Category Archives: Sacrifice

Desolation

During any reading of the Passion, there are two things that touch my heart.  Yesterday, was no different.

First, I always cringe when we are “the Crowd” and I have to read the part that says “Crucify Him.”  Second, I am always struck by the utter desolation that is in the cry of Jesus.  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

About the first:  my sins crucified my Lord.  And that is part of the reason that I cringe.  I might not have been there, on the scene, but I was there.  When His arms were stretched out, He saw me and He saw every sin I would ever commit.  Yes, He died for me. Personally.

About the second:  Life is a spiritual roller coaster.  We are either in a period of Consolation or in a period of Desolation or somewhere in between at any given point of our lives.  The periods of Consolation are awesome and a time of great spiritual joy.  The periods of Desolation are dry and sterile.  Sometimes when I am there, I don’t think I will ever experience great spiritual joy again.  Then I remember Jesus on the Cross.  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”  And, that gives me strength to begin the ascent again, up the hill of the roller coaster, to a period of Consolation.

I am going to be making my weekend Ignatius Retreat: Consoling the Heart of Jesus beginning on Thursday evening.  & I will not be back on here again until Easter Monday.

I hope this Holy Week is a time of great consolation to you.  That’s my plan for me.

 

 

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James 1: 1-8 Points to Ponder: Redemptive Suffering and Trials and Temptations

(If we were “getting together” for this Bible Study, the guide says that we should read the Points to Ponder out loud and together.  So I have put it here in its entirety for you to read and reflect upon.  I also will keep repeating the Memory Verse until the end of Study One, so that we can memorize it.  God bless you!)

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

What is the Catholic Teaching on Redemptive Suffering?

(James 1: 1-8 @ Home with the Word-Study 1 pgs. 2-3)

“In coming to grips with suffering, a Catholic should bear in mind both James 1:2 (“count it all ;joy, my brethren when you meet various trials”) and verse 17 (“Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”)  Because we have this eternal Father, we can have an eternal perspective that arises from the eternal goal that awaits us.  That alone not only makes sense out of our suffering, it turns our sufferings into something with redemptive power.  That is absolutely novel and revolutionary in human history!  Nothing else before or after Christianity has really grasped that suffering can be redemptive.  To be sure, the acorn is already present in pre-Christian Judaism and is starting to sprout, but only really takes root and bears fruit in the Tree upon which Christ hung.  The audience to which James wrote was facing two tendencies in pagan thought.  One the one hand was Stoicism, which said ‘Keep a stiff upper lip, bear suffering with a straight face’ but which never thought for a moment to ‘count it all joy.’  On the other had, another pagan school of thought was Platonism which considered the body as a sort of prison for the soul and so could, at times, ‘rejoice’ at the suffering of the body because it was a kind of death knell for the jailer.  Both pagan thought systems had a germ of truth, but both were mixed with tremendous error as well.  The Stoic was right to say we have to bear it, but he couldn’t explain why we could possibly count it joy.  The Platonist was right to look upon the body as a temporary dwelling, but wrong to think the goal of life was to become disembodied.  He did not know about the Resurrection.  And so he thought the body was bad, whereas, in reality, it is the second-highest good.  That is why we are called, like Jesus, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12: 1).  There is no point to offering garbage as sacrifice, only that which is best.  And you offer that which is best to show there is One you prefer even more.

So how do we offer our suffering to God?  In different ways.  If we’re suffering illness, we recognize our own human affliction and weakness. Certainly, we seek treatment, but in the meantime we grow in patience through endurance, knowing that even these suffering can be united with Jesus on the cross.   If sufferings are due to persecution for righteousness’ sake, that’s pure gold without any dross.  That is, we can can thank God that he has honored us to share in Christ’s own sufferings.  On the other hand, if our suffering is due to punishment for sin, even those can be united to Christ as we see the Good Thief crucified with Jesus did with his sufferings.  In addition, it should be noted that some of the most intense forms of suffering are not physical but spiritual.  James, for instance, gives no hint that he’s speaking to a persecuted church.  Rather, he addresses his consolations to poor Christians being exploited by the rich (many of whom appear to be Christian themselves).  Also, there is the intense suffering, not of dying ourselves, but watching a loved one die as Mary had to watch Christ die.  To bear such suffering, or to bear the betrayal of friends whom we trusted as Jesus bore betrayal and abandonment by his disciples is to be very close to the Spirit of Christ.  The bottom line is:  there is no realm of human suffering outside of Christ.  Some forms of suffering are most perfectly Christlike, but every form of suffering is, in some way, able to draw us closer to Christ.”

Trials and Temptations

(James 1: 1-8 @ Home with the Word-Study 1 pg. 3)

“Are trials from God and temptations from concupiscence?  To answer that, we need to know what is ‘concupiscence.’  The CCC (para 1264) tells us that, though baptism removes original sin, nonetheless ‘certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, the tinder for sin (fomes peccati); since concupiscence is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.  [Council of Trent (1546): DS 1515.]  We may say that trials are from God and temptations are from concupiscence.

Interestingly, the same word in Greek (peirasmos) is used for both ‘trial’ and ‘temptation.’ A trial is an external test.  A temptation is an internal test.  The same word is used in James 1:2 and then again in James 1: 12-13.  We have to recognize the different meanings from the context.  In verse 2, we are told that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.  So it involves endurance, perseverance, patience and courage.  It’s like a muscle workout for the soul, making healthy muscles even stronger.  In contrast, the internal test we undergo due to our own weakness is what is described in verses 12 and 13.  James relates this passage back to verse 2 and says, ‘Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.’  But then he goes on in verse 13 to say, ‘let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.’  So, on one hand, we are exalted by trial yet humbled by temptation.  Whenever these disordered desires arise in our hearts, we should take a good long look in the mirror (described by James as the ‘perfect law of liberty’ in verses 23-25) and repent.  So, in temptation, we endure suffering, not like athletes at the gym, but as sick people going through physical therapy.  Yet both have their place in God’s plan to do us good.”

St. James

St. James

Next time:  Rome to Home, The CCC Connection, and Family Devotions

@Home Work:  How can we put James 1: 1-8 in practice in our lives?

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Trials and Temptations – James 1: 1-8

(If you haven’t done so, please read James 1: 1-8)

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Notes on Content

1:1-4 James:  is a Greek form of the Hebrew name “Jacob.”  servant:  or “slave.”  this title is used for other apostolic writers (Peter and Paul) and for earlier biblical figures (Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David and the Prophets.)  Jesus Christ:  mentioned only twice in the letter; here and in 2:1.  the twelve tribes:  descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

It is interesting to note that this opening address recalls the Greek version of Is 49: 1-6 where Jacob is the servant of the Lord who calls out to the tribes of Israel in their dispersion with a message of salvation.

Chapter 1:  This chapter is an overview of the themes developed in the rest of the letter:

  • encouragement during trial
  • the need for wisdom
  • the necessity of faith
  • the treatment of the rich and the poor
  • the call to put faith into action
  • the need for a controlled tongue

1: 2  my brethren:  Nineteen times James addresses his readers as spiritual brothers.  (CCC 1655 “The Church is nothing other then ‘the family of God.'”various trials:  a reminder that these trials are part of God’s plan to make our faith stronger, help us prove our faithfulness, and bring us closer to perfection.  Let us rejoice in them.

1:5  wisdom:  not human ingenuity but the heavenly gift that gives us a right understanding of life in relation to God.  If we ask for wisdom with sincere faith, God will give it to us abundantly.

1: 8 double-minded:  literally “having two souls.”  If I am “double-minded” I am holding myself back from complete trust in God.  I waver between conviction and doubt.  Not a good thing because I will pray less fervently because I will doubt that the answers to my prayers are certain.

1: 1-8  While going through this study, take note of how you have typically dealt with adversity and temptation.  Have you met some trials with a “hope for the best” attitude?  We will learn in this lesson, that trials are meant for something and temptations can be met head on.  Resignation is passive.  “Whatever will be will be” is not what God expects from us.  He wants us to persevere to triumph.

Parallels to the Sermon on the Mount:    (1) Perfect:  James 1:4  (2) How the Father gives:  James 1: 5   (3) How to pray:  James 1: 5-8

 

St. James

St. James

 

Next time:  What is the Catholic teaching on Redemptive Suffering?

( If you would like to share some of the answers to the following questions, please feel very free to do so.  I will share one of my answers tomorrow in the comments.)

 

 

@Home Work: 

  • Based on your observations, how does society deal with trials and temptations?
  • When faced with difficult situations, who or what do you turn to first?
  • When it comes to trials, what areas do we seem to be most vulnerable in?  Why?
  • In dealing with trials, what is the area that you need to improve on most?
  • Reread the Memory Verse.  Do you know of somebody in your life who “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing?”  What is it about them that impresses you?  Have you ever persevered steadfastly through a difficulty and “come out the other side” to peace?

 

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Sacrifice in Genesis and Exodus

This Year of Faith “will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is ‘the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; . . . and also the source from which all its power flows.'”  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei (n. 9)

Cain and Abel:  This tragic story revolves on their experiences of offering to God sacrifices from their crops and flocks.  Cain’s sacrifice is not pleasing to the Lord, so he become jealous and murders his brother.

Noah:  The next act of worship in the Bible is after Noah and his family leave the ark.  Noah offers a sacrifice that so pleases the Lord, that He makes a covenant never to flood the whole earth, again.

Abram:
As Abram leaves Ur and Horan for Canaan, he turns away from worship of pagan deities to worship the one true God.  Sacrifice becomes more frequent.  Here are the places where Abram built altars and offered sacrifice:

  • Sechem (Gen 12: 5-7)
  • Bethel (Gen 12: 8)
  • Oaks of Mamre near Hebron (Gen 13: 18)
  • Salem (Gen 14: 17-20) where Melchizedek offers bread and wine for Abram.
  • (Gen 15: 7-21)  God renews His promise to Abraham of many descendants and “he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.”  This act of faith is followed by the building of another altar and another sacrifice.
  • (Gen. 22: 1-18) Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham obeys, takes Isaac to Mt. Moriah where an angel of the Lord stop him and he offers a ram instead.

Jacob:  For considering Jacob’s sacrificial/worship relationship with God, let’s read Gen 27-32: 22-32 in our own Bibles.  One note on Gen 32: 22-32–when Jacob returns to Canaan with his family and wealth, he wrestles with God’s angel who injures his hip.  God lets this happen so Jacob knows that He is in charge of their relationship, not Jacob.

Moses:  The Lord calls Moses and instructs him to deliver Israel from Egypt and bring them to Canaan, the land that was promised to the ancestors.  He tells Moses that He will be with him and he shall lead the people to worship on Mt. Sinai.  After all the angst and crises of the Exodus, the Israelites arrive at Mt. Sinai where six things happen.  For additional details, the passages are presented.

  1. (Ex 19: 3-9) Moses presents God’s offer of a covenant and the people accept the offer.
  2. (Ex. 19: 10-15) The Lord asks Moses to consecrate the people.
  3. (EX. 19: 16-17)  God comes down to the mountain, causing the people to be afraid, and summons Moses to meet Him.
  4. (Ex. 20-23)  God gives Moses the 10 Commandments (and other laws), determining the moral quality of life the Israelites must lead to be His chosen people.
  5. (Ex. 24: 1-42)  Moses returns to the people with the law and the people hear it and give their acceptance of it as a community.
  6. Ex. 24: 4b-11)  Moses offers 12 bulls as sacrifice, pours the blood on the altar and on the people, and there follows a sacrificial meal on the mountain.

Joshua:  The book of Joshua contains a number of liturgical events.  Joshua 4: 190-24 describes the first shrine in the Promised Land at Gilgal.

Jacob_Wrestling_with_the_AngelNext Time:  Jesus’ new liturgy

Meditation:  For understanding this new liturgy:  John 6: 22-71

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We Celebrate; We Believe

“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by the angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up into glory.” (1 Tm 3: 16)

Happy Ascension Day!   Some of you have already celebrated; some of us will be celebrating on Sunday.  I’m not going to go into a rant here, but I wish our province still celebrated on Thursday.  After all, 40 days is 40 days!

Faith that is not expressed and celebrated cannot grow.

In the Year of Faith, we are asked, not just to renew our own personal commitment to Jesus but to join together as the Body of Christ in worship.  Throughout salvation history as passed down in the Scriptures, faith and worship have been linked.  Abram heard God speak and then offered sacrifice.  Jacob heard a renewal of the promised Land and set up a stone at Bethel with an anointing.  Later, Moses met God and learned that Israel should worship on Mt. Sinai.  After Israel passed out of Egypt, traveled to Mt. Sinai, and professed faith in God’s word and commandments, they worshiped and offered sacrifices, according to His word.

The Mass

As Catholics, our worship centers on the Mass.  Today, we are going to summarize and high-light some parts of the Mass and how they are a call to deepen our faith.  (More can be found in Father Mitch Pacwa’s bible study guide for Catholics, “The Year of the Faith” on pages 70-73.)

Introductory Rites:  The sign of the Cross is both a blessing and a commitment to participate in the whole Eucharist.

Penitential Act:  We acknowledge that we have sinned and express faith that the Lord forgives us.

Gloria:  This is a song of praise and also of faith in each Person of the Trinity.  The words of faith are interspersed with praise and petition.

Readings:  We believe that the readings are the Word of God.  So at the end we make a response of faith.  “Thanks be to God.”  “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”   The homily is an exhortation to believe and apply the faith to life.

The Creed:  By reciting these key dogmas of our faith we are making a personal profession of faith in public.

Offertory:  Our response “Blessed be God forever” is an act of faithful thanksgiving that we have the gifts to offer.  When we pray that these gifts will be acceptable, we are expressing our faith in the power of the priest to offer our sacrifice.

Holy, Holy, Holy:  This is both a promise of God’s presence and an act of faith in the coming of Lord who will be present on the altar in just a few moments!

Eucharistic Prayer:  The conclusion is the GREAT AMEN, an act of faith by the whole congregation to set its acceptance of all that has gone before.

Our Father:  Saying the prayer that Jesus taught us is faith in the intimate relationship we have with God as our Father who we trust will answer our prayers as Jesus promised.

Lamb of God:  An act of faith in Jesus who is about to enter our hearts as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin and brings us peace.

Communion:  The priest professes an act of faith to each communicant, “The Body of Christ”/”The Blood of Christ.”  We respond in faith.  “Amen.”

Post Communion Prayer:  This prayer pretty much sums up the faith we have experienced at Mass, especially in receiving the Eucharist.

Blessing and Dismissal:  We are blessed to receive the grace to go out into the world and continue living the Mass and professing our faith.

This week at Sunday Mass, let’s pay particular attention to the structure of the liturgy.  Let’s be especially aware of how the Liturgy of the Word helps carry us into our assent of faith through the reception of Holy Communion.  I don’t know about you, but I think a will spend a few minutes after Mass thanking God for the gift of faith.

MP900289346Next:  Worship in the Old Testament.

Meditation:  Do you consider attending Mass on Sunday a duty or an act of love?

 

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No Matter What the Consequences!

“Hear as Jesus heard; speak as Jesus spoke; suffer as Jesus suffered; die as Jesus died; rise as Jesus rose.”–One Bread One Body for Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

I have been sitting here with pen poised trying to visualize what this day would have looked like for Jesus and His disciples.  Was there an aura of intrigue about the temple and were they aware of it?  Had the disciples relaxed a bit because of the Hosannas ringing out when Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before?  Were they watchful and anxious or just “hanging out” with Jesus?  Beginning Thursday evening, they will fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.

I think I’m “hanging out” with Jesus after this post until Saturday afternoon.  I’m praying that I won’t fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.  What about you?

Well, today, we study the final 9 verses of the Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 7: 21-29.  I have learned much during this study.  Hope you have, too.

Concerning Self-Deception

Matthew 7:  21-23

7: 22 on that day:  This is the Day of Judgment on which Jesus will be the Divine Judge.  God’s sanctifying grace makes our soul fit for heaven.  We manifest it when we conform ourselves to the Father’s will, by knowing and obeying Jesus.  Sanctifying grace is conclusive evidence of our personal sanctity and membership in the family of God.  Charismatic graces, while heaven sent, are not.  (CCC 2003)

Hearers and Doers

Matthew 7: 24-29

7:24 like a wise man:  true wisdom puts Jesus’ teaching into practice and prepares for the future.  his house:  Physically, this parable alludes to building in New Testament Palestine.  Mud-brick houses were generally built in dry season.  Only a house with a solid foundation would resist erosion and destruction when torrential rains came.  Jesus’ reference to a wise man and his house is a reference to King Solomon who built the temple upon a great stone foundation.  Morally, the enduring house is the soul that is maintained only through labor and the materials of prayer and virtue grounded on Christ.

7:29 One who has authority:  Jesus delivered “new teaching “(Mk. 1: 27).  This teaching excelled over Mosaic Law in perfection.  (Matthew 5: 21-48)  Later, Jesus would denounce traditions that are incompatible with God’s word.  (15: 3-6; CCC 581)

The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25:  these are all part of Jesus’ blueprint for Holy living.  I know that I will continue to read and ponder them often during this pilgrimage to heaven.

“Save us, save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountNext time:  Easter Monday

Have a blessed and holy Triduum and a Joyous Easter!

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The Race to the Empty Tomb Begins

“Mary brought a pound of costly perfume made from genuine, aromatic nard, with which she anointed Jesus’ feet.  Then she dried His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the ointment’s fragrance.”–John 12: 3

I love this passage from John.  It makes me think.  “Am I willing to give everything I have and everything I am to Jesus without counting the cost?”  Good question to think about during Holy Week.

Now to the second last section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Ask, Seek, Knock

(Matthew 7: 7-12)

7: 7  Ask. . .given you:  Jesus advocates perseverance in prayer.  Answered prayers stem from faith-filled intentions.  (CCC 2609)

CCC 2609 “Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. . .the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. . .He can tell us to “seek” and to “knock” since He Himself is the door and the way.”

7: 11 you then, who are evil:  Jesus indicates the pervasive sinfulness of man.  good things: the material necessities of life as well as the grace to live as God’s children.

7: 12 do so to them:  Jesus states the Golden Rule positively. (CCC 1970)

CCC 1970 the entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the ‘ new commandment’ of Jesus, to love one another as He has loved us.”

The Narrow Gate

(Matthew 7: 13-14)

Cities surrounded by a fortified wall had both wide and narrow gates for access.  Main, wide gates were big enough for whole caravans to pass through.  Small, narrow gates permitted only pedestrians.  Jesus is telling us that many will pass through this “easy” gate to “destruction.”  The “few” must exert some effort to make it to “life.”

False Prophets

(Matthew 7: 15-20)

These so-called prophets appear harmless, yet their ministry breeds error, division, and immorality.  (2 Peter 2: 1-3)

2 Peter 2: 1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not bee idle and their destruction has not been asleep.”

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Wednesday:  Matthew 7:  21-29

Study Question:  In Catholic Tradition, what is sanctifying grace?

Meditation:  Am I ready to carry my small sharing in the Cross of Jesus?

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