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- · Today in Catholic History
- · Joke of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
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- · A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
- · Reflection on part of the SFO Rule
Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI for seven years, today, of his being elevated to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ. May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.
† 1093 – The new Winchester Cathedral is dedicated by Walkelin.
† 1149 – Pope Eugene III takes refuge in the castle of Ptolemy II of Tusculum.
† 1378 – Bartolomeo Prignano elected as Pope Urban VI
† 1455 – Alfonso de Borgia elected as Pope Callistus III
† 1808 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore was promoted to an archdiocese, with the founding of the dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown (now Louisville) by Pope Pius VII.
† 1974 – Death of James Charles McGuigan, Catholic archbishop of Toronto (b. 1894)
† Feasts/Memorials: Saint Walter of Pontoise (d. 1099); Saint Constance; Saint Julie Billiart of Namur (d. 1816).
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Today’s reflection is about Mary of Magdala finding that the burial stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.
(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.) Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand, at this point, that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead.
The story of the empty tomb can be found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, who’s is presented today. However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s. (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)
I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on a particular “Easter” Sunday morning. After all, John writes with a poetic, revelational, and “conceptual” thinking and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough-ish sort of approach in creating an image for his audience. John’s unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.
The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death. He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb. It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for a final internment as soon as the Sabbath was over.
Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” on “that” day after the Sabbath in order to finish preparing the body for Jesus’ final burial. John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”. However, Mark has the sun already raised, Matthew describes the day as just “dawning”, and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.
“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);
“Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);
“At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).
Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM or the “first hour”.
All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”. These women are denoted differently in each of the four Gospels:
Matthew’s Gospel: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary;
Mark’s Gospel: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome;
Luke’s Gospel: The women who had come from Galilee with Him;
and, John’s Gospel: Mary of Magdala.
John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples about Jesus’ disappearance from the tomb:
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).
This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group. Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.
This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses. A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities. In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area. There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine (then, and still today)!! So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.
As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”. Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias. Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed. In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (yet, in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty. My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?” (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)
Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance? Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – the stone closing the tomb was extremely heavy! It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. To move the stone would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin.
Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the reading at Mass. (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.) Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen. Please keep in mind, at this point Mary of Magdala did not consider that Jesus has been “raised from the dead”. So, seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she truly trusted.
Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb! In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an “angel” or “a young man”, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.
“Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7);
“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);
“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).
I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term, Priests can have friends.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother. As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed. Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb. What an awesome revelation, at least for me.
When informed of His vanishing, Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance. The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him. His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths. Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? … Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?
“When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8).
I also see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb. The burial wraps were discarded without concern. However, the “cloth” placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe to be His Tallit, Jesus’ prayer garment or robe – – a special and revered item for any pious Jew – – was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.
For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics. To the dutiful Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.
I believe the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed. Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen. Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body. The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body. The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body. And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, thus increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.
The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:
“For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)
Today’s reading concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least. Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand Jesus’ Resurrection had occurred. In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala actually meets and interacts with the “Risen” Jesus Christ, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener. How could she mistake a person she had grown to love – – in such a very special and intimate way – – for being a stranger? Was His physical presence changed that much?! Obviously, Mary of Magdala was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).
Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for OUR sins and then rise on the third day? Is it significant that they ALL refuse to accept His “Rising from the dead” until after they saw the empty tomb? I cannot answer these questions; can you?
John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, then dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.
John was the only of Jesus’ Apostles who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now distinguish as “Good Friday”. And finally, John (together with Simon Peter), was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.
What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one. Instead, it was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe. In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death merely no more than a tragic event; a conclusion to a remarkable career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker. When John saw the empty tomb, did he recall Jesus’ prophecies of His rising again after three days, and then to:
“rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19).
Through the grace freely given to us of faith, trust, and love, John realized that NO tomb, NO death, NO anything could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.
In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show each of us how the disciples, over a period of time, came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection through His various appearances to them, both individually and in groups. Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus – – in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually, personally, and intimately.
In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death. Also told to us is their “not yet understanding” the Holy Scriptures or Jesus’ being truly “raised” from the dead. Their understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them, and to others.
Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences. In the weeks ahead, we will see and go in the understanding of how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ. The first of Jesus’ disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this special and unique gift, – – this special and unique grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.
Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples. If you had been there, and heard the stone covering had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought? What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?
Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”. So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, throughout this Easter season, we also will learn more about “how to” believe that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.
The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord- – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way. Are you ready to continually grow in that faith? Remember, from the tiniest seeds of faith can grow a massive tree producing much fruit for all.
“Easter Prayer of St. Hippolytus of Rome”
“Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever. Amen”
St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)
My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.
Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral. Oral tradition includes written forms. After all, it ALL started with oral tradition. Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.
All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
“For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:44-45) RSV.
The two books of Maccabees are not in the KJV. It was removed, after 1000 years, by Martin Luther.
“Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26) RSV.
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:25-26) KJV.
Born in Cuvilly, France, into a family of well-to-do farmers, young Marie Rose Julie Billiart showed an early interest in religion and in helping the sick and poor. Though the first years of her life were relatively peaceful and uncomplicated, Julie had to take up manual work as a young teen when her family lost its money. However, she spent her spare time teaching catechism to young people and to the farm laborers.
A mysterious illness overtook her when she was about 30. Witnessing an attempt to wound or even kill her father, Julie was paralyzed and became a complete invalid. For the next two decades she continued to teach catechism lessons from her bed, offered spiritual advice and attracted visitors who had heard of her holiness.
When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, revolutionary forces became aware of her allegiance to fugitive priests. With the help of friends she was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart; she spent several years hiding in Compiegne, being moved from house to house despite her growing physical pain. She even lost the power of speech for a time.
But this period also proved to be a fruitful spiritual time for Julie. It was at this time she had a vision in which she saw Calvary surrounded by women in religious habits and heard a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.” As time passed and Julie continued her mobile life, she made the acquaintance of an aristocratic woman, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who shared Julie’s interest in teaching the faith. In 1803 the two women began the Institute of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists. The following year the first Sisters of Notre Dame made their vows. That was the same year that Julie recovered from the illness: She was able to walk for the first time in 22 years.
Though Julie had always been attentive to the special needs of the poor and that always remained her priority, she also became aware that other classes in society needed Christian instruction. From the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame until her death, Julie was on the road, opening a variety of schools in France and Belgium that served the poor and the wealthy, vocational groups, teachers. Ultimately, Julie and Françoise moved the motherhouse to Namur, Belgium.
Julie died there in 1816. She was canonized in 1969.
Julie’s immobility in no way impeded her activities. In spite of her suffering, she managed to co-found a teaching order that tended to the needs of both the poor and the well-to-do. Each of us has limitations, but the worst malady any of us can suffer is the spiritual paralysis that keeps us from doing God’s work on earth.
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
08. As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.
Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.
09. The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.