I love Mary Magdalene. I guess I have a strong devotion to her. I can so relate to her need to be with Jesus to the end. Her need to go see his tomb and her absolute fear and grief at finding it empty. And then her joy at hearing her name called. Mary. And she answers, Rabboni. It is one of my favorite Gospel stories and I cannot get enough of it. Something about Mary Magdalene and her spirit and devotion that just calls out to me. And warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Fr. James Martin, SJ, posted a reflection on Mary Magdalene on Facebook, using this gospel reading (John 20:11-18) and ended it saying that between the time she saw Jesus and told the disciples the good news, Mary Magdalene was the church. How beautiful. And very moving to me. Unfortunately, there were people who decided to take this opportunity to make the statement that women should be priests. And going on and on about it. I get so tired of that happening all the time. This was a case of a priest writing a beautiful reflection for us to meditate on and pray about. It was not the time to push our favorite cause or whatever. I refused to let it ruin my reflection, but still, maybe it did. I was annoyed. Can we just pray and reflect on the Lord, without church politics getting in the way? Without people pushing their favorite “cause”? Can’t we just praise and honor and thank our Lord? I love you, Jesus. Please forgive my whining.
Imagine a place you’ve never seen before, a place you might not have
believed was real. A place covered in a mist so thick that you cannot
see your hands or your feet, yet, it’s solid and real. Imagine a place
of great suffering, filled with the cries of longing, moaning, and
groaning, but a place of incredible joy! Imagine a place where, before
you entered, you had seen the Face of God, and now, your longing for
God causes such great pain, you fear your heart will break. Imagine a
place where the pain is so great, you know that if the skin was burned
off your body, leaving only raw nerves exposed to the air, you would
feel less pain. Imagine a place where a fire burns so coldly that the
pain caused to your body by a hot flame would be a welcome respite.
time for merit is over when we die. We know that God is a God of great
Mercy. What we often forget is that God is a God of Justice, too.
Justice must be met by each of us in our judgment. One of the gifts of
God’s Mercy, in the expiation of our sins, is Purgatory. Purgatory is a
place of final cleansing for our souls, so that one day, when we have
paid our debt to our merciful and loving God, we will meet Him face to
face, never again fearing Hell, but knowing that we are safe and in
Paradise. satan is no longer a threat to our immortal souls. We
It was long ago that God gave the Commandments and the Law
to Moses and the Children of Israel.Yet we read elsewhere in Scripture that the Law was incapable of making
us righteous.What then was the purpose
of this gift?The Law was intended to prevent
people from doing evil, to turn their hearts towards ways of righteousness so
that when Jesus came, in the fullness of time, to bring His teaching which went
far beyond the Law, there would be a foundation for Him to build on.The Commandments might be seen as our Basic
Training for living a life acceptable to God.God gave us Commandments.Jesus
willed that we should not simply be obeying laws but that we should be obeying
because we wanted to grow close to God, to grow in righteousness, in faith, in
compassion, in devotion.
Yet we find it so hard to follow the teaching of Jesus.We find it so hard to allow God to make us
truly righteous.In part this may be
because we have not yet grown to the stage where we keep the Commandments.And if we have not completed our Basic
Training, how can we expect to grasp the words that come to us from heaven?
When God gave His people the Commandments, He began by
stating Who He was.If someone gives us
instructions we might well ask, ‘Why should I listen?’So God tells us.‘I Am the Lord your God, Who brought you out
from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.’We might be able to amplify that
greeting.He says to us, ‘I Am the Lord
your God, Who left the glory of heaven and came to dwell with you, to share
your lives.I Am the Lord your God, Who
suffered and died on the Cross for you to pay the price of human sin.I Am the Lord, Who by rising from the dead
destroyed the ancient enemy that is death so that all people may have life.’ As a preface to His commandments God reminds
us of what He has done for us.That is
the reason why we should listen to Him and take heed.That is why we can confidently look forward
to the things He desires to do for us in the future.
But perhaps as individuals and certainly as a society we
fail to keep even these basic commandments.Let’s think about them.
You shall not utter the Name of the Lord your God to misuse
it.Well, even in schools we find young
children routinely using ‘Oh my God!’ as an expression of surprise.Is this treating the name, the idea of God
as something holy, something to be treasured and loved?And they do it, of course, because they have
learned to do so from us.
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.How often we hear things like:‘I won’t be at Mass next week because my son
has a football match’ or ‘…my daughter has a competition’ or ‘I have
visitors.’These things are fine to do
on Sundays if we make sure we go to Mass as well – and let’s face it there is a
good choice of Masses from Saturday evening to Sunday morning to Sunday
evening, if we choose to put ourselves out a little.How many people neglect the obligation to
take part in Sunday Mass and, forgetting it is grave sin, simply come to
communion the following week as if nothing untoward had happened.In such a case we need to make a Sacramental
confession with a firm intention of amendment before coming to receive
And in this grave sin we are also in effect worshiping false
Gods.We are saying that the football,
the competition, the visitors are more important than the Mass, the Sacraments,
We’re not doing very well so far.Let’s see if things get better!
Honour your father and your mother.As our society moves ever closer towards
legislating for euthanasia and assistant suicide can we say we are doing
this?The older generation far from
being honoured are to be shunted away out of side and then quietly removed so
that we no longer need to care for them?
This brings us to the commandment not to kill.Well, where is our respect for life as the
first, greatest and eternal gift of God?It has become a commodity as we routinely kill thousands of unwanted
babies, as we seek to manipulate the genetic inheritance in an effort to get
the child we want.We are left with no
sense of reverence for this most wonderfulof mysteries.
You shall not steal.Perhaps we don’t as such.But
how easy it is to be tempted to make a slight adjustment in expenses
claims.‘I know I didn’t actually spend
money on such-and-such, but I could have done so I’m entitled to it.It’s not really stealing.’Isn’t it?And how honest are we if someone gives us change for a twenty instead of
a tenner.I comment on it quickly
enough if it’s the other way round of course!
You shall not bear false witness against your
neighbour.Again, how easy it is, isn’t
it, to find ourselves drawn into gossip and the making of disparaging remarks
about others.Oh, not out of real
malice perhaps but just to feel part of the group – never thinking of what harm
we might be doing, never thinking of whether we’re speaking the truth or
not.And more widely in talk how far do
we go to insist on the truth?‘Oh,
well, I tell a few white lies on occasion, but that’s OK.’Again, is it?Did Jesus not say ‘I Am the Truth.’‘But I tell white lies because sometimes the
truth might be hurtful.I think it was
Thumper the rabbit in the film of ‘Bambi’ who said ‘If you can’t say anything
nice, don’t say nothing at all!’
So here we are getting lessons in morality from a cartoon
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. His wife, or
anything that is his.Is the whole
advertising business not built around this temptation to covet?If someone has this thing then you should
have it too.‘It’s all about you.’‘Because you’re worth it.’Slogans like this are commonplace.And we learn it very early on in life.Every parent will know the moment when their
child wants such-and-such an item and the parent, mum or dad, says it’s too
expensive or it’s not needed or whatever the answer might be.The child then says ‘but everyone else has
one.’Our covetousness is not far
beneath the surface.
In the light of all this sinfulness never affecting our
decision, when at Mass, to come forward to receive Communion, often in a state
of grave sin, is it surprising that voices are heard even within the Church
saying that those in adulterous relationships should receive communion at Mass?
No, we need the Sacraments, we need the Commandments.They are signs to us of God’s immense love
for us and of His helping hand reaching down from Heaven to save us.But we must receive them on God’s terms not
on ours.He is Lord and Master, we are
merely unworthy servants.We need to
take seriously the Commandments, to think about our obedience (or lack of
it).It’s not about being scrupulous
but about being honest.If we truly
desire to know the joy that our faith can bring us we need to be trying with
our whole being to live lives that are faith-full.If we complete this Basic Training there are
no further limits as we journey on into the wonder of God’s love.If we neglect the Basic Training we are
merely entering an imaginary world of self-deception, a Fool’s Paradise.
This is the time when people try to give up something for Lent - which
is good. But let's remember first of all that there is nothing we can do
which would repay the great sacrifice Christ made for us on the Cross.
Not a million prayers, a million candles, or a million flowers ... God
does not need any of these "gifts" or sacrifices as repayment for His
love for us. He is in no way diminished, lacking in any way, if we stop
doing these things.
But we do them all the same. We do them as a sign of reverence, love, and respect. And I repeat - this is good.
Here's a short list of things we could do during Lent.
1 Give up something (chocolates) and give the proceeds to charity.
2 Do someone a good turn or a kindness.
Pray for someone without them knowing it. Just anyone, not only your
loved ones. If you see an old person struggling as they shuffle along in
the street, or you hear of someone with a problem or difficulty; just
pray for them without their knowledge. Prayer is the greatest gift we
can give and receive.
4 Give up TV (or music or other entertainment) for ten minutes (or more) and spend the time reading the Bible.
Finally a DON'T. Many people decide to give up their Christian Blog or
website during Lent. I urge you not to. Whatever we write to spread the
Good News on our Blogs is often the only opportunity for someone to read
about God. Don't stop God's message during Lent or ever.
I see the tree cradling Your Body as You are delivered from its wood.
Oh, Blessed Tree to be blessed to hold Our Savior's body! Shreds of
flesh and blood absorbed in its fibers; deep, thunderous stains of
heaven in the wood. Iron nails, hardened and tempered in the fire, by
the metal smith who pounded them, not knowing the nails would be
blessed to hold You prisoner on the Cross. Blood stained, the nails are
cast off to the side. The crown, the crown You wore on the cross, the
crown saturated with the storm of blood, hair, and flesh ripped from
Your skull lays next to the nails. King of the Jews! King of All!
Your Mother holds Your body and weeps in silence. Her tears clean your
face. The storm is silent and past. Your Mother gently wipes Your
Sacred Contenance with her veil. She carries Your Blood in her heart
and on her hands. Angels surround You both. They worship and adore
their Lord. They give strength to Your Mother, the first Tabernacle of
Your Body. Her faith is tested as she holds You, her divine Son, in
her arms. Cold flesh. Blue flesh. No breath in Your Body. Eyes that no
longer see. Hands that no longer heal. Feet that no longer walk. Lips
that no long sing the blessings of the Father. A heart that is still
and a heart that is shattered. The sorrow cannot be contained. The
world weeps with Your Mother.