Two days and Candlemas

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I unknowingly start this a few days ago on the feast of Saint Brigid, one of the Patron Saints of Ireland. I am familiar with Brigid’s Crosses which are made by weaving grass into the pattern of the cross. Wanting to know a little of their history, I began digging. In that reading it was often written that the cross of grass likely predated Irelands Christianity, and its origins were in the Celtic pre-Christian gods. In tone the arguments read often presented evidence against the Brigid Cross being Christian. Not only did those articles go against the Cross, they went against the saint herself. They suggest the patron saint of Ireland is again the Christianization of an ancient Irish pagan goddess that goes by the same name. Christianity decreases and paganism is promoted, in their eyes. The Saint and feast, in pagan ritual, has its origins in a springtime festival. At least to some.

That was a couple days ago, today is the feast of the presentation of the LORD. It occurs forty days after the Nativity when Jesus is presented at the Temple in accordance with Jewish custom and law. It also is the purification of Mary, yet another tradition of Judaism. Finally, it is also known as Candlemas. Candlemas is the day when all candles to be used throughout the year are blessed. In earlier times the Church used many candles. Bees wax at one time was the valued product of the bee, its honey as a welcomed byproduct. Why Candlemas today, on this religious feast? It is because at the presentation Jesus is proclaimed as the light of the world. It is the day the proclamations of Anna and Simeon are made at the Temple. Christ, the light of the world. It is one of the great celebrations of the Church. Ironically if one were to read a new age online encyclopedia the day is almost always referenced to some other pagan seasonal feast. That feast can be Irish, or Roman, or Nordic, and almost always related to the changing of the seasons. It is not. Today is the feast of Presentation of our LORD Jesus the Christ and light of world. It also is the celebration of purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God. It is a day with its origins in sacred scripture, and it is celebrated with Candlemas. It is a day a great light is proclaimed, the light of salvation. Why the ire? First the deliberate attempts to portray the day as a hostile takeover of an earthy and folksy wicianesque tradition. It is not. Second is the attempted replacement of a scared day rich in tradition with another (actual the same) pagan celebration, Groundhog Day.

Today is a good day to voice anger against the promotion of paganism. It is a good day to be reminded of words such as heresy, and blasphemy, and apostasy, and sacrilegious. In using that voice to proclaim the great light that is Jesus Christ gives reminder of the voice of the person. Along with light, voice enters into the liturgy. The Christian Voice. Words and sounds. The day after Candlemas comes the feast of Saint Blase , and it is the day of the blessing of throats with today’s candles. At the presentation Jesus is proclaimed light of the world, and to proclaim often means to use your blessed throat.. .

Aside

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O King of the gentiles and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles) is the companion of O Key of David. Key of David is Jesus’s rightful place on the throne of David, and the role as Messiah that title speaks of. O King of the gentiles is the other half that places him a universal King. Universal is Catholic. It is that Kingship that unites all that has been divided, and that which brings peace to the world. It allows people to sing Joy to the world, the Lord has come. An undivided kingdom is one that allows for peace. It is a kingdom united under God and obedient to Gods laws, and not mans whims.

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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Last week left Jesus at the synagogue of Nazareth reading from the scroll of Isaiah, a reading which identifies Jesus as messiah, todays reading is the follow up to that event. It is His conflicted audience’s reaction. Lasts weeks reading was beautify paired with Ezra reading from the Torah Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 upon the chosen peoples return from the Babylonian exile. Scriptural reading was something those people had been denied for a very long time.It marked a people’s return to their land, their customs and cultures, and their God. Jesus reading at the synagogue marks the same type of event, a messiah is a one who brings deliverance. That notion of a people defined and united by Christ was emphasized by St. Paul when he compares the human body to the mystical body of Christ1 Cor 12:12-30.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Today’s reading is the people’s reaction, and that reaction is marked by those who reject Christ’s proclamation. At first they are amazed by His wisdom, then they are angered by His claim. We of course choose our side, and from what I have heard that is an important point of this Gospel. The phrase that I heard from the pulpit was “What does this mean to me today.” The choice is not exclusively one of history, it is one that people who are introduced to Christ must make today. The choice is either to choose Christ’s teaching, or to side with the popular opinion. An interesting point about this passage is that it takes place early in Christ’s ministry, and that can easily be complimented with those that are in an early phase of Christian discipleship. The shoes to wear are those of the Catholic student; the grade school student, the high school student, and even the university student. They can hear the Word, they can even proclaim the Word; but listen to the world’s reaction. Put one selves into their shoes and listen to what they face. They face the grumblings and anger of establishment, and of their peers. They face that in every aspect of their lives. Those in authority stress their values in ethics, abortion, sexuality, racism, capitalism, economic discrimination, religious observances, and everything else that marks their formation. Many in authority, many who grumble the loudest, oppose the Christian platform. The reading serves as a reminder that this is nothing new, but it is something everyone confronts early in a Christian journey. It marks the formation of every member of the body of Christ.

In this discussion today, I think I will place more of an emphasis on the “What does this mean to me today” interpretation of the gospel message. I might include it as a line at the conclusion of a post, and a sentence or two to give proof that I thought about the reading in this way. One part of today’s discussion includes the youth and the challenges they face. Tomorrow marks the feast day of a saint that devoted his ministry to under privileged youth, Don Bosco. He is the founder of the Salesian order. I might have the opportunity to write more on that later, but if I don’t I thought I’d mention it today.

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

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King Herod, when he began hearing stories of Jesus, had thought Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. The gospel story (Mk 6:14-29) recalls the story of the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod. John did not bow down to Herod or compromise his teachings for fear of him, in fact it was Johns preaching against the immorality of Herod that ignited his anger. It was his weak character though that caused king Herod to cave in to the demands of his (illegitimate) wife Herodias. John the Baptist was a martyr for Gods truth. He did not give into a lie or preach against God to save his life. It seems martyrs are in the news a lot lately, most prominent those that war in the mid east. The difference though is that martyrs like the Baptist never claimed to be martyrs, they died for their beliefs. They did not massacre people in the name of God. In recent years there have been numerous groups that have massacred either for their beliefs, or in the name of God. So different from the true martyrs. Those true martyrs lived for their God, and died because of the convictions of their lives. Those true martyrs are so different from those that kill as Herod did; out of fear, greed, weakness, anger, hate, desire, pride and every other sad emotion that motivates people to violence. The modern day Herod’s are the likes of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko-Haram. The martyrs then are those that get caught in the crossfire of their bullets, bombs, and hatred. Those that tried to live in Gods peace but were martyred through Satins hatred.

“The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”  Paul  Miki, while hanging on a cross

Today is the memorial of a group of martyrs from the past, Paul Miki and companions. Paul was a Japanese Jesuit, born in Japan in 1562. From the time Saint Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan in the early 1500’s until the 1580’s there were 200,000 Christian converts living in that country, and that raised concern among many leaders of that country. In 1587 the emperor banned Catholics. By 1596 the persecution of Catholics led to the imprisonment and execution of Paul Miki and 25 fellow Jesuits and lay Catholics. They were marched from Kyoto to Nagasaki, raised on Crosses, and speared to death. Remarkably even during their crucifixion and execution they continued to preach Christ. While hanging on the Cross Paul proclaimed himself Jesuit and Japanese, and preached Christian forgiveness. With that martyrdom and purge of western influences from Japan, Christianity was thought to have been extinguished from that country. When missionaries returned in the 1860’s there was no sight of Christians. As they worked around Nagasaki though they eventually discovered thousands of active Christians who secretly kept that faith alive. They are known as the hidden Christians of Nagasaki. That persecution of Gods love had failed, just as it did after Herod, and just as it will after the current group of maligned murderers who kill in the name of God. God’s love triumphs over the devils hatred. That’s the lesson from the old testament to today. The martyrs are those who loved, lived, and died for God; and not those who kill in the name of God

Thursday of the Fourth Week in ordinary time

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As Jesus sends out the Twelve, he sends them out in pairs, as pairs left the ark of Noah. He instructed them to take nothing but a walking stick. A staff like the one Moses used to guide them across the desert. Like the staff wielded by the prophets. They are to serve as guides, and to deliver a message. They are not to bring food, for Jesus is the bread of life. They are not to bring a sack filled with the burdens of the past to weigh them down, nor money to corrupt them. They were to wear sandals for their journey was to be long. They are not to carry a second tunic as that could signify a duplicity of their message. They are to preach but one gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. “When ever you enter a house, stay until you leave from there.” They arrive with a mission and a message, and they leave with them delivered. They do not arrive with one message and leave with another. Those who do not accept that message,do not change it. Christ’s apostles remain in His truth, and that is how they healed.

No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled Blood that speaks more eloquently
than that of Abel.