Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Luke for Lent: 1:26-30

Word of God:

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

Word of Man:

There is no small controversy, along doctrinal lines, regarding the angel's greeting. "Full of grace" or "highly favored." Does it matter?

If Mary is "highly favored" how did she obtain this favor? By her own works? Surely not! Rather, by grace.

Is she merely special, or blessed, blessed among women, blessed among all mankind? How could someone else be more blessed than she who bore our savior?

So why was she highly favored? Because God filled her with grace from the moment of her conception so she could be a pure vessel for her savior, who has saved her from the very stain of sin.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Math and Lent

Every year people wonder how the 40 days of Lent are calculated. Here's a quality explanation from Fr. Z:

However, as far as Lent is concerned, in the ancient Church Lent began with what is now the 1st Sunday of Lent, that is, six Sundays out from Easter, and it ended on Holy Thursday, with the Triduum. That brings us to 40 days.

Because all Sundays, including those during Lent, are considered to be echoes of Easter, when we don’t do penance, Lenten Sundays were excluded from the count. That takes us down to 34 fast days. Ash Wednesday with Thursday, Friday and Saturday were added. As a result, between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday we have 44 days. However, subtract the intervening Sundays, and add back Good Friday and Holy Saturday and you wind up with 40 penitential days again.

Read the rest there.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Luke for Lent: 1:21-25

Word of God:

And the people were waiting for Zachary; and they wondered that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they understood that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he made signs to them, and remained dumb. And it came to pass, after the days of his office were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days, Elizabeth his wife conceived, and hid herself five months, saying: Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he hath had regard to take away my reproach among men.

Word of Man:

Zachary's doubt became a sign of faith for others. The fact that he could not speak told others that he had a vision.

Elizabeth hid herself for five months. She was hidden until the annunciation to Mary and the mother of her Lord came to visit. Elizabeth patiently awaited, not out of shame, for this ended the shame of barrenness, but rather to await divine guidance.

Do we, like Elizabeth, take periods of waiting to turn to the Lord? Do we retreat for prayer, or are we always attached to the world through the internet, tv, and all our devices?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Luke for Lent: 1: 11-20

Word of God:

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John: And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.
And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. And the angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.

Word of Man:

The Lord's messenger appears to Zachary as he's performing his priestly duties. His story has many parallels, most notably, perhaps, Abram and Sarai.

The encounter with the angel parallels Mary's. The differences are subtle so that I have always had difficulty seeing the difference between his and Mary's reactions. But the angel saw that Zachary doubted while Mary believed. Perhaps his facial expression betrayed his doubt. Perhaps the angel was permitted to see each's inner thoughts. Either way, God's will was worked through them both.

John shall "convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God." In the early days, the Lord was God of the Israelites, and not of the heathen gentiles. Though, truly, we know from the stories of Adam and Noah that he is the God of all mankind.

God reclaimed first the Jews and later the gentiles. Yet many of his own people continually turned from him. Likewise, we who are gentiles, adopted sons and daughters of God, have turned from him.

Lent is a time for new beginnings. Some wrongly see customs like lent as nothing more than pagan worship of the seasons and fertility cults in a cassock. Rather, those cults are a mockery of God, who made the seasons, who made winter, spring, summer, and fall; who gave us these times of the year so that we may come to know him and glorify him.

So after a spiritual winter, we arrive at lent, a new spring where we recommit our lives to Christ, were we let the wisdom of John the Baptist convert us back to the Lord our God.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Luke for Lent: 1:5-10

The Word of God:

"There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth. And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame. And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years. And it came to pass, when he executed the priestly function in the order of his course before God, According to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer incense, going into the temple of the Lord. And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense."

The Word of Man:

 Romans 3:23 tells us, "For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God." Other translations say "fallen short of the glory of God." Either way, we are not where we should be with God, and we need his grace and glory.

That verse is often used to attack the Immaculate Conception of Mary on account of the absolute.

Are absolutes always absolute? Yes and no.

They are absolutes rhetorically.

  • "Everybody is doing it." "You're not."
  • "Was the park crowded?" "Oh yes, everybody and their dog was there." (So said to a member of the everybody who was not there.)
  • "There is not any man just." (Romans 3:10)
In common speech and in the Bible, absolutes are used rhetorically without necessarily implying a logical statement about reality. In other words, there can be exception or qualifications.

Case in point: Romans 3:10 says "There is not any man just" but Luke 1:6 says, "They were both just before God." How can they be just if no one is just? By the grace of God. We are not just by our (fallen) nature, but we are made just by grace through faith. As Bishop Challoner writes:

"There is not any man just": viz. By virtue either of the law of nature, or of the law of Moses; but only by faith and grace.

God gives some of us grace from the moment of our conception, others grace at other points of our life. The desire to turn to God and please him is itself a grace, for "there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11). Turn to God in prayer on this day at this very moment and plead for him to shower you with the grace to be pleasing in his sight. Let Christ into your heart so he can make your heart like his own Sacred Heart.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Luke for Lent: 1:1-4

Word of God (Douay-Rheims-Challoner):

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us; According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word: It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mayest know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed. 

Word of Man:

Luke sets out with a purpose. He writes to "Theophilus" which is sometimes said to be a real person, other times said to be symbolic of all people. This is the first of his two books. His gospel tells of the life of Christ; whereas the sequel tells Christ's ascension and the beginnings of the church.

Regardless of who Theolphilus is, the book is written to everyone. Luke was not the first gospel writer, for he was inspired by others to research the life of Christ and write a gospel. Unlike Matthew and John, he was not an eyewitness. According to some traditions, he was the friend and scribe of Paul, who was not an eyewitness to the events.

So whence comes Luke's authority? If Luke was the companion of Paul, he bears Paul's authority, which is self-evident in his acceptance by the community. It also comes from his research. The Blessed Virgin was entrusted to John by Christ on the cross, but it is Luke who gives us the details of lives of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, as well as Zachary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist. It is reasonable to assume that Luke was also close to our Lord's family and, in a sense, he became the family's biographer.