A lot is covered in this homily, but it all has to do with Jesus and Mary and you.
I’m on the traditional calendar with an older “Divine Office.” But today, Pope Francis and every synod bishop in Rome should have read Malachi chapter one in their new Divine Office. It’s the Scripture readings that every priest has promised to pray on the day of his ordination. In Malachi 1, God Himself tells what He thinks about the priesthood, the worthiness of a sacrifice, divorce, and false-mercy becoming a mockery of God. If everyone at the synod has their mind made up (for better or for worse) then perhaps this is a last offer of unity…or even a last offer of mercy for those who would tamper with Scripture, timed impeccably by God, as always:
The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi: And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? ’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you? ’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations…And this second thing you do: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
—Malachi 1:1-14, 2:13-16
God said “My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised,” and “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence.” Combine these two and you have a clear injunction against sacrileging the altar of sacrifice with divorce-and-remarriage. And yet Pope Francis’ men are promoting open communion with the sole restriction being a false understanding of conscience. 1
But I mention Malachi 1 because I imagine God is still merciful to Pope Francis and the synod Fathers “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” But if they don’t listen, what would justice look like? Of course, God only wills the good of His children, but if we, His beloved children reject His hand, we also reject His protection. Justice entails losing God’s protection. Primarily, this would mean the loss of souls to Satan, especially if the Pope’s moral theology statements remain purposefully vague.
But there is something at the physical level, too. I am reminded that the number one goal of ISIS is not the destruction of the USA but the physical destruction of Rome. This is not some ultra-conservative doomsday prophesy. In fact, the best article I read on ISIS comes from the left-leaning Atlantic Magazine. Graeme Wood’s What Isis Really Wants has over half-million FB likes. Do a quick search for the word “Rome” in this article, and you will see that Rome appears 10 times. ISIS wants to destroy Rome. We need God’s protection. Now is no time to mock His doctrine or discipline on marriage. 2
No Pope or bishop can ever change God’s Word. Their job is to aid in the interpretation of Scripture in concert with Sacred Tradition. So when bishops conceal heresy with mercy, or give the theological wink-and-nod to kill consciences, Divine Justice is being tested. How are these men more merciful than Jesus who died for sinners like me? They’re not. They have overlooked the fact that there is no mercy without repentance. In a Vatican-approved apparition called Our Lady of La Salette, Mary said in 1846 to the French children: “Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.” Pope Pius IX approved and promoted this apparition.
I’m not saying we’re there yet. But I do know that Mary’s call to the faithful transcends this silly synod…just as timeless and infallible Catholic teaching transcends this synod, too. There will always be good bishops and bad bishops. We worship neither. That’s why it’s still awesome to be Catholic, regardless of certain bishops trying in vain to change Church teaching. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth reading any more news on the synod. Why get flustered? God will protect us from evil or from this evil He will bring good (and open schism would indeed be better than the current silent-smiley-schism.) Either way, Our Lady of La Salette showed us the way to Her Son:
Finally, I call on the Apostles of the Last Days, the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who have lived in scorn for the world and for themselves, in poverty and in humility, in scorn and in silence, in prayer and in mortification, in chastity and in union with God, in suffering and unknown to the world. It is time they came out and filled the world with light. Go and reveal yourselves to be my cherished children. I am at your side and within you, provided that your faith is the light which shines upon you in these unhappy days. May your zeal make you famished for the glory and the honor of Jesus Christ. Fight, children of the light, you, the few who can see.
The Archbishop of Chicago is theologically correct in his statement that conscience is “inviolable.” But if conscience itself can self-absolve from the grave sins he discussed in that link, then there is no longer a need for a Magisterium nor the sacrament of confession. Archbishop Cupich is not a party-crasher. He said: “I came here at the request of the Holy Father. In fact, I was not elected. I was appointed by the Pope to come here.” Although open communion will probably not be promoted explicitly next year by Pope Francis, the notion of “inviolable conscience” seems well on its way to replace (at least at the level of discipline if not doctrine) both the Scriptures and the Magisterium. It’s important to note that a post-synod statement is not to be considered ex-cathedra infallible nor considered to be articulated faith and morals of the ordinary Magisterium. Thus, although Pope Francis’ continued errors would not overturn the indefectibility promised by Christ to Peter in Matthew 16 regarding the Catholic Church, this would lead to an unprecedented loss of souls. We must pray for nothing short of conversion or intervention. Error has indeed been spoken. In May of 2013, Pope Francis preached at the Domus Santae Martae. While speaking of atheists at Mass, Pope Francis said: “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” By “there,” Pope Francis meant heaven. Hebrews 11:6 is very clear on belief and salvation. ↩
A faithful bishop from Poland attending the synod said: “Practically all are repeating that there will be no doctrinal change, but this is understood in different ways. For if you add to this first group that disciplinary changes are possible, this means, in practice, that doctrinal stability is being nullified. In my opinion one cannot speak of the separation of the practice of the Church from her doctrine, from her teachings. The two are inseparable. I have the impression that many supporters of this modernity, are in fact thinking about changing doctrine, yet calling it a change in Church discipline. It is a disturbing point in these discussions, for it is strongly emphasized: “we accept the entire doctrine”, but there immediately follows a suggestion that doctrine has nothing to do with it. This is greatly worrying me, for one and the other are saying that they want no change in doctrine. From where then, are arising these practices opposed to doctrine?”—Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, translation from Toronto Catholic Witness. ↩
Today is the 444th year after the battle of Lepanto, the most important naval battle in history. Without it, Muslim Turks would have taken over Italy in 1571. Because of the Mother of God’s role in this naval battle, Pope St. Pius V asked that every first Sunday in October be thenceforth remembered and honored as the Feast of the Holy Rosary. The full story of the naval battle is at Catholic Answers, but this homily ties in the current battle in the Church, and the victory that will come through the Rosary:
I petition the intercession of the following two saints as I consecrate this blog to St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Holy Mother of God, aka the Holy Theotokos, the Immaculata, Mary Most Holy…”Mamma Mary!” as all the Philippina women at my parish lovingly call our mother. I also dedicate it to all the guardian angels of the entire world, and especially the angels of any people the Eternal Father has destined to read my mediocre but true blog.
May I suggest St. Maximilian Kolbe’s consecration prayer to the Mother of God? I believe St. John Paul II prayed this every day:
O Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, [name] cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most please you. If it please you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: She will crush your head and You alone have destroyed all the heresies of the whole world. Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The above picture is taken from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is clear in this movie, and in most private revelations, that Mary (the Mother of Jesus) knew Mary Magdalene long before the crucifixion.
Granted, Scripturally I know of no other time when Mary and Mary are found in the same place, except John 19:25 (the three Mary’s at the crucifixion.) So my theory can’t be proved from Scripture. However, using common sense, we can be very sure that Mary and Mary didn’t simply introduce oneself to each the other at the foot of the cross. It can be assumed that this would be an inappropriate time for introductions; Mary and Mary had to have known each other long before the crucifixion.
Even though she has very few words, let’s look at who Mary (the Mother of God) knew in the New Testament. Of course, she is at the four most important events of salvation history, which gives us an idea of who knew her:
1) The Incarnation of God as a zygote (Luke 1:38)
2) The Death of Jesus (John 19)
3) The Resurrection (Sacred Tradition)
4) Pentecost (Acts 1 and 2)
But then, on a smaller scale, it’s surprising who Mary knew. Mary seemed to have a quiet presence in the life of everybody:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples.—John 2:1
Mary seems to be the star of the invitation, where Jesus’ band of 12 fishermen were “also invited.” Of course, Jesus never committed any sin of gluttony, but maybe Jesus’ disciples ate too much at weddings or something, because John makes it pretty clear they were an afterthought!
The Apostles all knew Mary. Foremost was John the beloved, who was to live with the Blessed Virgin Mary after Christ’s Death (John 19:27) and assumedly after the Ascension. (Their home was uncovered in Turkey in 1891, using the private revelations of Bl. Emmerich—the same visions that guided the making of the movie, the Passion of the Christ.)
John’s brother James, whose feast day we celebrate today, was not left orphaned by Mary. As you know, Jesus sent James to evangelize Spain. However, at one point James was ready to give up after only gaining 8 disciples. Mary bi-located to him when he was praying at modern day Zaragoza, and (during the first approved Marian apparition) Mary told James not to give up, for the faith of that people would be as strong as the pillar that she was standing on.
There is a 17th century Spanish nun named Mary of Agreda who was given a private revelation of the entire life of Mary (the Mother of God.) It is put into several thousand pages of a book that you can buy, the Mystical City of God (not to be confused with the work of St. Augustine by almost the same name.) In the Mystical City of God, it is revealed to the nun of Agreda that Saul was always slated in God’s Providence to become the great Apostle of Jesus Christ to the nations.
However…this event was to happen much later that when it was originally “scheduled” by God, so to speak. What changed the course of history was the prayers of the mother of Jesus. After Pentecost, Mary saw in prophesy that Saul would become the chosen vessel, but she saw this was coming much later than when the Church needed such a weapon of love. Mary begged God the Father to speed up this conversion, and God the Father answered; Saul became Paul much earlier than he was slated to.
What does any of this have to do with Mary Magdalene?
A few days ago, as I was offering the Mass on the Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the above scene from the movie hit me: Mary holds Mary during the torture of Jesus. I realized at that moment that all the great saints of the New Testament were really close to the Mother of God. Even if you don’t believe in the private revelations that filled the movie of Mel Gibson or the Mystical City of God, common sense applied to Scripture reveals that the mother of Jesus intimately knew all the slobs and dignitaries of the New Testament.
Here’s how I want to tie all of this together:
After doing Total Consecration to Mary for the first time several years ago, I had actually come to believe the words of St. Louis De Montfort, namely, that there were a few certain saints (like St. Bernard or St. Bonaventure) who chose Mary as the quickest and surest way to Jesus Christ. For a long time, I had taken this to be a development of doctrine of the middle-ages—a wonderful and valid one, to be sure—but a development of doctrine nonetheless.
But at the Mass a few days ago in honor of St. Mary Magdalene, as I thought of the above scene of Mary and Mary, I had this realization that Jesus’ mother is the dispersal vector of zeal for her Son for not only for the great saints of the middle-ages—but for all the tycoons of the New Testament. This would surely include the conversion of St. Mary Magdalene.
In light of all the great people and the events of the first century Church, we have to come to the conclusion that the Holy Theotokos—she who carries God as the God-Bearer—is the one who gently brings all the top dogs of the New Testament to her Christ Jesus. Even with Mary Magdalene, I imagine the mother of Jesus was the quickest and strongest way to her son. So it will always be, for you and for me, too.
Should God have ended the world when Adam and Eve sinned?
As I tell high-school kids, as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned…There were only three options that God had for a planet spiraling towards total sin:
1) Blow up earth to end both sin and free-will…or…
2) Turn people into robots that would automatically obey, so as to terminate free-will but keep the planet…or…
3) Send a rescuer who could transform the human state of suffering into redemptive suffering.
If you can think of a fourth option, let me know. In the mean time, notice that only the third option allows for free-will.
Because option #3 allows for free-will to continue among both the good and evil people on this blue planet, it is the only option that allows for either love or harming people until the end of time.
For example, if a woman is choosing to offer up her suffering for her children after her husband was killed by a drunk driver, she can only choose to unite her redemptive suffering to Christ’s infinite merits of the cross precisely because she lives in a world where someone else can choose to drive drunk. This is why widows must live side-by-side with drunk drivers until the final judgment.
We each have the option to continue the cycle of suffering and sin, or… we can choose to escape from that horrible cycle. Baptism ends sin (original sin, at least, and actual sin in the lives of some saints) but suffering continues for them. However, their suffering then ceases to have a certain mental pain, as God said to St. Catherine of Siena. When you carry the cross God has allowed in your life, your suffering can become redemptive because it more easily fits with the merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With Christ, we escape the red patten to the left in favor of the orange trajectory, a different trajectory of suffering:
This is only possible by the cross. I put the cross in blue for two reasons. The vertical blue bar shows that Mary gave God the one thing He didn’t have: The ability to die. This symbolizes Christ’s incarnation and His approach to us. Secondly, our incorporation into the mystical body of Christ happens in the waters of baptism (the horizontal blue line.) As St. Peter writes, “It is baptism that now saves you.”—1 Pt 3:21. Suffering has little value in itself until it be incorporated into the suffering mystical body of Christ. This happens at baptism, because it is at that moment that we receive all of the merits of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ as a free gift of redemption. The best description of death to oneself, baptism, and this new life can be found in Romans 6:3-11.
Death is the cycle to the left. The requirement for new life is: a new life. The gift of the cross is free (gratis) to us at the high price Jesus paid for us in his 17 hours of torture…nay, His whole life lived for us. But, for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. The cross doesn’t offer an escape from suffering but it does offer an escape from sin, and that part is up to our cooperation with grace in living in our free will as we become transformed, divinized sons and daughters of God.
We are then given the chance on this earth to let our sufferings be united to those of Jesus (through Mary) so as to become participators in redemptive suffering. Again, in itself, suffering has no value. But joined to the cross, it helps redeem the world. It helps pull more people out of the cycle on the left to the orange bar on the right. This is all that the old-school (and now new-school) nuns meant when they said “Offer it up.” It all comes from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”—Col 1:24.
What is lacking or wanting in the suffering of Jesus? Nothing except my participation. It was 100%, but that 100% continues in His mystical body. As long as sin continues on the earth, so also must the suffering of Christians. It is a gift, not a burden, and it is joined to Christ’s sufferings at the nearest Mass. That is why both the suffering of the Mystical Body and the Mass continue until the end of time.
At the final judgment, the left cycle will continue in hell. However, the right trajectory will become heaven.
Here on earth, both cycles have to suffer. So, if you have your choice between the devil’s eternal cross and Jesus’ temporary cross, why not avoid sin and choose the pattern to the right?
By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.
The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee. These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ. Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life. After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.) I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.
Now, it’s a Muslim country. But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire? The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey. Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.) Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism. Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey. Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.
Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.
What happened? This great loss is usually blamed on Islam. It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.) It was completed in the 15th century.
But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.
We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5
This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord. The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish. It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.
How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder? Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country. This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century. She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.
The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere. In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus. (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.) Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers. In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.
Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam. This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true: Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name. What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.
I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason: We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.) Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.
But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him. Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.) We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.
Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway? One example is this: When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:
His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55
In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this: “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice. But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”
Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:
1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?
2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers. He chose fighters to turn them into lovers. Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote. Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote. Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give. He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.
Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions. Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit. But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary. The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making sacriligious communions. Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.
Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima. But how many souls will be lost before then? I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring. Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy. Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.
The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.
Raise such men in your families.