Body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ

I hope that those of you who participated in the Revival enjoyed it thoroughly. My favorite part was when the spectacular revivalist talked about the Eucharist on Tuesday night. He actually used the phrase “center of our life”. I was hooting and hollering! One of the priests who knows about my C.O.O.L. pamphlet on the Eucharist jokingly said to me, “did he get that from you?” Here is the section of the pamphlet that specifically focuses on the Eucharist as the center of our lives (C.O.O.L.):

Think of or even make a list of 10 people, places or things that are most important to you. Family members, boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, the beach, sentimental items, other valuable possessions, money, clothes, DVDs, and car might top your list. Now, take a few minutes (or longer), and rank these items 1-10 in importance to you (1 is most important).

Why are these things most important to you? What do you find or receive in each one? Most likely, you come in contact with them regularly, maybe even daily. If it is a person, what is it about her that you find attractive? What are you looking for from her? How often do you talk with or see him? What do you experience in his presence? If it is a thing, why do you use it? What does it give you? How often do you use it? If it is a place, why is it so special? The people or things that are most important to us say a lot about who we are.

Ultimately, there is one thing we are all looking for: happiness. We want to be truly happy each day and have chosen these people or things to get us there. Some of them help us to find happiness, and some of them don’t. There are some things in our lives that are not good for us, but we still go to them regularly. For example, an alcoholic might have listed bourbon as one of his 10 things because it takes him away from his problems. While it may bring him temporary pleasure, it doesn’t bring him true happiness.

Now, if he didn’t make your top ten list, please add God as a late entry. Specifically, write “the Eucharist.” Take a moment and compare Jesus Christ to all of the items on your list. Jesus died for you. The Eucharist is a living memorial of what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago on the Cross, and what he does for you every day. He gives you his life. He gives you love. He gives you true happiness. No other person, place, or thing can give you what the Eucharist gives you.

The Eucharist is c.o.o.l. (center of our lives). It is truly the flesh and blood of him who created us and saved us. He is as alive in the Eucharist as you and I are alive. He wants to be number one on your list. He is always there for you. He made you. He knows everything about you. Everything you’re going through. Every pain, struggle, joy, stress, disappointment, fear, success, hope, and love you’re experiencing. He wants to experience them with you. He wants you to experience them with him. He wants to be a very real part of your life. He is waiting for you in the Eucharist.

There are so many things that Fr. Roy joyfully proclaimed about the Eucharist that I hope are deeply embedded in your minds and hearts:

  • In Holy Mass and especially in the Consecration, the priest steps into not only the shoes of Christ, but his whole person! This is the meaning of in persona Christi. The priest acts in the person of Christ.
  • The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary. (It’s not that Jesus dies over and over again – Scripture says he died “once and for all”. Rather, his sacrifice on the Cross is re-presented by the power of the Holy Spirit in the form of bread and wine. And, it’s His same Body and Blood, as He says in John 6:51, the only difference being that it’s His risen Body and Blood.)
  • Mass is also a re-presentation of the Last Supper in that we hear the words Jesus said and honor his command to “do this in memory of me”.
  • Mass is a banquet and a meal as well, centered on the Bread of Life which I think Fr Roy called “the greatest food in the world”.
  • The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Amen!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

We must forgive 70 times 7

In June of 2000, Msgr. Thomas Wells, a beloved priest of Washington, was murdered in his rectory at Mother Seton parish in Germantown. The tragic story of his murder and the mystery of his unknown killer dominated local news for over a week. When Robert Lucas was brought to trial a year later for the crime, he was understandably scorned by Catholics and non-Catholics for stabbing a priest to death. We might even say he was public enemy # 1 in our town at that time. His family felt the scourge of our area, but attended the trial each day nonetheless.

Something amazing happened, though, on the day of the verdict. While we all waited in a crowded hall outside the courtroom, the Lucas family walked past us. As they did, the Wells family reached out to them by extending a hand in peace. They shook hands and conversed for a few moments. There were audible gasps from those in the hall witnessing this surreal but Christian moment. I realized pretty quickly that this one of the best examples of “forgiving seventy seven times” I had ever seen.

Last week, I asked the questions “Why does God forgive” and “Why should we forgive?”. We should forgive to live God’s mercy. We should forgive seventy seven times to extend God’s mercy in extreme situations like the Wells family did with the Lucas family. Here are some simple reasons to forgive others:

  • To be forgiven by God (“forgive us…as we forgive those who trespass against us”)
  • We’re not perfect…why hold others to perfection
  • God doesn’t hold grudges, so we shouldn’t
  • To be God-like (most Christ-like when forgive)
  • What it means to be a Christian

Forgiving seventy seven times applies to constantly being forgiven by God, forgiving others, and forgiving ourselves. The last one is the hardest! Even though people dread the first one the most, Confession is actually the easiest of the three because we know that God’s mercy is perfect. We know that He will respond perfectly to our contrition by forgiving us. Every time. We know that when we walk out of the confessional, WE ARE FORGIVEN. It’s over. It’s done. And yet, in our pride, we hold on to some confessed sins that God has absolved He has let them go, but we hold on to them. So, we need to forgive ourselves and LET IT GO. Forgiving ourselves comes from humility which helps us to accept that we’re sinners and not perfect. One saint said that “the truly humble person is never shocked by sin”. The proud person, however, still “can’t believe I did that”. But, the humble person acknowledges, “okay, I’m a sinner”. In admitting that deep down, the person experiences a lightening of the load. It really is a true experience of “my yoke is easy, my burden light”. Forgiveness brings healing and peace.

Let’s say that you want to be forgiven by God, forgive others, and forgive yourself, but are having trouble doing it. For the first one, I would suggest Confession even it’s just venial sins you need to confess. The soul that comes out of Confession is as clean as the body that comes out of the shower! The priest can really help to walk you through the Sacrament if you’re worried about how to confess. For help with forgiving others or yourself, here are some guidelines:

  • Seek God’s Grace through daily Mass, Wednesday Adoration, monthly Confession
  • Seek God’s Grace through daily Mass, Wednesday Adoration, monthly Confession
  • Pray for the person or situation- daily prayer + devotions / novenas
  • Sacred Scripture
  • Compassion: understand the whole person and situation
  • Humor (be able to laugh at yourself)
  • Read the lives of saints who are examples of constant + radical forgiveness (e.g., St. Maria Goretti who forgave the man who killed her)

When I’m talking with people who are struggling to forgive, I ask them to write the sin(s) down on a sheet(s) of paper. They will use the above guidelines in relation to that sheet, and when they are ready they will tear it up. It’s like tearing up an IOU. It’s a visible sign of tearing up a debt. This is helpful because it names it, analyzes it in the presence of God, and then forgives it in a visible and memorable way. You won’t forget the sin, but you will remember that you forgave it!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Why Forgive?

After Pope John Paul II was shot in 1981, the cover of Time magazine had a picture of the Roman pontiff forgiving the assassin with the headline, “Why Forgive?” If we remove the cynical tone, it is a good question to ask. While many of us might not have encountered someone who has tried to kill us, we all have been in situations where extreme forgiveness was required. In today’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). This is extreme forgiveness. This week and next, I’d like to address all of this under the heading of “Why forgive?”

First, why should God forgive? Let’s go back to the beginning of the story between God and man. He creates man (male and female) and gives him everything that he could ever want or need. All that comes from God is good. The first roaming place on earth – the garden of Eden – is described as “paradise”. So, for man, it’s all good! God has hooked him up big time. But, then, man chooses to waste all of that through Original Sin.

To make things worse, as the Catechism says, “after that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. There is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses” (CCC, #401).

In addition, the prophets that God sent received extreme persecution. So, basically, man spits on all the good that God gave him. God’s response? He sends His only Son into the world in order to forgive the serious and long-standing sins of His people. Throughout salvation history, God counters sin with mercy. Why? How?

It is God’s nature to forgive. That’s who He is. His essence is mercy. His essence is love. Plainly put, God cannot NOT forgive. God cannot NOT love. He is Father Almighty with “infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins” (CCC, # 270). We see the image of the Father of Mercy through the father of the prodigal son (Lk 15). The son represents the children of God who have wasted their inheritance – the beautiful gifts of their Creator and Father. After his disastrous sin, he comes to his father to ask for mercy. When the father saw his son returning to him, “he was filled with compassion”. God is always filled with compassion. God is always filled with love. “The first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of sins” (CCC, #734).

It is also God’s plan to forgive. In His infinite wisdom and providence, He knew that we would sin and reject Him when He created us. His Plan from all eternity, then, was to forgive us. It’s not like He was caught off guard by our sin and our need for forgiveness. We never catch God off guard by our sin. He has seen it all coming. It’s always a dramatic point whenever I counsel someone that Christ saw all their sins from the Cross and gave His life for their sins to be forgiven. That’s really the place to go when we ask why does God forgive. The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy and love in the world. And, on top of the dramatic act of offering His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, He even says on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.

Second, why should we forgive? My favorite answer to this and similar questions is, because Jesus says so! He says so in today’s Gospel: “forgive seventy-seven times”. This essentially means to forgive always. It means to have radical and limitless mercy…to always being willing to forgive. Sound like anyone that I just described above? We should forgive so that we can be like God who always forgives. We should forgive in order to live God’s mercy.

We should also forgive to receive God’s mercy. In today’s first reading (Sir 27), the Lord says, “forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven”. We pray each time in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. In other words, we will be forgiven based on how we have forgiven others.

Next week, I will present other examples of forgiving seventy-seven times. What are examples in your own life or that you have seen around you? I will also explore the process and benefits of forgiveness, and what to do when you’re having trouble forgiving someone.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Do you know the spiritual works of mercy?

In our Bible Study last Tuesday, we honed in on the main connection between this Sunday’s readings: “admonish the sinner.” This is one of the spiritual works of mercy that we are called to perform. In the first reading, the Lord says through the prophet Ezekiel, “speak out to dissuade the wicked.” And, in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus taught the Apostles, “go and tell (your brother who sins) his fault.” We know and live the corporal works of mercy well:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Ransom the captive
  • Bury the dead

But, how well do we know the spiritual works of mercy? The following write-up on them from usccb.org should help.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

More about Spiritual Works of Mercy

COUNSELING THE DOUBTFUL

Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way.

  • Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise” (Prov 19:20)
  • The Cross of Christ “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25)
  • Has someone asked you for advice? Orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions
  • Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation, share a book you found useful in dealing with your friend’s faith concern, and worship at Sunday Mass

INSTRUCTING THE IGNORANT

Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.

  • Go on a service trip or short-term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip
  • Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish
  • Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend
  • Know your faith! Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it

ADMONISHING THE SINNER

Do not judge, but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ.

  • In humility, we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times
  • Don’t judge, but guide others towards the path of salvation (see Mt 7:1-2)
  • When you correct someone, don’t be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.
  • We should journey together to a deeper understanding of our shared faith
  • “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5)

COMFORTING THE SORROWFUL

Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief. Even if we aren’t sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.

  • Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time
  • Make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time
  • Write a letter or send a card to someone who is suffering
  • A few moments of your day may make a lifetime of difference to someone who is going through a difficult time

FORGIVING INJURIES

Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God.

  • Let go of grudges
  • Saying sorry is something we learn as kids, but how often do we really mean it? Forgiveness transforms hearts and lives
  • Participate in the Sacrament of Penance
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

BEARING WRONGS PATIENTLY

Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.

  • Frustrated with someone? Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, pray the Our Father, asking God for patience

PRAYING FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.

  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time
  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who has passed away
  • Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers
  • Ask a friend or family member if there is anything you can pray for them about
  • Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God

What the Bible says about slavery

In the midst of the tense national discussion about removing public statues of historical American figures vis-a-vis slavery, you might have received questions about the Bible regarding slavery. If not, there’s a good chance that those questions are coming. In fact, I would guess that the focus of the movement will turn its attention ultimately to remove the Bible from the public square. This is something that has been in the works for years from secularists and atheists for other reasons, as you know. You also know that many people think that the Bible does not condemn slavery and thus tacitly approves of it. The article below from catholic.com addresses this and other key points to know about the Bible with regards to slavery. I hope this helps us understand the Word of God better, and to teach others the truth. Please be at peace “in receiving the Word of God …not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God” (1 Thes 2:13).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Many opponents of Christianity say the Bible condones slavery. Others say the fact that none of the inspired writers (indeed, not even Christ himself in the Gospel accounts) condemn slavery outright shows an implicit acceptance of it. But the fact is, the Bible promotes an ethic of equality and mercy to the downtrodden, including those who were enslaved in the ancient world.

A “slave religion”

In his letters to Christian communities, St. Paul described himself as a slave who belonged to Christ (see Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1), exhorted his listeners not to be slaves to sin (see Romans 6:15-23), and encouraged them to be slaves to one another

(see Galatians 5:13). Paul even said that Christ took on the nature of a slave and became poor for our sake (see 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:7).

His audience knew what it meant to be a slave—not surprising, since Christianity’s compassion for the lowly earned it a reputation as a “slave religion.” The second-century pagan critic Celsus once described converts to the Church as “foolish and low individuals” like “slaves, and women, and children” (Origen, Against Celsus, 3.59).

However, this language of Paul’s does not mean he endorsed slavery or that he thought it should be a part of God’s kingdom. To understand why this is the case, let’s look at the specific exhortations Paul gives to slaves, starting with one passage critics of the Bible often cite:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free (Eph. 6:5-8).

Many critics of the Bible say these words are indefensible. And yet what advice should Paul have given Christian slaves in the Roman Empire? To rebel against their masters? A hundred years before, a slave named Spartacus had led a rebellion in southern France that scored a few victories but was defeated by the Roman general Marcus Crassus. Spartacus died in battle, and 6,000 of his comrades were crucified along the Appian Way. A similar fate would have awaited any Christian slave uprising.

Maybe instead of encouraging outright rebellion Paul could have said that slavery was wrong and encouraged slaves to simply revile their masters. But even that advice would have risked the persecution of the whole Church had the Roman authorities become aware of it.

Paul was more concerned about people being enslaved to sin than their being enslaved to other people (though, as we will see, Paul was also concerned about human slavery). This attitude parallels Jesus’ warning that sinners become “slaves to sin” (John 8:34), as well as his exhortation to fear the one who can kill the body and the soul in hell and not just the one who can kill the body (see Matthew 10:28).

Paul’s advice to slaves

Paul’s advice to Christian slaves was to endure their unjust condition by persevering in holiness. For example, Paul told Titus, “Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10).

A slave may not have had control over whether he would be enslaved in this life, but he could control whether he would be enslaved to Satan in the next. St. Peter also taught this when he told slaves, “Be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly” (1 Pet. 2:18-19).

Peter and the other apostles knew that slavery was wrong, but they also knew that it was better to conquer evil with good (see Romans 12:21) than to commit evil in order to achieve good. That’s why Peter asks what good it does for a slave to commit evil against his master and then be beaten in return. At least, when a slave is beaten for no good reason and does not respond with evil (in imitation of Christ, who endured similar abuses without retaliation), he will stand blameless before God (see 1 Peter 2:20).

Loyalty to a master was also a common way for slaves in the Roman Empire to earn their freedom. After serving a master faithfully, a slave would be released as a libertus who served his master in a new capacity as a freeman (we will see what that entailed shortly). Paul may even have exhorted slaves to acquire their freedom in this way:

Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:20-24).

This passage shows that Paul didn’t think slavery was a good thing. In fact, he implicitly argued that men could not own other men because God owns all humans by virtue of having redeemed them on the cross (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 7:23). Being enslaved to men was an unjust part of this life that had no place in the kingdom of God.

In that kingdom, everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, is a slave of Christ, our true Lord and Master. That’s why Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

This was a revolutionary idea, given that Roman intellectuals, while lamenting some aspects of slavery, generally held slaves to be of lesser worth than free men. One example of this is the philosopher Seneca who, although he discouraged merciless corporal punishment, compared slaves to valuable property like jewels one must constantly worry about.

According to Joshel, “Seneca sees slaves as inferiors who can never rise above the level of humble friends” (Slavery in the Roman World, 127). In contrast, slaves in the early Church were not stigmatized. In fact, some—like Pius I (A.D. 140-155) and Callixtus I (218-223)—even held the office of pope.

So, however one considers the deeply troubling history of slavery in the U.S., even of slaveholders who deemed themselves Christians, one cannot appeal to Christianity to justify this ancient and immoral practice.

 

The 10 Commandments of Sacred Liturgy

Overall, parishioners and guests at Assumption do a beautiful job of worshiping and respecting God during liturgy. But, it’s good for all of us to get a reminder about etiquette at Holy Mass. We might call these the “Ten Commandments of Sacred Liturgy” at Assumption:

1. Prepare for Mass. Prepare like you are coming to the banquet at the castle of a king. As you know, we come to the house of the King of kings. So, continue to wear your Sunday best! And, fast from food and drink (unless it’s water or medication) for at least an hour before Mass.

Get to Mass early! Genuflect (or bow if you can’t genuflect) to the Lord in the tabernacle, and pray silently in the pew before Mass begins. Pray for a few moments and get yourself recollected before Mass begins. Please be mindful of others – respect their prayer, make room for them in the pew, and don’t be a distraction.

2. What to do if you come late: wait for the ushers to seat you. Do NOT come in during the readings, especially the Gospel. And, please take a seat in the rear pews so that you won’t distract everyone coming up front. Remember, too, that if you arrive at Mass after the Gospel has been proclaimed, you need to attend another Mass to fulfill your Sunday obligation. Attending Mass includes being present for the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

3. Fully participate in Mass. Listen to the prayers and Word, say the responses and Creed, and SING! The goal is to sing loud enough that you don’t hear my singing voice. Oh, and I truly hope that Sunday Mass is not the first time you’re hearing the readings for that day. You should be praying over and thinking about them during the week.

4. NO TEXT MESSAGES OR CONVERSATIONS DURING MASS. Can you imagine going to dinner with Jesus and texting or talking to others while He is speaking to you?

5. Prepare your offering before Mass. Please avoid distracting others while you go through your purse or wallet during Mass.

6. Be respectful of the Eucharist. This is the biggest one for me. If you are conscious of grave sin, you need to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion. It is a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. Please remain in the pew to make a spiritual communion or come forward and cross your arms for a blessing. Please, please, please don’t be among those about whom St. Paul writes in 1 Cor 11:25-27: “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord”.

7. Bow before receiving the Eucharist and then say “Amen” when the priest says, “the Body of Christ”. Don’t grab or take the Host from him; let the Host be placed on your hand or on your tongue. Consume the Host immediately.

8. Don’t be like Judas who left the first Mass early. You should wait for the priest to process out before you leave. We follow the priest as we follow Christ. Really, though, we should all stay for a moment and give thanks to God for all that we just received at Mass.

9. Hold your applause. Please. We’re not at a concert. The ministers and choir appreciate your support, but they are just leading us in worship. We don’t want to lose our focus on praising God by praising them.

10. Keep holy the Sabbath. EVERY SABBATH. Skipping Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin. Bigger than that is our need for the Eucharist. Jesus basically teaches that a week without the Eucharist is a week with no life (cf. Jn 6:53-54).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Part II: 12 Things to Know and Share about the Assumption of Mary

Here is part two of “The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share” from ncregister.com. May this coincide with Bishop Campbell’s homily last Sunday to deepen our understanding of and belief in Mary’s Assumption. And thus, may we more fully honor her.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

___________________________________________________________________

7) How did the recognition of Mary’s Assumption develop in the East?

John Paul II noted:

There was a long period of growing reflection on Mary’s destiny in the next world.

This gradually led the faithful to believe in the glorious raising of the Mother of Jesus, in body and soul, and to the institution in the East of the liturgical feasts of the Dormition [“falling asleep”—i.e., death] and Assumption of Mary.

8) How did Pius XII prepare for the definition of the Assumption?

John Paul II noted:

In May 1946, with the Encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Pius XII called for a broad consultation, inquiring among the Bishops and, through them, among the clergy and the People of God as to the possibility and opportuneness of defining the bodily assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith.

The result was extremely positive: only six answers out of 1,181 showed any reservations about the revealed character of this truth.

9) What Scriptural basis is there for the teaching?

John Paul II noted:

Although the New Testament does not explicitly affirm Mary’s Assumption, it offers a basis for it because it strongly emphasized the Blessed Virgin’s perfect union with Jesus’ destiny.

This union, which is manifested, from the time of the Savior’s miraculous conception, in the Mother’s participation in her Son’s mission and especially in her association with his redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to require a continuation after death.

Perfectly united with the life and saving work of Jesus, Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.

There are, thus, passages in Scripture that resonate with the Assumption, even though they do not spell it out.

10) What are some specific Old Testament passages?

Pope Pius XII pointed to several passages that have been legitimately used in a “rather free” manner to explain belief in the Assumption (meaning: these passages resonate with it in various ways, but they don’t provide explicit proof):

Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption.

Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist:

“Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified” (Ps. 131:8);

and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven.

Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer (Ps. 44:10-14ff).

Likewise, they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned (Song 3:6; cf. also 4:8, 6:9).

These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom [Munificentissimus Deus 26].

11) What are some specific New Testament passages?

Pius XII continued:

Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos (Rev. 12:1ff).

Similarly, they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women”(Luke 1:28), since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve [Munificentissimus Deus 27].

12) How can we apply this teaching to our everyday lives?

According to Pope Benedict XVI:

By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one-day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.

Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.

We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand.

Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary’s guidance [General Audience, August 16, 2006].

FAQs About the Assumption of Mary

I have another list from ncregister.com to help us celebrate the feast of the patroness this Tuesday, August 15. After last week’s “Ten things…about the Transfiguration”, below is the part one of “The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share”. Next week will be part two. May each of us more fully honor our Lady by deepening our understanding of and belief in her Assumption.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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1) What is the Assumption of Mary?

The Assumption of Mary is the teaching that:

The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory [Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus 44].

2) What level of authority does this teaching have?

This teaching was infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 in the bull Munificentissimus Deus (Latin, “Most Bountiful God”).

As Pius XII explained, this is “a divinely revealed dogma” (ibid.).

This means that it is a dogma in the proper sense. It is thus a matter of faith that has been divinely revealed by God and that has been infallibly proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as such.

3) Does that mean it is an “ex cathedra” statement and that we have to believe it?

Yes. Since it is a dogma defined by the pope (rather than by an ecumenical council, for example), it is also an “ex cathedra” statement (one delivered “from the chair” of Peter).

Because it is infallibly defined, it calls for the definitive assent of the faithful.

Pope John Paul II explained:

The definition of the dogma, in conformity with the universal faith of the People of God, definitively excludes every doubt and calls for the express assent of all Christians [General Audience, July 2, 1997].

Note that all infallibly defined teachings are things we are obliged to believe, even if they aren’t defined “ex cathedra” (by the pope acting on his own).

The bishops of the world teaching in union with the pope (either in an ecumenical council or otherwise) can also infallibly define matters, but these aren’t called “ex cathedra” since that term refers specifically to the exercise of the pope’s authority as the successor of St. Peter. (It’s Peter’s cathedra or “chair” that symbolizes the pope’s authority.)

4) Does the dogma require us to believe that Mary died?

It is the common teaching that Mary did die. In his work, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott lists this teaching as sententia communior (Latin, “the more common opinion”).

Although it is the common understanding of that Mary did die, and although her death is referred to in some of the sources Pius XII cited in Munificentissimus Deus, he deliberately refrained from defining this as a truth of the faith.

John Paul II noted:

On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term “resurrection” and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith.

The Bull Munificentissimus Deus limits itself to affirming the elevation of Mary’s body to heavenly glory, declaring this truth a “divinely revealed dogma.”

5) Why should Mary die if she was free from Original Sin and its stain?

Being free of Original Sin and its stain is not the same thing as being in a glorified, deathless condition.

Jesus was also free of Original Sin and its stain, but he could—and did—die.

Expressing a common view among theologians, Ludwig Ott writes:

For Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin.

However, it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death.

6) What are the earliest surviving references to Mary’s Assumption?

John Paul II noted:

The first trace of belief in the Virgin’s Assumption can be found in the apocryphal accounts entitled Transitus Mariae [Latin, “The Crossing Over of Mary”], whose origin dates to the second and third centuries.

These are popular and sometimes romanticized depictions, which in this case, however, pick up an intuition of faith on the part of God’s People.

10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration

“10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration” is a handy online piece below from National Catholic Register as we celebrate this great today. While the author focuses on St. Luke’s account of this glorious event, today’s Gospel is from St. Matthew. One point about Matthew’s depiction of the Transfiguration is that Jesus is mainly presented as the new Moses. Also, #2 below focuses on this as an experience of the Kingdom which coincides with all of the parables of recent weeks about the Kingdom. I hope and pray that like Peter, James, and John, we all have a glimpse of the glory of Christ which will help our faith in tough times.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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1. What does the word “transfiguration” mean?

The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans– (“across”) and figura (“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance. This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration: His appearance changed and became glorious.

2. What happened right before the Transfiguration?

In Luke 9:27, at the end of a speech to the twelve apostles, Jesus adds, enigmatically: “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” This has often been taken as a prophecy that the end of the world would occur

before the first generation of Christians died out. The phrase “kingdom of God” can also refer to other things, though, including the Church–the outward expression of God’s invisible kingdom. The kingdom is embodied in Christ himself and thus might be “seen” if Christ were to manifest it in an unusual way, even in his own earthly life.

3. Did such a manifestation occur?

Yes, and it is the very next thing that Luke relates: The Transfiguration. Some—that is to say, the three disciples who accompany Jesus up the mountain—are promised that they will personally witness the coming of the Kingdom of God ‘in power.’ On the mountain, the three of them see the glory of God’s Kingdom shining out of Jesus…We thus may have the key to understanding Jesus’ mysterious statement just before the Transfiguration. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world. He was talking about this.

4. Who witnessed the Transfiguration?

The three who are privileged to witness the event are Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)…

5. Where did the Transfiguration take place?

Luke states that Jesus took the three “on the mountain to pray.” This mountain is often thought to be Mt. Tabor in Israel, but none of the gospels identify it precisely…

6. Why did the Transfiguration take place?

The Catechism explains it this way:

Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary.

Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’ [CCC 568].

7. What does Luke–in particular–tell us about this event?

Luke mentions several details about the event that the other evangelists do not:

  • • He notes that this happened while Jesus was praying.
  • He mentions that Peter and his companions “were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.”
  • He mentions that Peter made his suggestion to put up booths as Moses and Elijah were departing.

8. Why do Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain?

Moses and Elijah represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets. Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets. The fact that these two figures “spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” illustrates that the Law and the Prophets point forward to the Messiah and his sufferings. This foreshadows Jesus’ own explanation, on the road to Emmaus, of the Scriptures pointing to himself (cf. Lk. 24:27, 32).

9. Why was Peter’s suggestion misguided?

The fact that Peter’s suggestion occurs when Moses and Elijah are preparing to depart reveals a desire to prolong the experience of glory. This means Peter is focusing on the wrong thing. The experience of the Transfiguration is meant to point forward to the sufferings Jesus is about to experience. It is meant to strengthen the disciple’s faith, revealing to them in a powerful way the divine hand that is at work in the events Jesus will undergo. This is why Moses and Elijah have been speaking “about his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Peter misses the point and wants to stay on the mountain, contrary to the message the two heavenly visitors have been expounding…

10. What can we learn from this event?

The Transfiguration was a special event in which God allowed certain apostles to have a privileged spiritual experience that was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges they would later endure. But it was only a temporary event. It was not meant to be permanent. In the same way, at certain times in this life, God may give certain members of the faithful (not all of the faithful, all the time), special experiences of his grace that strengthen their faith…

Sell All That You Have

I’ve been meeting with a young man who desperately wants to experience the presence of God. He was raised as a Protestant, so he has had Christ in his life from the beginning. He converted to Catholicism in college, but has struggled with signs from the Lord. For his relatives, faith seems to come more easily and naturally (supernaturally?) than it does for him.

He and I talked months ago when he was going through a bit of a “dark night.” This means that his spiritual life was in darkness, and that God seemed hidden. He was still not seeing any signs. Then, we met about a month ago, and God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways to this young man. He was so happy!

So, when we got together for dinner last Tuesday, the first thing he said was that he was fasting. I asked why, and he said it was to help overcome his doubts about God and Heaven. Our waiter was not too happy!

Last Tuesday was a feast day in the Church: the feast of St. James the Apostle. Catholics don’t fast on feast days. It’s like when Jesus says, “as long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). We apply this to the feast days of certain saints who had the bridegroom with them in extraordinary and major ways. So, feast days are celebrations of God’s grace through particular persons.

I waited for a moment to tell this to the young man so as not to jump all over him for fasting. I figured he didn’t know about feast days. But, then again, he was telling me about how he had been going to pray at a Catholic church during his lunch break each day (he really wants to experience God), so maybe he had some “church” in him. I told him about the feast day and the meaning of it, and he responded very well. The next thing he said was, “Waiter, I will order after all.”

We reviewed the past month, and it turns out that he had received some signs from God. So, why had he returned to doubting God and Heaven again? Because he had been reading a book each day by a “humanist” (i.e., atheist). He is an avid reader and thinker, and he didn’t even realize the effect the book was having on him. It was about the time that he started the book that his doubts began. This led to many sleepless nights, and a lack of peace. And yet, God kept showing him signs, the biggest of which happened last Monday (the night before our dinner).

We discussed what happened that day – the sign that he received – and how he slept well Monday night. He vowed to put down the atheist’s book, and start reading Bishop Robert Barron or C.S. Lewis again. Smart move! Then, with the whole feast day thing – which really is evidence of God and Heaven – he walked away from our dinner totally at peace.

Do you and I long for the Kingdom of Heaven like this young man? Do we desire Christ so much that we will make chapel visits or fast in order to see or hear Him? These questions apply to today’s Gospel parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price.

Notice the desire of the person who finds the buried treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl: each of them “sells all that he has”. These two images represent the Kingdom of God, and specifically Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and His Kingdom, we desire Him above all things. We are so filled with joy – like the person and the merchant – that we will sell all that we have for Him.

My friend was like the merchant “searching for fine pearls.” He has been searching for Christ. He gave up his lunch break and some food in order to find Him and the treasure of heaven.

What are we willing to sell in order to receive the riches of the Kingdom? Do we have the joy of people who have found the pearl of great price which is Christ?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg