the blessings God will send His people through the Messiah. According to Old Testament tradition and Jesus' own preaching (cf. note on Matthew 5:3), "the poor" refers not so much to a particular social condition as to a very religious attitude of indigence and humility towards God, which is to be found in those who, instead of relying on their possessions and merits, trust in God's goodness and mercy. Thus, preaching good news to the poor means bringing them the "good news" that God has taken pity on them. Similarly, the Redemption, the release, which the text mentions, is to be understood mainly in a spiritual, transcendental sense: Christ has come to free us from the blindness and oppression of sin, which, in the last analysis, is slavery imposed on us by the devil. "Captivity can be felt", St. John Chrysostom teaches in a commentary on Psalm 126, "when it proceeds from physical enemies, but the spiritual captivity referred to here is worse; sin exerts a more severe tyranny, evil takes control and blinds those who lend it obedience; from this spiritual prison Jesus Christ rescued us" ("Catena Aurea"). However, this passage is also in line with Jesus' special concern for those most in need. "Similarly, the Church encompasses with her love all those who are afflicted by human misery and she recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer the image of her poor and suffering Founder. She does all in her power to relieve their need and in them she strives to serve Christ" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 8).

18-19. The words of Isaiah which Christ read out on this occasion describe very graphically the reason why God has sent His Son into the world--to redeem men from sin, to liberate them from slavery to the devil and from eternal death. It is true that in the course of His public ministry Christ, in His mercy, worked many cures, cast out devils, etc. But He did not cure all the sick people in the world, nor did He eliminate all forms of distress in this life, because pain, which entered the world through sin, has a permanent redemptive value when associated with the sufferings of Christ. Therefore, Christ worked miracles not so much to release the people concerned from suffering, as to demonstrate that He had a God-given mission to bring everyone to eternal salvation.

The Church carries on this mission of Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). These simple and sublime words, which conclude the Gospel of St. Matthew, point out "the obligation to preach the truths of faith, the need for sacramental life, the promise of Christ's continual assistance to His Church. You cannot be faithful to our Lord if you neglect these supernatural demands--to receive instruction in Christian faith and morality and to frequent the Sacraments. It is with this mandate that Christ founded His Church [...]. And the Church can bring salvation to souls only if she remains faithful to Christ in her constitution and teaching, both dogmatic and moral.

"Let us reject, therefore, the suggestion that the Church, ignoring the Sermon on the Mount, seeks a purely human happiness on earth, since we know that her only task is to bring men to eternal glory in Heaven. Let us reject any purely naturalistic view that fails to value the supernatural role of divine grace. Let us reject materialistic opinions that exclude spiritual values from human life. Let us equally reject any secularizing theory which attempts to equate the aims of the Church with those of earthly states, distorting its essence, institutions and activities into something similar to those of temporal society" ([St] J. Escriva, "In Love with the Church", 23 and 31).

18. The Fathers of the Church see in this verse a reference to the three persons of the Holy Trinity: the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) of the Lord (the Father) is upon Me (the Son); cf. Origen, "Homily 32". The Holy Spirit dwelt in Christ's soul from the very moment of the Incarnation and descended visibly upon Him in the form of a dove when He was baptized by John (cf. Luke 3:21-22).

"Because He has anointed Me": this is a reference to the anointing Jesus received at the moment of His Incarnation, principally through the grace of the hypostatic union. "This anointing of Jesus Christ was not an anointing of the body as in the case of the ancient kings, priests and prophets; rather it was entirely spiritual and divine, because the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him substantially" ("St. Pius X Catechism", 77). From this hypostatic union the fullness of all graces derives. To show this, Jesus Christ is said to have been anointed by the Holy Spirit Himself--not just to have received the graces and gifts of the Spirit, like the saints.

19. "The acceptable year": this is a reference to the jubilee year of the Jews, which the Law of God (Leviticus 25:8) lays down as occurring every fifty years, symbolizing the era of redemption and liberation which the Messiah would usher in. The era inaugurated by Christ, the era of the New Law extending to the end of the world, is "the acceptable year", the time of mercy and redemption, which will be obtained definitively in Heaven.

The Catholic Church's custom of the "Holy Year" is also designed to proclaim and remind people of the redemption brought by Christ, and of the full form it will take in the future life.

20-22. Christ's words in verse 21 show us the authenticity with which He preached and explained the Scriptures: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Jesus teaches that this prophecy, like the other main prophecies in the Old Testament, refers to Him and finds its fulfillment in Him (cf. Luke 24:44ff). Thus, the Old Testament can be rightly understood only in the light of the New - as the risen Christ showed the Apostles when He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:45), an understanding which the Holy Spirit perfected on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:4).

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 20

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

(Continued from yesterday)

The Lord liveth, and blessed be my God, and let the God of my salvation be exalted:

O God who avengest me, and subduest the people under me, my deliverer from my enemies.

And thou wilt lift me up above them that rise up against me: from the unjust man thou wilt deliver me.

Therefore will I give glory to thee, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing a psalm to thy name.

Giving great deliverance to his king, and shewing mercy to David his anointed: and to his seed for ever.

[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 19, 2011

Gospel for Wednesday of Holy Week

From: Matthew 26:14-25

Judas Betrays Jesus
[14] Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests [15] and said, "What will you give me if I deliver Him (Jesus) to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. [16] And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Him.

Preparations for the Last Supper
[17] Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover?" [18] He said, "Go into the city to such a one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.'" [19] And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared for the Passover.

[20] When it was evening, He sat at table with the twelve disciples; [21] and as they were eating, He said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." [22] And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to Him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" [23] He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray Me. [24] The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." [25] Judas, who betrayed Him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."

15. It is disconcerting and sobering to realize that Judas Iscariot actually went as far as to sell the man whom he had believed to be the Messiah and who had called him to be one of the Apostles. Thirty shekels or pieces of silver were the price of a slave (cf. Exodus 21:32), the same value as Judas put on his Master.

17. This unleavened bread, azymes, took the form of loaves which had to be eaten over a seven-day period, in commemoration of the unleavened bread which the Israelites had to take with them in their hurry to leave Egypt (cf. Exodus 12:34). In Jesus' time the Passover supper was celebrated on the first day of the week of the Unleavened Bread.

18. Although the reference is to an unnamed person, probably our Lord gave the person's actual name. In any event, from what other evangelists tell us (Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10), Jesus gave the disciples enough information to enable them to find the house.

22. Although the glorious events of Easter have yet to occur (which will teach the Apostles much more about Jesus), their faith has been steadily fortified and deepened in the course of Jesus' public ministry (cf. John 2:11; 6:68-69) through their contact with Him and the divine grace they have been given (cf. Matthew 16:17). At this point they are quite convinced that our Lord knows their internal attitudes and how they are going to act: each asks in a concerned way whether he will prove to be loyal in the time ahead.

24. Jesus is referring to the fact that He will give Himself up freely to suffering and death. In so doing He would fulfill the Will of God, as proclaimed centuries before (cf. Psalm 41:10; Isaiah 53:7). Although our Lord goes to His death voluntarily, this does not reduce the seriousness of Judas' treachery.

25. This advance indication that Judas is the traitor is not noticed by the other Apostles (cf. John 13:26-29).
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 19

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength: The Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.

My God is my helper, and in him will I put my trust.

My protector and the horn of my salvation, and my support.

Praising I will call upon the Lord: and I shall be saved from my enemies.

He sent from on high, and took me: and received me out of many waters.

He delivered me from my strongest enemies, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me.

They prevented me in the day of my affliction: and the Lord became my protector.

And he brought me forth into a large place: he saved me, because he was well pleased with me.

And the Lord will reward me according to my justice: and will repay me according to the cleanness of my hands:

Because I have kept the ways of the Lord: and have not done wickedly against my God.

For all his judgments are in my sight: and his justices I have not put away from me.

And I shall be spotless with him: and shall keep myself from my iniquity.

And the Lord will reward me according to my justice; and according to the cleanness of my hands before his eyes.

For who is God but the Lord? or who is God but our God?

God who hath girt me with strength: and made my way blameless.

Who hath made my feet like the feet of harts: and who setteth me upon high places.

Who teacheth my hands to war: and thou hast made my arms like a brazen bow.

And thou hast given me the protection of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath held me up:

And thy discipline hath corrected me unto the end: and thy discipline the same shall teach me.

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; and my feet are not weakened.

I will pursue after my enemies, and overtake them: and I will not turn again till they are consumed.

I will break them, and they shall not be able to stand: they shall fall under my feet.

And thou hast girded me with strength unto battle; and hast subdued under me them that rose up against me.

And thou hast made my enemies turn their back upon me, and hast destroyed them that hated me.

And they cried, but there was none to save them, to the Lord: but he heard them not.

And I shall beat them as small as the dust before the wind; I shall bring them to nought, like the dirt in the streets....

[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 18, 2011

Gospel for Tuesday of Holy Week

From: John 13:21-33, 36-38

The Treachery of Judas Foretold
[21] When Jesus had thus spoken, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." [22] The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. [23] One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; [24] so Simon Peter beckoned to Him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom He speaks." [25] So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to Him, "Lord, who is it?" [26] Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when He had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. [27] Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." [28] Now no one at the table knew why He said this to him. [29] Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what you need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor. [30] So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

[31] When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in Him God is glorified; [32] if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. [33] Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.' [36] Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow Me afterward." [37] Peter said to Him, "Lord, why cannot I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You." [38] Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied Me three times."

21. Christ's sadness is proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Judas was one of those whom Jesus chose to be an Apostle: he had been on intimate terms with Him for three years, he had followed Him everywhere, had seen His miracles, had heard His divine teaching, and experienced the tenderness of His affection. And despite all that, when the moment of truth comes, Judas not only abandons the Master but betrays Him and sells Him. Betrayal by an intimate friend is something much more painful and cruel than betrayal by a stranger, for it involves a lack of loyalty. The spiritual life of the Christian is also true friendship with Jesus; this means it is based on loyalty and uprightness, and on being true to one's word.

Judas had already decided to hand Jesus over and had made arrangements with the chief priests (cf. Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6). Temptation had been burrowing its way into Judas' heart for some time back, as we saw at the anointing at Bethany when he protested Mary's loving gesture; St. John commented in that connection that he did it not out of love for the poor but because he was a thief (cf. John 12:6).

23. In that period, on important occasions the customary thing was to eat reclining on a kind of divan called a "triclinium". The diner rested on his left elbow and ate with his right hand. This meant it was easy to lean on the person on one's left and talk to him without people hearing. In this verse we can see the intimacy and trust which obtained between the Master and the beloved disciple (cf. John 19:27; 20-2; 21:23), a model of Jesus' love for all His true disciples and of theirs for their Master.

26-27. The morsel which Jesus offers him is a sign of friendship and, therefore, an invitation to him to give up his evil plotting. But Judas rejects the chance he is offered. "What he received is good", St. Augustine comments, "but he received it to his own perdition, because he, being evil, received in an evil manner what is good" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 61, 6). Satan entering into him means that from that moment Judas gave in completely to the devil's temptation.

29. "These details have been recorded that we may not bear ill will against those who wrong us, but may reproach them and weep over them. Indeed, not those who are wronged, but those who do wrong deserve our tears. For the covetous man and the slanderer, and the man guilty of any other wrongdoing injure themselves most of all....] Christ repaid the man who was going to betray Him with just the opposite. For example, He washed his feet, reproved him without bitterness, censured him in private, ministered to him, allowed him to share in His table and His kiss. Yet, though Judas did not become better because of these things, Jesus Himself persevered in His course of action" (St. John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St. John", 71, 4).

30. The indication that "it was night" is not just a reference to the time of day but to darkness as an image of sin, an image of the power of darkness whose hour was beginning at that very moment (cf. Luke 22:53). The contrast between light and darkness, the opposition of good and evil, is frequently met with in the Bible, especially in the Fourth Gospel: even in the prologue we are told that Christ is the true Light which the darkness has not overcome (cf. John 1:5).

31-32. This glorification refers above all to the glory which Christ will receive once He is raised up on the cross (John 3:14; 12:32). St. John stresses that Christ's death is the beginning of His victory: His very crucifixion can be considered the first step in His ascension to His Father. At the same time it is glorification of the Father, because Christ, by voluntarily accepting death out of love, as a supreme act of obedience to the Will of God, performs the greatest sacrifice man can offer for the glorification of God. The Father will respond to this glorification which Christ offers Him by glorifying Christ as Son of Man, that is, in His holy human nature, through His resurrection and ascension to God's right hand. Thus the glory which the Son gives the Father is at the same time glory for the Son.

Christ's disciple will also find His highest motivation by identifying himself with Christ's obedience. St. Paul teaches this very clearly when he says: "Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).

33. From this verse onwards the evangelist recounts what is usually called the discourse of the Last Supper; in it we can distinguish three parts. In the first, our Lord begins by proclaiming the New Commandment (verses 33-35) and predicts Peter's denials (verses 36-38); He tells them that His death means His going to His Father (Chapter 14), with Whom He is one because He is God (verses 1-14); and He announces that after His resurrection He will send them the Holy Spirit, who will guide them by teaching them and reminding them of everything He told them (verses 15-31).

The second part of the discourse is contained in Chapters 15 and 16. Jesus promises to those who believe in Him a new life of union with Him, as intimate as that of a vine and its branches (15:1-18). To attain this union one must keep His New Commandment (verses 9-18). He forewarns them about the contradictions they will suffer, and He encourages them by promising the Holy Spirit who will protect them and console them (verses 18-27). The action of the Paraclete or Consoler will lead them to fulfill the mission Jesus has entrusted to them (16:1-15). The fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit will be fullness of joy (verses 16-33).

The third part (Chapter 7) gives Jesus' priestly prayer, in which He asks the Father to glorify Him through the cross (verses 1-5). He prays also for His disciples (verses 6-19) and for all those who through them will believe in Him, so that, staying in the world without being of the world, the love of God should be in them and they should bear witness to Christ being the envoy of the Father (verses 20-26).

36-38. Once again Peter in his simplicity and sincerity tells his Master that he is ready to follow Him even to the point of dying for Him. But he is not yet ready for that. Our Lord, St. Augustine comments, "establishes here a delay; He does not destroy the hope, indeed He confirms it by saying, `You shall follow afterwards! Why are you in haste, Peter? As yet the rock has not made you strong inwardly: do not be brought down by your presumption. Now you cannot follow Me, but do not despair: later you will'" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 66, 1). Peter had certainly meant what he said, but his resolution was not very solid. Later on he would develop a fortitude based on humility; then, not considering himself worthy to die in the way his Master did, he will die on a cross, head downwards, rooting in the soil of Rome that solid stone which endures in those who succeed him and forming the basis on which the Church, which is indefectible, is built. Peter's denials, which are signs of his weakness, were amply compensated for by his profound repentance. "Let everyone draw from this example of contrition, and if he has fallen let him not despair, but always remember that he can become worthy of forgiveness" (St. Bede, "In Ioann. Evang. Expositio, in loc".).
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: Sloth, the Seventh Capital Sin

"Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep, and an idle soul shall suffer hunger." Proverbs, 19:15.

At Long Beach, California, tnere is a section called Signal Hill. Some years ago two lots and a house were for sale on that hill. A man and his wife were looking for a place to live. Here was an ideal location. Here they could look down over the picturesque city of Long Beach stretching along the Pacific. And the price was most reasonable - only $1500. They were on the point of purchasing the place, when his wife objected: "I don't want to climb that hill every day."

As a result they did not purchase the property. Imagine their regret when they heard a short time later that oil had been discovered on Signal Hill. They had lost a golden opportunity; they had passed up a chance to be millionaires.

Their regret only grew as the fame and productiveness of the spot in­creased. Everyone of its 1350 acres yielded 322,000 barrels of oil. Since 1921 Signal Hill has produced upwards of 435 million barrels of crude oil, which would be valued at about the same number of dollars. The black gold gushes in streams from over 890 producing wells.

The man who had failed to buy the house and two lots at the paltry price of $1500, later estimated that at the lowest figure he had lost at least two million dollars.

And the wife who had refused to walk up that hill? Who can describe her feelings of remorse at her unwillingness to make that little effort to climb the hill? How miserable she must have felt ,when she saw that "black gold" gushing so profusely from the spot which might have been hers. Too late she realized that she would not have had to climb that hill very often. They could have leased the lots and lived in luxury elsewhere. But that chance was gone - through her refusal to climb a hill, through her selfish sloth.

Many another treasure has been missed through this sin of sloth, the seventh of the capital sins. Many a blessing of soul and body has been lost through spiritual and physical laziness. Many will never get to heaven because they are unwilling to climb the hill that leads to our home above.

This story is particularly fitting during Lent when we walk the way of the cross with Christ and follow Him as He climbs a hill, the cross on His bruised and burning back. Our Savior gave His all to climb that hill, so that we might all share the unlimited riches that gush forth from the gashes in His hands and feet and side. Sloth has kept many from climbing that hill, just as sloth kept the couple of our story from climbing a hill to material riches.

1. What is sloth? The sin of sloth means an excessive love of ease and idleness, an unwillingness to exert the body or the soul. Sloth means a laziness that leads to neglecting either our physical or spiritual duties.

Sloth, the seventh capital sin, is a distress of soul at the thought of what one has to do in order to secure or to keep the friendship of God.

2. Since we intend to emphasize spiritual sloth, rather than physical lazi­ness, as the former is more important, we should point out at the very begin­ning the difference between sloth and lukewarmness. Lukewarmness or tepidity, as it is sometimes called, is a decided distaste for religious and spiritual things in general. This dislike causes a person to perform his reli­gious duties in a careless, indifferent, lazy manner.

Sloth, on the other hand, is a disgust for spiritual practices, so strong that it makes a person disregard and even despise the friendship of God. We must not confuse either of these sins with what is usually called dry­ness, that is, a certain difficulty or drag in performing our spiritual duties. Sloth and lukewarmness are voluntary, and hence sinful; dryness is invol­untary, and hence not sinful.

3. How serious a sin is sloth? Sloth is seriously sinful for two main rea­sons:
A. It makes a man neglect the principal purpose of his life, the one thing necessary, namely, the salvation of his soul. Accordingly, it is a sin against the charity he owes himself, the love he should have for his own soul and salvation.

B. Sloth is directly opposed to the commandment that we love God with our whole heart, and our whole mind, and our whole strength, and our whole soul. In other words, sloth is opposed to the first and principal commandment, that of loving God.

C. Accordingly, sloth is a mortal sin, when it is fully voluntary, fully willed, and when it makes a person regret or neglect serious duties and obligations or even less important ones. It is a venial sin when it is not entirely voluntary.

D. Tepidity or lukewarmness, which means a careless, lazy performance of our religious duties, is not in itself seriously sinful, but it is extremely dangerous. It often leads to sloth. Our Lord used some strong language about tepidity or carelessness.
"I would that thou were cold or hot. But because thou are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth." Apocalypse, 3:16.
4. Sloth betrays itself in many ways:
A. In avoiding as much as possible all manual labor or physical effort. The wife in our story, by refusing to climb that hill, showed her physical sloth and laziness. Of course, in a day when people aro heart-trouble conscious, the wife might have feared that the climb would be harmful to her heart. She may even have had heart trouble. But the story does not say anything about that. However, we must be careful in judging people who are physically slow and even apparently lazy.

B. In seeking bodily ease and comfort. Look at the Catholic who slouches and lounges at Mass, and you are looking at a slothful person. To be at ease at times is good for the body and the mind, but constantly to seek the easiest position and the softest chair is definitely harmful to both body and soul.

C. In a dislike for concentrating the mind in some mental effort, or the soul in some spiritual act. Physical laziness is more or less evident, and is more or less ugly and repulsive. But mental laziness is not always so evident, yet it is even more common. You have all met the man and the woman who cannot be aroused to take in a new idea. They regulate their lives and their thinking by some out-worn formula, by some rule or fad that was in vogue in the distant past. Such people might even be energetic, hardworking as far as their bodies are concerned, but their minds are inactive, sluggish, lazy. They will never change their viewpoint. They will never fit in their thinking with changed conditions, with newly discovered facts, and with a new approach to old problems.

Among such, I class those Catholics who never read a good Catholic paper, magazine or pamphlet, and least of all a good Catholic book. Their religious ideas are those of mere beginners. They do not know, for example, that there is a Christian, Catholic, and thoroughly scientific explanation of evolution. They are too lazy to learn what the Catholic Church teaches on questions like labor and management, the Pope's points for world peace, and similar questions of the day. They are mentally lazy. According to your time and ability you should continue studying your religion.

D. In putting off things that must be done. Such procrastination has been called "the thief of time," and rightly so. Those who live in "Put-off Town" are the sons and daughters of sloth. They will put off answering a letter. They will put off paying a bill. They wil1 put off visiting a sick person. Yes, they will put off doing the dishes and finishing the washing, wasting precious minutes and even hours.

The worst citizen of "Put-off Town" is the Catholic who puts off going to the sacraments, who puts off saying his prayers until he is too sleepy to center his mind on them, who puts off changing his ways for the better in religious matters. His eldest children are called, "Plenty of Time," "No Hurry," and "Wait a While."

E. In giving up before a task is completed. How many lack this sterling stick-to-it-iveness. They start mowing the lawn, but quit when they are half finished. They paint one side of the garage and stop before they even see the other side.

But the worst quitters, for such we must call them, are the spiritual quitters, men and women who start out Lent, for example with the determination to attend Mass every day, or to perform some special penance. How long do they last? The least lazy excuse makes them give up their resolution. During Lent pareticularly slothful souls must watch our Lord closely see Him persevering for forty long days in the desert, must watch him as He perseveres through the bitter tortures of His passion, must watch and follow Him as He sticks to His task of saving us, stays with it to the bitter end-on a cross.

F. In habitual tardiness, starting late and coming late to every kind of activity. They are late in rising, late for work, late for appoint­ments, late with meals, late with assignments whether in the office or at school, and late with almost everyone of their daily duties.

Chief among these are late-comers to Mass. Coming late to the Holy Sacrifice is a positive sign of laziness, a capital sin. They are too lazy to get up a few minutes earlier; too lazy to get things ready the night before; too lazy to make an extra effort, or even an ordinary effort, to be on time for the greatest Action, the Holy Sacrifice. Such sloth is a sin, don't forget.

G. In excusing oneself for neglecting duties. You have met the type. He forever has an excuse for failing to do little tasks about the home. The wife, in turn, is forever explaining why she did not sew on that button. Appoint them to some parish society work. They fail to come through. But will they admit any fault in this? Not on your life. They have always an apparently excellent excuse to offer. Such sloth is sinful and sickening.

H. In wasting effort on useless activities. There is the ironing wait­ing to be done, but mother listens to a radio program, reads a bit in the paper, talks on the telephone - anything except get down to the task at hand. Wea re almost all guilty in some way or other of this "dawdling" and "doodling." It springs from sloth.

Another form of useless effort is staying up too late at night, making it difficult or impossible to rise at the proper time, and making a person unfit for his work when he does get up. From childhood on human beings want to stay up late - listening to the radio, watching television, and listlessly lolling over the pictures in magazines. A certain amount of social life is necessary for health of body and soul; some need more recreation than others. Nevertheless it is a sign of sloth when we give all our time and energy, or most of it, to useless pastimes.

I. In too much chatter. Here, again, conversation is an important ele­ment of normal life, but long telephone conversations, endless and aimless talk about things of no moment, "jawing" needlessly with workers while on the job, are signs of sloth or dodging duty.

J. In neglecting the particular duties of our state in life. The doctor who is slow and indifferent in answering a call; the nurse who neglects any care of her patient; the worker who is slipshod; thu mother who gives as little time as possible to her children and home: tho head of the house who fails to be a father as well as a bread-winner - all are slaves of sloth.
5. Sloth has many evil effects:
A. It brings on poverty, physical as well as spiritual. It drives out all desire for spiritual things. Sloth explains the dislike many have for religious practices, which they either neglect entirely or hurry through as quickly as possible. One example of this is the Catholic who comes late to Mass and who hurries away before, or as soon as, Mass is over.

B. Sloth causes cowardice in meeting problems and difficulties. In smaller or larger form, setbacks and trials come to all. The lazy man folds his hands, twiddles his thumbs, and groans about his bad luck.

C. Sloth suffocates the soul. It chokes off essential grace, the life of the soul, by neglecting prayer, the sacraments, and other spiritual duties.

D. Sloth causes a person to waste talents, opportunities, time and effort, the very things that will help him to climb the hill to heaven.

E. The slothful person is abnormally curious about the doings and sayings of others. He is tempted to idle gossip and unkind talk.

F. The slothful man turns to dangerous diversions, like bad company, drinking, gambling. How true the saying: "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."
6. Any Catholic who can see will readily realize the remedies for sloth. May I suggest a few of them:
A. Learn the duties of your calling or state in life. Actually write them down, putting the principal obligations first, listing them in the order of their importance. Then try to take care of them in that order. Whatever your main work is, do that well.

The story is told of Ethel Barrymore, of the famous family of actors. She was once playing in Kansas City. In the audience was Sinclair Lewis, who remarked after the performance: "Ethel, I don't believe you did as well as you could this afternoon. You let us down."

The grand old lady of the stage bristled: "No Drew or Barrymore," she retorted, "ever goes on the stage, no matter how he feels, or how large or small the crowd is; no matter whether it is New York City or some small town; that he does not give the best that he has to an audience. For we have learned through four generations that we get back just about what we give."

What a stirring principle, not only for the actor, but for those who play on the real stage of life!

B. To overcome sloth, stop and think. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Here one of the best incentives is the daily good inten­tion, the offering up first thing in the morning of all the thoughts nnd words and actions of that day. Nothing puts meaning into daily duties, nothing gives more zest to humdrum tasks and labor, like the offering of the entire day to Almighty God. The more frequently and fervently one repeats that good intention, the more interesting and profitable life becomes, the more you will develop the virtue opposite the vice of sloth, namely, zeal.

C. Make a daily or weekly list of duties that must be performed, even of such simple tasks as patching clothes or answering letters. A popular magazine some years ago carried an article by a housewife who always seemed swamped by the tiny tasks and big jobs of her home. Finally she hit upon the plan of writing down what she had to do, what she wanted to do. Then she worked down the list, item by item, checking off each as it was accomplished. She came out from under her pile of duties with surprising ease and speed. Try it.

D. Have some sort of daily schedule. In our complex, modern life this is difficult, but necessary. It gives peace and balance. The Catholic, for example, who has a regular time for saying his prayers, for doing some religious reading, for receiving the Sacraments, will get them done faithfully and fervently.

One could scarcely find in all history a busier man than Leonardo Da Vinci, who was not only one the three greatest painters the world has known, but who was also a remarkable success in five other fields of activity. It was he who declared:
"O God, thou givest everything for the price of an effort."

Yes, and that everything includes heaven. God gives heaven for the price of an effort.

E. Fan the love of God in your heart. If you really love God, you will make the best use of your time, your talents, your energies, accord­ing to His plan. You need not wait for this fervor. The Christian who waits for feeling before he does something is like the woodsman on a frosty morning standing with his axe leaning against his knee.

"Good morning, my friend," asks a traveler, "what are you going to do?"

"I am going to cut down this tree," he replies.

"Why don't you get at it?" inquires the traveler.

"I'm waiting until I begin to sweat," declares the woodsman.

If he started chopping he would start to sweat. If you start doing things for God, you too will begin to feel the fervor of God's love in your heart.

F. Recall the labors of Christ for you - His long, laborious years as a carpenter, His preaching and teaching, and above all the taxing, fatiguing labor of His passion and death. All of it was done for you.
7. There is no better time than Lent to root out the vice of sloth and plant the virtue of zeal and diligence. May Christ, the Worker, inspire and help you to work for the welfare of your body, but above all for the good of your soul. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Prayers & Reflections for April 18

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers

The Good Soldier's Trust and Confidence in God


...Because thou, O Lord, art my hope: thou hast made the most High thy refuge.

There shall no evil come to thee: nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.

For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.

In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk; and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.

Because he hoped in me I will deliver him: I will protect him because he hath known my name.

He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation.

I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.

I will fill him with length of days; and I will shew him my salvation.

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

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