Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Guardian Angels

Ángel_de_la_Guarda

 

We usually associate Guardian Angels with children. That’s what Jesus does in the gospel reading for their feast on October 2nd. You can’t get into heaven unless you become like little children whose “angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 18,1-5,10)

 

Artists picture Guardian Angels with children, protecting and guiding them as they go on their way in a world that has its dangers.

 

Yet, St. Bernard reminds us that angels are with us all our lives because, whether we know it or not, we’re always children. “They are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father. We are God’s children although it does not seem so, because we are still but small children under guardians and trustees, and for the present little better than slaves.”

 

However smart or independent or grown-up we are, we’re still little kids, and God, who knows we are always little kids gives us “loyal, prudent, powerful” protectors and guides. “They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray.”

 

I was thinking of the “principle of subsidiarity” on the feastday of the Guardian Angels. God spreads  power around. I was also thinking that sometime ago I nearly hit a truck ahead of me but something suddenly stopped me. “Thanks.”

 

O God, in your infinite providence you deign to send your holy angels to be our guardians. Grant to us who pray to you

that we may be defended by them in this life

and rejoice with them in the next.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Passionists, Religion, spirituality

The Passion of John the Baptist

IMG_1460

The death of John the Baptist, ordered by Herod and sought by his wife Herodias, is a dramatic tale of revenge and loyalty vividly told in Mark’s gospel. Because it’s like the Passion of Jesus the church calls John’s death “The Passion of John the Baptist”  and remembers it  August 29th.

Venerable Bede has a thoughtful homily on John’s death, a martyr’s death.  It’s like the death of Jesus Christ because they both embraced the same values, they were both unjustly killed for embracing those values.  If John stayed silent about Herod’s conduct, perhaps he would gain a few peaceful years of life, Bede says, but he was more concerned with what God thought than powerful people on earth.

“His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth?

He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life.

“But heaven notices– not the span of our lives– but how we live them, speaking the truth.”

Good thought. It doesn’t matter how many years we live, but how we live them, “speaking the truth.”

For John that meant dying for the truth. What does it mean for us? The opening prayer for this feast asks that ” we might fight hard for the confession of what you teach.” Maybe not getting our heads chopped off, but getting some scars from the daily battle for God’s truth.

2 Comments

Filed under Religion

Saint Augustine

Augustine baptism

Augustine’s Baptism, Gozzoli

August 28, Feast of St. Augustine

“Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so.”  Augustine, Confessions

And God became his Light.

“O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: ‘I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me’”.

The Light was Christ.

On his feast today, the day after we honor his mother Monica, the church looks at Augustine as one changed by encountering the mystery of God. It was not his brilliant mind or human gifts that created the encounter; it was the grace of God, which we all look for.

Yet, look at the scene of his baptism, above. There’s Monica standing behind St. Ambrose. A mother’s prayers had something to do with it too.

“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

Lo, you were within,

but I outside, seeking there for you,

and upon the shapely things you have made

I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.

You were with me, but I was not with you.

They held me back far from you,

those things which would have no being,

were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;

you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;

you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;

I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;

you touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

 

 

Here’s a biography of Augustine by Pope Benedict XVI

Here’s a wealth of material on Augustine from Villanova University

6 Comments

Filed under Religion

Assumption, Dormition

The Feast of the Assumption, August 15th in the Roman Church, like the Feast of the Dormition in the Eastern Church, celebrates the belief that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was taken up body and soul into heaven by her welcoming Son.

The Eastern Church begins its year with the Feast of the Birth of Mary, September 8 and ends its year with Feast of the Dormition. The mysteries of Jesus take place within these two feasts.

The two churches express the mystery differently in art. In the Western Church Mary, radiantly dressed, turns her face to heaven, often surrounded by angels.

The Eastern Church invariably has Jesus standing over his mother’s body, carrying her soul in his arms as a little child. How else would she be at death? Jesus said we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless we become a little child. She became one.

Her Son brings her body and soul to heaven. She bore him in her womb through grace, now she enters heaven through grace. The apostles, surrounding her body, have been summoned from the ends of the earth to be witnesses to her death and resurrection. She is the “first fruits” of her Son’s redemption. Angels cry out for heaven’s gates to be opened.

“Open your gates and welcome the One who gave birth to the Creator of Heaven and earth; let us celebrate with hymns of glory her holy and venerable body which housed the Lord who is unseen by us. We also cry out: O worthy of all praise, lift up our heads and save our souls”. (Troparion, Feast of the Dormition)

“Today, the Virgin Mother of God

was assumed into heaven

as the beginning and image

of your church’s coming to perfection

and a sign of sure hope and comfort

to your pilgrim people.” (Preface of the Assumption)

God took Mary, the lowly one, and “raised her up to this grace, that your Only-Begotten Son was born to her according to the flesh and that she was crowned this day with surpassing glory. Grant through her prayers that, saved by the mysteries of your redemption, we may merit to be exalted by you on high.” (Collect, Feast of the Assumption)

Because Mary shares in her Son’s resurrection, she also share his desire that “all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” She joins her voice to his and intercedes for us.

“In falling asleep, you did not forsake the world, O Mother of God,

You were translated to life, O Mother of Life.

And by your prayers you deliver our souls from death.” (Troparion)

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Remembering Lawrence

We remember Lawrence the deacon on August 19. He’s a favorite of mine whom I followed through the many churches and works of art in Rome that witness his influence on the Roman church. Some years ago I worked with others to produce a video on Lawrence. (See above.)

Lawrence reminds us that the Poor are the Treasures of the Church. I’m wondering if a good bit of Pope Francis’ present popularity comes from his strong commitment to the poor. He’s reminding the church-and the world too–how important the poor are   to Jesus and those who follow him.

Augustine in a sermon on Lawrence says that you don’t have to be in charge of a major relief effort to be like Lawrence, however. Each of us, treasuring the poor in our own way, follow Jesus.

“The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes –  not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to look down on their calling.”

We’ all grow in the garden of the Lord. That’s a nice way of saying we’re all have something to give. Who are the poor we  treasure?

3 Comments

Filed under Religion

17th Sunday a: Finding Life’s Treasures

For today’s homily, please play the video below:

Leave a comment

Filed under Environment, Motivational, Passionists

The Story of Ann and Joachim

Joachim among the Shepherds

We celebrate the Feast of Ann and Joachim today, parents of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, tradition says, but there’s nothing in the scriptures about them. There is an early 2nd century document called the Gospel of James that tells their story. I’ll use that early document as a basis for telling their story to you.

Ann and Joachim lived in Jerusalem, tradition says, where Joachim, a descendant of David and a wealthy man, provided sheep and other offerings for the temple sacrifices. The couple had ties to Bethlehem and Nazareth.

They were well off but for twenty years one disappointment clouded their marriage: they had no child. Even after vowing to dedicate their child to God, no child came. And so, at a time when children were especially treasured, they were thought poor. Descendants of David, they were blamed also for failing to continue the line the Messiah would come from.

Stung by criticism, Joachim spent more time in the mountains, brooding among the shepherds and the sheep. As her husband distanced himself from her, Ann too felt the sadness of childlessness. God seemed far away.

In the garden one day, noticing some sparrows building a nest in a laurel tree, Ann burst into tears: “Why was I born, Lord?” she said, “birds build nests for their young and I have no child of my own. The creatures of the earth, the fish of the sea are fruitful, but I have nothing. The land has a harvest, but I have no child  in my arms.”

At that moment, an angel of the Lord came and said, “”Ann, the Lord has heard your prayer. You shall conceive a child the whole world will praise. Hurry to the Golden Gate and meet your husband there.”

In the mountains, meanwhile, an angel in dazzling light  spoke to Joachim, “Don’t be afraid. I come to say the Lord hears your prayers. God knows your goodness and your sorrow and will give your wife a child as he did Sara, Abraham’s wife, and Anna,  mother of Samuel. You  will have a daughter and name her Mary.  Offer her to God, for she will be filled with the Holy Spirit from her mother’s womb. I give you a sign: Go back to Jerusalem. You’ll meet your wife at the Golden Gate and your sorrow will turn into joy.”

Joachim and Ann met at the Golden Gate to the temple, the place of God’s presence. They embraced as they spoke of the angel’s promise. Returning home, Ann conceived and bore a daughter, and they called her “Mary.”

When she was three years old, Ann brought Mary to the temple where she learned to read the scriptures, to pray and take part in the Jewish feasts celebrated through the year. She watched her father bring lambs to be offered in sacrifice. She grew in wisdom and grace in the presence of God.

When Mary approached marriage age– then 15 or so–her parent arranged for her marriage as it was the custom. They sought the high priest’s advice, tradition says, and Joseph of Nazareth was chosen as her husband. At the time, Ann and Joachim made Nazareth their home.

During this time the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she was to be the Mother of Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit she conceived the Child.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth where Jesus would grow up. He was raised him in a large extended family that included his grandparents, Ann and Joachim, who cared for him as a child.

No one knows just when or where Ann and Joachim died, but Jesus must have treasured them in life and on their passage to God.

My retelling of the story of Ann and Joachim is based on the 2nd century Protoevangelium of James–an apostle related to Jesus. The story repeats a fundamental theme of  the Book of Genesis: God promises Adam and Eve they will have many children and enjoy the blessings of the earth. God repeats the promise to an aged, childless couple, Abraham and Sarah, and again to Anna, who bemoans her childlessness to the priest Eli in the temple. As he dealt with them God gives a child to Ann and Joachim, Mary, their daughter, who will bring blessings to the nations through her son Jesus Christ, born of the Holy Spirit.

The illustrations, which helped popularize the story of Ann and Joachim in Italy, Europe and the rest of the western world, are Giotto’s, from the 14th century, and are found in the Arena Chapel in Padua.

Grandmothers and grandfathers appreciate this story. Like Ann and Joachim they have a big role in raising those who will bless another generation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion