Lateran basilica’s day

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Today is the feast of the dedication of the basilica of Saint John Lateran. That church, also known as “the pope’s church”, is the first building in Europe where Christians were permitted to hold Mass in freedom and without persecution. That was freedom was granted by Constantine, who also provided the palace of the Laterani family for that church. It is known as the pope’s church, because it is the cathedral of Rome, and the pope of course is “bishop of Rome.” That building also commemorates the first time a building was called church. Prior to that the church was not the building, but rather the people that gathered together as Christians. Those gatherings took place secretly in members’ homes, or in the catacombs. The church was the assembly of people, as living stones, that form that mystical body of Christ; and that is an important point to remember. Sometimes people get fired up over the architecture, and the altars, and the windows, and the statuary; it becomes easy to forget that the church is its people gathered together collectively as Christians. The building is a symbol of the importance of that gathering. Along with it being the congregation of Christians which now assembles in a building called a church; church too is that singular Christian who carries Christ within them. That singular church, is at its perfection, the image of Mary who carried the Christ. It is she who is Image and model of the Church. Holy mother Church.

There then are a few reasons why this day is important. It celebrates Christian freedom while remembering Christian persecution. It celebrates Christians gathered as church community, and it reminds the individual of their role as church personified by Mary. Being “the pope’s church,” it also reminds one of that universal church and its role. Catholic means universal. This day is so much more than simply celebrating a building, it is celebrating all of the meanings of that word Church. It also celebrates the dedication of that beautiful ancient basilica in Rome…

    

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

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During All Souls Week it is customary to pray for the souls in purgatory. Here is the prayer of Saint Gertrude, a 13 century Benedictine nun:

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

Here is something about the All Souls Indulgence granted to the faithful that I found on Catholic Culture:

“An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the first to the eighth of November; on other days of the year it is partial.”

“To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.”

Today’s gospel has the Pharisees griping once again about Jesus associating with sinners, and Jesus replies about going out for the lost sheep , and about seeking the lost coin. He seeks the sinner, the infirm, the souls wounded here on earth. This week also emphasizes his also going after those same souls once they depart this place. All Souls week is about going after those wandered sheep in purgatory, and one of the ways of reaching those souls is through our prayers. Our intercession on another’s behalf is indeed going after a lost sheep, or seeking out a missing coin. In our taking part of Jesus mission of reaching out to the lost and wounded, in going after the lost sheep, we to are in some way rescued from our own wandering. In that act of prayer for the sake of another, we too are listening to that Shepherds voice and returning to Him. Along with bringing back another, we too return to that Shepherd Jesus.

Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

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Gospel Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,

and he turned and addressed them,

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,

wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,

he cannot be my disciple….”

Jesus the Christ really does layout the requirements for discipleship here in the strongest of terms. Christianity, typically thought of today as a holding hands and get along philosophy, really is quite radical. In hating father and mother, how can that fit in with Christian love? With Christ nothing comes before His message, one cannot be Christian and something else, and one cannot follow only the pleasant parts of discipleship. Why such a harsh message? I think perhaps Jesus knew the challenges His disciples faced then, and are facing now. He knew that these disciples need every bit of that Christian message to combat His opponent. The disciple cannot weaken their position simply because others are certainly going to take on that role. Just pick up a newspaper, turn on a television, listen to a commentary and you will hear those that try and dilute that message. You can hear the opposition as part of everyday dialogue. How especially true is that on this day, the day after Election Day! For months the faithful have been bombarded by all sorts trying to gain their vote, all sorts have tried to sway their opinion. All sorts have tried to win them over. Many of them have tried to pull them away from Christ, some obvious in their intentions and others stealthily. Of course this antagonistic tension is not limited to the political arena, it takes place in the home environment, the work environment, and among peers. It is the battles of cultures, and the battles within cultures. Some are the friendlier sides battling for the same soul that Christ fought for. There too are those that are blatant in their opposition of Christ. The point then is that in following Christ, one should be aware of all that tugs in the opposite direction; and those tugs can be subtle or severe. Discipleship is not easy, it is challenging and requires that a person challenge all that is around them. In coming after Christ, one indeed must leave much behind.

the dinner party

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Gospel Lk 14:12-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous
.”
 
It would be a shame if the reader of this gospel missed the fact that the advice Jesus gives here is an instruction given to a Pharisee, and the reader is presumed to have a good knowledge of the Pharisee’s philosophy and customs. Pharisees belief was comprised of both the written  and oral traditions, they were scholarly,they advanced synagogues, enjoyed a good amount of popular support, and tried to maintain a constant state of purity in accord with the religious custom of the day. Their invitation to Jesus demonstrates their interest in religious scholarship,and it should not be surprising to think that the function of the dinner was a fruitful debate.When Jesus suggested that they invite the poor, crippled, lame,and blind he knew these would be people Pharisees would tend to avoid for reasons of maintaining ritual purity. In the first century these misfortunes were seen as something that the people brought upon themselves. They were viewed as sinners.Jesus also likely knew the sheer joy these isolated people would experience and express should they be included in any type of social function. They were outcasts and might even be considered dead to society. To bring them back into society would indeed bring them back to life and isn’t that what a resurrection is? If one could bring life back to a person in this world, would God not also do the same for them? Pharisee’s did believe in a resurrection, and Jesus used his instruction to illustrate how to be part of that resurrection.Not in an after life, but in this life. To make their resurrection happen the Pharisee needed to give up a bit of themselves, their piety,to bring about that new life. The thought of dying to oneself so that new life can begin is not an uncommon thought throughout the New Testament. This is a just simple example easily practiced, even today.

 

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 152

Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”

     The first commandment was easy as it was on every Jewish persons lips twice daily.Shema Yisrael , Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone. The Shema was prayed twice a day and was placed in the door step of every Jewish home.One God,and the relationship between this one God and his people defined them.The Shema perfectly summarised this relationship. The second though was not as simply stated. “You shall love your neighbor as your self” is not as simply stated in Jewish prayer. It can be interpreted through Jewish commandments, but there are 613 of those; Yet love your neighbor as yourself is part of Jewish culture, and many of the 613 laws do deal with mans relationship with their neighbors.Some examples from the 613 laws are:

To emulate His ways (Deut. 28:9), To cleave to those who know Him (Deut. 10:20), To love Jews (Lev. 19:18), To love converts (Deut. 10:19), Not to hate fellow Jews (Lev. 19:17), Not to embarrass others (Lev. 19:17), Not to oppress the weak (Ex. 21:22), Not to speak derogatorily of others (Lev. 19:16), Not to take revenge (Lev. 19:18), Not to bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18)

 For Jesus though “love your neighbor as yourself” is pared with Shema Israel, Israels defining prayer; and the combination of these two commands are the basis of his whole ministry. Two commandments are the two beams of the cross with the vertical emphasising the relationship between God and man, and the horizontal as man reaching out across the horizon towards his brothers.As for the rest of the commandments, many are related to these two while others have to do with dietary laws, temple practices,rituals and symbols that helped define Jewish people. Many of these Jesus did not hold the same value to. Perhaps they either were seen as a distraction from these two commands, or possibly it was because they were cause for division between neighbors.Perhaps also, the other commandments made little sense unless they were interpreted against a standard of  the Shema and love of neighbor. If a commandment did not strengthen the bond between God and Man, or between neighbor; what purpose did it serve? Interpreting Jewish law in the first centrury also could be an arduious task, as that Scribe Jesus spoke with must have known. Interpretation required the assistance of an expert scholar versed in the law. The Scribe as a writer of law quickly noticed Jesus’s wisdom and understanding of the law.613 laws combined to two describing one God and one Kingdom. Love of God and Love of Neighbor. That Scribes job suddenly became much easier!