Jesus Chooses His Mother: Part II


“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom therewill be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her,”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also concieved a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God, nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said,” Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.   Luke 1:32-38   

Mary asked, “How can this be…?” She isn’t questioning God’s ability to give her a son, but inquiring as to how. “Since I have no husband,” in the Greek reads “I do not know man” referring to her virginal status. Her concern is not that she is unmarried but that she is a virgin and intending to remain one. She wonders aloud to the angel, how God will bless her with a son and at the same time preserve her virginal purity. Nothing in Gabriel’s announcement should have puzzled her, she was already engaged to Joseph, unless she intended to abstain from ordinary sexual relations even as a married woman. Early Church Fathers like St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine teach, Mary had previously taken a vow of lifelong virginity.

The expression used by the Angel Gabriel “overshadow you” is the same expression used in the Greek version of Exodus 40:35; it describes how the Lord God “overshadowed” the Tabernacle, making it His dwelling place in Israel (episkiasei – to cast a shade upon, envelop in a haze of brilliancy, to invest with preternatural influence, overshadow). This is why many Church Fathers compare her or, type her as the “Ark of the New Covenant.” Within the Ark of the Old Covenant was manna, the rod of Aaron and the tablets of the Law, written by the finger of God. Within Mary was contained, “The Bread from Heaven”, The Great High Priest, and the Word of God made flesh.

Marys response to all this was, “I am the handmaid (servant) of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” Mary knew who she was in God’s sight and freely chose to submit to His plan. She is the first great example of faith in Christ in the New Testament. An example we would all do well to follow.

“…let it be to me according to Your word.”

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Jesus Chooses His Mother: Part I


In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her he said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”  Luke 1:26-31

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.  

The greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary is of great importance to understand in the context of salvation history. Let’s look at this section of sacred scripture to see how.

First the  Hail” or, as it is also translated “Rejoice” would’ve for Mary, and should for us, call to mind the Old Testament passages that refer to “Daughter Zion” and her “faithful children” rejoicing in the coming Messianic age. For God has chosen to dwell in their midst (Joel 2:23-24; Zeph. 3:14-17; Zech. 9:9).

 

 Chosen to be the virgin mother of the Messiah, Mary is greeted with this word, for she would indeed become the “daughter” who would bring God’s Messiah to the faithful “children”.

Next, the word “full of grace” happens to be one word in the Greek text (kecharitomene) which has a very different expression of the same words Luke uses of Stephen in Acts 6:8 (pleres charitos). Kecharitomene indicates that God has already graced Mary previous to this point, making her a vessel who, has been and is now, filled with the Divine Life.

Different translations such as, “favored one” or “highly favored” are possible but fall short in meaning, because of the special and unique role that Mary accepts at this hinge-point of salvation history. Since God endowed Mary with an abundance of grace, preparing her for this call to divine motherhood, the best translation should be the more exalted one.

This better explains the reaction of Mary after the greeting. But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.

I mean, look at the text, Gabriel had not mentioned anything to her at this point, of God’s plan for her. So why would she become greatly troubled by the saying and the greeting? It only makes sense in this context.

Again, this is no call to “worship” Mary. Mary calls us to worship her Son, Jesus.

Pope Benedict Praises Fr. McGivney as an “exemplary American priest”


(NEW YORK, NY) – During his homily at this morning’s Mass for Clergy and Religious at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Pope Benedict XVI made special mention of “the remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.”  McGivney’s cause for sainthood is being considered at the Vatican, and the Pope declared him a venerable servant of God in mid-March.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson made the following statement regarding the Pope’s remarks:

 

“This morning, Pope Benedict reminded America’s clergy that the ‘secret of the impressive growth of the Church’ in the U.S. was a ‘unity of vision and purpose – rooted in faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice,’ and held up as a prime example our founder, Fr. McGivney. 

 

“The Pope’s selection of Fr. McGivney as a role model for today’s priests and religious is very important for us.  Thousands of priests are among the 1.7 million members of the Knights of Columbus, including Cardinal Egan and hundreds of others in the Archdiocese of New York.  Each and every day, all of us in the Knights of Columbus look to Fr. McGivney’s vision and example as a guide to our work of charity and evangelization.  At a time when our priests are in need of our support more than ever, the Pope’s promotion of Fr. McGivney as a role model for clergy everywhere is both timely and enormously appreciated.  We pledge our fervent support for his call to revitalize and renew the Catholic Church here and around the world.”

Jesus Gives Us His Mother: Part II


For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.   I Tim. 2: 13-14    

  To understand Mary’s role in salvation history, we must start “in the beginning…”

  

God created male and female in His image. He placed man in the garden with a list of do’s and don’ts. He forms the woman from a rib from the man’s side. Then we read that the woman being deceived by the serpent, took and ate with her husband the forbidden fruit. After the curse of the Fall, Scripture tells us in Gen. 3:20, The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.  

 

As we’ve always looked to Adam and Eve in perpetuating the physical human existence, the many teachings of the early Church Fathers apply this foreshadowing to Jesus (the New Adam) and Mary (the New Eve) in the spiritual realm.

 

Saint Irenaeus, who was a second-generation disciple of John the Apostle, taught of creation’s recapitulation (recapitulate: to repeat in concise form) in Christ. Building on the image that Saint Paul used of Jesus as the New Adam: “[Jesus] became incarnate and was made man, He recapitulated in Himself the long history of man, summing up and giving us salvation in order that we might receive again in Christ Jesus what we had lost in Adam – that is, the image of God.” He also recognized the place of the New Eve in this process. “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief.”

 

Saint Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Saint Augustine, Saint John Damascene and Saint Thomas Aquinas are just a few to teach Mary as the New Eve. As the first Eve was the mother of all the living, the New Eve is the Mother of all the truly living.

 

Our Mother looks to lead us to her Son, “the Son of the Most High”, who from the first moment believed what the Angel had told her (making her the first Christian, right) saying, “be it done to me according to your word.”

 

Mary asked questions, she pondered things in her heart but she moved forward in her faith.

 

Her mission (like ours) is a partnership with God in His work of redemption. Her call was to first, give flesh to the Word of God. Our call is to share the word of the Word made flesh.

 

So when we ask our Mother to intercede to her Son for us, we know she will for she loves all those who love her Son. She wants the best for them and prays for us according to the will of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

 And she will always reply to her children, Do whatever He tells you. John 2:5  

Amen. 

Jesus Gives Us His Mother: Part I


When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.   John 19: 26-27

It is said that we as Christians have become the family of God (Eph. 3:15). We’ve been adopted as sons (Gal.4: 5). Now I am aware that we live in the days of dysfunction, but I can confidently declare:

GOD IS NOT DYSFUNCTIONAL!!!

What kind of family would God be adopting us into, if He brought us into one that had no mother? Do we render Jesus’ promise null and void,  “I will not leave you as orphans;”  (John 14:8, from the Greek word, orphanos – without parents-plural)? We also know that God is not a God of disorder (I Cor. 14:33) and that He created the family (Gen. 1:27-28, 2:24).

So, what is not to understand? God is our Father. Jesus, His Son, is our brother. The Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, is our mother.

This doesn’t make her divine. This doesn’t make her the fourth member of the Trinity. It simply means she is our Mother, The Mother of all the faithful.

Before we can continue with this train of thought, we must clarify some early Christian teaching brought to us through Judaism.

                  

               The Communion of the Saints 

 

In the Apostles Creed, there is a line that states; “[I believe in] the communion of Saints.” This phrase refers to the bond of unity among all those, living and dead, who are or who have been committed followers of Christ. This should lead us to understand the Ephesians 3:14-15 passage a little better, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” along with others of Paul’s writings of being one Body (Rom. 12:5, I Cor. 12:26).

 

Then may come the argument of, “Well, Paul is talking about (and writing to) those who are living, not dead.” To which I would respond, “He was speaking of both.”  For two major reasons:

 

First, as a Pharisee, and a devout Jew, Paul (and even the other apostles) was more than aware of the Jewish practice of praying for the dead and even for the intercession of the saints in heaven (2 Maccabees 12: 39-46, 15: 11-16, normally I wouldn’t make reference to a deuterocanonical book but, since I’m speaking of earlier Jewish religious practices I will. The Maccabean revolt and their defense of the Temple, is where the celebration of the Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, originated).

 

Secondly, since God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32) and to be “absent from the body and to be present to the Lord” (2 Cor.5:8 ) those who have died in Christ are truly in His presence. Who better to pray on our behalf (intercede for us) than those in the presence of the Lord Himself!?

 

So, in understanding the Communion of the Saints, we can better grasp the concept of “praying to the Saints.” As a Catholic, I ask Saints to pray for my family and I. I do not pray to them as an end, for they are not God, but as a means to an end. Much like I would ask a faithful friend to pray for my family or I.

 

“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” (James 5:16) and again, who better to intercede for us than those present with our Lord already.

 

This should help clarify this aspect of the role of Mary (and the Saints) in the lives of Catholic Christians, though it does go a little deeper with our Mother. And we will look at her role specifically in our next post.

 

Amen.

Jesus Appoints a Pope: Part II


After Jesus made that promise, He then says that, ”I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Peter alone is given the keys of the kingdom, for we see later that all the disciples were given the authority to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18) and all the apostles were given the authority to forgive sins (John 21:21-23).

 

The key to understanding this part of the passage is the keys. Jesus will actually give Peter His authority, when He ascends to His Father. The keys are the sign of authority. For us to sit here in the twenty-first century and try to say that Jesus wasn’t really talking to Peter but to all the disciples down through history is absurd! The keys [authority] were given only to Peter as the primeminister of the kingdom of heaven, in the absence of Christ, who would [shortly], ascended to the heavenly kingdom. Just as we are taught to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

We must also understand the early Church Fathers referred to the see [chair] of Peter in Rome as the Authority in doctrinal matters and other problems that arose.

 

Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius wrote to the church in Rome in 110 AD: “You are a credit to God: you deserve your renown and are to be congratulated.You deserve praise and success and are privileged to be without blemish. Yes, you rank first in love, being true to Christ’s law and stamped with the Father’s name.”  Ignatius of Antioch  Letter to the Romans.

 

In 150 AD Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, (a disciple of the Apostle John) traveled to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus, about the proper date for the celebration of Easter.

 

Irenaeus of Lyons (a disciple of Polycarp) refuted false teaching by referring to; “the tradition which that very great, oldest, and well known church, founded and established at Rome by those two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul, received from the apostles… every church must be in harmony with this church [the church in Rome] because of it’s outstanding pre-eminence…” Against Heresies, Book III 3:2.

 

In 250 AD, Cyprian Bishop of Carthage wrote this of the one who held the “chair” or office of Peter- the Bishop of Rome:

 

“It is on him [Peter] that He [Jesus] builds the church, and to him He entrusts the sheep to feed. And although He assigns power to all the apostles, yet He founded a single chair, thus establishing by His own authority the source and hallmark of the churches’ oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter and it is thus made clear that there is but one church and one chair… If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the church.” On the Unity of the Catholic Church.

  

I mention these specifically because these letters were written before the Council of Carthage in 367 A.D. Why would that make a difference?

 

Well, this shows the authority that the Church had before the canonization of Scripture.

 

For at this Council, the Pope St. Damasus, along with the other bishops and priest of the day, discerned which books were inspired and which were not. The New Testament we have today is a collection of these books, which the Catholic Church declared to be authoritative.

            “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired they are truly The Word of God.”  Dei Verbum 24 

All Councils were modeled after the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Here we see clearly, Peter’s undeniable and unique leadership (Acts 15:7-12). It was also Peter who called for a replacement for Judas in Acts 1 (15-26).

This certainly looks like Church authority, the ability to mandate and interpret the will of God, through ecumenical dialogue, common sense and most importantly, prayer.

 

Some will believe, some will doubt and some will even deny that the Church has authority over our lives. That leads to the question, “Why did He even create the Church?”