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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pope's Coat of Arms

Here is Pope Francis' coat of arms, which is explained beautifully by Michael Barber at this Sacred Page blog post:

It's all about the holy family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis - Martyrdom and Mark Chapter 8

The new Pope is to be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I, we are told.  In this post my Lenten study of the Gospel of Mark intersects with today's news on the election of  Pope Francis.     Here is one of the most important sections from  that gospel:

[27] And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare'a Philip'pi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?"
[28] And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Eli'jah; and others one of the prophets."
[29] And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ."
[30] And he charged them to tell no one about him.
[31] And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
[32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
[33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men."
[34] And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
[35] For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 

Mark 8:27-31 (RSV).

Today we have a new Pope, and thanks to John O'Brien S.J. I can say that  this section from Mark 8 is on point.   What has this to do with the Pope?   Here in Mark 8 we see Peter making the first statement by any of the friends of Jesus showing an understanding of the identity of Jesus.  (Yes, I know, his words in verse 32 show that he still had a lot to learn.)   Jesus follows with his teaching on  his own impending death.    And John O'Brien S.J.  commented today on this exchange between Jesus and Peter, citing the  parallel passage from Matthew Chapter 16,  as follows:. 

The Pope must be a martyr because the whole Church is called to be martyrological – that is, a living witness to Christ, and Christ crucified. Since Peter’s declaration, “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God”, the Petrine Office has primarily been about professing this living reality. Jesus responded to this first ecclesial “faith-statement” by declaring that flesh and blood had not revealed this to Peter but the heavenly Father, and so Peter is the rock on which he will build his church. The church, then, is built upon a public profession of faith, based upon the witness of what each of us has seen and heard. Peter becomes the first credo-bearer.

http://www.ibosj.ca/2013/03/why-pope-must-be-martyr.html#more     (online post, by John O'Brien S.J.  of March 13, 2013 from  the blog Ibo et Non Redibo). 

Two months ago I was in Caesarea Philippi, which lies at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, a beautiful place located along a spring with streams of rushing water all around, where Jesus had this conversation with Peter.    While we were there we stopped to read these words of Jesus and Peter, and our leader, Derek Leman, presented a reflection on it.   I will never forget that place and our reading of  Mark 8 there.  

As Peter bore witness of Jesus, he followed Jesus in giving his life for his mission, as a martyr in Rome.  May Pope Francis follow in the footsteps of  Peter as a witness of Jesus.     But  I don't want the Pope to die a martyr's death.       I will pray for his health and safety.  What form does Papal  "martyrdom"  take in our era?   The answer is in Mark 8:34 which states: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."   Mark 8:34  (RSV).      Quoting then  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, from his  book  The Church, Ecumenism and Politics (1987), which  relies on the work of  Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500–1558),   O'Brien explains “the martyrological structure of the papacy” with these remarks:

Pole expresses what many believers know intuitively, that “the office of the papacy is a cross, indeed, the greatest of all crosses,” for the burden of the care for all the Churches in the world is a yoke of not insubstantial weight. For this reason, he will say that the qualities of a Pope may be seen as those that are least desirable in a human political leader. The more a man resembles Christ, the less will he seem capable of human government, “because reason cannot fathom humiliation or the Cross.” 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pope Benedict 16 - Study with Jewish Thinkers

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of spiritual life for the people of God for centuries.  Benedict 16  in his book, Jesus of Nazareth Part 2 - Holy Week:  From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press 2011)  has a fascinating discussion on the  challenge of creating a new spiritual life and the need to read the Bible "anew" after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Chapter 2, pages 28-34.   He says:  "Temple and sacrifice lie at the very heart of the Torah."  Page 32.    He calls for Jewish and Christian Bible readers to study this subject together: 

"After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading biblical texts -- the Christian way and the Jewish way -- into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God's will and his word aright." 
Page 33. 

Now that would be a Bible study that I would enjoy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Jesus and Leadership

I have no order to these Lenten reflections on the Gospel of Mark, except that I'm following John Martens' idea  Use the imagination and place yourself into the scene.  What would have been your reaction if you had been present at the scene of Mark 1:21-28?  The people at the synagogue were "astonished" at his teaching, and  they were "amazed" as they witnessed his first encounter with the forces of evil:

[21] And they went into Caper'na-um; and immediately on the sabbath he
entered the synagogue and taught. 
[22] And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one
 who had authority, and not as the scribes. 
[23] And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; 
[24] and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have
you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." 
[25] But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" 
[26] And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice,
 came out of him. 
[27] And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves,
 saying, "What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even
 the unclean spirits, and they obey him." 
[28] And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding
region of Galilee. 

Mark 1: 21-28 (RSV).

Before Jesus the people were stuck with the dull teaching of the scribes.  Now they have been blessed with a leader, and life will never be the same.   If you will excuse the 1970's "man" language, the late Howard Hendricks had a  memorable definition of a leader:

“A leader is a man who knows where he is going, and is going to the right place, and can persuade others to follow.”    

http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/page/2/   (online blog  article by Joel Rosenberg 02/21/2013 quoting Howard Hendricks).  Rosenberg  in this same piece just cited  recalls Hendricks telling his students  that a leader has to be  "man of vision, but also a man of heart. He has to be a man infected by a great and worthy and Biblical idea, but also one who loves people and cares for people and can help people see the value of following Christ with all that they are."    Here in Mark 1:21-28 Jesus himself presents this exciting picture of a leader.  He teaches with authority, and others are impressed.   He shows his love for the afflicted man  by casting out the evil spirit.    


(Howard Hendricks died February 20, 2013.  I have great memories of his audio tapes from my days in the student Jesus movement in the late 1970's.  May the perpetual light of Jesus shine upon this faithful servant of the church.)