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Gospel Reflection – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.

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It has been a while since I have published a reflection on the Gospel reading. I wanted to put this reflection out there before the weekend. This will allow people to read it, and reflect on it, before Sunday.

This week the Gospel comes from Matthew [22:15-21]

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

Let us first look at the common use and understanding of this Gospel passage. Jesus knows that the Pharisees are testing him and trying to trick him. If he speaks against Caesar, he can be arrested. Also, if he speaks with favor for the exchange of money, and of the tax collection, than he speaks against the Church.

Jesus very carefully responds by placing the Pharisees on the spot. He has a coin brought to him.

The coins in this time would have a stamp of Caesar on the coin. Many areas would have coins stamped with the rulers face, or bust, on them. This signified who was the ruling authority, and who secured the value of the coin being traded. With this understanding we can see many meanings behind the use of a coin.

Jesus takes the coin, knowing this information, and states that the coin belongs to Caesar (because it has his face on it). Jesus says give it back to the owner.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [Mt 19:21]

In a way Jesus is saying that God does not use coin, or monetary exchange.

God does not care about wealth and it is not needed in heaven. Caesar may use coins, because Caesar is a ruler on earth, but God is the ruler of All.

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. [Mt 7:24]

There is also the foreshadow that exists in this Gospel reading. Not a common perspective of the reading, but one that holds some merit. This Gospel reading is another foreshadow of the Paschal Mystery. The Mystery of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

Jesus says to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Jesus belonged to God. Jesus was divine. Money does not matter in heaven, but divinity means a lot. It is praised, and given worship.

If Jesus is the payment to God, what is being bought? Well my friends this is one of our fundamental beliefs. Jesus came to earth to become human so that he could suffer for all of us.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way;
But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth;
Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people,
A grave was assigned him among the wicked and burial place with evildoers,
Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. [Isaiah 53: 4-9]

We know that Jesus paid the price, and the penalty for our sins. Through His sacrifice we were brought into forgiveness with God the Father. We, all of us, paid to God what belonged to God. We paid it, a divine payment, for our sins.

We brought the pain and suffering to Jesus through our sins. It was because of our sins that God chose His Son for this sacrifice.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. [Jn 3:16]

We can be sure that the price was paid.

Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.

One may give you comfort here in this life. The other for eternal life. Which do you hold more valuable? We cannot serve both.

Let us pray to the Mother Mary for guidance. May She guide us by her intercession to the foot of the cross. So that we may each have an opportunity to know the pain we caused, and to beg forgiveness. Amen.

Spiritual Journey

This is a crazy time. Society is concerned with the self, self pleasure, self gain, and placing the self above others.

At the same time, many are seeking God. They have a belief in God, but they are missing the Faith.

Belief

Belief is an expression of something that we have come to a logical conclusion in our mind. We rationalize something and we believe it. We listen to the argument of a point, and if we can rationalize it, we believe it. We can believe a weatherman if they are consistent at predicting the weather. We do not believe they are a fortune teller, or that they have psychic abilities; but we can believe they are good at their job.

Some believe that God exists. They may even attend Church. They may hear God calling them, by this tugging curiosity in religion. They may have received catechism growing up, and have belief because of this instruction.

Faith

Faith is taking Belief to the next step. A person that Believes may not have Faith. A person cannot have Faith, unless they first Believe.

Faith is a self sacrifice, in a way. Faith allows us to accept things that may not follow traditional logic. I believe in God is an example of Belief. I do not worry about the problems in my life, because I have trust that God will help me through them. The second example is of Faith.

There is a drastic difference. Many people have stress, anxiety, and depression. There are definitely some biological reasons for some of this. However, Faith can remove these problems for some people. Having true trust in God removes anxiety and depression. Anxiety and Depression are tools that the Devil uses and works against us.

OK. How do I grow in Faith?

Faith comes from prayer. Prayer is what builds our relationship with Christ and God. Lex orandi, lex credendi (What we pray, is what we believe).

First task of any journey is to take the first step. The first step to spiritual growth is to start praying. It is easy. It does not require any special instruments, books, or particular place and time.

Prayer

Start with regular prayer. Prayer that happens once per day. Then add to it. Eventually try to pray first thing in the morning, and at night before bed. Don’t let being tired get in the way of doing the prayer. Make every effort to do it. Make it a habit.

Once a good prayer life is established there will already be changes that happen in our life. We will start to have a deeper appreciation for Mass, for others, and most of all for God.

With established regular prayer, we should also start to see God’s presence in our life. We will start to notice that God is with us. This brings comfort. It is at this point that we can start to place our trust in God. With that trust we find ourselves letting go of anxiety, stress, and depressing thoughts.

Trust

Having trust with God does not mean all our problems go away. We just handle them differently with God. The devil is constantly testing us. Looking for holes that He can take advantage of. When this happens we need to stop, remind ourselves to put our trust in God, and pray. If we can do this, we will often find that these attacks of anxiety, stress, and depression go away.

This new relationship will change what we believe. It will cause us to have less belief in our disadvantages, and more belief in the gifts God has given us. We live more positive lives. We pray differently, and the circle continues. Lex orandi, lex credendi (What we pray, is what we believe). Our journey continues and we grow.

Advancing our Spiritual Growth

Once we have this stage of spiritual growth we can start to explore it more deeply. This can be done by the following ways:

  • Lectio Divina
  • Reading religious books written by Saints, and religious
  • Devotional prayers (i.e. Rosary, Novenas)
  • Adoration
  • Acts of Charity

These things can be great tools for spiritual growth, but are founded on a good prayer life.

Conclusion

Our spiritual growth starts with prayer. Prayer becomes so important. We can find many excuses not to pray; we don’t have time; we are running late; we are embarrassed to do this in public.

Once we have a foundation in prayer our life with God really begins. We start to see God’s presence in our life. It is here that we start to have a deeper faith in God, because we no longer doubt God’s existence. We no longer hold onto our earthly suffering because we have God to protect us.

Let us pray that each of us finds our way on the spiritual journey so that we might discover God in our lives, and the life of those around us.

Petition

When this blog started one of the first posts was about prayer. That post mentions several types of prayer. One type of prayer is Petition.
 

What is Petition Prayer?

 
Petition prayer is the most common form of prayer. The word petition means to submit for approval, or make a request.
 
Often we pray and we ask God for something. When we pray in this way, we are petitioning God.
 
It is probably the most simple form of prayer and one that we learn from a very early age.
 

How can we use Petition Prayer?

 
Petition prayer should never be our default form of prayer. There are right ways to do Petition Prayer, and there are wrong ways to use Petition Prayer.

Right

Wrong

Prayer for Health Prayer for money or possessions
Prayer for grace Prayer to ask why God didn’t/won’t grant a prayer
Prayer for others Prayer to have something another person has, or to take from them
Prayer to help us serve God better Prayer that places demands/ultimatums towards God
Prayer for Reconciliation/Foregiveness Prayer that blames God for our troubles
As we can see it is very easy to use an incorrect petition to God. Most of these are the result of sin (pride, lust, jealousy…).
 
There are many ways that we can petition God in a good way. 
 
As with most things in life, we express Jesus most in our lives when we petition for others more than for ourselves. This is true because when we petition for others we consider their needs before our own. When we do this we express love. 
 
Remember that we do not just petition for friends and family. Jesus calls us to love our enemy as well. Here we can petition God for our enemies, or even people that we feel have done us wrong. We can petition God for their soul, for their kindness, and for our own kindness towards others. 
 

What are other forms of Petitions used by the Church?

 

Universal Prayer

The Church uses Petition prayer in many ways. The Universal Prayer is the most common Petition Prayer said at Sunday Mass. 
 
The Universal Prayer is a petition to God from the people of the parish. The Church suggests that a Deacon assist in writing the Universal Prayer. A Deacon has the closest relationship with the people. The Deacon understands the people and can take their concerns and petition then to God. 
 
If a Deacon is present at Mass, the Deacon should read the Universal Prayer, before all the people. 
 
The Universal Prayer always consists of the following:
  • Petition for the Church
  • Petition for the world
  • Petition for the people at Mass
  • Petition for the special needs and requests of the people
  • May have a Petition for the Dead, or the sick
  • Petition for the special needs of the Parish, or local Church

Novenas

Novenas are another form of Petition used. I do not want to go into Novenas too much here, but a Novena always includes a Petition. In this petition we ask for the patron of the Novena to intercede for us to God. In a sense we petition (ask) the Patron, to present our Petitions to God. We will talk about Intercessions in another Blog.

Mass

Another form of Petition that is overlooked occurs during Mass. During the Our Father prayer the Priest holds his hands in the Orans position (arms held out). At this point there are two mystical things that happen.

First, by rite of ordination the priest becomes the a bridge between Heaven and Earth and is joined with Christ.

Second, with hands outstretched he gathers all the prayers, concerns, and petitions of the people gathered at Mass and lifts them up to God as an offering.

It is a beautiful gift given to us. We have the blessed opportunity at mass to have our prayers delivered straight up to God through the Priest, and through Jesus. What a powerful reason to go to Mass.

It also brings about an uncomfortable fact. During this prayer the congregation should not be holding their hands in the orans position, or even holding hands. In fact, the General Instruction for the Mass states that the congregation should hold a posture similar to private prayer. We cannot hold hands in private prayer, and we should have our hands clasped. Another point is that the Priest holds his hands in this position by rite of ordination. If we are holding out our hands, do we consider ordination insignificant? Do we not respect the office of Priest? Do we consider ourselves better, or in a higher place than the Priest? Do we believe we can somehow open a bridge to heaven and lift everyones prayers?

The answer to these questions will be no. They are only presented to allow us to think why we do something. First we must understand why things are done, so that we can understand our role in them.

Conclusion

Hopefully there is a little better understanding of Petitions and Petition Prayer. It is the basic and simplest form of prayer because as human beings are needs and desires never end. We are always wanting more.

Jesus teaches us that to show true love, we should Petition for others greater than we do ourselves.

Spiritual Exercise Challenge

My challenge is this, and try it for a week. It works great if you can get others to join the challenge. For one week, do not petition God for anything for yourself.

Now this is a bigger challenge than most can think. It is so easy to pray, or be praying and suddenly fall into petition. Be mindful of your prayers and do not petition God on behalf of yourself. Learn to Petition God only for others.

To participate in this prayer you must pray to God at least once per day for the next week.

HINT: you can ask your partner, or others to pray for you. Since their petitions will not be for themselves. NO this is not cheating. If anyone wants to have petitions made for themselves please comment them below. Others here will be gracious and pray on your behalf.

By the Grace of God may each of you find the path God has chosen for you. May He be the lighted lantern on your path to heaven. Amen

The Trinitarian formula for Christian Life

We often want to know, or question, if we will make it to Heaven. It is a question that keeps us on our toes, for those of us that believe in Heaven.

Today I want to share with you The Trinitarian Formula for Christian Life. It is a simple formula. It is one that is discussed numerous times in the Catholic Church. It is a formula that is given to us in the Bible and instituted by Christ.

I say that it is instituted by Christ, not because He created it, but that He completed it. The formula was incomplete before Christ. Christ completes the formula and make redemption possible for everyone.

The formula is this:

Prayer + Fasting + Alms

As Catholics, we have all heard this passage from the bible. The passage that we should pray, fast, and give alms. The book of Matthew, chapter 6, teaches us not to be hypocrites that we should do things for God, and not for the self.

There is another part of this instruction that is not so apparent. The hidden meaning in this teaching is that these three things bring us closer to God and closer to redemption.

Prayer

We are all taught to pray from a young age. Prayer is so very important to our spiritual life, and our relationship with God.

The Prosper of Aquitaine even states “Lex Orandi Lex Credendi“. The word Lex means Law of. The word Orandi means Prayer, and Credendi means belief, or believing. The translation is, How we pray shapes our faith, and our faith shapes our prayer.

This tells us that without a good prayer life, our faith suffers. It grows weaker. This is a great tactic of the Devil. He tries to interrupt our prayer life. He does not want us to pray, because through prayer we grow closer to God the Father. The closer we are to the Father, the harder it is for us to sin.

It is taught in our catechism that prayer is a dialog with the Father. When we pray, we pray to God, and we often pray to the Father. Just as we might have talked to our own father in real life, we go to talk to our Father in Heaven.

Fasting

Many people skip over this, or do not take it seriously. Fasting is so very important to our salvation and redemption. Without fasting we cannot be strengthened, or receive special graces from God. That does not mean that we will not receive any Grace, just special graces.

Some may ask, well how can that be?

We are asked to fast on Fridays during the year, and we fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Fridays during Lent. There are different levels of Fasting, but first lets state what it is.

Fasting is the act where we voluntarily deprive ourselves of what is permitted and pleasing to us.

This must be something that is difficult to do, and not trivial. Remember that fasting is an effort of growing stronger. If we only do trivial things then we have trivial growth.

When we fast we place ourselves in a state of suffering. It is through this sacrifice that we make a willing conscientious choice to do so for God. As a result of this sacrifice we are given grace by the Holy Spirit.

We are tempted to cheat, or to shorten our own suffering. If we call on the Holy Spirit he will guide us, and give us the strength to face the challenge. It is through this suffering and strengthening that we build our defenses against temptation. We become stronger to resist the Devil.

Fasting is often understood to be food. On Fridays we are asked to give up meat, and if meat is not possible then we are asked to sacrifice something else. Many people forget that second part and then do not fast from anything. They might only fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but those days are meant for another type of fasting, which is called abstaining. When we abstain we do not partake in food during the day. We may have a small meal, but we should not eat until we are full.

Fasting can also be to abstain from something we enjoy. It might be coffee, tea, soft drinks, television, junk food, and many others. Abstaining and fasting does NOT mean to pray more. We should do that anyway. Doing more positive things is great, and can be done to strengthen us during our suffering. However, reading the bible and praying should never replace the suffering of fasting, because it is through this suffering that we find the Holy Spirit.

Alms

Giving Alms is another topic that gets the eyes rolling. Everyone automatically assumes it means money. Giving Alms means simply to give to the poor. That might mean money, food, objects we do not use anymore, or even our time.

When we help our neighbor, we are giving alms. When we do something for another person and it inconveniences us, we are giving alms. When we show compassion to another person that is suffering, or struggling, we are giving alms.

Jesus told us that of all the laws in the bible the greatest was Love. When we give alms we express our brotherly love for one another and we are doing Christ’s work. We grow closer to Jesus through our expressions of love.

Giving alms is something that we should all be jumping to do. We all want to be closer to Jesus, to know Him, and to serve Him. We can do this through Alms.

We each can give what we have. That might be money, it might be time, it might just be a helping hand.

If you have not served in a soup kitchen, or a food pantry, I would highly recommend it. There is a real warmth and presence of Christ when we give our time to help the hungry and the poor.

Conclusion

There we have it. We have the Trinitarian formula for Christian Life given to us through Christ. The remarkable thing about this formula is that it is a trinitarian formula.

A Trinitarian Formula is based in the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Here for our own redemption we have Prayer (Father), Fasting (The Holy Spirit), and Alms (The son). We must practice each one of them to know and serve God (the Trinity). When we go easy, or skip on one of them, we weaken our relationship with God.

Let us each pray for one another, but especially for the poor. May those without shelter find a home. May those without food find a person with an extended hand willing to share. May those who suffer know the Holy Spirit and be strengthened in their will by the graces of God. Let us ask all of this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My ways are not your ways…

I was recently hiking in the Tantra Mountains. While hiking I decided to take a break and pray.

I mentioned previously that I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the Prayer of the Catholic Church. Voices from all over the globe in prayer together for the same purpose.

On this particular occasion, I was going to pray the daytime prayers.

The Liturgy of the Hours is organized to be like a prayer service. There is some singing, Psalms, readings, responsoral Psalm, there may be a Canticle Prayer (similar to the creed), intercessions, and a closing prayer.

During the daytime prayers there is no Canticle, or intercessions. The prayers are organized into a 4 week cycle. You do not pick what you want at random. The idea is that everyone is praying the same, so there is a schedule to follow along with the season of the Church.

As I was sitting there praying, these two passages were the readings for that particular day.

Isaiah 55:8-9

My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
God of power and might, who is your equal? Faithfulness surrounds you on every side.

1 Samuel 16:76

Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.
O God, search my heart, and know me.
Lead me along the path to endless life.

As I sat and read these passages I could not help but stop and take in the view of my surroundings. To stop and thank God.

Photo Aug 09, 04 05 29

The beauty of the mountains. The clean air. And this very clear message from God.

The mountains are a metaphor. It demonstrates that no matter how high above the earth we might try to climb, God is always above us. Looking down on us, and watching. Much like it is for us to look down from the mountain. To see the villages below, too small to even see the people or vehicles driving around. God still sees all of them. What our vision is limited to, God is limitless. His ways are not our ways, our limitations are not His.

Looking around at the green landscapes, the blue skies, and calm atmosphere; we see the beauty of nature. We see with our eyes and not our hearts. Very often people make judgements of others based on skin, beauty, language, social status, or birthplace (to only name a few). God ignores all of them and looks at the heart.

The words of man are important, but his actions are even more important. God will always look at the actions of people, what comes from their heart, and not their lips.

If we want to see peace in our time, we must live in peace, give peace, and share in peace.

We cannot scream injustice, and commit injustice, for God is the ultimate judge. Look to the eternal place and not on this life. When we will be judged and given eternal peace, joy and happiness that is based on our commitment to Gods word, and our actions to demonstrate that we understand and follow them.

The mountains were beautiful, but instead of looking outward we must often look inward. Are we living life, giving life, sharing life, with all people in the way we want it for ourselves. The mountains were not created for any one particular person, or people. Life is given to all freely from God with no prejudice.

It was a wonderful day. God shared something more beautiful with me than just what my eyes saw around me. In that gift comes the responsibility to share it with others.

I hope and pray that others may find the beauty in this message. My offer to share God’s gift with others.

May God bless you, and lead each of you on the path He has chosen. The path that is not followed by our eyes, but our heart.

Marriage

Let’s look at a word for the week, Marriage. This is a hot button topic among a lot of people. Pushing aggression aside, indifferences, and pride, we will explore the historical significance of marriage.

Many people will say that marriage was never in the Bible. Some say that it was made up. In fact, with some research marriage customs are very clearly present in the Bible.

The first notable occurrence of marriage in the Bible is the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a bride for his son Isaac [Gen 24:1]. At the time of Abraham, most of the people still practiced the marriage laws established by the Code of Hammurabi.

The servant travels the desert to Abraham’s homeland. Where he stops at a well. Wells were very important in the time of Abraham. People did not own land, or houses. They lived in tents and were nomads. They raised cattle. Mostly sheep and goats. These animals are grazers and will eat a land bare. Especially when the land is arid and dry.

In order for their herds to have enough to graze, they would move around.

Wells became a center of life. It took a lot of effort to dig a well by hand. A person that has a well will not travel far from it, because it offers a source of water for the people and animals.

Those who owned wells were considered wealthy, because they held the means of life to people.

People at the time were not selfish, or impolite. Indifferent to many people today, it was customary in the time of Abraham to share hospitality. Everyone was a nomad.

If another came to a camp, they were offered water and hospitality. People did this because it was polite. People did this because if you wandered too far and came into their camp, they would expect to also receive water and hospitality. People were kind to one another because they expected to receive kindness in the same way.

Back to our story. The Servant finds a young woman at a well. It was customary for the young women to gather large jars of water for the family. They would travel back and forth between the well and their settlement. It was also a good place to see young women who were not in the presence of their family. Most young woman would not talk to strangers. They also would not be allowed to be around men without a chaperone.

The important thing to note, at this time marriages were arranged. The bride and the bridegroom were not involved in the selection process. It was a decision set by the parents.

Most would consider this barbaric, or even for some personal greater glory of the family. However, a married couple would no longer be a part of the family. Arranging a son or daughter to a rich or poor family would not be a decision made for personal gain.

Parents, as today, would likely want to be sure that their daughters were taken care of.

Parents of sons, would want to make sure their son had a wife that could birth children. In a way they were often looking towards the better of their children’s future.

In the case of Isaac, the servant found Rebecca. He offers the family a Mohar. A Mohar was a dowry that was paid to the family for the right to marry. The acceptance of the Mohar, was an acceptance of engagement. This was called aras.

The aras would last up to a year. This was negotiated between the families. During the aras either family could withdraw from the marriage pact. If the bridegroom’s family withdrew, they would forfeit the Mohar. If the bride’s family withdrew, they would forfeit the Mohar and have to repay it to the bridegroom’s family.

The Mohar was not buying the bride. Many people falsely believe that the woman was bought and owned like property, and this was never the case.

The payment was a payment for legal rights. It was a payment to release the family of their legal responsibilities of the daughter.

In these times if a child did something wrong, or committed a crime, the family would be responsible for the damages. Children were considered property and often slaves. From this regard, the Mohar was a release of the woman from slavery, and made her no longer property. It gave her rights. Rights which were protected by her husband.

The bridegrooms family would then hold a wedding feast. The feast was celebrated before the marriage. It would last seven to fourteen days. It was important that the bridegrooms parents had sufficient food and drinks for everyone at the celebration. This would bring embarrassment to the bridegroom’s family if they did not. It might even create a cause for withdraw by the bride’s family from the aras.

The importance of this can be seen later in the bible at the Wedding of Cana. Mary tells Jesus they have no wine. She is very upset about this. The fact that she has concern over this, shows her relationship to the bridegroom. That she is responsible to ensure that there is sufficient wine, so that there is no shame to the bridegroom’s family. If they ran out of wine, the bride’s family may withdraw from the marriage.

We can see that the act of Jesus to create wine from water has a two fold effect. First, his miracle and beginning of his journey to the Passion. Secondly, his act shows the great importance and sanctity of marriage. He did this for the sake of the marriage. He did this so that the man and the woman could be married. His act creates a sanctity and holiness to the act of marriage because Jesus decided it was important. If it is important to Jesus, then it is important to God.

In the time of Abraham, the wedded couple would go to the altar. At the sacrificial altar a ram, bull, or calf would be cut in half. The couple would stand in the midst of this dead animal. They would proclaim to all the witnesses and to God, “If anything should try to come between us, let it be done to us as it was done to this animal.”

The animal was whole. Until the sacrifice, it was one being. This oath sworn by the couple proclaims that they are one being. That nothing can separate them, but a blade. That they would need to be severed as the animal was. That they are the same blood. When one of them suffers the other suffers.

The bond of blood was considered so sacred that the couple was no longer a part of either family. They were not part of the bridegroom’s family, and they were not part of the bride’s family. They were no longer children of a parent. They were now their own tribe. They had become their own people, with concerns of their own safety and survival.

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Mk 10:9]

Jesus was not preaching some new rule. Jesus said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [Mt 19:5] We can see that Jesus was preaching what had already been practiced by the Jewish people for more than 1500 years. It was a part of their culture and became a part of our Christianity.

Our customs have changed. Our way of celebrating marriage has changed. The Sanctity of marriage has never changed. Marriage is as important today as it was, and has been, for over 3500 years.

We can go into the purpose of pregnancy, and the basis of having children. It has as much historical and practical meaning as marriage does. That is for another topic. This post was intended to be about marriage.

This information is not made up. I have spent many hours researching this and written two thesis papers on this topic.

I hope that my research will help to build an appreciation of marriage. It will bring an understanding of the teaching of the Church in regards to the sanctity of marriage. A sanctity that has not changed in thousands of years.

We can see that an oath, like the couple and the bull, was a blood oath. Breaking an oath in the Old Testament was not just punishable, but it was considered to be punishable to future generations of the one that broke it.

Marriage was taken as an oath. We say vows that are our oath to one another. The priest wraps the hands together to symbolize this union.

Perhaps now we may even have a deeper understanding of the Wedding of Cana, and how the act by Jesus was so important.

May God bless you on your journey. Let us pray today for all married couples, that they live out their oath of marriage the way God intended.

 

 

Apostolic Succession

What is Apostolic Succession?

When Jesus was here on earth, He taught the Apostles his message. He was the great teacher, and the Apostles were his disciples. We are all called to be disciples of Jesus.

The word succession means a fact or right of succeeding someone by inheritance. It comes from Old French and from Latin successionem which means, a following after, a coming into another’s place, result.

In Greek, the word apostolos means, messenger or envoy. A more literal translation would be, to send a person forth. The word apostolos from the word apostellein. Both are from the root word apo, which means off, or away from. Stelleinin means to send. Apostellein means to send away, or to send off.

Today we might use the word Missionary, instead of Apostle.

The word missionary means, to send on a mission. It comes from the latin word missionarius, which means pertaining to a mission.

The word mission is from the Latin missionem, and was used by the Jesuits for “Sending abroad.” It also is the act of sending, or dispatching someone.

There is a rich meaning to the word Apostle. It is important to understand what that word means, then, and today.

When Jesus left this word, he sent forth his disciples. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” [Mat 28:19]

There was a transition that occurred. Jesus would no longer be physically present in this world. He wanted to make sure that His messages and teaching would continue after he left. This transition began with Pentecost and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those in that upper chamber.

It continued with the teaching of Jesus to the Apostles. Jesus preparing them for what they must do, how they must do things, and who they should deliver his message to.

This transition of authority from Jesus to the Apostles is known as Apostolic Succession.

Apostolic succession is the new authority inherited to the Apostles from Jesus, to go forth and to preach to all nations. It was this authority that gave them the ability to lead the Church. It was this authority that led to the writing of the Gospels.

This authority is an authority by God. It is given to the Apostles so that they may continue to serve Jesus.

This authority, and many graces from the authority, was passed onto others through the rite of Ordination. There are many examples in the Bible of people being given graces through the act of laying hands. This authority still lives today, in the ordained successors of the Church to the Apostles.

It is sometimes hard for us humans to grasp the beauty and greatness in this gift of succession. It is even harder for us to imagine that this gift has never faded, it has never died, it is still very much alive today. Gifts that God gives are eternal, just as He is eternal.

Although there are some Catholic Cardinals who can tell you which Apostle their ordination traces back to, we are not all ordained successors of the Apostles.

We are given special graces at our baptism. When the baptism is performed in the way that Jesus instructed it, the person being baptized receives special graces. An indelible mark on their soul. This mark, these graces, call each of us to be missionaries of Jesus.

Many may ask, how am I a missionary? I do not go to foreign lands.

A Missionary is not just a person that goes off to remote places in the world to continue the work of Jesus.

A missionary is a person that demonstrates the teachings of Jesus in difficult situations. In the moments of our lives when we feel embarrassed to act out our faith. Moments when we might be in public and we are afraid of the looks we might get, or the questioning stares, or even the comments of others. These fears are the devil tempting you away from God, and our fears are used against us.

When we stand up to the devil and his temptations, doing what we are called to do by God and Jesus, we become disciples and we are missionaries. We go forth. We are sent to be examples of Jesus.

Let us take a moment to think about how we are being missionaries of Jesus.

  • Do we pray in public?
  • Do we say God Bless You?
  • Do we say Merry Christmas?
  • Do we make the sign of the cross in public?
  • Do we invite others to prayer?
  • Do we invite ourselves to pray for others?
  • Do we stop to help the person crossing the road, or the person who dropped something?
  • Do we love our neighbor, our wife, our children, our parents, our friends, our coworkers, and strangers the way we want God to love us?
  • Do we follow the Beatitudes, or even the commandments?
  • Do we respect life, in all stages? Because life is given by God and not ours to take away.
  • Do we defend others from harm? Physical harm, emotional harm, and bullying.
  • Do we do things that are true to our Faith, even when society says they are wrong?
  • Do we take our religion with us to work? We are followers of Jesus everywhere, we don’t get to choose when we are followers. We either are, or are not.

These are all things that help us to be good disciples of Jesus. These are examples of how we are called to be missionaries. They are examples of things we are all called to do when we are told, “Go forth the Mass has ended, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

There is that word again, “Go forth”. Those words that mean Mission. Those words that call us to be missionaries. To play our part in the succession of Jesus. We may not all be ordained, but we are all missionaries.

Let us pray today. That each of us takes a moment each day to do something public. Something that demonstrates that we are followers of Jesus. That God will give us the graces needed to face the fears that hold us back. And that others will know we are Christians by our love. Amen

May God bless you, and lead you on the path of discipleship; where his graces will bring continually closer to His glory in heaven.