Category Archives: Saints

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

 

Sunday Devotional: Advance secure in the glory of God!

Baruch 5:1-2, 7-9

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,
bear on your head the mitre
that displays the glory of the eternal name….
For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree
have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;
for God is leading Israel in joy
by the light of his glory,
with his mercy and justice for company.

The above passage from the Book of Baruch in the Old Testament applies not just to the biblical Jerusalem and the Israelites, but also to the new Jerusalem of the new Chosen People of Christians.

That is because the Second Person of the Triune Godhead incarnated Himself as man to make a new Covenant with not just Jews, but with all who believe in Him — Jews and Gentiles.

As St. Paul put it in Hebrews 9:15, “He is mediator of a new covenant,” and explained further in another letter:

Ephesians 1:3-5, 7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him,
before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us
for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ
….

In him we have redemption by his blood….

So, by exercising our God-given free will to follow Jesus, we are the new Chosen People.

We are chosen! We are selected as a favorite out of “many [who] are called” (Matthew 22:14) “out of the world” (John 15:19). What a privilege! We are God’s choice to bear His name, represent His cause, and share His glory throughout eternity.

Heeding the words of Baruch 5:7, let us not be intimidated by our enemies —  political, cultural, spiritual — but instead “advance secure in the glory of God“!

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

~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: ‘This I command you: love one another’

John 15:9-10, 12-14, 16-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me,
so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love….
This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you….
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.

In our corrupt times, the word “love” is used to justify any or all deeds, even the most perverse. Pedophilia is called “man-boy love”; bestiality is called “zoophilia” — love of animals; incest is given a veneer of faux science by calling it “genetic sexual attraction”.

“Love” has become a synonym of “Do as you will”.

So what is love?

Here are some clues from Holy Scripture.

(1) Love is selfless and self-sacrificing

1 John 4:7-10

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

Few of us will be called to die for someone else, but many have and do sacrifice for others: parents for their children; adult children for their elderly parents; care-givers for the elderly and sick; all who give their money, time and labor for another or a good cause, with no benefit to themselves.

So this is one measure of love: How much will you sacrifice for another?

(2) Other attributes of love

From the famous passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

(3) The way to God is through the heart, not the mind

Reading St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I was struck by the rest of the passage:

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

I understand the above passage as St. Paul’s reminder to us that, in the end, the way to God cannot be accomplished through our mind alone — our efforts to know and understand God, the unimaginably awesome being who created the Universe. In St. Paul’s words, “for we know partially”. How can the created ever fully know the Creator?

The great St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the philosopher-theologian who wrote tomes of impeccable logic and reasoning, but lived only to the young age of 49, knew well the limits of human intelligence and how “partially” we know.

On December 6, 1273, St. Thomas had a mystical experience while he was celebrating Mass, after which he abandoned his scholarly routine and refused to write again. When his friend and fellow theologian, Reginald of Piperno, begged him to get back to work, St. Thomas replied:

“Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me (mihi videtur ut palea).

Three months later, on March 7, 1274, St. Thomas passed, leaving the Summa Theologica uncompleted.

There’s a reason why the Greatest Commandment of all begins not with our minds, but with our hearts.

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

~E

 

The kindness of dogs

St. Catherine of Siena said, “Charity is the sweet and holy bond which links the soul with its Creator: it binds God with man and man with God.”

By that measure, the following dogs are closer to God than many humans.

(1) A Golden Retriever found a scraggly stray kitten and brought the kitten home to the dog’s human.

(2) A little white puppy comforts its human, a dejected street performer in Colombia, when no one gave him a cent for his singing. (Go to The Dodo for the rest of the story.)

This last one is truly remarkable.

(3) A Golden Retriever pup found two goldfishes out of water. So the pup gently takes each goldfish in its mouth, then puts the fish back in the bowl of water. Note how after the puppy releases the fish into the bowl, the pup nudges the fish to make sure the fish is okay.

But there are some who insist non-human creatures like these holy dogs don’t have souls….

~E

 

Sunday Devotional: You are witnesses of these things

Luke 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.

In law, there’s an important concept critical to the determination of truth.

The concept is “percipient witness”. According to Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary, a percipient witness is “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.”

Today, the universal Church celebrates and remembers a particular event recounted in Luke 24, of an encounter that two of Jesus’ disciples had with the resurrected Christ in His glorified body.

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.

Do you doubt the percipient witnesses of the person, teachings and acts of Jesus the Christ?

The Apostles and disciples, who were percipient witnesses of Jesus the Christ, were willing to die for they had seen and heard. This is how they 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.

Would you willingly be tortured and killed for a lie?

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: The eyewitnesses of the Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-8

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

In law, there’s an important concept critical to the determination of truth.

The concept is “percipient witness”. According to Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary, a percipient witness is “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.”

Today, the universal Church celebrates and remembers a particular event about which the Apostles were percipient witnesses — the Transfiguration.

2 Peter 1:16-18

Beloved:
We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.

Do you doubt these percipient witnesses?

This is how the Apostles — percipient witnesses of the transfigured and later resurrected Christ — died, 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.

Below is an account of the Apostles’ martyrdom by Dean Jones in the stunning one-man play St. John in Exile. Though filmed in 1986, I had never heard of or seen it until I discovered it three years ago.

I urge you to watch St John in Exile, which reduced me to weeping, in its entirety.

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

~E

 

Sunday Devotional: Lent, the Fall and the Incarnation

Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a season observed by Christians in imitation of Jesus who prepared Himself for His public ministry in 40 days in the desert.

During Lent, we fast and pray to prepare for Holy Week — the week that culminated in Our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection.

We are told that the incarnation and crucifixion of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead were because of the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

That fall is a mystery wrapped in a conundrum for, having everything in that bucolic first garden, including and especially the unimaginably sublime gift of seeing and conversing with the Creator (Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” –Genesis 3:8), they still chose disobedience and betrayal.

All because of their sin of grandiose narcissism — of wanting to be “like gods,” so as to determine for themselves “what is good and what is evil” although Adam and Eve already knew right from wrong. As the Book of Jeremiah 31:33 says, when God created humans, He placed His law within each of us, written in our very hearts:

[D]eclares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

But our first parents wanted to be their own gods, that is, with their own notions of right and wrong, which is nothing other than a contravention of the First Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me.” –Exodus 20:3). Another way to say “wanting to be their own gods” is “Do as thou wilt” — the motto of satanist Aleister Crowley and the church of Satan, and the zeitgeist of our corrupt time.

That first sin by our first parents was so cataclysmic that it fundamentally changed the natural order of the world.

A door was opened to chaos: henceforth a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be banishment, toil, pain, hardship, sickness, disease, and eventual death (with painful labor you will give birth to children; “by the sweat of your brow”; for dust you are and to dust you will return”). Humankind’s relation with other creatures and the physical environment turned askew as “visible creation has become alien and hostile to man”.

So cataclysmic is the breach that human nature itself became perverted. Henceforth, all of Adam’s progeny would be born with the stain of Original Sin — tinder for sin (fomes peccati) with an inclination to evil. As St. Anselm lamented:¹

I fell before my mother conceived me. Truly, in darkness I was conceived, and in the cover of darkness I was born. Truly, in him we all fell, in whom we all sinned. In him we all lost.

Wrongs require restitution.

The dictionary defines “restitution” as reparation made by giving an equivalent as compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused; indemnification.

So immense was our first parents’ Fall that no man could make amends. Only God Himself, in the person of the Son, could make restitution — by becoming incarnate, only to be tortured, to suffer, and to die on a cross.

That also is a mystery.

Why must it take God Himself to become incarnate in mortal flesh, so as to be tortured and executed in the cruelest method reserved by the Roman Empire for the worst criminals?

This is the answer from the great theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas:²

No mere man could have made satisfaction for the whole race. Yet man owed the debt that had to be paid. Only God could pay the debt, and God did not owe it. Hence it was magnificently right that the payer of the debt, the Redeemer, should be both God and man….

The Incarnation was necessary for man’s salvation. It was not absolutely necessary, for God is almighty, and he could have restored fallen man in other ways. But it was relatively necessary, that is, necessary in relation to the need of bringing redemption to man in the most noble, effective, and admirable way.

How? St. Thomas explains, by:

  1. Being a role model, showing man “the perfect example for good works” and, in so doing, advances man in virtue, enlivens his faith, strengthens his hope, and enkindles his charity. In other words, Jesus shows us how we can become better people, how we can be holy. As St. Augustine said, “God was made man that man might be made God.”
  2. Teaching humankind about evil: “The Incarnation keeps man from evil; …makes him despise the devil; …makes him understand the degrading effect of sin; teaches him to look humbly to Christ and not to be presumptuous; instructs him in the heartening truth that the satisfaction made by God Incarnate releases him from slavery to sin.”

In remembrance of how Christ our Lord was tortured, suffered, and died for our sins, we are asked to make small sacrifices during Lent via:

  • Abstinence: Refrain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent for all age 14 and older. Why Friday? – because Jesus died for our sins on (Good) Friday.
  • Fasting: Eating one full meal and two small meals for age 18 through age 59, exempting the elderly and those with special dietary needs or medical conditions that require a greater or more regular food intake.
  • Surrender something that gives us pleasure, and/or do something good that we don’t ordinarily do.

Most of all, thank Jesus and tell Him that you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

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

~E

Footnotes:

¹St. Anselm: Basic Writings, translated by S. N. Deane (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1961), p. 24.
²Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, A Tour of the Summa (TAN Books, 1978), p. 311.