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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why We Honor The Saints

We have spoken on this show before of why we have statues of saints and angels in our churches. Yet we have never spoken of why we have those particular statues of those saints. Ultimately why do we honor saints?

We honor the saints because God honors the saints and they are worthy of our honor.
Now what do I mean when I say that God honors the saints? I mean that our whole religion is about having a relationship with God. It is a real relationship. It can grow in warmth and fire or grow cold and die.

God honors us by letting us be made in his image. That is one way he honors us. Another way is by stooping down to speak with us in our fallen state. Most of the time God responds in a still small voice, but other times it is with great pomp.

Let’s looks at the Joseph from the OT in Egypt. The Pharaoh has had a dream and no one can tell him the meaning except for Joseph.

Genesis 41:38-43 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?" So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. "You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you." And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt.
Now hold on a second. Joseph tells him what the dream means and then gets to be second in command of the most power nation on earth at the time? Why is that? Why does he get so much honor?

I answer that Pharaoh is only honoring Joseph in such a way because he thinks that God is honoring Joseph in such a way. Seriously how many people can interpret someone else’s dream and be correct? We all speak to God, but here it is clear that Joseph has a special relationship with God where God in a very loud way speaks back. Pharaoh is just honoring that relationship. Not only that, but by honoring Joseph, he is honoring God as well.

Here is another example but more extreme. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and it is important enough that he asks his own wise men to tell him the dream and the interpretation. They protest and say you tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation. King Nebuchadnezzar say no you tell me the dream and the interpretation or you will be put to death! I imagine that they were saying to themselves – we didn’t learn this in wise man’s school.

Yet Daniel comes after some time in prayer and tells the king BOTH the dream and the interpretation. Here is how the King responds:

Daniel 2:46-48 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery." Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

Again, why such an intense response? I think it is because of Daniel’s association with God. This man is so close to God that God reveals to him the dreams of Kings AND their interpretation. I want to honor that relationship and so he does.

St. Paul tells us to do the same thing
1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

We know that some people get honor – God tells us in the fourth commandment to honor our father and mother. But Saint Paul tells us to give someone double honor.

This is exactly why we honor the saints. Because it is God who has made them saints. We are just recognizing His handy-work, and by honoring His work in them, we are honoring God.

Imagine a man who has dedicated his life to learning about Bach or Mozart but feared to listen to their music because they thought it would interrupt their studies of these men?
Or falling in love with a woman but refusing to meet her family and friends fearing it might interfere with your relationship with the woman?

None of this makes sense. The same is true when we refuse to honor those people that God has honored with His relationship with them namely the saints in heaven.

I call this elevation through association. The saints are elevated because of their relationship with God. They are elevated by both God and people who recognize their relationship.

This elevation through association is even natural. Let’s say that I had in my phone the actor Harrison Ford’s phone number. One day you are flipping through it and you say to me, “why in the world do you have his number in your phone.”

I explain we use to be neighbors and we see him on major holidays or something like that. Well automatically, your idea of me would change a bit. Because Harrison Ford is honored as a good actor, you would naturally look on me as honored too because of my relationship to him.

If I had the Pope’s phone number your idea of me would be raised even further because we give more honor to the Pope than to Harrison Ford.

This is elevation through association. The same is true with the saints. We honor them because of who they are associated with namely God.

Finally listen to what God told Abraham.

Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

What if I honor Abraham today will I be blessed – Yes. Because ultimately I am honoring God and his work.

His greatest work being Our Lady who is certainly the most associated with God then anyone in creation. That is my we give her the most honor. But not worship. Only God gets that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Luminous Mysteries in the Old Testament

In our quest of looking ever deeper into the scriptures, today we dive into the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary to see where they have their roots in the Old Testament. Let us begin with the Baptism of our Lord.

There are so many deep and rich aspects in Jesus’ baptism that it is hard to try to summarize them all. We begin with a dual theme of water and Spirit.

Matthew 3:16-17 And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

We see that in Jesus’ baptism he in inaugurating a theme of a new creation.

In Genesis 1:2 - the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Just as in Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit is moving over the waters just as he was in the original creation.

It is also significant that Matthew tells us the “Spirit of God descending as a dove.” Again in Genesis chapter 8 we are told that after the flood, Noah releases a dove that flies over the waters. This again is pointing us to a new creation theme where the sinful world was plunged again in water only to be brought out again renewed.

We are reminded of the Exodus where the Israelites passed through the waters of the Red Sea under the Shekinah Glory cloud of God, leaving the slavery of Egypt behind.

It is also significant that it is the Jordan river where again all of Israel, (who God calls his “first born son”) crossed over on dry ground to go into the promised land. Lead by the prophet Joshua whose name in Greek is Jesus. When Joshua had crossed over it was the promised land that was opened unto the Israelites. Now it is the promised land of heaven that is now open for us.

There is more, but I had better stop.

Where is the wedding at Cana prefigured in the Old Testament?

I would suggest that the wedding at Cana, points us right back to the Garden of Eden. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ is the New Adam. I think that it is significant that Jesus is at a wedding where they are asking the bridegroom where he got this great wine, when it is really Jesus who is the true bridegroom who gave it to them. It is also significant that he calls his mother “woman” harkening back to our first mother Eve. Mary is our New Eve, not the mother of all who are physically alive but the mother of all who are spiritually alive.

What about the third mystery of the Luminous mysteries – the Proclamation of the Kingdom.

This deals with the body of what Jesus said and did, and the theme of the New Testament, the Kingdom of God.

St. Matthew suggests that Jesus is like a new Moses, when in Matthew chapter 5 he ascends a mountain and gives a new law.

Also Jesus himself is pointing us back to King David. King David and also his son Solomon established a Kingdom the spread beyond the borders of Israel to attract others to the true God.
Jesus like King David would invite non Israelites into the covenant, namely the Gentiles. And Solomon would write the wisdom literature attracting Gentiles to the worship of the true God.

What about the transfiguration?

The transfiguration is just loaded with Old Testament Imagery.

Luke 9:29-31 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His Exodus which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

The main representatives of the Law and the Prophets come to talk to Jesus about the fulfillment of the biggest event in the Old Testament, namely the Exodus.

It is significant that in the Old Testament God appeared to both Moses and Elijah but were prevented from seeing God’s face. A desire that is now fulfilled in Christ.

Finally the institution of the Eucharist.

Again there are just too many references to give it justice.

We can begin with the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The cross is the New tree of life and Christ’s body is the fruit from the tree.

Melchizedek bringing out bread and wine as a sacrifice in thanksgiving for the Abraham’s victory over the enemy of his people.

The Passover lamb that was slain and whose blood protected the firstborn of every house.

The manna and the quail in the desert given to sustain Israel as they journeyed to the promised land.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Do I HAVE to go to Mass?

It is no real news that Mass attendance is down. What are some excuses that people use for not going to Mass and how can we respond to them?

I have heard: “I don’t get anything out of it.” “We had a soccer game.” “God is everywhere, and I just choose to worship Him from home, or the lake, or the golf course.”

I have also heard of people leaving the Church because they found somewhere more exciting to worship.

I will respond to the last excuse first. I will admit that as a youth I found Mass boring. I went with my parents because they made me, and later I went by myself because if I didn’t go I would feel bad. I knew that it was bad to miss Mass, but if you would have asked my why I couldn’t have given you a good answer, or any answer at all.

This changed when I found the Misselette, the book in the pew with the readings and some songs in it.

I realized that the Mass was in certain parts and that in the first part we did certain things and in the second part we did other things. Thus, I began learning very slowly that Mass had certain activities at certain times. I then wondered why we did them at those times and Mass became less boring. I was educating myself out of boredom. The more I understood, the more interesting Mass became.

I came to realize that Mass wasn’t just something that you go to “get something out of it.” Mass is something that you go to put into it. It is work. That is what liturgy means, “work of the people.” Mass is one big prayer that we are called to pray. That is why it is not appropriate to pray the Rosary while you are at Mass. It would be like saying an Our Father while at the same time saying a Hail Mary.

I think most of these objections are said in ignorance. If you learn more about Mass and what it is, then every other argument falls apart. Again the argument “I don’t get anything out of it.” Well, you do get your sins forgiven and you do get to receive in a unique way the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. You do mysteriously get connected with the Last Super, Calvary, the Resurrection, and the Worship that is taking place in Heaven. It is also participating in the event that frees us from sins.

Now, with this in mind, what else is there to compete with Mass?

Here are some verses to support this:

Hebrews 10:24-25 ..“and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

St. Paul is telling us not to neglect to meet together.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 "Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; … You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Why were the Israelites commanded to keep the Sabbath that is Saturday holy? To use that time to remember what God had done for them in freeing them from the slavery of Egypt.

But now God has done something greater. There is a New Exodus.

God has not saved us from Egypt, but He has saved us from sin. And HOW did He do it, how did He save us from sin - with an outstretched arm!!

At Mass we are participating in this New Exodus.

Listen to Jesus’ words:

John 12:32-33 “when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show by what death He was to die.

But Christ is not just lifted up on the cross, He is lifted up from the dead, He is then lifted up from the earth in His Ascension, and finally He is lifted up at Mass in the elevation of the Eucharist.

And why, why is He lifted up? To draw all men to Himself.

This is more important than soccer. And this event is so holy that it isn’t meant to be entertaining. It is meant to be solemn and sanctifying.

Yes, God is everywhere, but what God is doing at Mass is something that He is NOT doing on a golf course, or in the woods, or on your couch.

We are called to gather together, just like we will be gathered together in heaven, to witness this event and even more so, to participate in it.

If you are still bored, pray that God enlighten you to better understand what is happening.