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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Humble Handmaid

Sunday January 1st, 2017

A Reflection on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

By: Larry T

In his book Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology, Fr. Roch A. Kereszty O. Cist. writes:

Besides stressing that Mary and Joseph were truly husband and wife and that the son of Mary truly became the son of Joseph, the Gospels also give some hints about their relationship to one another and to Jesus. It seems likely that the reason Matthew (or at least the Aramaic tradition behind the present Greek text) gives why Joseph wanted to dismiss Mary was not a suspicion of Mary’s unfaithfulness but rather the fear of getting involved with a divine mystery, the presence of which Joseph sensed in his fiancée. He needed God’s assurance and command to overcome his awe. In Krämer’s reconstruction, the Aramaic text underlying Matthew 1:20 should be translated in this way: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife just because the child was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, “Do not let the fact that Mary is bearing a child conceived by the Holy Spirit frighten you from taking her as your wife.”

This Aramaic interpretation is startling, but makes sense: Joseph sensed a divine energy radiating from Mary which both awed and frightened him. Did the baby in Elizabeth’s womb also sense divine energy radiating from Mary? Is that what caused the baby to leap in Elizabeth’s womb? When Elizabeth was overcome by the Holy Spirit, cried out “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” was that, too, a spontaneous response to the divine aura surrounding Mary? It’s a possibility worth considering.

Most modern Catholics accept that Jesus was both divine and human, and that Mary gave birth to Him; therefore logically, she is the “Mother of God”, and that’s the way it always was. But, the increasingly nonspiritual culture which we live in intentionally labels our traditional values as being unfounded and insists that clinging to them is senseless and useless; therein, is the stumbling block of accepting that’s the way it always was. Unless we are thoroughly versed in the history and tradition of our Catholic faith we face the same danger as a shallowly rooted tree which can be easily blown over by a strong gust of wind. This is what makes reviewing some of the landmark events in our Holy Mother’s life worthwhile.

At the most opportune time for mankind’s salvation, God instructed the angel Gabriel to take on human form so that he would be visible to Mary. When he appeared to Mary he saluted her with: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.”

Ignoring her bewildered silence, he continued, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, and he shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Lk 1:28-33, Holy Angels Edition)

What did the angel Gabriel mean when he said “Hail, full of Grace”? Through the centuries our Church has become increasingly aware that this divine announcement meant that God preserved Mary from original sin at the very moment of her conception (C.C.C. 491). God then continued to shower graces upon her, preparing her to be the earthly mother of the Son of God, (God Bearer, in Greek: Theotokos).

Beginning with Jesus’ death and resurrection, how many years passed before his mother was officially proclaimed Theotokos? Nearly four-hundred years. Before Mary could receive the title of “Mother of God”, her Son had to be recognized as “Son of God” - for the early Church just getting to that threshold of understanding and acceptance was extraordinarily difficult. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. declared that Jesus was “begotten, not made, of the same substance as the Father”. Then, in 381 A.D., the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople was forced to reaffirm that Jesus was “the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.”, and proclaimed that the text of the Nicene Creed was complete and forbade any change (addition or deletion) to it.

However, Nestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople, didn't agree. Nestorius and his following of sixteen other bishops denied Christ’s full humanity, arguing that Jesus had two separate persons, the divine Logos and the human Jesus. He opposed the title of Theotokos (God Bearer or Mother of God) for Mary, insisting that she should instead be called Christotokos (Bearer of Christ). He taught that Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth to the human Christ, not the divine Logos who existed before Mary and indeed before time itself. Nestorius’ opponents found his teaching too close to the heresy of adoptionism – the idea that Christ had been born a man who had later been “adoptedas God’s son. His teaching was ruled heretical by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. This led to the so-called Nestorian Schism where churches supportive of Nestorius separated from the rest of the Christian Church. The Council of Ephesus declared that the text of the Nicene Creed, previously decreed at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., and the revisions of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. were accurate and complete; Jesus was truly the Son of God and Mary was indeed the Mother of God.

In what way can these events bolster our faith? Mary had free will; she could have simply said, No thank you, but her “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to thy word.” signaled her willingness to participate in God’s plan. God created the earth and we live on it, in this we have no choice. God’s Kingdom on earth arrived with the birth of Jesus. We have two options: choose to be a subject in God's Kingdom on earth or live out a simplistic existence on God's earth. We, the willing subjects of God's Kingdom on earth, that is, those of us who accept His gift of faith, are tasked with collaborating with Him in the expansion of His Kingdom; this is how we signal our willingness to participate in His plan. How do we go about that?

Just as Joseph and Elizabeth sensed a divine presence radiating from Mary as she carried our Lord, so should those who we come in contact with sense the divine spirit of Jesus dwelling in us, and that can be as simple as a smile in His name, our demeanor and more importantly, our actions. “We ought to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6 R.S.V.)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Sword of Hatred

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

A Reflection on Romans 15:4-9, N.A.B.

By: Larry T

The second reading for this Sunday is from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. Since Paul wrote this letter to a Christian community that he neither founded nor as yet had visited, it is unique among his writings. Even so, Paul’s Letter to the Romans is widely acknowledged as the single most influential document in Christian history because of its profound theology.

4 For whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus,
6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.
8 For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
9 but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
“Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.”
- Romans 15:4-9 N.A.B.

The substance of all Holy Scripture might well be summed up in verses 5 and 6:

5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus,
6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When a scribe asked Jesus “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and 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.” (Mark 12:28-31 N.A.B.). Does being in keeping with Christ Jesus include loving our neighbor as ourselves?

Has there ever been a time when we have been in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus so that with one voice we could glorify God the Father and the Lord Jesus? Biblical scholars and Church historians will answer: probably not even from the beginning. Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and 1 John both express utter dismay at the disharmony that arose in the early Church.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, in the Seven Storey Mountain writes:

“It was St. Augustine’s argument, that envy and hatred try to pierce our neighbor with a sword, when the blade cannot reach him unless it first passes through our own body.”

Merton went on to write:

“In so far as men are prepared to prefer their own will to God’s will, they can be said to hate God: for of course they cannot hate Him in Himself. But they hate Him in the Commandments which they violate. But God is our life: God’s will is our food, our meat, our life’s bread.”

One of the elements of wisdom is recognizing that which is unchangeable in the face of a culture which insists that it is changeable. This will never change: true followers of Jesus cannot be hate driven; it is God’s will that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This, too, will never change: the sword of hatred aimed at our neighbor will damage our personal relationship with our God. Saint Paul’s prayer/plea (v. 7) is that we welcome one another as Christ welcomed us, for the glory of God.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even atheists, however imperfect in their faith or belief, who follow the Second Greatest Commandment can accomplish what no president, congress, army, or police force can: they can heal the rifts which are tearing our nation and world apart.