“OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN”
At we conclusion of Chapter Three of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The One who comes from above is above all.” John is writing His Gospel in Greek and he uses the Greek word “anothen,” which means either “from above” or “again”. He writes, “The One who comes again is above all. Jesus will come again! Alleluia!”.
Our churches are closed now in order to help save lives – to help slow infections. Dioceses throughout the world have collaborated strongly on this, as we the Faithful comply in collaboration, hope, and trust in God’s mercy. As President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez sent out a notice that he will preside on May 1st in a re-consecration of our country to the Blessed Virgin under her title of “Mary, Mother of God”. This is together with the bishops in Canada as they also re-consecrate their country to the Blessed Virgin on the same day, all for the purpose of ending the pandemic of which we are victims. Thanks be to God! We are so much in need of Heavenly protection. The power of faith and prayer is awesome; the power of God is awesome!
When this pandemic is over, my hope and prayer will be that our Archdiocese of Los Angeles will focus strongly and bravely on saving life in the womb. It will take a special depth of faith and courage, which we can attain if we are more open to it. Just as the Apostles said to the Sanhedrin Council, their jailers, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:21).
Let me be a little emboldened. In places where all the churches are closed, there are certain businesses and services which remain open to the public – maybe with some limits, but they are open just the same. Among these are Planned Parenthood Centers, which, though they provide certain health services to women, are really there to offer contraceptives and pregnancy terminations of the yet-to-be-born babies. Thankfully, because of a lack of resources and supplies in some areas, many of those centers have been shut down. According to their own reports, fourteen percent of their total centers (what they call “service delivery points”) throughout the world are now closed. That is out of a total of 5,633 mobile and more permanent clinics and care outlets throughout the world, according to their sources.
Our Lord at His conception in the flesh was at the tiniest point of His life while in the womb of His Mother, Mary. The termination of life even at this stage of conception is unconscionable, and I hope you can agree. If you are Catholic or of any Christian belief, you must agree with this. The Catholic faith teaches the truth of Christ. Life termination by man is to be prevented at all stages of life. Our cry for the truth (“The Lord hears the cry of the poor!”) – a strong lifting up of our voices for life in the womb – is long, long overdue. Now is the time for us to work for the preservation of life at all its stages – from conception to natural death. We need to obey God rather than man. We need to be prophetic and point out the truth, call out for the truth. Let our choice be for life and the holiness of all life. Let our choice be for Jesus. Let our choice be strong.
God So Loved the World…
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter (April 22, 2020)
“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD…”
In his homily this morning, Holy Father Pope Francis offered this observation: “In our Gospel is contained kerygma, catechesis, and theology.” How really true! “Kerygma” is a word used for the initial proclamations of the Gospel, in this case by John, as we heard today in his third chapter. Hector Molina from Catholic Answers explains this further: “To put it simply,” he writes, “the kerygma is the very heart of the Gospel, the core message of the Christian faith that all believers are called to proclaim.” The Apostles of Christ, miraculously released from the darkness of their prison, immediately went to the temple area to make such proclamations as we heard in today’s first reading. They proclaimed Jesus Christ!
We heard in yesterday’s Gospel Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, proclaiming to him, “…so the Son of Man will be raised up!” In this, Jesus prophesied His being raised on the cross, His rising from the tomb, and His ascension into Heaven. This discourse with Nicodemus happened long ago, though it is the same truth which lights our hearts today. In Him we are lifted up to bring forth the light of truth, of Jesus Christ, as we heard in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. “God loved the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son” to us. God loves US so much that He sent us His Love, He gave us His Love.
In today’s Daily Reflection, provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dr. Jem Sullivan notes that, also long ago – almost 500 years! – Our Lady radiated God’s Love to St. Juan Diego in a special way, assuring him: “Listen, put it into your heart, most little of my children. Let nothing frighten nor grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear any sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your help? Are you not happily within the folds of my mantle, held safely in my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.”
So is God’s consoling and assuring love for us. Long before the writings of John, the prophet Jeremiah (31:3) announced, “Long ago the Lord appeared to me saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; with loving kindness I have drawn you to me.’”
The same is true now, even as it was so long ago. Let it be in our hearts. Let us proclaim to the world, “God is with us! God so loves the world!” We are not in the darkness nor are we abandoned. Christ’s light shines! In His loving care, His loving protection, His healing rays, may we know the assurance of His Presence to us, His embrace. God so loved the world that He sent us His Love, He sent us His Son, to know Him and to believe in Him, and to express that “karygma” – a proclamation of His truth with our lives. Possessed with such faith, we will not perish, but have life everlasting – His light, beauty, and love everlasting.
He Has Risen, As He Said!
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter (April 21, 2020)
“HE HAS RISEN, AS HE SAID!”
Today is Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter, 2020. The great Easter day. Resurrexit sicut dixit! – “He has risen, as He said,” Alleluia! Our opening prayer in today’s Mass emphasizes this: “Enable us, we pray, almighty God, to proclaim the power of the risen Lord.” It is powerful indeed!
Today we have the continuing Gospel of John in Chapter 3. Our Lord prophesies to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Jesus relates to the teacher of the law contained in the Torah, about the prophet Moses raising the image of a cause of death – a serpent – to be looked upon by those who sinned. Yet, what they viewed was their own sinfulness, which brought about the resultant punishment in the stinging fire of death. What they experienced was mercy, healing, and the saving power of God. “So must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”
And so we look upon the crucifix, where Our Lord, our Salvation, was hung. The prophetic image was this: Jeshuah raised on the cross, risen from the grave, and ascended into Heaven. Those who believe will have an eternal life – everlasting and exceeding in beauty. Jesus enjoins Nicodemus, as one versed and immersed in the Word of God, to understand how He speaks in spiritual aspects and not of the world: “The wind blows where it will, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it blows. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” The word for Spirit in Hebrew is “ruach,” which also means “wind”. “You are a teacher of Israel, and you do not understand this?… You must be born from above,” Jesus tells Nicodemus.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Greek word John uses is “anothen,” which means both “from above” and “again.” Nicodemus makes the relation to being “born again,” missing the spiritual aspect of “being born from above” – of what he is being told and of what is being explained and revealed. Our Lord has come from above. We rise with Him in our baptism in water and Spirit. From above, the Spirit is poured down upon us, alive in action and movement, for our purification, the washing away of our sins, and to give us life – leading to life eternal, which exceeds all in beauty.
We look upon the Son of Man for our healing. We look upon our sins and failings which He has carried and taken upon Himself. We are enjoined to understand, to be healed, to believe, and to receive eternal life. Resurrexit sicut dixit. “The Lord is risen, as He said,” Alleluia!