Clear Conscience

Greetings on this the Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops
Readings: 2 Tm 1:1-8; PS 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10; Mk 3:31-35

Clearing the Conscience

In our first reading today, Paul speaks about his clear conscience.

Naturally, we are happy for him. Yet we cannot forget what it took to get him from breathing murderous threats and executions to a man with a clear conscience.

He had to take on his own rigidity of understanding Jewish law, his zealous, myopic view of what faith and religion consists of and his willingness to perpetuate violence on others.

I read a lot of far right Catholic blogs and sites. I am shattered by their willingness to foment violence both physical and spiritual upon anyone who deviates from their specific understanding of Church teaching. There isn’t even room for a change in strategy when clearly the ‘Law First’ approach is failing to move the country toward reversing the Culture of Death. In fact in some ways it is perpetuating the Culture of Death witnessed by the reflex responses the ‘left’ are conducting.

It is a failed strategy.

Some even refuse to read encyclicals of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or Pope Francis nor engage any of the books they write. How can it be that to say you are a faithful Catholic but discount the leadership of the seat of Peter?

Return to your sincere faith. Even if you think you are right bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Pope Francis proposes using a Contrapostioning concept, open sincere dialog to allow space for the Holy Spirit to bring forth a gushing of insight and pathways to the Culture of Life.

Civil war and strife within the Church is not a pathway to the Culture of Life.

Responsorial Psalm

  1. Sing to the LORD a new song – you have grown stale in your praise of the Lord.
  2. Announce his salvation, day after day.
  3. God proposes we govern the peoples with equity.

Gospel

Who are my mother and my brothers?

Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

It isn’t what you are doing.

Jewish Talmud – Learning to Change

Borrowing from the Jewish Learning center…

The Talmud records the voices of those who were on the margins of Jewish life during the late Second Temple and post-Temple periods — those who were both critiquing a Judaism that was failing and creating one that would work better. To do so, they invented and put into practice a system of mechanisms, principles, and rules-of-change that would guide them and future generations in the project of upgrading the tradition according to their new insights and lived experiences, one which might better serve the world of the future.

To paraphrase the philosopher Moshe Halbertal, the Talmud is not a normative document, but a formative document. It is designed not to tell us what our behavioral norms should be, but rather to form us into a certain kind of human being.

The core innovation that made this new system possible was the concept of svara — moral intuition. The sages of the Talmud named svara a source of Jewish law equal to the Torah in its power to overturn any aspect of the received tradition that violated their moral intuition or that caused harm that they could no longer justify, rationalize, or tolerate — even if it was written in black-and-white in the Torah itself.

Text from https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-read-the-talmud/

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Breathing Murderous Threats

Cyber Penance (on wordpress.com) Image Yes No

Greetings on this the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Readings: Acts 22:3-16; PS 117:1bc, 2; Mk 16:15-18

Note: On the approach of the 2nd Impeachment trial of former President Trump, zealots are threatening violence again against the duly elected Senators of our Congress. Twice in 30 days violent men look to pursue what they see as righteousness.

Saul to Paul

Paul addressed the people in these words (abbr): I was zealous for God, I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.

Saul Meets Jesus

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Paul Meets Ananias

Go (Ananias), for this man (Saul/Paul) is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.

Paul is Baptized

Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

Paul proclaims Christ

Conversion changes everything.
Bear fruit that will last.

Those threatening violence as the Senate brings its constitutional duty to try former President Donald Trump are the Sauls of this age.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Freed Women

Greetings on this the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Readings: Heb 8:6-13; PS 85:8 and 10, 11-12, 13-14; Mk 3:13-19

Note: Today is the anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision permitting nationwide abortion. Vestments are violet (purple) to signal the need for restoration and penance. It is the desire of the Church to give the unborn legal status as persons in order to protect their life in the womb. The Church teaching is the protection of human life from conception to natural death.

In 313 AD, the Emperor Constantine and Emperor Licinius issued the joint Edict of Milan, which legalized Christianity. During the reign of Theodosius I (A.D. 379-395), Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, and declared other religions illegal.

While law is always helpful and certainly can result in peace, the compelling growth of the Church during the period between 100 CE and 313 CE is not the law (Anno Domini, the year of our lord).

The amazing growth of the Church during the persecutions wasn’t that is was easiest. It was the way in which women were treated. The Church offered protection for women and their children. Christian men acted rightly toward women and did not engage in abuse and enslavement of women and their children as was common in the pagan culture/religions of the day.

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The Church freed women from oppression. Women grew the Church.
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God our Creator;
we give thanks to you,
who alone have the pwoer to impart the breth of life
as you form each of us in our mother’s womb;
grant, we pray,
that we, whom you have made stewards of creation,
may remain faithful to this sacred trust
and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your SOn,
who live and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Unity in Prayer

Greetings on this the Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Readings: Heb 7:25—8:6; PS 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17; Mk 3:7-12

Prayers in the night

This grotto has been here for at least 25 years or more. Situated outside people come night and day to pray.

Many come from different traditions. Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Other Christian. In the terror of night they come seeking relief for their sorrows. Anxiety sorrow, pain sorrow, brokenhearted sorrow, and the sorrow of low horizons. The sorrows of the human family.

But they come. Because this place. This tiny place is holy ground. It is made holy by the unending prayer of people. It is made holy because we choose to reach out to the eternal in this place again and again.

Today is the Memorial day for Saint Agnes.

From Catholic Culture:

One day when Agnes, then thirteen years old, was returning home from school, she happened to meet Symphronius, a son of the city prefect. At once he became passionately attracted to her and tried to win her by precious gifts. Agnes repelled him, saying: “Away from me, food of death, for I have already found another lover”.

Incensed by her rebuff, Symphronius denounced Agnes to his father, the city prefect. When he threatened her with commitment to a house of ill fame, Agnes replied: “At my side I have a protector of my body, an angel of the Lord” (2. Ant., Lauds). “When Agnes entered the house of shame, she found an angel of the Lord ready to protect her” (1. Ant., Lauds). A light enveloped her and blinded all who tried to approach. Then another judge condemned her to the stake because the pagan priests accused her of sorcery.

After the flames died out, she continued: “I praise You, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because by Your Son the fire around me was extinguished” (4. Ant., Lauds). And now she longed for union with Christ: “Behold, what I yearned for, I already see; what I hoped for, I already hold in embrace; with Him I am united in heaven whom on earth I loved with all my heart” (Ben. Ant.). Her wish was granted; the judge ordered her beheaded. —The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Affianced couples; betrothed couples; bodily purity; chastity; Children of Mary; Colegio Capranica of Rome; crops; engaged couples; gardeners; Girl Scouts; girls; rape victims; diocese of Rockville Centre, New York; virgins.

Read more about her life here: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2020-01-21

Mother Who is Blessed (Blessed Mother)

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Amen.

Women in Leadership

So Saint Agnes and the Blessed Mother watch over us.

They intercede with the Eternal One to, please, watch over women who help govern this land. Amen.

Not read by a single person. I’ll give you a $1.00 if you read this and comment.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Save Life

Greetings on this the Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Note: Inauguration Day – in a few hours President Biden will be sworn in. He started his day at Prayer Service at The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C. May he always put the Divine Guidance the first word of each day.

Readings: Heb 7:1-3, 15-17; PS 110:1, 2, 3, 4; Mk 3:1-6

Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?

Interestingly Jesus already is quoted as saying: The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

Note: We always have to be careful with sequencing Jesus’ words. These stories and snippets are not always intended to be sequential in time or even actually sequential in time. Obvious sequential (birth, death, not included).

Now one must ask the question, what is the real question? They wanted something to accuse him with, a cure on the Sabbath, would in their minds be a violation of law. The outstretched withered hand – unable to do work, unable to sustain his life due to his deformity. His life is beng lost to his illness/injury. One could assume, nobody was helping him either. He, with the withered hand, was tolerated in the synagogue but not aided.

The Pharisees were interested in power, authority and this upstart carpenter son upstaging them.

Jesus frames the question to be about saving life.
When is it a good time to save life?

Always.
Always.
Always.

Jesus grieved at their hardness of heart. This is an example of law and rule being held in higher regard than the life to be saved. This is exactly the tight and mirrored logic of the Pro-life and the Pro-Choice arguments. They both grieve Jesus.

Friday is Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. It is a good time to refactor how we protect women and their unborn children. It is heartbreaking to ever disconnect the wellbeing of the child in the womb without the wellbeing of the Mother who is the womb. How can we talk about the baby without talking about the mother? She, with her type of withered hand, is distained and not aided.

Matthew quotes: Now go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, RATHER THAN SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

When is it a good time to save life?

Always.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Unlawful

Greetings on this the Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Heb 6:10-20; PS 111:1-2, 4-5, 9 and 10c; Mk 2:23-28

Three Days of Accusations

The readings of the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the 2nd week in ordinary time concentrate on the false accusations against God.

  • Monday – Jesus confronted about his followers not fasting.
  • Tuesday – Jesus confronted about his followers eating grain.
  • Wednesday – Jesus confronted for his healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus replies in turn, Monday, knowing they do not understand who he is, this is the new wine of the Presence. They will one day fast (and mourn) when the bridegoom is gone. A fast of the heart not of the habit is a more profound fast.

I’ll cover Wednesday on… Wednesday.

Bread – Tuesday Accusation

Generally the view is Jesus’ disciples violated perhaps three expectations:
Traveling too far on the Sabbath.
Harvesting on the Sabbath.
Not resting on the Sabbath.

Jesus does not reply to the direct accusation because it actually is fine. Anyone is permitted to take a fistfull of grain from the fields to eat as they travel. It is a false accusation.

Jesus helps with a more substaintial claim of David eating the Holy Bread of the Temple. To repeat, Jesus gives them a more credible arguement to make. What about David (1 Sam 21:1-6)?

So many aspects to consider here!

  • Holy Bread, the Bread of the Presence, to be given not just the priests but for many.
  • Add Monday’s reading with the new Wine of the Presence (Bridegroom is present).
  • David was revered so perhaps this was a legitimate use?
  • New understanding of the Presence of Bread and Wine (Monday and Tuesday).

Jesus Teaches

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

Pope Francis

In his new, very readable book, Dare to Dream, Pope Francis describes how we need this type of breakout moment. Where we allow the Holy Spirit to reintegrate our understanding of holy and making room for new insights on the implementation of faith, liturgy and law.

That is not to say unintelligible or negation of divine law. Rather an opening for the Holy Spirit to provide a pathway forward.

Don’t be stuck in the unlawful – a judgment yielding no fruit. Instead we should focus on the Lord who orders all things, even the Sabbath, to the well-being of the human race.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Known Unknown

Sunset

Greetings on this the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19; Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; Jn 1:35-42

Dark of Night

Light follows darkness in the very beginning of the book of Genesis where it says Evening came, and morning followed—the first day. Darkness, in a manner of speaking, gave birth to the light.

Night time brings two themes with it:

  1. Fear and danger. It is said, in ancient lore, that Adam was frightened by the first sunset. He did not know or understand the cosmic situation of light/dark, night and day.
  2. Night is a time for prayer, rest/sleep and the renewal of strength.

Night is the time to Know the Unknown.

Samuel

Samuel was sleeping at night when the Lord called him.
Samuel was unsure who was calling him but Eli after being awakened by Samuel three times, reassured Samuel the Lord is beckoning Samuel, instructing him to reply: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

As to morning, with light, comes all the blessing of creation.

Samuel’s calling began in the night and in confusion and uncertainty. But he trusted the Lord. He trusted Eli and began his apostolate. Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to go unfulfilled.

What did Samuel come to know? To know God’s will (for him, for his apostolate).

Responsorial

What is God’s will?
What did he call Samuel and all of us to do?

  1. Sing praise with new song.
  2. Ears open to hear his word.
  3. To do his will and to allow his law to be written on our hearts.
  4. To proclaim boldly the Lord’s justice.

From John to Jesus

Behold, the Lamb of God.
John’s description of Jesus is the first time we hear Jesus/Messiah described as a Lamb.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

It was about four in the afternoon.
The beginning of darkness as light follows.

Peter’s calling was as like Samuel and like the first day of creation, light follows darkness.
It also began with the same characteristics.

He didn’t know the Lord yet. You see his friends thought Jesus was simply Rabbi, Teacher. The title Lamb of God would be unfamiliar. So they called him Rabbi. As Andrew walked to get his brother, he realized this is the Christ/Messiah. There is a transition between knowning Jesus as Rabbi (Andrew) and Christ (Peter). Andrew is the Eli to Samuel. It is Peter who professes later in John 6: Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

For Peter

He was entering into the first night and day of the new Creation.
A time of fear and danger.
A time of prayer, rest and restoration of strength.

At the same time.

Pope Francis asks us to enter into this same Known Unknown.
He is convinced we are in our own Samuel moment in the dark.
He is convinced we are in our own Rabbi to Messiah moment in the dark.

The Body of the Church, us, are in the darkness period. A time of prayer, rest and restoration of strength. We must be bold in allowing not knowing to be the beginning of knowing. It isn’t as if we already don’t know anything. Yet we don’t know tomorrow.

A newness of encounter with the Messiah is the gift of every dark night. How the Church thinks, acts and promotes the Truth Jesus and the truth practicum must be ever refreshed.

Come receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. This is your Samuel/Peter moment. Stay with Jesus. Learn anew how to do as the Psalmist says:

  1. Sing praise with new song.
  2. Keep our ears open to hear his word.
  3. To do his will and to allow his law to be written on our hearts.
  4. To proclaim boldly the Lord’s justice.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Two-edged Sword

Greetings on this the Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Heb 4:12-16; PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Mk 2:13-17

Two-edged

Two-edged or double-edged sword idiom in literature means the reality in question has both a positive and negative aspect to it.

As we continue the reading of the Letter to the Hebrews the many aspects of this saying come to focus.

  1. God sees all things, good and bad.
  2. God’s word penetrates between soul and spirit.
  3. God sympathizes with our weakness.
  4. God offers the confidence to trust Him to receive mercy and grace.

He sees

His intent is to refresh us.
What he offers is perfect, trusthworthy, clear and pure.
His laws are true and just.

Taxing Business

Did Levi listen to John?
The gospel of Luke recalls ‘even the tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”

Levi, son of Alphaeus, A/K/A Matthew came to his senses when Jesus called him.
He gathered all the tax collectors who worked for him into a single banquet to meet Jesus. Some were already followers of Jesus and some meeting hi for the first time.

Did Zacchaeus listen to John?
Zacchaeus another tax collector (Luke 19) promised half his possession to the poor and if any were defrauded he will pay back 4 times the amount.

The Positive and the Negative

The positive is eternal life and joy in this life.
The negative is the loss of worldliness and following the allure of the appetite.

Doctor Us!

If we allow the two-edged sword to challenge us we’ll be able to act rightly.
All are sinners, all are in the image of God and all are called to the likeness of God.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Be On Guard

Gospel of Mark chapter 2

Greetings on this the Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Heb 4:1-5, 11; PS 78:3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8; Mk 2:1-12

Letter to the Hebrews

This week the Church has been reading from this letter. This anonymous sermon touches upon Psalm 2, 8, 20, 22, 23, 45, 102, 104, and 110 in the first three chapters alone! Blending them with the Old Testament the writer illustrates the unity of the theme of sacred Scripture, how they are interconnected and reinforcing.

In chapter four, the writer of this letter provides an extended commentary on Psalm 95. Psalm 95 has two basic messages deserving of deeper reflection: (1) God’s kingship (2) Man’s response.

God’s kingship and Man’s response has been our theme all this week.

Would you take a few moments to read Psalm 95? https://bible.usccb.org/bible/psalms/95
I hope you do, the Church reads this Psalm every day.

As a reminder:

  1. Eternal God is above all gods.
  2. He made the depths of the earth and the height of the mountains.
  3. He is the rock of our salvation.

Let us be on our guard

Let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed.

Still some have failed in obvious ways. For they were not united in faith with those who listened. God responds, As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest.”

As the letter says, “Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Responsorial Psalm

In the daily responsorial the selection is PS 78 themed: Do not forget the works of the Lord!
This psalm is a review of the history of Israel specifically the wilderness period.

Recurring theme:

  1. God has delivered
  2. Man rebels.
  3. Man falls into trouble.
  4. God saves.

Rebellion and Divine Response is a recurring theme in biblical history. It is a recurring theme in our lives. Ye we are reminded – Remember the work of the Lord!

The Paralytic

In the gospel reading today four men went to great lengths to bring a paralytic to Jesus even so much as to go upon the roof and lower him down through an opening in the roof.

God delivers: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Man rebels: Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

Man falls: Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?

God saves: Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once.

Remember the work of the Lord!

There were five men who entered into ‘my rest’ that day.

The four who carried in faith the burden of the paralytic and the paralytic.

Remember means to Do

Remember the work of the Lord!
Do the work of the Lord!
Enter into His rest.
And glorify God.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry