Category Archives: Sacred Scripture

How Can I Forgive

How Can I Forgive?

September 6, 2017

By Lorraine Vincent

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It’s difficult to forgive. But Jesus commanded us to forgive. He insisted. One day, Peter, puzzled by His words, asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?” [Then Peter thought he would make a very generous offer to forgive and asked,] “Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21, 22). Peter must have been shocked!

Why must I forgive?

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray to God our Father: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Jesus explains, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14). Tough words! We see that our lack of forgiveness prevents God from forgiving us. His mercy cannot penetrate a hardened unforgiving heart. Our Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 2840, states, “In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to His grace”.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

In our Catholic Church we are blessed to be able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we are angry and unforgiving we can go to confession to a Catholic priest to be reconciled with God. We can confess our sins of lack of forgiveness for our brothers and sisters, admit our weakness in trying to forgive, and ask for God’s help. Jesus will be pleased with our good will, in that we are not refusing to forgive, but wish we could. Therefore, our hearts are not closed and hard, but open to His grace.

After making a good confession, we will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be reconciled with God, through the words of the Catholic priest. Our loving and merciful God has the power to forgive us and wash our souls clean of all sins. We have to believe God has forgiven us, accept it and live it, by trying to do His will. God then gives us His grace, that is, His help, so we can go forth and forgive those who have hurt us. To do this we can speak to them and tell them we have forgiven them. “Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another” (CCC, 2844).

Forgive from Your Heart—Pray!

Jesus gave us the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, about a good king who forgave a slave a huge debt. But this slave went and threw a fellow-slave into prison who owed him only a very small debt. The king was furious with this slave and said, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. [Jesus then said,] So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:32-35).

How do we forgive from our heart? What do we do? Jesus says, pray! “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44, 45). Therefore, our response must be to pray daily for these souls. This is because God loves all people, including great sinners, and wants all of us to come to live with Him in Heaven. He wants everybody to repent, to work hard at changing their sinful ways and humbly return to Him, asking for forgiveness—and our prayers can help them. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus shows us how God the Father embraced his repentant son, who had been a very great sinner, rewarded him with many gifts and took him into his house.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

To forgive from our heart is a process, a course of action. Even while we are still wounded, in our pain, we can ask God to bless those who have wronged us and make them holy. The most powerful prayer is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During the Mass we can privately offer these souls to God. Compassionate prayer for the wellbeing of their souls is very important. We can pray for ourselves, too. However, we must not harbour feelings of resentment, anger and revenge, but rather pray with genuine sympathy for those souls that are wounded by sin. Prayer gives us spiritual strength, bringing us closer to God and our efforts will be pleasing to Him.

Jesus Prayed for His Enemies

We are called to follow Christ. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27, 28). When Jesus was dying and nailed to the Cross, He forgave His enemies and prayed for them with compassion: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). We should imitate Jesus and sincerely pray for the souls of our enemies. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He was scourged, crowned with thorns and nailed to the Cross! So what excuse do we have? Every time we look at a crucifix, we should think of this, and pray for those who have sinned against us. “Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master” (CCC, 2844).

Can We “Forget” the Offense?

People around us tell us, “Forgive and Forget.” But how can we forget when we feel so hurt? Jesus did not command us to forget. He did command us to forgive, but did not tell us to forget. Our Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense” (CCC, 2843). This teaching makes sense. For example, a woman who was raped cannot forget that traumatic experience. But it doesn’t mean she should dwell on it and relive it constantly for years and years. Common sense tells us to try to put our terrible past experiences behind us and try to move on with our lives for good mental health and for the good of our souls. Once again, prayer is the answer.

Offer Our Sufferings to God

As we offer our wounded heart and sufferings to God, we should pray [intercede] for the person who hurt us, with compassion for that person’s soul. I like this prayer: “Jesus, I offer You my sufferings to be joined to Your Holy Passion and offered to our heavenly Father, in reparation for my sins, for (name) and for all souls, in union with all the Holy Sacrifices of the Mass throughout the world today”. As we try to forgive from our heart, our memory will gradually be purified by our daily compassionate prayer. Our Catechism states, “the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC, 2843).

The Holy Rosary

When we persevere in daily prayer for the soul of the person who hurt us, the anger and the bad thoughts will dissipate slowly and go away. Our Church recommends the Holy Rosary. If we pray the Holy Rosary every day, we can include this particular soul in our prayers, asking Most Holy Mother Mary for Her intercession, so we can attain love, mercy and graces from God. Gradually the injury will turn into compassion and peace will flood our hearts. Don’t give up praying every day, for weeks and months or maybe even years. I did—and now I am at peace. Isaiah wrote about the love God has for us, “Those of steadfast mind You keep in peace—in peace because they trust in You” (Isaiah 26:3). We have faith that Jesus will be very pleased with our efforts and bless us.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

The Divine Mercy Chaplet is an intercessory prayer that is prayed on the Holy Rosary beads. We can pray this Chaplet for our enemies, and for all souls. This prayer begs God the Father for graces for souls, based on the strength of Jesus’ Passion. Jesus is Love and Mercy itself. He is The Divine Mercy. He wants all souls to be saved. In His great love for us, God gave this prayer to St. Faustina. She wrote it for us in her Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 476: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” The Chaplet begins with the “Our Father”, one “Hail Mary” and the “I Believe in God”. Then the first part of the prayer, “Eternal Father…” is said on the Our Father beads of the Rosary. The last part, “For the sake of…” is said on each of the ten beads. After the five decades, the Chaplet concludes with, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world” prayed three times. To learn more about The Divine Mercy, check back to my previous articles on this website, entitled, “The Divine Mercy” and “Complete Pardon to Souls, Divine Mercy Sunday”.

Fast and Make Sacrifices

As we pray for a sinful soul, we can also fast and make sacrifices for that person. For instance, we can do something that is very good, but very hard to do, and offer our efforts to God for a particular soul. There is great merit in this because it is not easy. This action will also help us in the perfecting of our own souls, if we have an attitude of humility. Only God knows the state of all souls; and for all we know, the other person’s soul might be in better shape than ours! If we feel we are superior, then we must humbly remind ourselves that the more graces and gifts we have, the more is expected of us. Our Lord says, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

St. Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles

St. Paul was given many graces from God in order for him to preach the faith far and wide, and much was expected of him. His letters show us the great number of people he forgave and prayed for, so that their souls would be saved. He wrote, “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. …on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters… And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:24-28).

St. Paul, in some ways, imitated Jesus as He prayed for His enemies while on the Cross; because despite all Paul’s extreme sufferings, wounds, and trials that he endured, He prayed for those that hurt him and for the salvation of all souls. He wasn’t angry or bitter about the terrible way he was treated. Instead he wrote to sinners, “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31,32).

Persevere in Prayer

Compassionate prayer attuned to God’s compassion unites us to Him. Our daily prayers for souls open our hearts and other people’s hearts to God’s graces, giving all of us consolation and heavenly light. Let us try to do God’s will, persevere in prayer and trust in Him. God can do all things. With His graces we can forgive from our heart and be filled with the peace of God in the depths of our soul!

 

I am the Way … Jn 14:6

 I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6)

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By Lorraine Vincent

December 5, 2016

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the Life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:1-5). Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God the Father, came to earth, took on human flesh and preached the “Truth” to all sinners to show us “The Way” and gave us His Holy Catholic Church. He is the Lamb of God, our Saviour, full of love and mercy for all mankind. He willingly sacrificed Himself on the Cross to make reparation for the sins of the world, reconciling us with the Father. The gates of Heaven were then opened to all souls who did and will do the will of God. We, who belong to the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, have the responsibility to promote the faith to souls.

 The Seven Sacraments

Our Holy Catholic Church has seven sacraments which were instituted by Christ for our sanctification. “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 1131).

The seven sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation (Confession), Eucharist, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Extreme Unction (Sacrament of the Sick and the Dying). Our Church recommends that we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month. The Sacrament of Extreme Unction can be repeated. Through these sacraments the faithful receive sanctifying grace from the Holy Spirit given by Christ through the Catholic priests. “From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and His Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them” (CCC, 1128).

“Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive Him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior” (CCC, 1129).

To have the “required disposition” to benefit from the sacraments, we must desire to grow in our faith and be in the process of trying to become better Catholics. The sacraments will then strengthen us spiritually, to help draw us closer to Christ in order to better discern His will in our lives. We should try to learn the true teachings of our Church by reading the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal documents and the lives of the saints. We cannot quit trying to improve spiritually daily, because we will slide backwards and loose what we gained. Also, the more we pray and meditate daily, the more we will grow closer to Jesus.

 The Holy Eucharist

 The Holy Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 1211), for in this Blessed Sacrament is Christ Himself.  The Blessed Sacrament is at the center of life of the Catholic Church.  St. John Paul II wrote about the Blessed Sacrament in Redemptor Hominis:  “It is at one and the same time a Sacrifice-Sacrament, a Communion-Sacrament, and a Presence-Sacrament.”

Certain conditions must be met before a person may participate with the whole community in receiving the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) in a Catholic Church. Initially, the Sacraments of Christian Baptism, Confirmation in the Catholic Church and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) are necessary. Also, one must be in total agreement with the whole Catholic Church and its teachings, and believe that Jesus is truly present under the appearance of Bread and Wine consecrated at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by a Catholic priest. One must agree that the Holy Eucharist is not just a sign or a symbol but the real Body and Blood of Christ. Then, “The Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation” (CCC, 1322), and a person may participate with the whole community in receiving the Eucharist. That is why we, as Catholics, should not receive Communion in a Protestant Church and why Protestants should not receive Communion in a Catholic Church.

Our Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1381, teaches “That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and His true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas (Aquinas), ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’  For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 (‘This is My Body which is given for you.’), St. Cyril says:  ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since He is the truth, He cannot lie.’”

Christ wanted to remain present to all people in His Church in this unique way. “[B]y this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body” (CCC, 1331).

Therefore, people throughout the universal Catholic Church are united together as the Body of Christ in this Sacrament of Holy Communion until the end of time.

 The Sacrament of Reconciliation

This Sacrament is the act of confession to a Catholic priest (Christ’s representative). It is a means to purify our soul of all sin. Christ is all forgiving in the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we are truly sorry and try to change our behavior. Also, we will receive special heavenly graces and blessings to strengthen us in our good will. There are times when a person might not feel forgiven and focus on the past. Feelings are irrelevant. The past is gone, the future is before us. We must believe in the power of God to forgive sins and go forward.

It is important to note, that Catholics may not receive Holy Eucharist, while in the state of mortal sin, as this would be a sacrilege, a grave sin. “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent. … Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments … St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord… eats and drinks judgment upon himself.’  Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC, 1857, 1858, 1385).

Grave sin, that is, mortal sin, includes occult practices, sex outside of marriage, theft and murder (which includes abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide). When a person takes part in these grave sins, knowing that they are really bad, but freely does it anyway, the person is thereby rejecting Jesus and pushing Him away. However, after the person receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation with determination never to commit the grave sin again, the sin is completely wiped away off the person’s soul, by the power of God working through the Catholic priest.

Then Jesus will welcome the person back to Himself in the Holy Eucharist.

Abortion, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are all mortal sins against the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”. Abortion is the murder of an unborn baby in the womb of a mother, with the mother’s consent. Both the abortionist and the mother are culpable before God. In fact, those who receive the abortion, perform it, or cooperate in it, bring an Automatic Excommunication upon themselves. They are excommunicated because of the sin itself. A bishop does not have to pronounce it. The killing of the innocent is never justified. The purpose of the excommunication is not to reject anyone, but precisely to help people understand how evil abortion is, and help them to turn away from it. The Church promises any woman who has had an abortion, that if she comes repenting of her sin, she will find welcome and forgiveness. God’s mercy is ready to forgive her sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), and to reconcile her to the Church by removing the excommunication.

Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of someone with or without that person’s consent, in order to eliminate all suffering. The individual who commits euthanasia must therefore intend to kill the person and must cause the death, usually by lethal injection. This practice along with assisted suicide remains illegal in most countries, but the trend towards accepting euthanasia is spreading throughout the globe. Abortion has been legal in Canada since 1969 when Parliament passed a law that allowed abortion in certain circumstances. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are now legal in Canada since the year 2015.

We have to remember that God gave us life. He didn’t say it is ours to take away, or permit the government to give us permission to take life away. God decides when we are to be born and when we are to die. The guilty ones that kill the innocent will be judged for rebelling against God.

There are three Euthanasia Deceptions. Deception #1 is that assisted death is compassionate. Societies tend to impose judgment on “quality of life”. There is an unspoken assumption on a person’s right to be alive depends upon how well they function. Pain can be controlled. We need more proper palliative care. Deception #2 is about the individual’s right to choose euthanasia for oneself. Choice includes family and friends. It’s a matter of care. Dependence on others does not diminish our dignity. It is simply our recognition of our need for one another. Deception #3 is that safeguards will protect the vulnerable. However, people always find exceptions. The practice of hastening death has become all too common, even in Canada.

We need to combat the Culture of Death in Canada. The concept of lethally injecting or giving somebody lethal pills to end their life is not compassion. It is not caring for the person. People of faith are called to love one another, to care for a person when they are going through the most difficult time of their life. We can help the needy to find meaning and purpose in their life again. We can take care of the sick and the dying. We are able to control virtually all pain if properly dealt with. We need to improve end-of-life training and pain management care in our medical schools and nursing programs across the country. We can offer complete relief. Our Church promotes the Corporal Works of Mercy. One of them is to visit the sick. We can build a community of care, of fraternal love for others. We can face life’s struggles together, hand in hand, until natural death.

The Sacrament of Matrimony

In present day society it is becoming more and more common for couples to live together without getting married. An erroneous mentality is to believe that if everyone does it, then it’s okay. Not so. In fact, Catholic parents are becoming more indoctrinated into this secular belief, to the point that they do not insist that their children receive the Sacrament of Matrimony in a Catholic Church. This Sacrament is not valid if the Catholic children get married in a park, for instance. To receive this Sacrament, the man and woman must be married in a Catholic Church by a Catholic priest.

Now-a-days, false compassion often comes into play. Parents often have to make tough decisions. Their love and compassion for their young adult children tempts them to help them to do what is evil—what is forbidden by the Catholic Church. For instance, it is a great temptation to assist their child to live with their partner, while unmarried. The parents don’t want to hurt their feelings, and feel sorry for them in their need of a place to live; so they either provide a home for them, or assist them financially. I am well aware of even deeper complications. I have heard that some children threatened to cut off all relations with their parents and to not allow them to see their grandchildren, if they do not assist them to live together out of wedlock. With tremendous grief, the parents gave in. How sad!

But think. What would Jesus do? Jesus did not help anybody to sin. His compassion would not lead Him to help an unmarried couple to live together; because anyone helping a person to commit a mortal sin would be taking the mortal sin upon themselves, too. This sounds rather harsh. To do what is “right” is often tough love. But it is better than assisting people to go to hell and going to hell along with them. Think about it this way: a person can assist a bank robber by driving the get-away car; but both would be prosecuted by the law.

Life on this earth can be so difficult in our journey towards Heaven! We have to pray fervently for souls. St. Peter and St. James wrote, “[L]et those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good (1 Pet 4:19). My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing by joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2-4).

Redemptive Suffering

Jesus said, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there will My servant be also. Whoever serves Me, the Father will honour (Jn 12:26). If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mk 8:34-36).

We can make good use of all our trials and pain in redemptive suffering for the good of souls. Jesus often spoke to St. Faustina and told her to write His words in her Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. He therefore tells us how we can use redemptive suffering. He said, “Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners” (Diary, 1032). We can bring this prayer to mind with each agony during the day while we suffer physically or mentally, for a certain soul, or for all souls throughout the world. We can also make a decision to make a loving sacrifice for souls, especially when it is not easy or convenient, and perform a difficult act of charity and mercy for someone in need. Then we can pray to Jesus to join our sacrifice to His Holy Passion for this soul. In this way we can experience with a sense of relief and some joy, knowing that our suffering isn’t for nothing, that it has great spiritual value and is doing some good. With the help of my priest spiritual director, I composed this prayer: Jesus, I offer to You all my sufferings and trials to be joined to Your Holy Passion and offered to our heavenly Father in reparation for my sins, for (names of people) and for all souls, in union with all the Holy Sacrifices of the Mass throughout the world today.

St. Faustina wrote, “During Holy Mass, I saw Jesus stretched out on the Cross, and He said to me, ‘My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you.’ I answered, ‘O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well’” (Diary, 1628).

 Towards the end of his life St. Paul wrote: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24). This is a wonderful mystery of our Church. Christ allows us to share in His redemptive suffering for all mankind, when we join our suffering in loving union to His Holy Passion on the Cross.

 St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, 1984;  Part V- Sharers in the Suffering of Christ, 19, 24: “The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption.  Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. … In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ. … The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, Christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.”

 

 

The Purpose of Human Life

The Purpose of Human Life

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By Lorraine Vincent

August 29, 2016

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Why am I here?

Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is life about? It is not uncommon to wonder about the meaning and purpose of life. Also, people may want to know more about God. That is because we all have a natural inclination, an inborn desire that is spirituality oriented towards the One True God. We have a feeling that there is some higher power. If human beings can’t learn of the One True God, they make up one or many gods. It’s a need to worship. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42:2). Our soul yearns for God, and drives us to search for Him.

Creation of Human Beings

The Judeo-Christian religion teaches us about the One True God, all knowing, infinitely wise and powerful. He created Heaven with all the angels, the universe and the Earth with all life including human beings. God created us with the highest intelligence, higher than any animal on earth. Our life is a gift from God. “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them and named them Man when they were created” (Gen 5:1-2). We are made in the image and likeness of God (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 2319). At conception we are given an immoral soul that lives forever, a divine spark, a little piece of God within us.

Life is Short

Many people on earth are puzzled by death, wondering if there is life after death. Some believe in Reincarnation, that after death they will awake with a new body, be someone else, and over many successive lives become a god among many gods. Once again we see the yearning for God—that innate drive. The Truth is that we have only one life here on earth and our destiny is to be with the One True God in Heaven after we die. Human life on Earth may be really short or very long—over 100 years in length. Even at that, 100 years is short in comparison to life after death in eternity. God decides when we are conceived (when our life begins) and when we die. We have no control over when we will die, even though we try to extend our lives as much as we can. We know we must look after our health and care for our body (see 1 Cor 6:19). But our body is not to be our idol. It is a gift from God. It is God alone that we must adore. Even the most healthy, physically fit muscular person will die.

Created for God

We were created by God for God. God created human beings through an exuberance of love, so that after our death He could have all of us with Him in Heaven in everlasting joy, forever—our love joined with His love. God loves us infinitely. Heaven is our real home. St. Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in Heaven” (Phil 3:20). Therefore, the purpose of life is to develop a personal relationship with God, become holy in union with God here on earth; and after this short life on earth, have everlasting life with God in Heaven in happiness for all eternity. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.”

Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end” (CCC, 2258). Therefore, to deliberately kill an innocent person (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) is always a very serious wrong-doing, contrary to the will of God. In committing murder we reject the dignity of the human being and the holiness of our Creator (see CCC, 2261).

Free Will

Since our goal is to be in Heaven after we die, how do we get there? All human beings are gifted with free will by God Himself. He wants us to come to Him willingly and joyfully. During this life on earth, God wants us to love Him and obey His will—to love Him enough to do whatever He wants. There are two pathways in life. One is a self-centered do-whatever-we-want path, that leads to Hell with the devil and his demons. The other path is a more difficult do-the-will-of-God path, the only path that leads to God in Heaven (see Matt 7:13,14). Using our free will, the choice is ours to make. This is serious, because God created us with an immortal soul, and life after death lasts forever! So where do we want to be forever?

Search and Find

A good conscience isn’t automatic, it needs to be developed. Our task then is to try to deepen our faith—learn about God, believe in God, and learn what He wants us to do in life. To begin with, we have the Holy Bible, a gift from God, which contains the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy Chapter 5 that give us the basic truths of the will of God. Both the Old and New Testaments contain holy spiritual wisdom throughout. The New Testament of the Bible, based on the life of Jesus Christ, is something we all must read and study. Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).     

Also, we have the spiritual wealth of the Holy Catholic Church created by Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago, which teaches us the Truth in order to save souls. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit guide the Church and its teaching Magisterium in the Vatican in Rome which publishes official documents and papal encyclicals. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent resource. It contains a lengthy detailed Subject Index of over 100 pages, to assist us in finding helpful information. Reading the lives of the saints is also very helpful. Another suggestion is to become an active part in the Church community: join parish group activities, Bible study, etc. Then we can make friends with other good Catholics, the Body of Christ, to help us along the way. We could also get to know some priests and find one in particular to be our spiritual director and confessor.

Live and Learn

We need to discern the will of God at every step of the way throughout our lives to serve Him and obey Him because God is all knowing and all loving, and knows what is best for us at every moment of every day. Jesus said, “Whoever serves Me, the Father will honour” (Jn 12:26). Our life is a journey, full of ups and downs. This life on earth is our testing ground to see if we can stay on the right path that leads to Heaven. To help us, God created us with an inner sense of what is right and what is wrong—the natural moral law (see CCC, 1951). When making serious decisions, a good question to ask ourselves is: What would Jesus do? Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). St. Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication [act of sexual intercourse between people who are not validly married], impurity [e.g. pornography], passion [obsession], evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient (Col 3:2,5,6). [S]eek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1). For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).

Each day we have a new chance to try to put God first in life, in doing His will. But we are often tempted to do what is wrong. St. James wrote, “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’: for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself tempts on one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire” (Jam 1:13,14). We need to constantly ask God for help. We often fail because we are all sinners. But our past is not our future. We can learn from our mistakes and proceed from there. Live and learn. We must never give up; take small steps consistently with faith in Jesus and never quit. If we stop, we will slide backwards. Jesus said, “Walk while you have the Light, so that the darkness may not overtake you” (Jn 12:35). Be courageous, Jesus is very compassionate and merciful and will forgive even the greatest sinner who repents! The Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation) is a powerful gift of grace from Jesus, Who forgives our sins through the Catholic priest in the confessional. In this way we can be open to a lifelong call to conversion through Christ. Please read 1Tim 1:12-17, St. Paul’s personal experience from great sinner to servant of Christ.

We all have a different mission in life. Cardinal Newman said, “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I am a link in a chain. I am a bond connection between people. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good. I shall do His work.” In humility we must ask God to give us all we need to accept our way of life, and to live it well. Life is a learning experience. We will never “know it all”. Have you ever noticed that when you read a familiar Bible passage that you have known for years, you suddenly see a phrase and understand a truth that you have never experienced before? This is similar to events in our whole life. If we are open to receiving graces from God, we will constantly learn and improve in our spiritual life and behaviour. We can start each day with this positive thought and thank Jesus for the gift of the new day.

Prayer

Prayer is communication with God, the foundation of spiritual life. Jesus is our Best Friend. We can simply talk to Him and ask Him for help to discern what we should do, or for help in what we are about to do. The simplest prayers to say throughout each day are: Jesus I love You, Jesus help me, Jesus thank You. The Catholic Dictionary defines “Prayer” as: “The voluntary response to the awareness of God’s presence. This response may be an acknowledgment of God’s greatness and of a person’s total dependence on Him (adoration), or gratitude for His benefits to oneself and others (thanksgiving), or sorrow for sins committed and begging for mercy (expiation), or asking for graces needed (petition), or affection for God, Who is all good (love). In other words, Prayer is a conversation with God, as stated above, by verbally or silently thinking of God and our relationship with Him.” The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father) is particularly special as it was given to us by Jesus Himself. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most powerful prayer. It encompasses all of the above and more.

In order to be united to God in all that we think, say or do, we have to pray every day, in silence, in meditation for at least an hour a day—even if we have to get up in the middle of the night to be alone in silence. In this way, with our hearts and minds lovingly fixed on Him, we can be open to what Jesus inspires us to do. We can also ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the angels and saints to pray (intercede) for us. There are many prayers written for us throughout the centuries, for example I particularly like The Holy Rosary and The Stations of the Cross.

We must also pray for other people—those struggling here on earth and for the souls being purified in the fire of Purgatory. I like to pray the Novena of Chaplets to The Divine Mercy for all people. St. James wrote, “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (Jam 5:16). In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus said that we have to pray for the souls of the people who have sinned against us. “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:44,45). On the Cross Jesus prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Our Catechism tells us, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession [prayer]” (CCC, 2843). Therefore, we should pray fervently for the souls of people who have hurt us; and in this way we will forgive them from our heart.

The Meaning of Human Suffering

God did not promise us a life without suffering. In fact, God disciplines us for our own good, to purify us and guide us to do His will. St. Paul wrote, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. …knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 12:12, 5:3,4).

God also shows us how to make good use of our suffering. “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (Salvifici Doloris, The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Part V-19, by St. John Paul II). Jesus spoke to St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) about Redemptive Suffering—how by an act of the will, we can use our sufferings and trials to save souls. He said, “You will join prayers, fasts, mortifications, labors and all sufferings to My prayer, fasting, mortification, labors and sufferings and then they will have power before My Father” (Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 531). Therefore, we can offer our sacrifices and sufferings to Jesus on the Cross to cooperate in the redemption of mankind as we pray for souls.

Jesus said, “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life [in heaven]” (Mk 8:34-36). St. Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet 4:12,13). [I]f you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval (1 Pet 2:20). For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God (1 Pet 3:18). Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert” (1 Pet 5:7,8).

Helping Others

“One cannot adore God without loving all men, His creatures” (CCC, 2069). Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). We can love others by recognizing the dignity of every human person, and lift up each person as the image of God in front of us. During our journey of life on Earth we will be inspired by God to help others, to perform good deeds. By doing what He asks of us, we give glory to God. St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “For our works to be good and perfect, they must be done for the sole purpose of pleasing God”. The Corporal Acts of Mercy are: Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Visit the Imprisoned, Shelter the Homeless, Visit the Sick, Bury the Dead.

Proclaim the Truth

We should ask ourselves this question: Are we unnoticed in the world as being different? If not, then we are not different enough! “Our duty toward God is to believe in Him and bear witness to Him” (CCC, 2087). We, who have grown in knowledge in the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church and grown in our relationship with Christ, have a responsibility to be a good witness in our society, and help restore a Christian way of thinking and living. Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares, said, “God wants you to be in the world, but so different from the world that you will change it. Get cracking.” This requires some effort on our part. Our labours will involve some trials and suffering to save souls. It can be difficult. Temptations to quit trying and give up are always swarming around us. The devil does not want us to promote the Word and Christian values.  Perhaps we would rather go down the easy path, turn our back on God and prefer to “fit in” with our secular society. Jesus warned us, “Those who are ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38). God wants good people to go out into the world and proclaim the Truth. Those who have been given much, much will be expected. But take heart, God will reward us for our efforts.

The Spiritual Acts of Mercy are: Admonish the Sinner, Instruct the Ignorant, Counsel the Doubtful, Comfort the Sorrowful, Bear Wrongs Patiently, Forgive All Injuries, Pray for the Living and the Dead. It is too little just to get to Heaven ourselves. We need to work at bringing others to Heaven, too. Life, therefore, becomes joyful, despite sufferings and trials. We will die with a smile on our lips and be welcomed into Heaven, into the arms of Jesus!

Conclusion—The Purpose of Human Life

“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in His own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of His family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son as Redeemer and Savior. In His Son and through Him, He invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, His adopted children and thus heirs of His blessed life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1).

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

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By Lorraine Vincent

December 19, 2015

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Almighty God, our Creator, loved us right from the beginning of time, desired our salvation, and planned for it. The Blessed Virgin Mary was predestined to be the Mother of Jesus, the only Son of God the Father. “To become the Mother of the Saviour, Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 490). Therefore when Mary was born, she was “preserved immune from all stain of original sin. … The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and chose her in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him in love (CCC, 491,492).

On November 21 our Catholic Church celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anne, of the House of David, and lived in Nazareth. They were elderly and had been childless for many years when they received a heavenly message that they would bear a child. In thanksgiving for the gift of their daughter, Mary, they brought her to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer her to God in fulfillment of a vow.

“This feast originated … in Jerusalem in 543. An apocryphal source recounts that Mary’s parents brought their three-year-old daughter to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer her to God, as was the custom. Inspired by a priest’s vision, they left her there to serve God. This custom continued for centuries. The feast entered the Western calendar in 1585” (Living with Christ, Novalis, November).

Mary, raised in the Temple, was educated by the priests and doctors of the Temple. Therefore, she was familiar with the scriptures about the coming of the Messiah and the great tortures he would have to endure to save mankind – “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering, and acquainted with infirmity … he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isai 53:3, 12). Mary remained in the Temple until puberty, at which time Joseph was appointed to be her future spouse. Then she returned home to Nazareth. Therefore, when the Archangel Gabriel told her that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, she knew the burden of suffering that the mother would have to endure. Her “Fiat” in agreement shows the strength of her character and her great holiness.

“[F]rom all eternity God chose for the mother of His Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (CCC, 488).

The Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to speak to Mary. “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’ ” (Lk 1:28). The Blessed Virgin Mary was indeed full of God’s graces because she was humble and open to receiving them. When Gabriel announced that she would be the mother of Jesus, “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’ ” (Lk 1:34,35). Our Church teaches us about Mary’s perpetual virginity, in that Mary remained a virgin her whole life. She is “Mary, Ever-virgin” (CCC, 499).

We have much to learn by studying the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She loved God with all her heart and soul. She was willing to accept inconvenient and painful circumstances, and had a firm disposition to do good works for the glory of God. Life was not easy for her. She had to cooperate with God’s will. Like us, she had a choice. She had free will.

Right from the Annunciation things started to get difficult. Joseph and Mary were not married yet, only betrothed; and Joseph had not yet been informed by God that she was pregnant with Jesus. They should get married right away, because society at that time stoned women who were pregnant outside of marriage. But Mary knew that God can do anything and He would help her, so she decided to leave everything in God’s hands. She focused her attention on others. Immediately she hurried to help her cousin Elizabeth whom the Archangel Gabriel said was six months pregnant in her old age.

When Mary arrived, the two women had a very joyful first encounter. How wonderful that God had inspired Elizabeth with the knowledge that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God (see Lk 1:41-45). Mary stayed to help her cousin until after John the Baptist was born. So both women found moral support in each other. That was great. However, Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, had a big problem. Zechariah had recently become mute, unable to speak. Several months ago when he was serving in the Temple, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he and his elderly wife were going to give birth to John (the Baptist), who was to be the precursor of the Messiah. Good news. But Zechariah, a priest of the Temple, didn’t belief the angel. As a result the powerful Archangel Gabriel punished him, depriving him of speech (see Lk 1:5-23).

I imagine that Elizabeth was also upset. And Mary, in spite of problems of her own, would have selflessly tried to comfort them both with loving care. Zechariah couldn’t speak until the eighth day after John was born, when the baby was to receive a name. When Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John,” he was immediately able to speak. Filled with the Holy Spirit he prophesied about his child who would be a prophet to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah (see Lk 1:57-80).

After this event, Mary made the long journey back home, about four months pregnant with Jesus, probably riding on a donkey, bouncing along up and down hills for more than 90 miles, and for many days! Then, when she arrived in Nazareth, a serious problem arose. Joseph noticed she was pregnant. Since she was not yet married to Joseph, he thought that Mary had been unfaithful, was very hurt and upset, and decided to repudiate (reject) her privately (see Matt 1:18-25), probably so that she wouldn’t be stoned to death. Mary would have suffered being aware of how upset Joseph was. Finally after some days, Joseph was informed by God in a dream that Mary was pregnant with Jesus the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was told to marry her. Mary endured all this, forgave and trusted in God.

Living in humble poverty with Joseph, Mary awaited the birth of the Redeemer.

She knew that Scripture foretold that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem in Judea. Meanwhile, she was living in Nazareth, near the end of her ninth month of pregnancy. She waited for God, whom she loved so deeply, to provide the solution. Miraculously Caesar announced the census and they HAD to go to Bethlehem, the place of their ancestors. Joyful and yet with many trials, Mary, nine months pregnant, rode on a donkey, jerked and jostled for more than 80 miles to Bethlehem for many days, and in winter! Mary forgave the bouncy donkey. She forgave Joseph for not arranging a more comfortable trip.

Yes, then it got worse. Arriving in Bethlehem, cold and exhausted, not to mention the discomfort, she discovered that Joseph couldn’t get a place for them to stay! The fact that there was no room for them in the inn, demonstrates to us that we must have compassion on the poor, on the needy in our midst, and help those around us. We know that someone did come to the aid of the Holy Couple and direct them to shelter. Joseph took her, still on the donkey, to a stable. Mary accepted the poor stable as providential. Would we have? Because after all, Jesus was not born outside by the side of the road—they had the minimum shelter necessary. Mary, pure in heart, accepted God’s Providence with love and humility and in peace. There she gave birth to Jesus in the cold of the winter night, in the straw! Did Mary understand God’s reason for providing a poor stable? Theologians say that God the Father wanted Jesus to be born in abject poverty to teach all mankind that material wealth isn’t important, only spiritual wealth and doing the will of God, no matter what. I don’t know if Mary understood all that. But she persevered and trusted in God. He can look after our material needs, no matter how bleak everything appears. We must remember to pray, to ask and trust in Him, accepting His answer, even though it may surprise us. Mary and Joseph didn’t ask for the stable specifically, but they accepted it willingly, as God provided it. God will provide what we “need”, not necessarily what we “want”. They were humble before God. They gave thanks. They had Jesus!!

God, the Father, announced the birth of Jesus, His Son, in ways that were truly magnificent and awe inspiring.

The heavens burst forth with joy. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will’ ” (Lk 2:13-14). Then the shepherds arrived at the stable, told Mary and Joseph about the wonderful chorus of angels and knelt and adored Baby Jesus. They brought with them their humble gifts which Joseph and Mary appreciated so much. The shepherds then spread the word in Bethlehem, and soon the Holy Family was welcomed into a house.

When Jesus was 40 days old, the Holy Family went to Jerusalem; because all firstborn male babies in Israel had to be presented to the priests in the Temple. While they were there, the elderly Simeon arrived, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and spoke to Mary and Joseph, rejoicing that he received God’s blessing to be able to see the Saviour before he died. He told Mary of her future suffering and the suffering of her Son. A sword pierced her heart. At the same time, Anna the prophetess, who lived in the Temple and was 84 years old, came to speak to them praising God.

The arrival of the Three Magi to adore the Baby God-King in Bethlehem was the result of a series of miraculous events.

On Jan. 6 our Church celebrates the Epiphany Day of the Lord.

God the Father created for His Son a wonderful new Star on the occasion of His birth, which moved across the sky. The Three Wise Men, all from different countries, recognized it as the Star of the new born Messiah. With no thought of the great expense, time and effort it would cost them, they set out in search of the Messiah, in order to go to worship Him. Today, we see that the Magi represent all people around the world who search for and come to believe in Christ the King.

All Three Magi, followed the same Star, and all miraculously arrived at the same time in Jerusalem to see King Herod. But the Star was not made visible in Jerusalem. They asked, “ ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We observed His star at its rising and have come to pay Him homage.’ …After the audience with the king, they set out. The Star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the Child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the Star, and on entering the house found the Child with Mary, His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage. Then they opened their coffers and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt 2:2, 9-11). Rejoicing they left. They were warned in a dream to go back to their countries by an unknown route in order to avoid Herod’s men and their evil intent. God looked after the Magi, body and soul.

After the Magi left Bethlehem, Joseph received the warning in a dream, about King Herod’s plans to try to kill Jesus. (Dec. 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.) Mary was not given this information by God. Joseph told her. Mary did not crave knowledge, wanting to be in control. She was determined to accept the limited knowledge given to her and only what material comfort that was provided for her. She had a strong will. She loved and trusted God. When Joseph told her of his dream in the middle of the night, she was obedient, and acted immediately. A sword pierced Mary’s heart. The Holy Family left on donkeys, heading for Egypt, not having much specific information. (Dec. 30 is the Feast of the Holy Family.) They believed that God would guide them, and accepted that God was in control. The precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were providential. Mary and Joseph would need the gifts during their years of exile in Egypt. They would need a home and money, until Joseph could find work in order to support his little family. Not only that, after the death of Herod, some years later, when Joseph was told by God to go back to Israel, he needed the remainder of the money for the trip back home (see Matt 2:13-23). Our loving God thought of everything! Mary and Joseph prayed, obeyed and hoped in God.

On January 1st our Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Therefore, as we pray the Holy Rosary, let us ask Mary, Queen over all things, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, Mediatrix, our Mother, to pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ (see Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC, 963, 966, 969, 971). Life on earth is short. May Jesus help us to remain faithful as we journey here on earth towards His heavenly Kingdom. We thank our Holy Mother Mary for her examples of holiness and for leading us to her Son by saying, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).

“By the grace of God, Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long” (CCC, 493). She chose to remain faithful to the end. But with great spiritual gifts come great responsibilities. Mary stood beside the Cross to comfort her Son and give Him moral support to do the Father’s will in the work of salvation. Mary forgave, “joining herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim, born of her” (CCC, 964).

During this Christmas Season as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, let us contemplate the mystery of God’s infinite love for us. We can thoroughly prepare to receive Jesus at each Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We consume Him, the Person of Jesus Christ, in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He enters our body and soul. This Christmas, in humility before God, we cry out: “Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of Yourself!”

Deliver Us from Evil

“Deliver us from Evil” The Lord’s Prayer . . .

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By Lorraine Vincent

September 23, 2015

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The Lord’s Prayer concludes with the powerful words, “deliver us from evil”. Jesus gave us His prayer to His Father in Heaven because He loves us. He wants to save us from evil and help us in our journey here on earth towards everlasting life in Heaven. He died on the Most Holy Cross for us. He took all our sins upon Himself and sacrificed Himself for us, making reparation and reconciling us with God the Father, thus enabling us to enter His Kingdom in Heaven. “Herein is love:  not that we loved God, but that He [the Father] loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Another example of God’s love for us is that all of mankind is endowed with a divine and natural moral law written in our hearts by the Creator. We are given an inborn sense of right and wrong. “It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to Him, Who is the source and judge of all …” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27, 37, 1955).  

So why don’t all souls go to Heaven and why do some souls go to Hell? We pray, “Our Father … deliver us from evil”. So what’s happening? First of all, we are all endowed with free will. God created all the angels and all of mankind with the freedom to think and act. Secondly, we are surrounded by temptations to stray from what is good. This life on earth is not easy. It is indeed a struggle.

The devil and his demons are eager to lead us into the fires of Hell for eternal torture. They hate God; and because God loves us, they hate us. They try to influence us to be full of egoism and selfishness, rebellious and proud, with no love for God. But since we have free will to think and do what we want, we have a choice:  to follow God or the devil while our earthly life lasts.

Jesus says He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (see John 14:6); and to follow Jesus requires every effort on our part, plus patience, despite difficulties. The greater our struggles and the more we win our battles against temptations, the stronger and more developed our will power to seek God becomes. This whole thing is a process. This is the path towards respect and love for God. God wants “to deliver us from evil.” God gave us the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament and the Beatitudes in the New Testament. Also, Jesus, the Son of God, gave us His Church which includes the Holy Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope and the teaching Magisterium of the Church. And Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us. We need to take the time to learn and to pray, so that we can serve God and obey Him.

Serve? Obey? That sounds harsh. But it is true. How can God “deliver us from evil” if we are rebellious and refuse to follow the right path? God will not force us into Heaven. We have free will. Therefore, pride and arrogance to do what we want and not what God wants, can lead us down a slippery slope into Hell—sad, but true.

However, all is not lost if we begin to develop humility before God—to realize that God is supreme. He rules. He is greater than we are. He is all-knowing. We don’t know all that much at all. He is the teacher, our guide. God is the Creator of all things, the cosmos, everything, including us of course. If we accept the truth of this, how can we not have humility when thinking of God? Can we still be arrogant and think we know more than God?

We need the great virtue of humility to admit that we can be in error, that we do sin. Also, when we are wrong, we have to admit that God and His Church are right. God said, “I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19). “[L]et the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that He may have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’, says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:7-9).

Jesus said to His disciples, “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For those who want to save their life [on earth] will lose it [in Heaven], and those who lose their [earthly] life for My sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it [in Heaven]. For what will it profit them to gain the whole word and forfeit their life [for eternity in Heaven]?” (Mark 8:34-36). “What is your [earthly] life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:14, 15). God can “deliver us from evil”, if we cooperate with Him, ask for His help and try to do His will, that is, to obey Him and to serve Him.

While we try to do God’s will, we must brace ourselves to endure suffering. The Apostle St. Peter, our first pope, said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings … Keep your conscience clear … For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God …” (1 Peter 4:12,13; 3:16-18).

Catholics have been given a great gift from God to “deliver us from evil”—the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we can muster up the courage and the humility to confess our sins to a Catholic priest, it would certainly be a step in the right direction. Through this wonderful Sacrament, God’s love and mercy shine forth. God acts through the Catholic priest. God forgives our sins and we are strengthened by His graces. We should go to confession at least once a month, with the commitment to continuous conversion. In this way God will continue to guide us, and we will have peace of mind. Therefore, we can trust in God, Who knows what is best for us, and keep our eyes fixed on the person of Jesus Christ and our heavenly goal.

We can deepen our faith when we study the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pray an hour daily, go to Church and attend Holy Mass. The Holy Mass is the greatest prayer to God. The Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives, food for the journey. We must be humble at Mass and prepare ourselves beforehand. Also, our witness can be powerful when we spread the Catholic faith and encourage others to join our Church and grow in their relationship with Christ. In this way God can “deliver us from evil” !

 

If God is Love

If God is Love, Why do so many horrible things happen?

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By Lorraine Vincent

August 2, 2015

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Why? Because there is evil in the world. Do not blame God for bad things. Evil dwells in this world; his name is Satan, the devil. God is love, the opposite of evil which is hatred. It is impossible for God to will evil. It would be totally against His divine nature which is Love. God is merciful, good, loving and compassionate.

A Spiritual Battle 

(See the Catechism of the Catholic Church  #405, #408, #409, #978)

There is a constant spiritual battle going on around us: Good against Evil. Satan roams freely in the world trying to steal souls, and trying to wreak havoc and interfere with God’s will. In the Holy Bible, St. Peter states: “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). God wills us to be strong against evil and use His power and Wisdom to defeat it. “Resist him [the devil], solid in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to His everlasting glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who have suffered a little while” (1 Peter  5:9-10). It is written in the Holy Bible that good prevails and God is victorious. Through Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, He has already won. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Free Will

God highly values our freedom of choice, even though He knows many choose to rebel again Him. He created people and angels with free will because He wants all to choose to love Him freely. Through the deception of the Evil One, Eve chose to disobey God and therefore, through her and Adam, sin entered into the world.

From the very beginning of creation our loving God willed our Salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Also, Mary, His Mother, cooperated with God’s plan totally. Through Her free response to God, Her “fiat,” and by the power of the Holy Spirit, our Saviour was born. She said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” (Luke 1:38). Mary’s response should also be ours.

However, because we have free will, people often inflict evil upon each other. We are all sinners. Through sin, we are responsible for all the evil in the world: wars, terrible injustices, poverty and murder. St. James said, “Beloved, those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? What you desire you do not obtain, and so you resort to murder. You covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts” (James 4:1-2). 

We really need the Lord. Let us pray that we don’t give in to revenge and to hatred. St. Paul said, “See that no one returns evil to any other; always seek one another’s good and for that matter, the good of all” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). 

Why does God allow evil in the world?

God, our Father does not will evil. He does allow it for now. Because of the Original Sin and our own sin, God allows suffering, but He always uses it for our good. He is in control. He loves us and permits things for our spiritual good because He wants us to join Him in heaven. It is only through the goodness of God that suffering could be to our benefit:  to discipline, to teach, to motivate us to come back to Him, to purify, and to strengthen our souls.

God gives us this advice: “Endure your trials as the discipline of God, who deals with you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … They disciplined us as seemed right to them, to prepare us for the short span of mortal life; but God does so for our true profit, that we may share His holiness. At the time it is administered, all discipline seems a cause for grief and not for joy, but later it brings forth the fruit of peace and justice to those who are trained in its school” (Hebrews 12:7,10-11).

Redemption is at hand for all those who want it. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7-9).  Using our free will wisely, we can choose to follow Christ.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #1434—“The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers of our Church insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.”

CCC #1435—“Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.”

To Save All Souls

Suffering can have great merit. Christ died on the Cross for our salvation. Also, the Blessed Virgin Mary knows what it is like to suffer. She offered Her Son for us. Through the grace of God, our suffering endured in love as a penance can help save souls. This is another tool against Satan. In prayer we can join our suffering to the Holy Passion of Jesus on the Cross and offer it all to God the Father for the good of all souls. St. Paul speaks of suffering for others: “Even now I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

Conclusion

We can pray to God for peace in our own hearts, so there can be one place in the world where there will not be war. Jesus comforts us with these words: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Be of good cheer; trust in the loving power of God, and pray: Jesus, we trust in You.

 

 

The Meaning of Suffering

The Meaning of Suffering

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”(Mt 6:12).

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By Lorraine Vincent

March 6, 2015

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“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:9-14).

What ills people have done to us, are nothing in comparison to how we have hurt God by our sinful acts. So Jesus said that God will not forgive us, if we are hard-hearted and refuse to forgive. Our Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that this is rather scary. It explains, “Now—and this is daunting—this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to His grace” (CCC, 2840).

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

During this Lenten Season we should make a decision to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In confessing our sins and lack of forgiveness for those who have hurt us, we open ourselves up to God’s graces. Then during Lent we can begin to pray daily for the salvation of these souls. We need to be determined to do this. As time passes God will reward us with peace of mind.

Pray for Souls

Our Church and our merciful God know our weaknesses—“It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC, 2843). Our Catechism says, by “intercession”, by prayer. This teaching comes from Jesus, Himself. Jesus stated, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:43-45). Jesus tells us to pray for the souls of those who have hurt us and continue to hurt us. He said to St. Faustina, “Do you pray for your enemies? Do you wish well to those who have, in one way or another, caused you sorrow or offended you? Know that whatever good you do to any soul, I accept it as if you had done it to Me” (Diary, 1768). Even while we are still wounded, we must not remain angry, but pray for the conversion of these people. Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The prayer most pleasing to Me is the prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered” (Diary, 1397).

Redemptive Suffering

If Jesus could love us so much that He purposely came to earth to die on the Cross for us sinners in order to open the gates of Heaven for us, couldn’t we at least make an attempt to love all sinners, too. If they are living in mortal sin, we can encourage them to change. We can pray for them and offer self-sacrifices, penance, and Masses for them.  Jesus said to St. Faustina, “Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners” (Diary, 1032). Our prayer could begin like this, “Jesus, I join my sufferings (state your trials and sufferings) to Your Passion, and offer them to our heavenly Father for (name) and for all souls”.

The crucifix, showing Jesus nailed to the Cross, should not only be a reminder of what He did for souls, but of what we should do, too. St. Faustina wrote, “I saw the Lord Jesus upon the Cross. From His hands, feet and side, the Most Sacred Blood was flowing. After some time, Jesus said to me, ‘All this is for the salvation of souls. Consider well, My daughter, what you are doing for their salvation’ ” (Diary, 1184).

We can love our enemies, if we are concerned for the wellbeing of their souls, and earnestly pray for them daily. Then all thoughts of revenge and hatred will disappear.  I have actually done this.  But I had to persevere in praying for the souls of these people.  We have to be patient, it takes time.  Gradually as the weeks and months go by, our wounded hearts will be changed into intercession, and we will be pleasing to God.  Then our hearts will be open to the Father’s merciful love and His saving grace.

Our Daily Cross

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stood at the foot of the Cross, looking with great love and compassion at Jesus, sharing in His suffering, trying to comfort and console Him as He died. She joined Jesus in His loving sacrifice because she loved souls. “There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, joining herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim, born of her…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 964).

Rescue Souls through Sacrifice and Prayer

Jesus spoke to St. Faustina and therefore to us: “My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. … You shall accept all sufferings with love. Do not be afflicted if your heart often experiences repugnance and dislike for sacrifice. All its power rests in the will, and so these contrary feelings, far from lowering the value of the sacrifice in My eyes, will enhance it” (Diary, 1767).

Do not be Absorbed in Your Misery

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by the problems we face in life; especially if we turn inward and constantly dwell on the negative aspects of it all. Then we tend to dig the hole deeper and deeper and feel submerged in our misery—this is not a good thing. If we get to the point where we think that our problems are insurmountable, impossible to solve, then we are not turning in faith to God, but doubt His ability to help. At this point the Evil One is jumping up and down with joy. He wants us to turn our back on God, give up and quit trying.

We can make a decision to make a loving sacrifice for souls even when it is not easy or convenient. Making this great effort will not go unnoticed by Jesus. He said to St. Faustina, “…unite, in a special way, even your smallest deeds to My merits, and then My Father will look upon them with love as it they were My own” (Diary, 1543). Jesus said to St. Faustina, “Do not be absorbed in your misery … be merciful to others” (Diary, 1486). Being merciful to others changes our focus to something positive. It feels good to help others and see them smile in gratitude. The problems won’t necessarily disappear, but we will feel so much better, filled with the love of God.  In this way we can make good use of all our trials, pain and sufferings for the good of souls.

I Thirst for Souls

St. Faustina wrote, “During Holy Mass, I saw the Lord Jesus nailed upon the Cross amidst great torments. A soft moan issued from His Heart. After some time, He said, ‘I thirst. I thirst for the salvation of souls. Help Me, My daughter, to save souls. Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners’ ” (Diary, 1032). With each agony during the day we can bring this prayer to mind for a certain soul, for a certain intension. Then we can experience with a sense of relief that each trial has great spiritual value.

Courage in Trials

Our Holy Catholic Church teaches that we are to imitate Jesus in our lives here on Earth, and take up our cross and follow Him (see Mark 8:34). This is a hard Word, to take up our cross of trials and sufferings. When something dreadful happens to us we are tempted to say, “Why me?”  But we have to remember that we deserve our sufferings because of our sinfulness.

Jesus wants us to look upon our trials as an opportunity to do penance. God sometimes needs to get our attention, to get us to stop and think about our spiritual wellbeing. God knows the overall picture of our lives. He knows what is best for us. He is in control. “He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 269). In faith we pray, “Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You” (Psalm 33:22).

 We are not left alone. We know that Jesus loves us infinitely, more than we can ever imagine. He suffered and died for us. We ask Him to give us courage in trials. St. Paul wrote, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). While we live in this world we must strive to do God’s will in joyful submission, loving one another and speaking His Word.

In prayer we can offer our sufferings for the good of our soul and for all sinners. Also, each day we can offer our sufferings for the good of a particular soul that we are praying for. Knowing this, we can obtain strength to persevere; and perhaps our sufferings can even be turned into joy, knowing the good that they can accomplish.

 St. Paul said, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35,37-39).

 The more we pray, do penance and offer sacrifices, God can do more work in inspiring souls to repent and convert, aiding the salvation of mankind. This Lent, for penance for our sins, may we have the attitude of humility and perseverance in the midst of our sufferings, as we pray with faith in God, fast, and perform works of charity for souls. Jesus, we trust in You.

 The Meaning of Suffering

In 1984 Saint John Paul II wrote his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.  The following are some quotations from this document found in Part V- Sharers in the Suffering of Christ:  (I added emphasis to some words.)

“19.  The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man.  Every man has his own share in the Redemption.  Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. … In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption.  Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.

“24. … The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption.  This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite.  No man can add anything to it.  But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering.  In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings – in any part of the world and at any time in history – to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.”

 

Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

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By Lorraine Vincent

February 4, 2015

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The Original Sin

Adam and Eve were created pure and full of grace.  They had a very personal relationship with God.  They would talk with God as they walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (see Genesis 3:8).  Then God decided to test their faith in Him by forbidding them to eat the fruit of the “Tree of Life” (Genesis 3:24).  If they could remain pure and sinless they would be guaranteed everlasting life in Heaven.

The Snake, the Evil One, tempted them.  Unfortunately, they didn’t talk to God about this to seek His advice.  Instead they thought God was lying, believed Satan’s words and ate of the fruit. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened” and they realized that they had sinned by their disobience against God (Genesis 3:7).  Indeed, it was a terrible sin because they were full of grace and had turned against God, their Great Friend, their Creator, who loved them.

As a result their punishment was great.  They were driven out of the Garden of Eden to suffer on the earth until death.  The gates of Heaven were closed to them and to their offspring, that is, all of mankind (see Genesis 3:14-24).

 Jesus Christ our Saviour

God did not cease to love mankind whom He created, despite the great Original Sin.  He had pity on us and wanted us to come to Him in Heaven.  So He sent us His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, true Man and true God.  His Son, Jesus, was full of mercy and love.  He wanted to save us from our sins and open the gates of Heaven for us.  He wanted to take upon Himself all the sins of mankind from the beginning of time to the end of time, in order to pay for and atone for all our sins.  This shows us how grievous our sins are to God and how much they hurt Him.  So Jesus knew that by offering Himself as the Lamb of God, and shedding His most Precious Blood, that God the Father would be reconciled, and grant the opening of the gates of Heaven to receive souls.

We see in the Garden of Olives the tremendous suffering of Jesus because of our sins.  “He said to them [the apostles], ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with Me.’ And going a little farther, He threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not what I want but what You want… My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done’ (Mat 26:36-39,42).  Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and gave Him strength. In His anguish He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Lk 22:43-44).

We see that Jesus wanted to do the will of His Father, even to the point of suffering so terribly for us.  He knew that His suffering and death on the Cross was necessary in order to redeem us.  “[Jesus said,] ‘Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’” (Mat 26:53-54).  Jesus was the Word of God from the beginning of time.  He knew the scriptures.  He was the One who inspired them: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God” (Jn 1:1,2).

Many Old Testament scriptures prophesied Jesus’ death on the Cross.  We read Isaiah’s words of the man of many wounds, suffering for His people for their redemption:  “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering, and acquainted with infirmity… there were many who were astonished at Him—so marred was His appearance, beyond human semblance … Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him with pain. … He poured out Himself to death … and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isai 53:3,6,10,12;  52:14).

In the Book of Psalms we read about His crucifixion in detail: “‘But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see Me mock at Me; they make mouths at Me, they shake their heads … I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint … My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue sticks to My jaws; you lay Me in the dust of death. For dogs are all around Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me. They have pierced My hands and feet; I can count all My bones. They stare and gloat over Me; they divide My clothes among themselves, and for My clothing they cast lots. … For I am poor and needy, and My Heart is pierced within Me. … Into Your hand I commit My Spirit’” (Ps 22:6-7,14-18; 109:22; 31:5).

Jesus then says in the New Testament:  “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16).  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. … And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself’” (Jn 3:14,15; 12:32) (see Num 21:8,9).

Let us praise and thank Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer; for all that He has done, is doing, and will do for the salvation of souls.  To please Him, may we repent of our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and strive to be holy.  Also, we can show Jesus that we love Him by helping Him to save souls with our prayers, our words and our actions.

 

Christ Rose “Again”?

 

HE DESCENDED INTO HELL
ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD

“In the English translation of the Creed we say that Christ rose again. There is no such Latin equivalent.  Why, then, do we use the word ‘again’ in the Creed?  It seems to imply that Christ rose from the dead at some point before Easter.”

Two issues.  What the early church fathers Tertullian and Irenaeus said is of passing interest, but it does not answer the question at hand, which is “Why do we say He rose again?”

To answer this we must 

 1) Consider not so much what the early Church fathers said but what the Council of Nicea said. Note that both Irenaeus and Justin pre-date the Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) and neither carries the authority of that council.  

2) We are dealing with a translation that comes from the Mass, which for Western Catholics means Latin, not Greek.  In saying so, I do not mean to say that the Latin pre-dates the Greek Creed (it most certainly does not) or that the Greek Creed is in error or otherwise deficient in any way.  

Indeed, why we say “rose again” has everything in the world to do with what the Latin version of the Creed says.  It says “resurrexit” and thus we say “He rose again” which is an accurate translation of the Latin.  Why the Latin has “resurrexit” instead of “surrexit” is a different question altogether.

Well, lets keep in the mind that the Creed was probably first formulated in Greek, before the Latin text.  Two of Denzinger’s Sources for the Creed, before Tertullian, are Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, both of whom wrote in Greek.

  That being said, the two (Greek and Latin) could have been formulate around the same time, especially as this seems to be a rule of faith used in the early Church. 

 As mentioned above, the Greek term used is anastanta, which means to make to stand up, raise up.  

The verb just means to rise up (at least in the Greek), i.e. to awaken from the dead.

By “again,” the translators intend the original meaning of “again” as “back to the former state” (of living), rather than as “for yet another time.”  Below are the four senses of “again” from Merriam-Webster.  You will see that the first sense is the one being used, rather than the second one, which today predominates among American speakers. Interesting question!

  1: in return : back (swore he would pay him again when he was able — Shakespeare) 
  2: another time : once more : anew (I shall not look upon his like again — Shakespeare) 
  3: on the other hand (he might go, and again he might not)   
4: in addition :  besides (again, there is another matter to consider)

The specific phrase is “On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures….”  The word “again” does not change the meaning of much in my mind as it implies he “got up again” after death.  Although we can see how it may imply he rose from the dead again rather than got up again.  By “got up” it simply means the raising one does when one wakes in the morning.  I was once on my back without senses, and now I am on my feet, and alert.  In English, the death is not mentioned in that sentence, although it might be in the Latin version.

SACRED SCRIPTURE

“The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matt 17:22-23).

At the moment of Our Lord’s death His soul descended into that part of hell called otherwise known as the Limbo of the Patriarchs or Abraham’s Bosom – the place where the souls of the Just who died before Christ were detained:  “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40).  Christ announced the glad tidings of Redemption to them, and their approaching admission into heaven with Him on Ascension Day:  “he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (1Pet 3:19).  Our Lord’s very presence transformed Limbo into a delightful paradise, as we gather from His words to the Good Thief: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).

It is also an expressed opinion that Christ visited purgatory, to console and comfort the souls suffering there:  “I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord” (Sir 24:45).

For three days Christ’s soul was separated from His body, yet His divinity was never for a moment separated from either.  On the third day, Christ, by His own divine power, reunited His soul to His body and rose again immortal and impassable:  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19); “I lay down my life in order to take it up again” (Jn 10:17).

After His Resurrection, Christ retained in His body the marks of His sufferings:  “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (Jn 20:27).  These marks will ever remain to show that He rose again in the same body, and as tokens of His victory over sin and death.

Moreover, having risen with the same but glorified body Christ is no longer subject to death, as were those He miraculously raised to life.  Further, He is the principle and cause of the future General Resurrection of all the dead:  “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1Cor 15:22).

On the fact of the Resurrection rests our belief in Christianity:  “and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…” (1Cor 15:14).  There are ten accounts given in Sacred Scripture of Christ’s appearances after His Resurrection:

(i) To St. Mary Magdalene near the Sepulcher, while she was looking for Christ’s body (Jn 20:16);

(ii) To the holy women returning from the Sepulcher after being shown the empty tomb by the angel (Matt 28:9);

(iii) To Simon Peter alone as Head of the Apostles (Lk 24:34);

(iv) To the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to whom Christ expounded all the Scriptures concerning himself from Moses and the Prophets (Lk 24:25);

(v) To the Apostles assembled behind locked doors, excepting St. Thomas, on the first Easter Sunday (Jn 20:21);

(vi) A week later to all of the Apostles behind the same locked doors, including St. Thomas (Jn 20:28);

(vii) To St. Peter and six other Apostles while fishing fruitlessly upon the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:7);

(viii) To the eleven Apostles in Galilee upon a mountain where Jesus had bidden them meet him (Matt 28:16);

(ix) To St. James the Less as recounted by St. Paul (1Cor 15:7);

(x) On the day of His Ascension from Mount Olivet in front of as many as five hundred people (Acts 1:9).

The Apostles were to go on and preach Christ’s Resurrection before the very Jewish leaders who put Him to death.  They preached this truth to an incredulous world, filled with the unction of the Holy Spirit, braving persecution, imprisonment and death:  “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33).

TRADITION — The Early Church Fathers

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5, 31, 2 (180 AD):  “For since the Lord went away into the midst of the shadow of death where the souls of the dead were, and afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up, it is clear that the souls also of His disciples, on account of which the Lord underwent these things, will go away into the place allotted them by God.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4, 11 (350 AD): “(Christ) descended into the subterranean regions so that He might ransom from there the just… David was there, and Samuel, and all the Prophets; and John, the same who, through his messengers, said:  ‘Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’  Would you not want Him to go down to free such men as these?”

St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism 1 (Post 383 AD):  “God (the Son) did not impede death from separating His soul from His body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the resurrection, so that He Himself might be, in His person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in Himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.”

St. Augustine of Hippo (+430 AD), Commentary on Psalm 120:4:  “It is no great thing to believe that Christ died. This the pagans, Jews, and all the wicked believe; in a word, all believe that Christ died.  But that He rose from the dead is the belief of Christians.  To believe that He rose again, this we deem of great moment.”

Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):  Finally, the Resurrection of our Lord, as the pastor should inculcate, was necessary to complete the mystery of our salvation and redemption.  By His death Christ liberated us from sin; by His Resurrection, He restored to us the most important of those privileges, which we had forfeited by sin.  Hence these words of the Apostle:  He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.  That nothing, therefore, may be wanting to the work of our salvation, it was necessary that as He died, He should also rise again.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):

No. 632:  The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.  This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead.  But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.

No. 639:  The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness.  In about AD 56, St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians:  “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve…”  The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus.

No. 655:  Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself – is the principle and source of our future resurrection:  “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep… For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…”

HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN
AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD
THE FATHER ALMIGHTY

 

 

Lenten Practices

Season of Lent

The annual observance of Lent is the special season of grace for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter.  Through its twofold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery.  The faithful, listening more intently to the Word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared for the Solemnity of Easter through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.

 Ash Wednesday

On the Wednesday before the First Sunday of Lent the faithful, by receiving ashes, enter upon the season appointed for spiritual purification.  This sign of penance, biblical in origin and preserved among the customs of the Church until our own day, express the human condition as affected by sin.  In this sign we outwardly profess our desire for forgiveness before God and thereby, prompted by the hope that the Lord is kind and compassionate, patient and bounding in mercy, express our desire for inward conversion.  This sign is also the beginning of the journey of conversion that will reach its goal in the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation during the days leading to Easter.

 Eucharistic Fast

Before receiving Holy Communion one should abstain for at least one hour from all food and drink except water and medicine.  Those who are advanced in age or suffer from some illness, as well as those who care for them, may receive the Holy Eucharist even if they have taken some food during the preceding hour. (Huels, The Pastoral Companion, p97; The Church’s Code of Canon Law, 919)

 Days of Fast & Abstinence

The penitential days and times in the universal Church are Ash Wednesday, Fridays and Good Friday during the season of Lent.  Abstinence from eating meat or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Abstinence from eating meat on other Fridays of the year is recommended, but not required.  Also recommended on all Fridays of the year is prayer and penance (especially eating less food), and almsgiving for the sake of world peace. (Huels, The Pastoral Companion, p333ff; The Church’s Code of Canon Law, 1251)

The requirement to fast prescribes that only one full meal a day be taken.  Two lighter meals are permitted to maintain strength according to each one’s needs.  Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices are allowed. The requirement of abstinence forbids the eating of meat, but eggs, milk products and condiments made from meat can be eaten.  Fish and all cold blooded animals may be eaten (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, Feb 17, 1996, AAS 58 (1996), n.III; CLD 6:676-78).

 Ages for Fast & Abstinence

Those bound to abstain are those who have completed their fourteenth (14th) year and older.  The requirement of fasting binds all from the age of majority up to the beginning of their sixtieth (60th) year, that is between the ages of 18 and 59 inclusive.  Pastors and parents should see to it that even those who, due to their young age, are not bound to the law of fast or abstinence are nevertheless educated in a genuine sense of penance. (Huels, The Pastoral Companion, p334ff; The Church’s Code of Canon Law, 1252)