Category Archives: Saints

The street dog who guards a storm drain

This is a truly amazing story about a very remarkable street dog in Istanbul, Turkey.

Benny, the dog, is a saint whose selflessness and compassion put we humans to shame.

~E

Sunday Devotional: The Holy Trinity

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Today, the universal Church celebrates the Holy Trinity — the mystery of Three Persons in One God.

That there is but one God of three Persons — the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit — is not only found in the above passage from Matthew 28, but also in other places in Holy Scripture:

Genesis 1:26

And God said,
Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness

John 5:7

For there are three
that bear record in Heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost;
and these three are one.

Matthew 3:1, 13, 16-17

And Jesus, when he was baptized,
went up straightway out of the water:
and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove,
and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying,
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Our greatest theologians had sought in vain to plumb the mystery of the Triune Godhead — of three Persons in one God.

Some used analogies — that the Trinity is akin to the trifoliate or three-leaf  clover. But like all analogies, the clover analogy in the end doesn’t really explain or help us understand how exactly three Persons make up one God.

St. Thomas Aquinas concluded in Summa Theologica:

We cannot come to the knowledge of the Trinity by reason alone, that is, by the natural and unaided efforts of the human mind. By our natural reason, we can know that God exists; that he is the First Cause of all; that he is one, infinite, simple, immutable, etc. But that the one God subsists in three really distinct Persons is a truth that can be known only by supernatural means. That is a truth beyond the reach of human reason to know, to prove, or to disprove. We know this truth by divine revelation, and accept it by supernatural faith; we take it upon the authority of God himself.… By aid of the light of glory the soul in heaven sees God himself clearly and truly.

And so we accept our human limitation and believe, putting our trust in the words of St. Paul that we shall understand fully when we see God face to face:

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall understand fully,
even as I have been fully understood.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

Pentecost: The Coming of the Holy Spirit

John 14:19, 18, 16-17

“the world will not see me anymore…
I will not leave you as orphans;
I will come to you.
And I will ask the Father,
and He will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever….”

Last Sunday, the universal Church remembered and celebrated our Lord Jesus Christ’s departure from Earth — the Ascension.

Having created us, He knows full well how bereft His followers would be by His leaving:

“grief has filled your hearts” (John 16:6)

Loving us deeply, Jesus promised to His Apostles and us, “I will not leave you as orphans” and that the Father would send “another advocate” to help and be with us forever and “always until the end of time” itself (Matthew 28:20).

What a comforting thought!

Today, we celebrate the miracle of the Pentecost — the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, infusing them with the gift of tongue and with boldness and fearlessness to proclaim the “gospel” — the good tidings or news — of Jesus the Christ.

Acts 2:1-4

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Given the Holy Spirit’s importance, it is distressing how little we actually know about the Third Person of the Triune Godhead.

The Holy Spirit is mentioned in these places in the Bible:

  1. Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….”
  2. Acts 2:1-4: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
  3. Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
  4. 1 Chronicles 12:18: “Then the Spirit came on Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: ‘We are yours, David! We are with you, son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you.’ So David received them and made them leaders of his raiding bands.
  5. 1 Corinthians 2:13: “And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.”
  6. 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
  7. 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
  8. Ephesians 1:13-14: “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.”
  9. Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.
  10. Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
  11. Isaiah 11:2: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD
  12. John 3:6-8: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
  13. John 14:16-17: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.
  14. John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
  15. John 15:26-27: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.'”
  16. John 16:7-15: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
  17. Judges 3:10: “The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.
  18. Luke 11:13: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
  19. Luke 24:49: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
  20. Matthew 12:31-32: “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
  21. Micah 3:8: “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.
  22. Romans 8:2-6: “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
  23. Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
  24. Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

From the above passages, these are the attributes of the Holy Spirit:

  • He is a gift from God the Father, through the Son.
  • He is the first installment in our inheritance toward redemption, which implies there will be more gifts following the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • He is in-dwelling: He dwells in us and abides in us forever.
  • He enabled the Apostles to speak foreign languages.
  • He enables us to observe God’s commandments.
  • He teaches us “all things”, especially “everything” Jesus told us.
  • He glorifies Jesus.
  • He tells us “the things that are coming“.
  • He gives us “power from on high” — not power to do what we will, but power to do justice and to denounce transgressions and sins.
  • He helps us when we are weak, and intercedes for us.
  • He is “the spirit of truth” who guides us to all truth, but whom the world neither knows nor accepts. That implies that when we follow the Holy Spirit and proclaim the truth, the world will also reject us.
  • He fills us with hope.
  • How do we know when something is of the Holy Spirit? — by His fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

In the terrible times we now find ourselves, we need the Holy Spirit’s truth, guidance and peace more than ever. Here is A Prayer to the Holy Spirit, by St. Augustine:

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.

And may the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~E

Sunday Devotional: Love One Another

John 13:31-33a, 34-35

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him,
God will also glorify him in himself,
and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

Of all of Jesus’ apostles who had witnessed so many miracles, including the raising of three individuals (Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow at Nain) from the dead, St. John was the only one who stayed with their Lord and God during His persecution and sacrificial death on the cross.

In one of St. John’s most moving passages, he recounted what may be Jesus’ most important instruction to us:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

This August will be the third year since I lost my husband. Not a day goes by without my missing him.

This is the biggest lesson I learnt from losing him: I regret our quarrels, my sometime impatience with him, and my failure to tell him with more frequency that I love him. I would give anything to have him, with all his imperfections and foibles, back for even a day. For no matter what accomplishments — professional, financial and personal — we may achieve in this life, in the last analysis and in the end, all that really matters is love.

So cherish your husband or wife, your friend or anyone whom you love.

Cherish every moment you have with them because the day will come when they are gone.

Revelation 21:1-5a

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,
for the old order has passed away.”

May the peace and love of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: We must obey God rather than men

John 21:1, 4-9, 12-14

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again
to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias….
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread….
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40b-41

When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders, did we not,
to stop teaching in that name?
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply,
We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles
to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

In my post of January 23, 2022, “Sunday Devotional: Faith, Evidence and Logic,” I made the case for Christian belief not based exclusively on faith, but also on empirical evidence and logical reasoning.

The empirical evidence for Christianity includes the testimonies of percipient witnesses. A “percipient witness” is defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.” Those testimonies are critical to the determination of truth in law.

In Jesus’ time when there were no technological devices to record empirical phenomena and events, percipient witnesses were particularly important in providing testimonials about truths.

The Apostles and disciples who were percipient witnesses of Jesus the Christ –some of whom were fed a breakfast of fish cooked by the resurrected Jesus, as recounted in the above passage from John 21 — were willing to die for they had seen and heard because, as recounted in the above passage from Acts 5, “We must obey God rather than men.”

This is how the Apostles were martyred, testifying to the truth they’d witnessed until their last breath:

  • St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, was stoned to death in Jerusalem, c. AD 34.
  • St. James, son of Zebedee and brother of St. John the Apostle, was the first Apostle to be martyred. King Herod had St. James beheaded in 44 AD.
  • St. James, son of Alpheus, was reported by the Jewish historian Josephus to have been stoned and then clubbed to death in 62 AD.
  • St. Jude Thaddaeus was crucified in Syria, c. 65 AD.
  • St. Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia and was sawn in half, c. 65 AD after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
  • St. Peter and St. Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. St. Paul was beheaded. St. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, because he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
  • St. Mark, a rope around his neck, was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt, in AD 68.
  • St. Thomas was pierced to death in India, 72 AD, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder.
  • St. Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas, was burned to death in Syria, c. 80 AD.
  • St. Bartholomew (identified as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John) is believed to have been skinned alive and crucified. He ministered in India with St. Thomas, in Armenia, Ethiopia and Southern Arabia.
  • St. Philip was crucified in Hierapolis, Asia Minor, 80 AD, for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. He also ministered in North Africa.
  • St. Andrew was crucified in Patras, Greece. He also preached in Asia Minor and modern-day Turkey. Christians in the former Soviet Union say he was the first to bring the Gospel to their land.
  • St. Matthew was beheaded in Ethiopia. He had also ministered in Persia.
  • St. John was the only Apostle who died a natural death from old age, after surviving an ordeal of being thrown into boiling oil. He was the leader of the church in Ephesus and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. In mid-90s AD, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation.

Ask yourself this:

Why would the Apostles and countless Christians who followed, willingly be tortured and killed for a lie?

And would you, in our troubled time, be prepared at whatever costs to “obey God rather than men”?

May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you, and remember to tell Him that you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with every ounce of your strength.

~E

Sunday Devotional: Although we have not seen Him we love Him

John 20:24-29

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him,
“We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas,
“Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him,
“My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him,
“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

In truth, there really is nothing so terribly wrong that the apostle Thomas professed his skepticism about the resurrection, insisting that he could not believe unless and until he himself saw the resurrected Christ. After all, God made us bodily and sensory creatures who rely on our (five) senses to navigate in this world and to determine truth and falsity.

But when Thomas did see Jesus, who had died on the cross but now came into the room through solid walls, Thomas instantly understood the import of the empirical and miraculous confirmation he had sought. Falling down before the resurrected Christ, Thomas proclaimed: “My Lord and my God!”

And yet, there are those who, despite seeing and witnessing miraculous phenomena that science cannot explain, still refuse to believe.

Among them were the Israelites who, led by Moses, witnessed and experienced the following miracles:

  1. The ten plagues of Egypt:
    • Water turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-25).
    • A plague of frogs (Exodus 8:2-14).
    • A plague of lice (Exodus 8:17-18).
    • A plague of flies (God sent “grievous” swarms of flies upon all the people and houses of Egypt, covering even the ground, except in the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwelled fly-free. –Exodus 8:20-24).
    • Murrain, an infectious disease, killed all of Egypt’s cattle (Exodus 9:3-6).
    • A plague of boils with blisters (Exodus 9:8-12).
    • Thunderstorm of hail (Exodus 9:13–35).
    • A plague of locusts covering all of Egypt, so that the land was darkened with them (Exodus 10:12-15).
    • A plague of of darkness “which may be felt” so that “they saw not one another” covering all of Egypt, but not the land of Goshen (Exodus 10:21).
    • Death of all first-born in a single night, which spared Israelite first-borns (Exodus 11:1-8; 12:29-30).
  2. The burning bush that was not consumed (Exodus 3:3).
  3. The cloud resting on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 13:21-22; 33:9-10; 40:36).
  4. God appeared in the cloud (Exodus 16:10).
  5. Aaron’s rod changed into a serpent (Exodus 7:10-12).
  6. The parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31).
  7. The parting of the Jordan river near the city of Adam (Joshua 3:14-17).
  8. Manna (bread) from the sky (Exodus 16:14-18).
  9. Drinking water provided the Israelites:
    • Sweetening of the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:23-25).
    • Water from the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:5-7).
    • Water from a rock in the desert (Numbers 20:7-11)
  10. Complainers consumed by fire at Taberah, which stopped in response to Moses’ prayer (Numbers 11:1-3).
  11. Enemies of Isralites consumed by fire, and swallowed by the earth (Numbers 16:35-45).
  12. Aaron’s rod “brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” at Kadesh (Numbers 17:1-11).
  13. The walls of Jericho fell down at God’s command (Joshua 6:6-20).
  14. The sun and moon stayed motionless (longer day) to enable the Israelites to win a crucial battle (Joshua 10:12-14).
  15. A mega hailstorm destroyed the Amorite army (Joshua 10:12-14).

Despite having personally seen and experienced the countless miracles, not only did the Israelites constantly doubt God, with tiresome repetition they periodically rebelled from God to worship false idols, that is, demons.

But God repeatedly forgave the Israelites.

Imagine, then, how much He loves us — who believe in Him although we haven’t witnessed the Israelites’ miracles nor seen or touched His wounds like doubting St. Thomas, yet we love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and with all our strength.

1 Peter 1:8-9

Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So the next time you doubt or falter or despair, take heart.

He loves you very, very, very much.

So much that God Himself did this for you.

See also “Easter Sunday: The science of the miracle of the Resurrection

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you!

~E

Sunday Devotional: Resurrection is the key to our faith

1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20

Brothers and sisters:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a harbinger of Easter Sunday, which will be on April 17, a little more than two months away.

In his letter, St. Paul was blunt and forthright in identifying the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead as central to the Christian faith. He said, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain“, i.e., worthless or futile.

Edicule encasing the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Happily, we do have empirical evidence of the Resurrection, one of which is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem — the site where Jesus was crucified (“Calvary” or “Golgotha”), and the site of the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed. The tomb is enclosed by an 18th-century shrine called the Edicule.

In 1809, during a partial opening of the Edicule by the architect Nikolaos Komnenos, a “sweet aroma” emanated from the tomb, the same “scent of sanctity” that often accompanies Marian apparitions and the tombs of some saints.

More recently, on October 26-28, 2016, scientists undertaking restoration work in the Edicule also smelled a “sweet aroma” when they removed the marble slab that covers the tomb. There were also electromagnetic disturbances: some of the measuring instruments used by the scientists, when placed vertically on the stone on which Christ’s body rested, either malfunctioned or ceased to work entirely. (Source: Aleteia)

According to scientists at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) who, in 2011, concluded their five-year study of the Shroud of Turin — the linen cloth in which Jesus’ body was wrapped — the image on the Shroud had been left by “a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation,” stronger than could be created by any technology currently available to man. VUV is vacuum ultra-violet, a type of electromagnetic radiation.

Shroud of Turin

Imagine how powerful the radiation burst of the Resurrection must have been to leave electromagnetic traces after more than 2,000 years, which were detected by those scientists restoring the Edicule in 2016.

And if the Resurrection is true, then we and our loved ones will also be resurrected after our mortal bodies died, just as Jesus had raised from the dead Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow at Nain.

Colossians 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Keep the faith!

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ Our Lord be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: The percipient witnesses

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, Christ appeared to more
than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one born abnormally,
he appeared to me.
For I am the least of the apostles,
not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them;
not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.
Therefore, whether it be I or they,
so we preach and so you believed.

Two Sundays ago, in my post, “Sunday Devotional: Faith, Evidence and Logic,” I made the case for Christian belief not based exclusively on faith, but also on empirical evidence and logical reasoning.

The empirical evidence for Christianity includes the testimonies of percipient witnesses, which are critical to the determination of truth in law. A “percipient witness” is defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.”

Today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is yet another example of percipient witnesses — eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth who, on one occasion, numbered more than 500 people.

Those percipient witnesses told others (“so we preach”) about the resurrected Christ whom they had seen with their very eyes and heard with their very ears. Their first-person testimonies were so powerful that others were convinced of their veracity (“so you believed”).

To quote New Testament Professor Emeritus Mark Allan Powell in his book, Jesus As a Figure in History, p. 9 (bold emphasis supplied):

[F]or me…the Jesus of this story has come to mean…recognizing the story to be grounded in the witness of the Spirit, in the testimonies of saints and martyrs, and in my own life experience…. I think of the story…not as the place where I look for Jesus but as the place where he finds me.

May the love and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: The Importance of the Baptism of Our Lord

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

The account of Jesus’ baptism is significant for at least two reasons:

(1) The Baptism of our Lord by St. John the Baptist is one of several instances in the Old and New Testaments  (see also Genesis 1:26, John 5:7, and Matthew 28) when the nature of the Triune Godhead is revealed as the confounding mystery of three Persons in one God, which our greatest theologians had sought in vain to plumb.

St. Thomas Aquinas concluded in Summa Theologica:

We cannot come to the knowledge of the Trinity by reason alone, that is, by the natural and unaided efforts of the human mind. By our natural reason, we can know that God exists; that he is the First Cause of all; that he is one, infinite, simple, immutable, etc. But that the one God subsists in three really distinct Persons is a truth that can be known only by supernatural means. That is a truth beyond the reach of human reason to know, to prove, or to disprove. We know this truth by divine revelation, and accept it by supernatural faith; we take it upon the authority of God himself.… By aid of the light of glory the soul in heaven sees God himself clearly and truly.

And so we accept our human limitation and believe, putting our trust in the words of St. Paul that we shall understand fully when we see God face to face:

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall understand fully,
even as I have been fully understood.

(2) Luke 3’s account also speaks to the importance that Jesus holds for Baptism. Though a sacrament meant for sinful humanity, the sinless Son of God chose to be baptized before He began His public ministry.

These are St. Paul’s words on Baptism:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” -Romans 6:3-4

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:11

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” -Galatians 3:27

Baptism purifies and sanctifies (makes holy) the person, making him/her a dwelling of the Holy Spirit. That means that without Baptism, a person is without the Holy Spirit and rendered defenseless against the evil one.

I don’t know what other Christian denominations believe about baptism, but in the Catholic Church — notwithstanding its many flaws, including the terrible sins committed by its clergy — the sacrament of Baptism is an act of exorcism:

Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. (#1237 of Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In this manner, through the exorcizing sacrament of Baptism, “all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”

Moreover, through Baptism we receive the gift of grace from the Holy Trinity — to believe in God, to love Him, and to grow in goodness. In other words, the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.

So if you are a Christian, don’t make the mistake of postponing the baptism of your child(ren) like a friend of mine who, although he is a non-denomination Protestant and thinks of himself as quite devout, married a shallow woman with no religious beliefs. He spoke of the marriage as a mistake. They produced a daughter, now 30 years old with degrees in art and animation, and still living with her parents. My friend neither had his daughter baptized nor brought her to church services. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to leave it up to her to decide for herself when she’s an adult.

But in so doing, my friend rendered his daughter defenseless against the rampant dark forces of popular culture. Evidence of that contamination includes disturbing images she drew and posted to Instagram, including that of a goat’s head (or Baphomet) that she named “Menace of the goat king”, and a drawing for her business card of a demonic girl (herself) with two skulls.

Baptism — clothing your child “with Christ” — is the most important thing you can and will ever do for your child.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: Be joyful!

Isaiah 12:3

With joy you will draw water
from the fountains of salvation

Zephaniah 3:14, 17

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem! […]
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior,
Who will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
Who will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The Bible is replete with injunctions that we be joyful; the above three passages are examples.

What is joy?

The dictionary defines “joy” as “a state of happiness or felicity.

Joy is different from happiness in that happiness is a fleeting emotion, but joy is a”state” — the condition of a person — of happiness. As someone once said, “Joy is not a season, it’s a way of living.”

Joy is not based upon whether things are going well or not. Joy is an emotion that comes from the anticipation, acquisition or expectation of something great or wonderful.

Joy consists of at least two components, gratitude and optimism, both of which are beneficial to our health (see my post of October 24, 2021, here).

Have you noticed how what God instructs us to do always turns out to be good for us?

St. Paul tells us joy is one of the fruits or results of having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 14:17), which is why we can be joyful even in the midst of great trials and suffering.

I recently was subjected to malicious rumor-mongering from three nieces-in-law, which reminded me of two aphorisms: (1) No good deed goes unpunished; and (2) Never underestimate the human potential for evil.

Instead of getting angry, I thought of what our Lord Jesus had endured — betrayal by a beloved disciple, abandonment by His friends when He needed them the most, followed by torture and death by crucifixion, the most extreme form of execution that the Romans reserved for the worst criminals.

How can any of our trials and tribulations ever compare to His?

At that thought, I became joyful.

Joy even helped our Lord Jesus Christ endure the cross: “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

So be joyful!

Praise the Lord, and let your heart burst with joy!

May the joy and peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~E