“Give me liberty or give me death!” With these notable words articulated in a 1775 speech, Patrick Henry expressed the immense desire he possessed for freedom. This statement summed up the plea that ultimately impelled the Virginia House of Burgesses to mobilize for military action. A few weeks later, the American Revolution marked the beginning of the intense struggle in which thirteen of Great Britain’s North American colonies eventually obtained their independence. Today, the 4th of July celebrates the United States of America’s Day of Independence as it recalls when this country declared its independence from Great Britain. Freedom is a value of great importance. Having the ability to enjoy political autonomy and to do what one pleases at will is treasured by the citizens of a nation that enjoys being a free society. Who does not cherish the power to exercise the faculty of choice in political, social, and financial matters? Nevertheless, the notions that some of us have about the essence of freedom are at times faulty or misguided.
It’s Hard to Say Goodbye
We know how tough departures can be. Saying “so long” or “farewell” to a loved one whom we may not see again can sometimes be a bittersweet, melancholic, heartbreaking, or even traumatic experience. These last adieus are certainly ingrained in our memory and our loved ones’ final words and actions become treasurable and unforgettable.
These experiences allow us to relate to the early disciples’ difficulty in saying goodbye to our Lord. When the appropriate time arrived, Jesus said to them, “I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:4b-7) The thought of Jesus departing to return to His Heavenly Father filled the disciples with misery and mourning even after He emphasized its necessity…
Paul’s Faith Proclaims Christ is Risen
“We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors He has brought to fulfillment for us, [their] children, by raising up Jesus.” (Acts 13:32-33a) Saint Paul the Apostle preached these powerful words as he addressed his fellow Israelites and others in the Synagogue at Antioch. His speech was passionate, his faith was robust, and his surrender was inspiring. Jesus Christ is risen and his conviction in Christ’s resurrection was unshakable.
Saint Paul’s encounter with the Risen Christ on his way to Damascus formed an integral part of his conviction in Jesus’ resurrection. Prior to this conversion experience, he, Saul of Tarsus, was a fierce persecutor of anyone who was a disciple of the Lord. He traveled with the intention of hunting down as many followers of the Way as possible at Damascus and bringing them back to Jerusalem as prisoners.
However, the Risen Lord manifested Himself to Saul in a flash of light from the sky as he was arriving at Damascus and questioned his persecuting spirit. The suddenly blind Saul rose from the ground and ultimately arrived at the house of a man named Judas. For at least three days, he prayed to the Risen Lord, who revealed that Ananias the disciple would pray for him to regain his sight. When Ananias finally arrived, Paul encountered the power of God, regained his sight, was baptized, and was filled with the Spirit of the Risen Lord.
On Palm Sunday, the Catholic Church celebrates the day in which Christ, in order to generously fulfill the Will of God, solemnly entered Jerusalem where He would die for our salvation. With palms, we glorify and praise the King of Kings, who has come into this world in the form of a slave (1st reading: Flp 2, 6-11) to offer to humanity the greatest service possible: “give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28)
Indeed, we must meditate more intensely on the great mystery of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having full authority, chose to suffer everything for love of us and for our salvation. Therefore, it will be beneficial to do the following five things in the coming days:
1)On Holy Monday: consider whether or not our lives honor Jesus Christ, and ask Him for the grace to be able to live more for Him.
2)On Holy Tuesday: meditate on the times in which we, like Peter, have denied Christ, and how we need Him to give us the strength to be His true witnesses.
3)On Holy Wednesday: meditate on the times in which we, like Judas, have betrayed Jesus, and say to Him throughout the day, “Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, have pity on me.”
4)On Holy Thursday: spend at least an hour after Mass with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, who asks us, as He asked His disciples, “Could you not keep watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.”
5)And on Holy Friday: participate, with great fervor and contrition, in the Via Crucis.
These five resolutions will help us have a Holy Week. The following parable/story sums up well the significance of what we celebrate during Holy Week:
The Season of Lent
The Season of Lent is a forty-day period that occurs annually beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday. There are actually forty-six days in total between these two days. However, the six Sundays of Lent are not part of the forty-day count since Sundays are not days of fasting and acts of penance—except the required Eucharistic fast. This great season is an invitation to follow Jesus of Nazareth into the desert to pray, to do penance, and to discover, accept and accomplish the will of God. Though we are encouraged to practice prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving on a daily basis, we are ardently encouraged to do so during the Lenten season.
What to Give Up For Lent
Prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving are crucial if we desire to know, love, and follow Christ better. Ultimately, these three spiritual works are indispensable to live as children of God. Therefore, we should pray and sacrifice well, and we must contemplate cautiously the sacrifices we decide to offer during the Lenten season—they should challenge us to grow. Sometimes we may elect to surrender something that we enjoy eating or drinking for the sake of renouncing something during Lent, but this can be too effortless. Some abstain from sweet chocolate, soda, alcohol, fatty foods, or other sweets during Lent. But we must ask ourselves whether these sacrifices truly help us draw closer to Christ. This is an important question especially if we return to these things when the Lenten period is over.
These dietary sacrifices can certainly be physically helpful over time and can strengthen our bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit. However, many people quickly return to them when the Alleluias reappear and consume them without moderation. On the other hand, refraining from something because it will permit us to fulfill God’s will more thoroughly is not as easy. When we shun anger and selfishness, hatred and resentments, as well as pride and lust, we sacrifice those things that can truly distance us from God. Taking all this into consideration, we may need to ask ourselves, “During this Lenten season, is there something in particular that I need to give up for Lent? Or might there be something that I should be taking up?”
Reflecting on the Leadership of Moses and Joshua
If we desire to see improvement as Christian leaders today, we need to return to the Old Testament. Several of its books will challenge us to revisit our notions about leadership. Let’s turn to the book of Exodus, which narrates the Hebrews’ experience of enslavement in Egypt. It was amid this era that Moses was born and that he went into exile for killing an Egyptian. Sometime later, Moses encountered God in a burning bush, discovered God’s plan to save Israel, and learned God’s name. The LORD God elected him to liberate and save Israel.
When we reflect on Moses’ leadership, we naturally think about ancient Israel’s freedom. Truly, there is a deficiency in a kind of leadership today among Christian leaders that the Exodus event suggests with urgency. Today, we need to cultivate among those in the Christian ministry field and within our parishes a Mosaic leadership that is capable of freeing and liberating our brothers and sisters from their sinful circumstances and from the oppressive structures that surround them. Indeed, true leadership frees people, empowers them to grow, and facilitates their social and spiritual advancement.
When momentous incidents unfold and present us with various alternatives, we must choose wisely. This became apparent when Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem before Herod the Great. King Herod had been appointed “King of the Jews” – that is, ruler of Judea – approximately thirty-six years prior to their visit. Upon hearing the Magi’s inquiry, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage,” the Matthean Gospel tells us that all of Jerusalem, as well as this King from an Edomite family, were greatly troubled. To put it differently, Herod the King felt threatened and, therefore, desired to end the threat.
A Transformative Greeting
Greetings on this blessed day! Whether it be the initial day of the year or any other day, we overflow with joy when we are greeted with well wishes and blessings. Certainly, heartfelt salutations from new and childhood acquaintances, friends and loved ones, and from brothers and sisters in the Faith are cherished and relished greatly. In addition, certain greetings can be transformative. An encounter comes to mind that transpired a little over 2,000 years ago. The Gospel of Luke recounts the following, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’” (Luke 1:41-45)
What a blessed and divine moment! Mary’s transformative greeting anointed Elizabeth with the Spirit of Light and Joy. So potent was this encounter that Elizabeth recognized her cousin Mary as the mother of her Lord. She blessed Mary, who, in turn, could have blessed Elizabeth, saying, “Blessed are you, [Elizabeth]. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but [our] heavenly Father.” (Mt 16:17) Indeed, it was by the Holy Spirit’s grace, sent by the Father and the Son, that Elizabeth grasped in her being that Mary was the mother of her Lord and, similarly, comprehended that Mary believed that what was spoken to her by that same Lord would be fulfilled.
I can’t wait for Christmas…
It is truly one of my favorite holiday seasons. I love listening to and singing traditional Christmas carols. In addition, I enjoy spending time with my family and exchanging gifts with them. However, I do not enjoy the long lines at the department stores several weeks before December 25th. I am also not a fan of Christmas carols being played on the radio soon after the (U.S.) celebration of Thanksgiving Day. As a Catholic, I am becoming increasingly concerned that the consumerism and commercialism of the final months of the year are negatively impacting the religious significance of Christmas. Hence, I believe that it is crucial that we understand and remember Christmas’ true meaning and that we adequately prepare for it. For us Catholics, the four weeks of Advent help us not only to prepare for Christmas but also provide an overall guide to living a holy life.
“God said: ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness,’” (Gen 1:26) after which He created Adam and Eve and all of humanity. Sadly, this divine image, as we know, was defaced in man when humanity committed original sin by disobeying God at the beginning of human history. We recognize this story as the Fall of humanity. Yes, it seems that we had it all in the beginning, but lost it all because of original sin.
However, a late scholar named Jaroslav Pelikan offers a simple reminder in one of his books titled Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture. He pointed out that Augustine of Hippo “made it clear…that the doctrine of the fall must not be interpreted ‘as though man had lost everything he had of the image of God.’” Nevertheless, this divine image in man required restoration. Therefore, God desired that a new person—in place of Adam—would begin de novo, and overcome temptation, sin, and death in obedience to God. He chose His only Begotten Son, the Word, as the New Adam to become flesh to fulfill this objective. Jesus Christ experienced the sufferings of our imperfect human nature while remaining sinless throughout His earthly life. The Son of God and Son of Mary was certainly impeccable given His divine personality. But what about the woman who carried Him in her womb and gave birth to Him?