Posts tagged: Mary

Jesus Loves His Friends

By , April 5, 2014 4:48 am

April 6th, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Oh, today’s Gospel! This is one of my favorite texts in the entire bible whether you are talking about Old or New Testaments. Today’s Gospel excerpt is drawn from the 11th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and for me it is wonderfully meaningful. The whole thrust of this Gospel is John, communicating to the first generation of the life of the Church, his memory what Jesus revealed about himself.

Sometimes our Lord communicated with words and other times just extraordinary actions. Today I am making reference to what I consider a wonderful extraordinary aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the fact that he was a MAN.
Members of the Christian community always recognize that Jesus is God dealing with us through a human nature. We know that. We believe that. But can we get our arms around it? Can our limited brains really grasp the awesome reality that within this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth the Godhead dwelt?

Well, today’s text really helps us to go in that direction. You know the story so well. Jesus goes to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus but on arriving, he is told that Lazarus died several days before. The text says that he was “troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions” and then listen to this, he began to WEEP!

Did we all catch that? Jesus of Nazareth is weeping. This Divine Presence is torn by emotions, saddened and filled with a sense of loss. Can we really grasp that? I think the principle underlying the scene is that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus liked him. Jesus was crushed on learning of Lazarus’ death. I like to transfer that concept to the rest of us. Yes, we are followers of Jesus, yes, we believe in him, but do we really see him as our friend? What a gift.

If we live a good life and if we do the things I just mentioned, we are his friends. Would your acquaintances be impressed if you were at a meeting and they announced that the president of the United States has called for you and has asked you to return the call? Would it seem important to you if it were only the governor or the mayor? My friends, if we are living a good life, we are the friends of Jesus. There is nothing better than that.

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An Easy Assignment

By , December 24, 2013 4:32 am

I am always appreciative of those who take the time in their busy day to give a glance at my blog. Since people only do this of their own volition, I am in no position to hand out reading assignments but today I am going to do it and hope for the best.

Tomorrow is Christmas.

You will hear your reading assignment when you go to Christmas Mass, but I am going to ask you to do something that is very simple, very meaningful and for me at least, very helpful.
Would you turn to Luke’s second chapter and sitting quietly read these words out loud and rather slo-o-o-wly and endeavor to vicariously experience each sentence.

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus a decree a census should be made of the whole inhabited world.
This census– the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night.

An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favors. (Luke 2:1-14)

Have a blessed Christmas!

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Hail Mary: Prazska Pout

By , August 15, 2013 4:30 am

Photo: Grimes: St. Mary’s Church

Every August 15th, there is a special celebration in central Texas in the small town of Praha, at the marvelously beautiful and historic painted church, St. Mary’s. Prazska Pout is a Czech celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A typically overflowing early mass in St. Mary’s kicks of the day’s festivities, and then this tiny Texas town erupts with joyous Czech songs, dancing, and feasting throughout the afternoon and evening. Today’s mass will be principally celebrated by the Most Rev. David Fellhauer, Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, along with concelebrating visiting priests.

Since the earliest generations of our Church, there have been wonderful celebrations in honor of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. Today, both in Praha and throughout the world, we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, which is the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life.

The early Church listened carefully and fervently what was said about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The 11th chapter of Revelations tells us that, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”  The early Church began to mull over their awareness that Jesus was born free of sin.  They were struck with awe about the honor that had been given to his mother and the idea began to quickly spread.  She also was free of original sin.  During the Reformation, this view would be a cause of great dissension and controversy in the Christian community.  It is a concept to which Roman Catholics have held since the first generations and holds to it strongly today.

A more practical thing to think about is that quote from Revelations.  We talk about Mary being a queen, of course.  We are using very human, earthy concepts.  However, we need such concepts in order to flesh out this awesome reality.  Mary is Queen of Heaven and earth.  This title is thus an image that has nothing to do with eternal reality but it does give our minds an image of a sign in which to convey awesome power and authority.  If we use such earthly terms, we must be conscious of their limitations.  We are simply trying to say that if Mary is Queen of heaven, she exercises that role by standing beside her Divine Son.

Just as baptism makes us brothers and sisters of Jesus so faith in his wonderful mother provides yet another family tie.  We are children of Mary.  Luke’s Gospel tells us about Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth.  That scene presents us with that magnificent hymn which we call the Magnificat and in it, she states that, “all future generations shall call you blessed.”

This is certainly true as far as life within the Church is concerned. Hail Mary!

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Did Mary Take The Shortcut?

By , July 20, 2013 5:09 am

July 21, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I have to admit that every time I read St. Luke’s Gospel and the story of Mary and Martha comes up I feel a little uncomfortable. We all know the story. We’ve heard it hundreds of times. Time and again, Mary is placed before us as a model of our relationship with our Lord. I understand that. He should be the center of our thoughts and plans. We should be constantly looking at the messages that we receive, centuries old messages that still have powerful validity today. I know all that but somebody has to do the work!

For me, the best way to handle feeling that uncomfortable is that I should try to use the principle of proportionality. Baking bread is important and has to be done at the right time but listening to the voice of Jesus of Nazareth should be paramount in our lives. Even as I write this, I am aware of the fact that I have not been paying attention to my own advice. Each of us should do some spiritual reading every day just to give our brain a proper orientation to religious values, but after all, it is time for the evening news!

If we do center our thoughts and minds on Jesus in a disciplined way, everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry Martha. We are all really with you but I think it is time to go sit beside Mary and listen!

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Is Mexico A Catholic Country?

By , June 27, 2013 5:51 am

Two weeks ago, I made a passing reference in a blog to the fact that Mexico is not a Catholic country. A few readers shot back sharp criticism challenging my views. Their reaction is very similar to that of most American tourists who visit around Mexico. They see that churches are everywhere. Every cab driver has a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his sun visor. Practically everyone has a baptismal certificate tucked away someplace. Does that make a country Catholic? Not at all.
What those tourists are really seeing is the fact that Mexico has very strong Catholic traditions and manifest them in beautiful meaningful ways. However, the government of Mexico has been hostile to the Church since the time of Benito Juarez in the 1860′s. That oppression became violent in the first half of the 20th century and there was even a terrible period of bloody persecution when being a Catholic priest was a crime and a number were executed. In those years, the government confiscated ALL Church property and that continues to this day. All those churches are actually owned by the federal government. The church is simply allowed to use them.
The situation is relatively quiet and peaceful. The government is not persecuting the Church but it simply acts as though the Church were not present. Bishops are usually very quiet but if occasionally they issue a strong statement on some public or social issue, the government firmly tells them to cease and desist.
Despite the government, is the Church alive and well in Mexico? Well, it is certainly alive but it is not as well as we would like to see it. It does operate a few Catholic schools and is using very round about measures, for example having the ABC Real Estate Company own this building that the Church uses Monday through Friday to teach, but there is really not that much of that and the religious education program is poorly developed. The Catholic Church in the United States has a relatively weak program of religious formation but it far and above what the poor Church in Mexico has been able to develop and deliver.
However, the Church in Mexico does have one quality or advantage that we would do very well to copy here in this country. I am referring to the teaching and informative power of the family. While the vast majority of Mexicans, especially in rural areas, are not overly well formed in the tenants of the faith, there is a basic commitment that is really beautiful and has carried them through the difficult last 150 years. Parents believe in and serve Jesus Christ. There is a tremendous belief in Mary, the Mother of Christ manifested as she was at Guadalupe, as a constant source in people’s lives. There is a desire, often frustrated by an inadequate number of priests, to live out their faith in a sacramental life, especially baptism and communion.
What makes a country Catholic? Well, it has nothing to do with whether or not the government is supportive or hostile. The country is Catholic to the extent that its members place their faith in Jesus Christ and live that faith in the community that was launched by our Lord in the first century. It is the people who are Catholic not the governmental structure, not the political world. Yes, the people of Mexico are overwhelmingly Catholic and their traditions have survived through extremely difficult circumstances. We can thank God for the faith that is still there throughout it all.

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Some Wedding Reception!

By , January 19, 2013 4:48 am

January 20th, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
I don’t think that there is any doubt that today’s Gospel except from the second chapter of St. John is one of most people’s favorite scenes from the New Testament. It is very concrete. It is very earthy. It describes a scene with which we are all familiar and it inserts both Jesus and his mother into that scene in a very dramatic and pleasurable context. There was a wedding in Cana way up north in Galilee. It must have been quite an affair. The text begins by stating that the mother of Jesus was there and then adds that Jesus and his disciples had likewise been invited to the happy celebration. Well, if you add 14 people at the last minute, it must have been quite a crowd. To me that also seems to be indicated by the fact that for a long period of time the wine had run out causing Mary to say to her son, “They have no more wine.” You know the story. Jesus’ first move is to act unconcerned. Mary gives directions later, “Do whatever he tells you” and that, of course, is to fill good sized vats with water. In an outcome that would have made any Irishman happy, the water is not only changed into wine but the very best wine!
This story is told endlessly as a way of documenting the influence that Mary has over her son. Maybe we have made a little too much of it but it is certainly a wonderful story and it shows a very human Jesus. He is with friends, he is at a wedding, they have been celebrating for a long period of time and he takes action to eliminate embarrassment – all very human traits – and ones that we should think of when we are praying to our Lord. While we worship Jesus as divine, we must, at the same time, be conscious of the fact that this was a real human nature through which he was dealing with us, a nature that enables him to be one with us and enables us to more easily identify with him.
Care for any more wine?

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Feast of the Holy Family

By , December 29, 2012 5:04 am

Feast of the Holy Family
From time to time, I mention that I am really fascinated by the Church year. By that I mean the liturgical year, and how the church has chosen to order all 52 weeks in a 3 year cycle that beautifully summarizes the whole story of salvation, and most especially the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
I believe that’s always the case, but you couldn’t get better than today’s feast day, the formal title of which is the Feast of the Holy Family.
It’s a week after Christmas, and most of us have great family celebrations, but who is not exhausted? Today’s gospel excerpt simply could not be better, nor for me, more delightful. Remember the Church has to move fast with the liturgical year. One week ago we were celebrating His birth. Today He is twelve! And since Jesus is entering His teenage years, it’s only right that He should upset his parents! It’s the end of a big Jewish feast day, and Mary and Joseph had gone to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem. In the chaos of returning home with a large party of the faithful, Mary and Joseph took for granted that Jesus was alright and in the crowd. Suddenly they realized that He was not there. They raced back to Jerusalem, and actually spend three days looking for Him. Where was He? Jesus was in the temple astonishing the teachers and clerical beurocrats. the text says “they were amazed at his intelligence and his answers”.
Mary says something that other mothers have said in the course of history- “why have you done this to us? You see your father and mother have been searching for you in sorrow.” Then, from the mouth of this twelve year old comes an awesome response. “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” It would be a long time before they really understood that statement, but Mary never forgot it.
Families must struggle to stay close, even under pressure. Families must learn to be patient with each other, even in the face of stress. Families must trust each other in order to be happy.
The Holy family got it right!

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Who Were They?

By , January 7, 2012 5:43 pm

The Christmas story lingers on. Tomorrow the Church across the world celebrates the great feast of the Epiphany. Epiphaneia – literally means to manifest or to show forth. That is the name that the Christian tradition has given the beautiful section of
St. Matthew’s Gospel when strange men came from the East bringing gifts to the newborn child of Mary. This story is beautiful and filled with mystery. We don’t know who these men were, we don’t know where they came from, we don’t know what their job descriptions were. One translation of the word is that they are astrologists. We would be more comfortable with astronomers. The details don’t matter. The main point of the story is its symbolism. Jesus is born in the Jewish village of Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary were Jews. The shepherds were Jews. Herod, of course, was Jewish. The whole cast was Jewish up until the moment that these three men came bringing gifts to the newborn child. The Church has used this to symbolize that on this day Jesus is revealed beyond the community of Judaism to the whole world and today we celebrate that fact and thank God for it.

I think that faithful Christians are very conscious of the fact that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and we are thankful for that. We are also concerned about our own eternal destiny and so from time to time we forget the reality that Jesus came to the whole human family, to the entire world and we who are followers of our Savior ought to use some of that prayer, time, energy and resources to move Jesus’ message forward to the rest of the planet. If the truth were known, we haven’t done all that well in two thousand years. With the population of the planet now hitting seven billion, only about two billion on the planet today would have been directly touched by the message of Jesus. We have a great deal of work to do.

Everybody back on their camel!

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Casa Marianella- Another Favorite!

By , December 19, 2011 7:38 am

Last week, I mentioned that St. Louise House is my favorite chartiy, but truly, ANY program around here that has been set up by generous people to lessen the pain and suffering in our society is on my list of favorites! Next comes Casa Marianella.

Casa Marianella began 25 years ago when a generous real estate man gave the Diocese a very plain three bedroom house in East Austin. The donor was well aware of the tremendous difficulties facing people who arrive in this country without a knowledge of the language, without friends or contacts and usually without necessary skills to make it. Thus, was born Casa Marianella. Over this quarter of a century they have helped thousands upon thousands of men and women from almost every corner of the globe, although most of their “guests” are from Mexico and Central America.

Subsequently, Casa Marianella was able to add a second house for men and then, very much like St. Louise House, they opened a third house for women and children on a beautiful little hill in East Austin. That hill had two other houses on it and since then these extraordinarily generous people have secured two other houses and these three are operated solely to protect immigrant women and their children. Although operating under the overall guidance of Casa Marianella, it functions under a separate name – Posada Esperanza.

The two directors are Jennifer Long and Patti McCabe. They can be reached at (512) 385-5571. Please consider donating something on their “wish list” as a special Christmas gift.

When you think of recent immigrants in Austin at this time of the year, you can’t help but think about Joseph, Mary and Jesus being immigrants on the road with limited resources and receiving a cold reception. Casa Marianella and Posada Esperanza provide marvelously warm, generous receptions to these Christ-like migrants as they are struggling to put their lives in order. We wish them a Merry Christmas. We need to do something to help them have one.

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What Did Mary Know?

By , September 15, 2011 4:35 am

On September 15th, we celebrate yet another Marian feast, namely that of Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Sorrows? Why would we want to mark such a liturgical event? Shouldn’t we try to keep things on a happy, positive mode of remembering? Not really.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, did suffer. She suffered a great deal. Some we know from the Gospel texts, some of it we know just from using horse sense. One reason that Christians like to meditate and pray on the idea of Mary’s pain and difficulties is that it makes it easier for us to identify with her. It makes us more conscious of the fact that she understands us and is concerned about us.

Mary had a life plan worked out for herself but it was offset by the experience of the angel. Later on, she would be a refugee, an immigrant, and experience dire poverty at the time of the birth of her Divine Son. Of course, the worst suffering for Our Lady is marked by the week that we now call “Holy” because she witnessed the agony and death of her Divine Son.

The question is, did Mary know and understand that this human person that she bore and raised? There are differences of opinion but I think that most theologians and scripture scholars would say that while Mary knew that her son was awesomely mysterious and powerful, she would not have clear insight into his true make-up until after the Resurrection.

Regardless of the degree of her knowledge, Mary was magnificently faithful to Gabriel.

“Be it done to me according to thy word.”

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