Sunday, March 29, 2009


As Our Lord hung on the Cross, he made the simple statement "I thirst." Like so much else in Sacred Scripture, this is meant to be polyvalent, that is to have many meanings. On the surface level, it means just what it says. After probably sixteen or more hours, since He left the Last Supper, Christ was thirsty. It is very doubtful that in the process of interrogating and beating Him, the Jews or the Romans offered a glass of water [although, the Romans could have done so just in order to prolong the torture of the Cross; they liked for the crucified to be around for a while]. Our Lord thirsted. His lips were dry, as was His throat. He had lost much fluid by the shedding of His Precious Blood, as sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane; during the "interrogation" by the Sanhedrin; during the scourging, the via Crucis and at last the crucifixion itself. In spite of this, He was no doubt perspiring quite a bit as well, since it was in the heat of the day that He was crucified.
As we look through this level of the meaning, it is important to know that it shows the humanity of Christ. His Sacred Humanity was not a veil or a ruse. Like the statement by Saint Matthew, He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, and He was hungry, this shows the reality of the Sacred Humanity that Our Lord assumed for our sake. He was not able magically to avoid hunger and thirst because of His Divinity.
On the deeper layer, peeling away at the onion, as it were, Jesus was athirst for souls. Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw it as her mission in life to quench the thirst of her Spouse for souls. In every convent of the Missionaries of Charity there is a Crucifix in the chapel with the words I thirst or Sitio near it, because Blessed Teresa saw this a crucial passage of Scripture for her spirituality.
The service she gave to so many in the slums of Calcutta was because she viewed them as being another Christ. She saw them as "Jesus, in one of His many distressing disguises." Taking seriously the scene of the Judgement in St Matthew's Gospel, she sought to give Christ food when He was hungry; give Him drink when thirsty, etc. She cared for Christ in the least of His brethren. All of this, of course is the quench His thirst for souls.
Christ thirsts for souls, not just for numbers, but on an individual level. Each and every person. He thirsts for your soul, and for mine. He thirsts for the soul of the person down the street; for the soul of the sinner who needs to repent. He thirsts for the soul of the person who has wandered far away from his Father's house that is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He thirsts for the soul of those who have always remained faithful, that they may be further perfected in Him.
It is in coming to Him to be purified that we can then become icons of Our Lord. If we have responded to His grace, others should be able to see Him in us! Then, as we go about ministering to Him in others, they will be brought to Him. We will quench His thirst.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

La Virgen esta llorando

There is an expression I heard in Mexico, La Virgen esta llorando -- The Virgin is crying. I can only imagine the tears of the Virgin as she beholds the university that bears her name in South Bend Indiana.
So many have weighed in on the controversy of Notre Dame (Our Lady) University inviting THE MOST pro-abortion President to speak at their annual commencement this May. Even for the Casa blaca vacantist this is stunning, since, eligible or not, the man resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He has exercised the great power given him for evil time and again. To think he was compared by one Orthodox prelate to Alexander the Great. It seems he is more like Julian the Apostate when it gets right down to it.
The scandal comes from ND inviting him to speak at commencement, and worse yet, they're giving him an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree! How can a supposedly Catholic institution give a degree honoring the juris prudence of a man who has virtually signed the death warrents of thousands of children? How can you honor the juris prudence of a man who wishes to relieve physicians, nurses and hospitals of their right to choose (not to murder) while defending a woman's supposed right to choose (to murder)? This is unbelievable and tragic. My heart goes out to the thousands who are alumni of what was once a fine institution.
Archbishop Fulton J Sheen was correct when he pointed out that it would be less dangerous for the faith of our young people to send them to a secular college than to a place like Notre Dame, where they may be duped into thinking they are learning Catholic values and teachings [this was after the Land-O-Lakes accord, when ND and others declared their "academic freedom" from the Magisterium].
I urge alumni and other donors to make their dissapointment known the next time they receive a letter from ND asking for support. I urge parents and young men and women to seek a truly Catholic college to attend.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?

Our Lord, from the Cross, quotes Psalm 21's opening verse, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Right off, the Scripture scholars tell us, this means that He intends to place the whole of the Psalm in their minds. This Psalm is one that describes the Passion of Christ rather accurately: the dividing of the clothing, the piercing of the hands and feet, and so on.
This means, however, that Our Lord also intends the end of the Psalm which speaks of praise for the faithfulness of God. The Psalmist generally ends Psalms of Lament with such praise.
Christ bore for us the weight of our sins. This was the weight of the sins of the world -- all of them. If one mortal sin separates us from God, imagine the weight of them all. Many of course, will rush in to remind me that Christ always had the beatific vision. It is true that many theologians have held that through the centuries. However, it is not something de fide tenenda. Personally, I cannot tell you if He did or did not behold His Father's face at all times. I do think there is merit to the other theologians, who remind us that He emptied Himself, as St Paul teaches us, taking on the form of a slave. In other words, He became man, and man does not share the beatific vision in this life. Another point in favor, as we recall, is the teaching of the Angelic Doctor that it is not possible to sin or experience temptation in Heaven, because once we behold God, we could never choose an false good. If Christ beheld God the Father at all times, how was He tempted?
For our sake, Christ may have felt complete abandonment from His Father. Rather than deny His divinity, this strengthens it! What other so-called god of the ancient world would empty himself that completely? This is a ridiculous thought to non-Christians. God becomes man!
In his kenotic state (the state of emptiness), Our Lord was able to sense separation from the Father. This is how He loves us, that He emptied Himself that much!
Another side to the story is that the sensation of abandonment by God, is not reality. We know that the Father did not abandon the Son (or us for that matter). In the spiritual life, as we feel the most distance from God, we are, ironically, the closest to Him. So many spiritual writers remind us that it is when we feel the wood of the Cross in our own lives, that we are closest to Christ. It is as though, because the embrace is so close, we can't see Him.
When we feel abandoned by God. we remember that He is probably closer than we imagine. The cry of Christ from the Cross also teaches that it is OK to express ourselves honestly to God. So many think it would be irreverent to speak to God in any way other than grovelling. God wishes us to be friends and more sons in the Son. A son can tell his father how he is feeling. It is when we are most honest with God that our prayer is most pure.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ecce Mater Tua

One of the most tender moments of Our Lord on the Cross is when He looks at His Sorrowful Mother and says, Mulier, ecce filius tuus, Woman, behold your son. Then to the Beloved Disciple, Ecce Mater tua.
The Beloved Disciple, who stands for all of us, took him into his home, or as another translation could say, into his own. John, the Beloved, took Our Lady as his own mother. We also are called by Christ to take her as our Mother. She is Mother of the Church Mater Ecclesiae, the Mother of Christ -- the whole Christ, head and members. If we are to be members, truly united to Our Lord and Head, we must accept and take Our Lady into our own.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is not an option. We are commanded Honor Thy Father and the Mother. Mary is truly our Mother. The Blessed Mother cares for us with a maternal effection like no other. She is one of Our Lord's greatest gifts to us. Having given us Himself in the Eucharist, he also gives us His Mother for our own. This is integral to what it means to be members of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are given, as members of His Body, His Father and His Mother! O Bonum Commercium!
St Louis Marie de Montfort tells us that devotion to Mary will draw us closer to her son. As he and so many have pointed out, her words in Scripture tell us much about her: Do whatever He tells you. Let it be done unto me according to thy word. These are words of one who can do no other than bring her servants to Christ. The Saint tells us that when we, as loyal servants of Our Lady, when we present our humble gifts to Her Son, She, as it were, polishes them for us and perfects them. So great is her love for us, that she adds her grace and merit to whatever passes through her hands.
As so many fathers of the Church tell us, God willed to come to man through the Virgin Mary; He also wills that man come to Him through the Virgin Mary. It is not that Christ is inaccessible. It's that He desires that we approach through His most Blessed Mother.
Totus Tuus sum ego, Maria! Trahe me post te ad Filium Tuum.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Neminem Nisi Jesum

Today we hear of the Transfiguration of Christ, and of the Sacrifice of Isaac. Once again, the translators of the New American Bible have missed the boat. In the Sacrifice of Isaac, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. In the Transfiguration God tells Peter James and John, that Jesus is His Beloved Son. But, we don't hear that connection in English, because in one place it is translated as your son, whom you love, in another, it is rendered Beloved Son. The Church, of course, wants that connection to be made in our minds. Since, however we are stuck with the NAB (for which the American Bishops have copyright), that connection has to be made by the homilist.
There is a connection between the Transfiguration of Christ and the second of the Seven Last Words of Christ. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to see a glimpse of the glory of Christ. This glory, not fully seen even after the Resurrection, was also seen by the good thief (St Dismas), but after his death. I know, this is a tangent, right. Well that's how this works. The glory of Christ, revealed to Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor was just an installment of the glory to be seen by all in Paradise.
St Dismas is promised to be taken to Paradise that day, not because of his good works. He was not known for any of those! He was a thief. He led a sinful life. What makes him a saint is that he knew who and what he was. He knew he was a thief. He knew that he had transgressed not only the Law of God, but also the civil law, and that his punishment was well deserved.
When the bad thief, who seems to have gone down in history with just that monicker, spoke, it was completely unrepentant. He was the thief who, in the words of Rhett Butler, was not sorry he had stolen, but was very sorry he had been caught. He asked Christ to prove that He was the Christ by saving Himself -- and while He was at it -- to save the two thieves as well.
It is Saint Dismas who says, Have you no fear of God? We deserve this sentence; this Man, has done nothing wrong. Then he adds something very significant, perhaps the most sincere act of contrition ever spoken, Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom. He, aware of his standing before God, does not even dare to ask forgiveness. He merely asked to be remembered. Christ, who is faithful beyond our wildest imaginings, not only remembers him, but promises him Paradise.
It is for us, during this season of Lent, to consider our place before God, and humbly to ask Him for pardon and peace. Christ has left us the Sacrament of His Mercy. Will we be like the good thief?
Memento mei quando veneris in regnum tuum!