Monthly Archives: November 2018

Revelation and the Gospel of Luke

Destruction of Babylon
15 cent. Apocalypse ML

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.
She has become a haunt for demons.
She is a cage for every unclean spirit,
a cage for every unclean bird,
a cage for every unclean and disgusting beast.” (Revelation 18, 1-2)

It’s very clear from our first reading today that John, the author of Revelation, doesn’t think much of the world he’s living in or that it’s worth saving. Babylon is his code word for Rome, the Roman empire. His message to the churches in Asia Minor, Ephesus, Sardis and the others, is that this world is going to end soon and there’s no hope for it.

Commentators say that John, possibly a disciple of John the apostle, writes this letter, which alternates between grim descriptions of the end of this world and beatific descriptions of the world beyond, for Christians experiencing fierce persecution under the Emperor Domitian (81-91) . John wants them to know that paradise awaits them if they remain loyal. So hold on. There’s going to be a great day.

But some commentators question whether Roman persecution is behind this letter. They claim that the persecutions under Domitian have been exaggerated and Christians in Asia Minor did very well during his reign as emperor. It was a prosperous time in that part of the world.

Rather, they see this letter as a warning to the Christians of Asia Minor who have become too comfortable in Roman society. They’re living like everybody else. This is due to an approach encouraged by the Pastoral Epistles of Paul, which told Christians to be law abiding citizens, to be at peace with your neighbors. To John, the churches of Asia Minor have become too worldly and are losing their zeal for the gospel. (cf. Revelation, Wilfrid J. Harrington, OP, Sacra Pagina, Liturgical Press 1993)

So John’s concern is not how Christians can build up the world they live in or how they can accommodate to their society. For him, Christ is primarily savior who calls us to a life beyond this one, not the savior who helps us through the day and teaches us how to get along in life. Christ calls us to life beyond this one.

It’s interesting the way the scriptures are paired these last two weeks of the year. The Book of Revelation is paired with the Gospel of Luke, which is much more optimistic about life in this world and the mercy of God. As Jesus goes on his way to Jerusalem he keeps calling sinners, even as he dies on the cross. He never looks at the world as unredeemable. He calls the tax collector, Zachaeus, but he never tells him to give up his job. He warns against burying your talent in the ground. He also said not to search into the time and day the Son of Man will come. Our cross is a daily cross. He also told us Jesus was coming again.

The best commentators on scripture are the scriptures themselves, St. Augustine taught, and so we read the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of Luke together.

This afternoon at our evening prayer we will be reading from the Book of Revelations again, we actually read it frequently during the Liturgy of the Hours, but not grim passages about the fall of Babylon. We will be reading those beautiful promises John makes about life beyond this. At the end of the day, as we go into the night, John tells us to listen to the songs they sing in heaven. There’s going to be a great day.

Everyday Prayer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is our model for daily prayer. Every day about 20 of us gather in our chapel for morning prayer and Mass at 7:45 and evening prayer at 5 PM. The first prayer we say together before beginning the liturgy of the hours is the Angelus: “The angel of the Lord declared to Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit…” The prayer recalls the announcement by the angel that God wished Mary to be the mother of his Son and Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s invitation. (Luke 1, 26-38)

That day in Nazareth would never be repeated, but it changed the way Mary lived afterwards. “The angel left her,”so St Luke’s gospel ends his story of their meeting, and no angel came again, the gospels say, but Mary carried that message of grace with her for the rest of her days. Everyday.

The angel’s message was meant for us also. God’s grace, the Lord is with us too. Everyday.

“How can this be?” Mary asks. Questions were always there in the days that followed the angels visit. Faith is never without them. Everyday.

Are we without them?

“Be it done to me according to your word,” Mary said. “Your will be done,” Jesus said in the daily prayer he prayed and taught. Simple words that bow before God, putting ourselves in God’s hands and the time and place that’s there. Everyday.

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Word made flesh dwells among us, who was hidden during his days in Nazareth, not clearly seen in the days of his ministry, abandoned in the days of his Passion and Death. Now, he is with us in the days of his resurrection, calling us to follow him. Everyday.

We say the Angelus everyday, our first prayer.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Prayers for the Morning

The Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the church, offers a rich feast of psalms, canticles and readings from scripture for morning and evening prayer. It helps to know where they come from.
Two prayers of the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, from the Book of Daniel 3, 14f appear regularly in morning prayers. The first for morning prayer, Tuesday Week IV is Azariah’s (Abednego) prayer for mercy.
The young men are thrown bound into a fiery furnace by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar because they won’t worship a golden idol he set up. “Unfettered and unhurt” they walk freely in the fire, joined by an angel. They go unharmed, saved by their faith in God.
Here’s Azariah’s prayer:
“Blessed are you, and praiseworthy,
O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
and glorious forever is your name.
For you are just in all you have done;
all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right,
and all your judgments proper.
For we have sinned and transgressed
by departing from you,
and we have done every kind of evil.
For your name’s sake, do not deliver us up forever,
or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls,
or tens of thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today and
find favor before you
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we seek your face.
Do not put us to shame.
(Daniel 3, 26,27,29,34-41)

The young men in the furnace belong to a Jewish community in exile, with no priest, prophet or leader, no temple to offer sacrifice, but they willingly shoulder the world they’ve received from past generations. They also have sins and mistakes of their own.
Their imperfect world can become a fiery furnace, but the young men believe in God’s promises: offspring like the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea. “We follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and seek your face. Do not put us to shame.”
Isn’t that a good prayer for days that can become a fiery furnace? When we hope in God’s promises, trusting and uncomplaining, we can walk freely in the fire too, “unfettered and unhurt.”
The second prayer from the Book of Daniel is found in a longer form as the canticle for Sunday morning prayer in the 1st and 3rd weeks of the Liturgy of the Hours (Daniel 3, 51-90) and in a shorter form as the canticle for Sunday morning prayer for the 2nd and 4th weeks. (Daniel 3,54-57) It’s a prayer of thanksgiving.
When King Nebuchadnezzar saw the three young men walking unharmed in the fiery furnace he ordered the furnace heated seven times stronger than before. “But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace, and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it. The fire in no way touched them or caused them pain or harm. Then these three in the furnace sang with one voice, glorifying and blessing God:
“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
You heavens, bless the Lord,
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
All you winds, bless the Lord;
Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
Dew and rain, bless the Lord;

Frost and chill, bless the Lord;

Ice and snow, bless the Lord;

Nights and days, bless the Lord;

Light and darkness, bless the Lord;

Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;

Let the earth bless the Lord,

Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;

Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

O Israel, bless the Lord;

Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;

Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;

Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;

Holy men of humble of heart, bless the Lord;

Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
For he has delivered us from Sheol,
and saved us from the power of death;
He has freed us from the raging flame
and delivered us from the fire.” (Daniel 3, 51-90))

This is a resurrection prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving. Their example was admired by early Christians who frequently placed the representation of the three young men in the catacombs. God hears our prayers in the fiery furnace, whether of life and death, and gives us life.
We pray the canticle from Daniel on Sunday because it is the Lord’s day, the day of his resurrection. But we are not the only ones who have the promise of resurrection. All creation has that promise, and so we call all creation to bless the Lord.

Do Your Job!

We celebrated the feast of Christ the King yesterday, but we may find thinking of God as king hard to do today in a world where kings are few in a world of democracies. Ordinary people run our governments, not kings. Royal families, where they exist, have mainly ceremonial roles.

Still, we’re all priests, prophets and kings by our baptism, we’re told. “We’re a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart,” (1 Peter 2,5) We share in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king. (Catholic Catechism 1546)

How are we kings? Adam, our first parent, may suggest what kind of king we should be. There he is in the illustration from the Book of Genesis, given kingly powers by God. In the garden, the symbol of creation, he names the animals and is given care over God’s creation.

Psalms, like Psalm 8 (Saturday Morning, week 2), tell us that.
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands,
The moon and the stars that you arranged,
What are we that you keep us in mind,,
Mortal as we are that you care for us.

Yet you have made us little less than gods,
With glory and honor you crown us,
You have give us power over the works of your hand,
Put all things under our feet.”

Let’s not forget it. We have been given care over creation. We need to do our job.

34th Week of the Year: Last Week in Ordinary Time


NOVEMBER 25TH SUNDAY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
Solemnity
Dn 7:13-14/Rv 1:5-8/Jn 18:33b-37 (161)

26 Monday (Thirty-Fourth or Last Week in Ordinary Time)
Rv 14:1-3, 4b-5/Lk 21:1-4 (503) Pss II

27 Tuesday
Rv 14:14-19/Lk 21:5-11 (504)

28 Wednesday
Rv 15:1-4/Lk 21:12-19 (505)

29 Thursday
Rv 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9a/Lk 21:20-28 (506)

30 Friday Saint Andrew, Apostle
Feast
Rom 10:9-18/Mt 4:18-22 (684)

Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

3 children 1

Three Men in the Fiery Furnace. Roman Catacombs


On November 24 Catholics celebrate the feast of Saint Andrew Dung– Lac and 117 other Vietnamese martyrs killed in the 18th century in a cruel persecution of Christians. They are remembered as martyrs who gave their lives for their faith; their martyrdom also caused many non-Christians in their native land to inquire what made them so brave to endure such suffering and death. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity,” the early Christian writer Tertullian said.

Since their time, many others in Vietnam have bravely given witness to their faith in wars and long years of persecution. Christianity is now strongly rooted in that part of the world.

The joy of the martyr has always puzzled those who do not share their faith. How can someone be joyful in the midst of great torture and pain. Here’s a letter of Saint Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, one of the Vietnamese martyrs:

“I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises. The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind – shackles, iron chains, manacles – are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever.
In the midst of  torments, that usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone – Christ is with me.
I am not alone–Christ is with me.”

“Christ is with me. I am not alone–Christ is with me.” That’s the faith that enables Christians to enter the mystery of the passion of Jesus and know the joy of his resurrection.

A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

We Gather Together

Goodness and kindness
join us as we stand around
the dinner table.

Three generations of two families
join hands to give you thanks –
for this special day,
for your gifts of food,
for your many blessings.

We pray for loved ones who are absent
due to time and distance,
or who have gone before us to be with you.

We pray for those who are alone,
without family or friends on this special day,
on many days, or perhaps every day.
And we pray for those who will serve them
with good food, kindness, love and friendship
on this Thanksgiving Day.

We pray for peace, the peace only you can give.
We thank you and we love you.
Amen.

Gloria Ziemienski
November 22, 2018

 

The Look of Love


by Orlando Hernandez

This Tuesday’s Gospel (Lk 19: 1-10) tells the wonderful story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus is passing by Jericho on His way to Jerusalem, and He is winding His way through the crowds that have come to see Him. Now, Zacchaeus, a chief tax-collector (probably a crook, scorned by his neighbors), was “seeking to see who Jesus was.” He is a short man and cannot see over the other people…

“So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When He reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received Him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’”

It seems that all that Zacchaeus had wanted was to get a glimpse of the much-talked-about prophet. Or was he really longing for something more? He got to see Jesus, but he never really expected Jesus to look BACK at him ! And call him by name ! Zacchaeus certainly got a lot more than he had bargained for. Now he has to entertain Jesus at his home, give away half of his
ill-earned fortune, and make retribution for his life. That was some look that Christ must have given him!
This is a great story of “metanoia”, life-change, conversion, in the powerful presence of Jesus. I am always especially touched by this Gospel, not only because I am a “shorty” like Zacchaeus, but also because I had what I believe was a supernatural experience similar to his.

I might have written a little about the story of my conversion ten years ago. Back then I had little faith, but deep inside I wanted so much to believe in a loving God. One of the things that kept me going in life was the love of my wife and family, particularly my son, his wife, and my four grandchildren. They gave me so much joy that I would tag along with them to Sunday Mass just to hold the kids, or see them crawl around under the pews. I was also intrigued by the faith that I saw in my son, his wife, and the people there. I just did not share it with them. I wished I did.

Finally, my son tricked me. He invited my wife and I to be Godparents for our beloved fourth grandchild. We were thrilled, but he told us , “You are going to have to prove you’re Catholics. You can only qualify to be ‘sponsors’ if you can get a letter from your local parish stating that you go to mass every Sunday. It’s the only way!”
I don’t know how it happened, but we found ourselves sitting in front of a Pastor, getting the weekly envelopes and promising to go to mass. We asked him if we could receive the Host, like everyone else, but he told us that we first had to go through RCIA, receive Confirmation, and get married by the Church. It was a long process, and I was not too happy about it, but O.K.. All I wanted was that little letter in a few months before my lovely granddaughter’s baptism.
We started going to Church, and I was especially intrigued by the Readings and by the homilies. Who exactly was this Jesus that they were all so crazy about? I bought a little Bible and read all four Gospels, and I liked the Guy. Was He real? I was especially intrigued by the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I watched respectfully week after week.
Then one blessed, luminous day, something miraculous happened to me. When the priest lifted up that round, bright Host, I was unexpectedly struck by the power of God. I believed. All the fullness of God seemed to be emanating from that shining Host, and there, like Zacchaeus behind the crowd, near the back of the church, I felt the Light of God focusing on me! It was like looking at the sun. I could not look at that brightness. I felt such shame and unworthiness. I had to close my eyes, but even then I could see Him, Jesus. He was looking right at me. I felt the message: “You are mine. I want you. I will never let you go!”

And He never has. It has been a long road, with much learning and growth, with ups and downs, but I know He has been always at my side, a guest in my house. Last night I was watching a religious TV show where the host, a priest, was answering questions about spiritual dryness, moments of desolation, even doubt. He gave this wonderful advice: Sit calmly and remember that moment of great consolation when you felt the Presence of God in your life, when your faith was on fire. Remember it fondly, taste it, re-live it. It can help you to see that He is still right there, in love with you.
I have always wanted to quote my own version of the Humphrey Bogart line from Casablanca. Whether on top of a high tree, or down in the lowest dumps, just remember: “He’s looking at you, kid!”

The Last Days

Our weekday readings at Mass for the 33rd and 34th weeks,, the final weeks  of the church year, are from the Book of Revelation, which describes the last days when God fulfills his promise of a kingdom. The Gospel readings for these weekdays are from Luke 17-21, also about the coming of God’s kingdom.

The author of the Book of Revelation is John, who writes from the prison island of Patmos to the churches of Asia Minor. In strong, imaginative and often violent images, John pictures the final triumph of Christ after a decisive battle between Christ and his followers and Satan and those who follow him. For John, Satan’s kingdom is Rome, the new Babylon. He tells the churches of Asia Minor to be alert. The battle is enjoined and the kingdom is coming soon.

John is invited to behold God’s glory in heaven’s court, portrayed resplendent with gems and other traditional symbols expressing God’s majesty. This is where God wants us to be. A great assembly praises God “who created all things” and the triumphant Christ, the Lamb who was slain and reveals the plan of God:

“Worthy are you, O Lord, to receive the scroll
and break open its seals,
for you were slain and by your Blood you purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.
You made them a kingdom and priests for our God,
and they will reign on earth.” (Revelation 12,10-12)

John borrows from Jewish apocalyptic writings before him, Daniel, Ezechiel and others, and he writes to give hope to a people in crisis, suffering like him. Commentators say he is possibly a disciple of John, the apostle, whom tradition associates with the church in Asia Minor, and they date the book to the time of a Roman persecution under the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81–96).

Other commentators question whether the book responds to a persecution under Domitian, which they claim has been exaggerated. Instead, they see Revelation directed against Christians throughout Asia Minor who have become too much at home in Roman society, following the approach laid out in the Pastoral Epistles of Paul. To John, the churches of Asia Minor have lost their zeal for the gospel and he warns them about their increasing mediocrity. (cf. Revelation, Wilfrid J. Harrington, OP, Sacra Pagina, Liturgical Press 1993)

The writer of Revelation is not concerned with a comfortable life here on earth. Christ is not just an earthly companion seeing us through the day; he calls us to a life beyond this.

“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him,
and he with me. I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory.
and sit with my Father on his throne.” ( Revelation 3, 14)

The best commentators on scripture are the scriptures themselves, St. Augustine taught, and so as we read from the Book of Revelation these last days we should also hear Jesus in Luke’s gospel. He kept calling sinners as he made his way to Jerusalem, even as he died on the cross. He never told Zachaeus the publican to give up his job. He warned against burying your talent in the ground while the Master’s not here. He also said not to search into the time and the day the Son of Man will come. Keep your eye on the daily cross that’s yours.

But Jesus also told us he’s coming again.