The Assumption of Mary

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“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”.

-Pope Pius XII    November 1, 1950   Munificentissimus Deus

Mary lived her life as an example to the human race, and her assumption is our hopeful reward for a life faithfully lived.It is the promise made by Jesus to all faithful Christians that they too will be received into heaven. Mary’s incorruptibility in life does not end once her earthly life is completed, it is an immaculate life. In Pope Pius XII’s dogma of the Assumption he refers to her death before the assumption but since the dogma does not emphatically state her death,Catholics are free to believe that Mary did die not before the Assumption.

In the Orthodox Church’s tradition the Dormition of the Theotokos  is celebrated on the same day , August 15. Their teaching does state that Mary did die a natural death, the same as all humans. Her soul  was received  by Christ at the time of death, and her body was resurrected three days after. An empty tomb was found on that third day. The Orthodox Church  places emphasis on Mary’s natural death as to emphasize that Mary was truly human and a true example on how to live.Her example was fidelity to God and the simplest description of that fidelity can be found in the first two lines of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant
From this day all generations will call me blessed
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.”

These are words fitting to be said of any human being. To declare a wondrous God that continuously desires our love and success.  In these lines we also declare our own humanity, just as Mary did,  and our role as humble servants of the Lord.

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”  Mt 19:3-12. ” Let me make this quick and to the point, it HONESTY, it is TRUTHFULNESS, it is not deceit, or legislation or legality, or promulgating, or democracy. It is the simple and honest and often bitter truth. Truth is not something we decide, we do not take a vote. We do not get to shout “YEH!” or “NAY!”. It is something that exists without our input. It is independent of our feelings or emotions or opinions. It is the truth, plain and simple. With this our vote most definitely does not count. Thank you for listening. That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Honestly, it is!

Father Jacques Hamel and the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

Lk 12:32-48

This is my time to write about Father Jacques Hamel, the Catholic priest that was slain by extremists while saying the Holy Mass is a small church in France. The gospel readings this 19thh Sunday of Ordinary time urge us to keep vigilant because we do not know when the Son of Man will come. The gospel preaches vigilance, and that often is interpreted to be prepared for our final hour, or the darkest hours when we ae put to the test. It urges us to turn towards the LORD so that we might enter the kingdom promised when we are called. The message isn’t all about death, it speaks much about living life and surviving the trials of life. Father Hamel was vigilant. Did he expect the murderous thief to enter the church on that his final morning? Probably not. Was he prepared? Definitely yes. Father Jacques did not expect to be murdered as he said that morning Mass, but in saying that Mass he was prepared. The thief did not catch him off guard. The rituals of that priest’s vocation were put into place to offer him protection, to maintain his vigilance. The priest is a man of prayer. Prayers to protect and guide both himself and others, and prayer plays an important part of vigilance. They are the conversation with the Lord, and priests pray a lot.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.

The Mass the father was saying as he was murdered would not have been his first prayer of the day. Fr. Jacques would have started his day with “Lord, open my lips and I will sing thy praise.” It is the opening line of the prayer that begins his day. Equally important was how Father closed the day before with an examination of his conscience and a plea for the forgiveness of his sins. He closed that day acknowledging his acknowledging his own faults, and then asking for forgiveness. Father Jacques knew that forgiveness would be granted, he knew the gospel Jesus preached. In knowing that gospel narrative he would have known the final words of Jesus on the Cross. “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” and “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He knew God’s forgiveness, he confessed and heard confessions. Fr. Hamel forgave sins in the name of Christ. Father Jacques Hamel was vigilant, he knew how to act. He both began and ended his day in prayer. He knew what was expected of him.

Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.

Father Jacques Hamel did not just begin and end his day in prayer, he prayed throughout the day. That is what is necessary for vigilance, the threats are numerous. They are continuous and the constant bombardment tends to wear one down. He prayed in the morning and evening and throughout the day, they are part of his obligation and what is needed to carry out his duties. Those prayer are the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, a scheduled set of prayers said regardless of what the day brings. They prepared Fr. Jacques for his final moment, even for one that was as brutal as his. Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit while saying the Holy Mass in France. How can one possibly prepare for that? The priest knew how to prepare, he prayed. The disciples once asked Jesus, teach us to pray. Father knew the Lord’s Prayer. The forgiveness of sin, and give us our daily bread.

Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Give us our daily bread, the duty the priest was fulfilling at his final hour. News accounts suggest he was preforming the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Preparing that bread for himself and others. Food for a journey and companions of the Lord. The priest was vigilant and he was prepared, and he was helping others. So relevant in the light of these gospel readings of vigilance, of being prepared for the thief that comes unexpected. Prayer, nourishment, and forgiveness. Father Jacques was prepared, he was vigilant. He taught others to follow by example.

Even the location of that priest’s death speaks of his preparation. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The location of his slaughter speaks of preparation. He resided in the Church that is the likeness of Mary. Mary, mother of God. Mary free from sin. Mary, the Holy Virgin. Her song, the Magnificat, he prayed at Vespers. A reminder of the joys of Gods grace.  A fortress built to guard against temptation. Vigilance. Father Jacques Hamel, Pray for us.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 117

Food for a journey

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“I am the bread that came down from heaven.” I wonder how I would have reacted when Jesus said this. If someone declared that at a lecture or a conference I sat in on, I likely would have declared them crazy. It is quite the statement, especially when one thinks of the first century view of heaven. For those people, Jesus would have had to break through a firmament high in the sky. I think the statement might have been phrased to generate much of the reaction it received. Eyes and ears would have been at attention awaiting a response to their criticism. I am the bread come down from heaven is a statement that demands attention.

It is a statement that describes whom Jesus is, the Son of God. It describes His mission to lead Gods people back to heaven. It also describes Jesus method, He feeds and nourishes us on our journey. Jesus also challenges us, the evidence is the statement made. Challenge is also evident in his use of parables. He challenges us to look at our life and our world differently. Jesus turns life on edge and he turns things upside down. Jesus’s methods and message is radical. He is not another prophet as described in the past, and He is not like the other messianic leaders that have come and gone. The disciples had expectations for who Jesus was, and they were wrong. He is the bread of life, sent down from heaven, to nourish us and guide on our journey.

In Jesus defense, He mentions the manna from heaven that the Hebrews ate on their journey. Jesus also states that those people ate that bread and died, and then declares that His is “the bread that grants eternal life.” The manna did not come from Moses, it came from God. Jesus’s Father ! If declaring” I am the bread of life” is shocking, Jesus certainly must nourish their faith to carry them through the events to come; His crucifixion and resurrection. This is the statement that will sustain them on their journey and that journey will be challenging. If this statement gets His disciples to look at their relation to God a little differently, the crucifixion will challenge them more, and they will see a crucified Christ as the victorious Son of God.

The proof is the disciples 2000 years later, the twenty first century Christians. The bread of life did sustain the Apostles, it is radical yet true. Think of that bread of life at Eucharist. To Christians it should still bring amazement. To non-Christians it still brings out the cynicism that was present 2000 years ago. It is Jesus Christ we receive, the bread of life. That is not a casual event, but one of wonder and amazement. It is an event that should open our eyes and our ears. It should cause us to look at life differently, we should see life through and in Christ. It nourishes us for the trials and tribulations of today. There are many.

The bread of life. “I AM,” don’t forget those first two seemingly insignificant words. If the bread of life references to Moses and the Hebrews in the desert calling to be nourished on their journey, “I AM” is Moses at the burning bush. He asks God what should I call you, and God responds “I AM.” I am the bread of life points to the father, a heavenly king and not an earthly one. The destination is a heavenly one, not simply a land. Jesus disciples are both nourished and challenged. They are called to journey, to open their eyes, ears, hearts and minds to something new. That is not easy, it is something I still struggle with today.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

the Storm (19 Sunday OT)

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As I read today readings, that gospel of the calming of the storm took on a very specific contemporary meaning this Sunday. For a start, I am at the sea as I type. The image of an approaching storm is particularly vivid. I can witness first hand an ocean storm roll I, I can watch the water go from that glassy smoothness, to white water, and I can witness that storm passing. It does not matter where you are, all storms take that same path. What does change though is the severity of the storm, and the damage left in its wake. That damage can range from none to the devastation of a tsunami. What is that contemporary connection to the gospel reading? It is not that similarity of location. Anyone that reads the news knows of that current storm raging in Iraq. That storm is the current persecution of Christians. While that persecution in Iraq is particularly horrific and worthy of every bit of outrage and protest humanly possible, Christian persecution is subtly making its way into all aspects of Christendom. In Iraq it is ISIS, in the Americas it is the proliferation of those Black Masses taking place at prestigious universities, and the culture they stem from. While it is admirable that the US government is acting on the violence towards the Iraqi Yazidi, it is deplorable that they refuse to acknowledge the violence towards those ancient Christians of Mosul. It is that reluctance to acknowledge and act on the violence against the Nazarenes (as they are known in Iraq) that points towards that basis of Christian persecution both in Europe and the United States. Often the signs of persecution start as subtle gestures of indifference, to political posturing against a group, to seemingly scientific claims against a group, to mockery, to genocide. The world’s indifference towards the plight of Iraqi Christians is certainly a warning sign and Nazarene genocide is the final step. Might that Iraqi crisis call for an outrage by practicing Christians of all nations?  Might the government’s indifference be a wakeup call for Christians of all nations? Might it be wise to note those signs of an approaching storm?