Fr. Raymond Brown wrote: “. . . working within the worldview of his time, Jesus, by driving out demons in his process of healing, is indicating that sickness is not simply a bodily ailment but is a manifestation of the power of evil in the world. . . suffering, tears, disasters and death are representative of alienation from God and of evil. . . the very existence of such factor indicates the incompletion of God’s plan.”
In the Gospel of Mark, we are told that the crowd came to Peter’s mother-law’s house and he cured them. We do not hear about who came, how he healed them or what he healed them of. Dis that beg to be healed? Did they allow the sickest to go first? Mark gives no instructions on how to behave or on what to say.
But, is it all that easy? “. . . no healing, no gift from God comes without some conditions.” William Faulkner once wrote. “The past is not dead –it is not ever past.” This sets the context for God’s condition. The past is not dead. Another southern writer, Flannery O’Connor, wrote in a short story about a father asking forgiveness from his son. The father states; I did not trust you, but please forgive me and forget it.” To which the son replied; “I’ll forget it, but you better not forget it.”
The past is not dead. . .it is not even past. . .the present is the totality of what went before. The acid of our past etches the metal of the present.
Even though we are healed, we still carry the scars that should remind us that we have wondered where we should not have gone. God asks that we remember that. God offers us healing, but that healing must be total me in the past, present, and future. God’s healing should make our lives a celebration of second chances and our prayer should be; “O God of second chances, here I am again.”
Peace and All God
Fr. Vinnie, osf
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work of justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in the world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what other claim cannot be done.
Developed by Rev. Frank Toia
(Based on unpublished material by the Rev. Dr. John Weterhoff.
Our Father, who art in heaven. . .
What do you want to make possible in my life today which neither I nor any other human being can make possible without you?
Hallow be thy name. . .
What are the ordinary and routine experiences of life which you wish to make sacred today?
Thy Kingdom come. . .
In what specific ways do you plan to bring about your Kingdom through me today?
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. . .
What are the “Gethsemanes” in my life today about which I need today as you did, “Thy will be done”?
Give us today our daily bread. . .
What kind of spiritual, physical and emotional nourishment do I need most today?
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. . .
For what action or inaction do I need to be forgiven? Whom do I need to forgive? For what do I need to forgive myself as you have forgiven me?
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. . .
From what do I need to be protected today?
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Thank you, God, for your guidance. Help me to know you are surrounding me with your love all the day long.
Not in My Parish
By Fr. Nonomen
You never know where God will surprise you.
In the middle of a hot summer, while I was standing in the produce section at the local supermarket, a woman I had never met tapped me on the shoulder and introduced herself. She told me that she and her husband were not parishioners but had experienced an amazing Lenten journey at my parish. For the past two years, she said, they had fallen into a spiritual malaise. That began when the pastor of her own parish left the priesthood. He was a popular man, highly charismatic, and deeply spiritual. His unexpected departure brought to a head many issues in the church that she and her husband struggled with. Changes to their home parish also disoriented them. Looking for some fresh air, they had prayed their way through Lent with us and then joined us for the Easter Vigil. It was there, she said, that God gave her a gift: she watched as her former pastor and his new wife (who were never before at any of our Masses) joined the Communion line and received the Eucharist. “In that moment, I knew,” she said. “I was suddenly filled with a joyful, peaceful assurance that the church I love would weather the storms and issues that seem sometimes to tear it apart. Seeing Father Ed with his wife showed me how God is always doing something new! As they received Communion, I saw that there is room for all in Christ. And that has helped heal my heart.”
I walked away from this exchange with a bag of tomatoes and a grin on my face, thinking she doesn’t realize just how amazing the Communion line was that night. Besides Ed and his new wife, there were other Catholic priests and even a Protestant minister and her wife. Also, I saw a prominent local political leader, well known in the community and healing from a recent, very-public divorce. There were professional theologians and professional electricians. There were college students and middle-school students; the newly married and the recently widowed. It seemed that the depth and breadth of humanity was in the Communion line, all of their lives containing stories of hope and all of them, in that moment, drawn to one table, one altar, one Lord. I saw it. I sensed it. It was a foretaste of what liturgists call “the heavenly banquet.” I am so grateful that my new friend, the evangelizer in the produce department, saw it as well.
The people of the Kingdom are a diverse people, aware of their need and drawn to the God who welcomes all
As you might imagine, it didn’t take long for all these lofty thoughts of the Kingdom to come crashing back to earth. I thought of the diocesan administration and of how some might be extremely concerned about the “scandal” this sort of Communion line could cause. But as a participant and witness, it seemed to have the opposite effect, a healing effect. Of the hundreds who attended the Vigil that night, no one wrote a nasty letter of complaint, no unkind word was heard, not even so much as a passing sarcastic comment. Many noticed the same things I did that night and many were inspired.
How does this happen? To begin with, the Vigil Mass cannot be taken out of context. Throughout the year, the people of this parish make a deliberate effort to be hospitable and welcoming. That is especially the case for the Vigil, which is touted as the high point of the liturgical year. No one is checking “Valid Catholic” cards at the door, and no one feels a particular need to be a Communion Cop. We recognize that we’re all a bunch of needy sinful people, who are eager to make room for others at the Lord’s Table. Add to this a year-long, parish-wide emphasis on the religious education of adults, both through formal catechesis and in the way we run a picnic or a liturgy or a parish council. Education has a broadening effect, which hopefully trickles down to the heart. The wider the heart, the easier it is to see the working of God and, consequentially, the longer the Communion line.
The more intriguing question, perhaps, is not how but why this happened. I figure it to be a lesson in grace. At a time when elitism and intolerance have crept into so many facets of life, the Lord insists that the Kingdom of God will be otherwise and often surprises us with glimpses of it right here, right now. The people of the Kingdom are a richly diverse people, aware of their need and drawn to the God who welcomes all and lavishes grace on all, even that former priest, even that same-sex couple, even that unsuspecting cleric in the produce department who thought he was only going home with a bag of tomatoes.
THE LORD SAID, “GO”
And the Lord said, “GO!” and I said, “Who, me?” and God said, “Yes, you” and I said, “But I’m not ready yet, and there is company coming, and I can’t leave my kids; You know there is no one to take my place.” And God said, “You’re stalling.”
Again the Lord said, “Go!” and I said, “But I don’t want to.” And God said, “I didn’t ask if you wanted to.” And I said, “Listen, I’m not the kind of person to get involved in controversy. Besides, my family won’t like it, and what will the neighbors think!” and God said, “Baloney!”
And yet a third time the Lord said, “Go!” and I said, “Do I have to?” and God said, “Do you love me?” and I said, “Look, I’m scared. . .People are going to hate me. . .and cut me up into little pieces. . . I can’t take it all by myself.” And God said, “Where do you think I’ll be?”
And the Lord said, “Go!” and I sighed, “Here I am, send me!’
By Lois Hodrick
by Valerie Schultz – Valerie Schultz is a freelance writer, a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and the author of Closer: Musings on Intimacy, Marriage, and God. She and her husband Randy have four daughters.
Sunday Mass is in my DNA. This was not always a given. For a brief time, mostly during my high school and undergrad years, I did not go to Mass. I rebelled. I flirted with atheism. What I saw in the church was at worst hypocrisy, at best rote boredom. After I got my driver’s license, I would leave the house with my younger sister on Sunday mornings. My mother thought I was taking her to Mass. We usually went to the park instead, only stopping by the church to snag a bulletin as evidence.
Before I flew to Europe to spend a college semester in Rome, my mother made me go to confession, in case the plane crashed. With the brashness of youth, I told the priest that I was there under duress, and that I could not think of anything I wanted to share with him. He was wise enough to have a conversation with me about the gift of travel rather than try to convert me.
A semester in Europe with a Eurail pass meant that I immersed myself in history. I visited churches and chapels and cathedrals. I walked through the piazza in front of the Vatican almost daily. I marveled at the Sistine Chapel. I took a tour of Chartres. I went to an organ recital in Notre Dame. But I never once, in the midst of all that Catholicism, went to Mass. I regret that now, of course. At the time, I thought it was not for me.
Mass found me in my senior year of college at a Catholic university, and I have been going back ever since. I finally got it: the ritual, the communal celebration, the Eucharist, the palpable presence of God. I have not always been purely concentrated on worship; while my children were growing up, I often was more concerned that they behave in church than I was in tune with the Mass. I was a Director of Religious Education at a parish for eight years and often had to orchestrate the participation of students in children or youth Masses. I loved Mass, but it was part of my job. I was a go-to person in church, always busy, never still.
Now, however, I usually go to Mass alone. I am anonymous in many different parishes, as there is not one I call home. I usually sit in a pew that I think of as “All the Single Ladies,” as we seek each other out and make room for each other without exchanging a word. I think we spot each other by the secret signal of fanning ourselves with the bulletin, even in cold weather.
Each Sunday, I usually find myself in tears at some point before the final blessing. You might say it’s hormonal. Or the deep, satisfying breath that is only taken when one is at rest in a pew, where there is time to think, to reflect, to slow down, to let go. Or the reverence that Mass instills in me. Maybe it is all of the above. But there is something every Sunday that so deeply touches my nomadic Catholic soul that my eyes fill with tears. Sometimes I choke up. It may be a choir that is so full of joy that their music makes me cry. It may be the incense rising in a holy cloud as we in the pews are blessed. It may be an Irish hymn that reminds me of my mother, who died this year. It may be a family of hopeful faces, whose three young children are baptized during the Mass. Or last week: A little boy who had lost his father that very week led us in the “Our Father,” his voice sweet and clear. How could these things not make me cry?
I imagine I look like the odd old bird, sniffling during the homily, blowing her nose at the offertory or turning a tear-stained beak to wish a stranger peace. It’s fine. I am a Sunday crybaby, the lady my own children would have felt sorry for, the crone who must have experienced some terrible sadness to make her weep so openly. But I am not usually sad. I am just moved to witness the Spirit so alive and so well. I am an open heart, so grateful to be so loved by God. I might have come in wounded, but during Mass I am healed and made whole by the risen Jesus, who accepts me as I am and sends me back out there for the week.
And I am not alone in being a Sunday crybaby. A few months ago, I went to Mass with my brother-in-law. The Communion song was “Be Not Afraid,” and as usual, I had to stop singing at the point when the song overwhelmed me and I could no longer get out the words. Then I noticed: he had stopped singing. There was a tear on his cheek, too. “That song gets me,” he said, a bit embarrassed. I just smiled. I know, brother. I know.
Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later the day before Holy Thursday. The purpose of this special time is for the faithful through prayer, doing penance, almsgiving and atonement to be more closely united to Christ Jesus. This time is observed in Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic churches.
Lent is highlighted in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of reconciliation. Many adherents also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such a reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves closer to the presence of God.
The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Catholic and some other Christian communities remove flowers from their altars and other elaborate symbols are likewise removed.
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days to mark the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, as recorded in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan – the prince of darkness and evil.
The San Damiano Cross is the large Romanesque rood cross before which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when he is said to have received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church. It now hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara) in Assisi, Italy, with a replica in its original position in the church of San Damiano nearby. Franciscans cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God. The cross is a crucifix of a type sometimes called an icon cross because in addition to the main figure of the Christ, it contains images of other saints and people related to the incident of Christ’s crucifixion. The tradition of such painted crucifixes began in the Eastern Church and possibly reached Italy via Montenegro and Croatia.
The San Damiano Cross was one of a number of crosses painted with similar figures during the 12th century in Umbria. The name of the painter is unknown, but it was made around the year 1100. The purpose of an icon cross was to teach the meaning of the event depicted and thereby strengthen the faith of the people. The Byzantine style was common in Italy before Cimabue and Giotto.
When the Poor Clares moved from San Damiano to the Basilica of Santa Chiara in 1257, they took the original San Damiano Cross with them and still guard it with great solicitude. It now hangs in the Basilica over the altar of the Chapel of the Crucifix – a reconstruction of the Church of Saint George, which was torn down to build the Basilica. The crucifix hanging over the altar of the ancient church of San Damiano is a copy. All Franciscans cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God to commit our lives and resources to renew and rebuild the Church through the power of Christ.
Jesus Christ is represented upright in full stature while the surrounding figures are smaller. The bright white of his body contrasts with the dark red and black around it and accentuates the prominence of Jesus. This representation contrasts with the regal Christ portrayed on the cross in earlier centuries and the suffering, dying, crucified Christ depicted generally throughout the Church since the beginning of the 14th century. Above the head of Christ is the inscription in Latin: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
The next largest figures are five witnesses of the crucifixion. On the left side are the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. On the right side are Mary Magdalene, Mary, Mother of James, and the centurion who in Matthew’s Gospel account asks Christ to heal his servant, who is also depicted on the cross on the shoulder of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). Both Mary and Mary Magdalene have their hands placed on their cheeks to reflect extreme grief and anguish. The first four witnesses are saints and are therefore represented with halos. Their names are written beneath their pictures.
Two smaller figures are located in the corners with the witnesses. On the lower left is Longinus the traditional name of the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a lance. He is represented here as holding the lance and looking up at Jesus. The blood running down the right arm of Jesus begins at the elbow and drips straight down and will land on the upturned face of Longinus. In the lower right is Stephaton, the traditional name for the soldier who offered Jesus the sponge soaked in vinegar wine.
Peering over the left shoulder of the centurion is a small face. A close look reveals the tops of the heads of three others beside him. This represents the centurion’s son who was healed by Jesus and the rest of his family to show that “he and his whole household believed” (John 4:45-54).
Six angels are represented as marvelling over the event of the crucifixion. They are positioned at both ends of the crossbar. Their hand gestures indicate they are discussing this wondrous event of the death and calling us to marvel with them.
At the foot of the cross there is a damaged picture of six figures, two of whom are represented with halos. In accordance with the traditions of the day, these six are the patrons of Umbria: St. Damian, St. Michael, St. Rufino, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul. On the top of the cross, one sees Jesus now fully clothed in his regal garments and carrying the cross as a triumphant sceptre. He is climbing out of the tomb and into the heavenly courts. Ten angels are crowded around, five of whom have their hands extended in a welcoming gesture to Jesus, who himself has his hand raised in the form of a greeting,
At the very top of the cross is the Hand of God with two fingers extended. This is to be understood as the blessing of God the Father on the sacrifice of his Son. On the right side of the picture next to the left calf of Jesus, there is a small figure of a fowl. Some art historians have interpreted it to be a rooster, representing the sign of Jesus’ denial by Peter, mentioned in all four Gospel accounts. Other commentators see it as a peacock, a frequent symbol of immortality in Early Christian art. Along the lower right side of the shaft, there is a small animal, possibly a cat.