From the Contagious Optimism blog.
via When One Dream Fails.
“Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard. – Matthew 27: 65-66
“The king lay in state with the guard about Him. And the most astounding fact about this spectacle of vigilance over the dead is that the enemies of Christ expected the Resurrection, but His friends did not. It was the believers who were the skeptics. It was the unbelievers who were credulous.
None of the apostles expected a Resurrection. They had to be convinced. They had to be convinced the hard way, as Thomas had to be convinced. Believe me, the skeptics of today cannot compare with the skeptics of those days, namely the apostles. They were the doubters, and when they were convinced they proved that they believed by having their throats cut for the cause of Christ.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” He is not here, but has been raised.” – Luke 24:5-6
And as the risen Christ had overcome death, so too, the apostles would rise above their fear. Having again seen and eaten with their master, a presumed illusion had become reality; restoring their faith. The cowards would become heroes. They were now prepared to let go of the lives they knew and give them over to and for Christ; completely. All that was Christ was conferred upon them by Him. They would do what He had done. And through the apostles the gospels would be proclaimed throughout the world resulting in a growing, vibrant, Holy and living church.
As a result of the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday all that was is changed forever. Suffering once seen as a dreaded error of life now has a valued purpose and meaning; for it is the precursor of a greater good; and in the case of Christ, the greatest good. His success is our success. The entrance to heaven that had been denied to all humanity by the disobedience of one man, has been reopened, and access reinstated to all humanity by the obedience of one man.
From the apostles and succeeding disciples to the present day priests, the consecration of the Holy Eucharist continues in the presence of the ever vigilant Paraclete. The Paraclete is the love of God that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to us all. The Paraclete guides, protects, inspires, consoles and sustains. And through that continual Eucharistic consecration, Jesus keeps the promise He made that comforted and encouraged his apostles then; and comforts and encourages all today, who take up their cross and follow Him. “And remember that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” – Matthew 28:20
The stone that sealed the tomb of the Savior was found fallen away. And the place where His body had been laid was empty and free of darkness. For that which harbors not life, but death, had not the power to contain “The Light Of The World.”
“For this I was born and for this I came into the World, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” – John 18:37
One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years was an itinerant preacher.
-He never wrote a book. -He never held public office. -He never had a family or owned a house. -He didn’t go to college. -He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. -He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. -He had no credentials but himself. – –He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. -When he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life. – Author unknown
At the crucifixion, Christ not only fulfills His mission of reconciling God with mankind, by taking upon Himself the burden of our sins and paying our debt by His death; but also consummates His church. With He as its head and Mary as its mother, John then becomes the first son and member of the church. This is accomplished in Jesus saying from the cross: “Women, behold your son!(referring to John, who along with Mary, was at the foot of the cross), Son behold your mother!” – John 19:26-27
Peter is the first Pope of the Church. He is the first in the succession of 266 popes throughout the history of the Church; Pope Francis being number 266. From the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica a visitor can view all of Rome; including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. There, in Saint Peter Square, are statues that reverently honor the succession of popes. When one views the Colosseum and the Roman Forum one can find the succession of Caesars; from Julius Caesar(although a dictator and not an emperor) to Romulus. We know Francis is the present pope. But, where is Caesar? The point to be made is the following: The Church, established by Christ, with Peter as His vicar on earth, and consummated at the crucifixion, thrives to this day. The Roman Empire lasted some one thousand years; and no longer.
Do you think Julius Caesar’s mother had any confirmation that her son, to be, would one day end the Roman Republic rule and establish himself as Caesar of Rome; proclaiming himself a god? Even though his heritage rightly suggested that his future would likely be much more prominent than that of a laborer or servant, there was no guarantee of what was to come. However, it was revealed to Mary – the divinely chosen mother of Jesus – exactly who she would bring into the world. And in accepting she proclaimed: “Fiat.” No other person’s purpose in history has ever been pre-announced as was that of Christ.
Christ, in the person of God, was sent by God. Julius Caesar proclaimed himself a god. God is eternal and absolute. Man is temporary and fallible. That is why the Church, which is the person of Christ, is everlasting; and why the Roman Empire, shaped by its various Caesars, ended in ruins.
Christ, through His love for us, gave His life willingly and selflessly for the salvation of souls. Julius Caesar gave not his life for the good of men. It was, instead, taken by selfish and wanton men; men, who like himself, saw truth as subject to the powerful. Never did they once realize that whatever power they possessed was given by the One who relinquished His on the cross, only to regain it in three days; as the Son of God only could.
“So Jesus told them this parable: “Which of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices…Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:4-5,7
God solicits each of us by dialogue no other soul can hear. His action on the soul is always for us alone. He sends no circular letters, uses no party lines. God never deals with crowds as crowds-they could only give him earthly glory-but what he wants is each soul’s singular and secret fealty. He calls his sheep by name; he leaves the ninety-nine that are safe to find the one that is lost…Once the soul becomes conscious of the Divine Presence, it…whispers to itself: “This is a message sent to me and to no one else.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
In his poem: “The Hound of Heaven,” Francis Thomas shows that God views us each as significant individuals, but also that He is relentless in His pursuit of us. As the shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep tirelessly until he finds it, so too does God pursue us with patient persistence.
Unlike the sheep who has no design in mind to stay lost, we often attempt, with all our energy, not to be found by God. We believe our happiness is in our freedom. Yet, like Thomas in his poem, we don’t understand that happiness is not in being free, but in the proper use of freedom. Improper use of freedom leads us to sadness. Proper use of freedom leads us to happiness. In the former we are successful in evading God; in the latter we are found.
“Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:3-4
“THE STRONG AND THE WEAK”
“There is a law that is not in nature, at least not in raw nature, namely, “We who are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves.” It is here that Christianity makes its most unique and distinctive pronouncement, and gives the supreme example of Divinity dying for the weakness and sinfulness of humanity. The Christian law is not “the survivor of the fittest” but ‘the survival of the unfit.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
When Jesus was approached by people of means, who showed interest in His teachings, he told them to give what they possessed to the poor and then come follow Him. He saw that their weakness was not in poverty but in their wealth. One can’t love God and money, we are told. “Where your love is, so also will be your heart .”
The poor, by circumstance, know humility well. The rich, by circumstance, are apt not to know it at all.
The poor are more susceptible to manipulation by those with evil intent. For in their need they will often accept help from the wicked as well as the just. However, with the just, there will be no strings attached; for charity is done out of duty to love. Responsibility, then, must fall upon those with the means and purity of heart, to protect those who are unable to protect themselves.
We all are weak in one respect or another. One does not need to be impoverished to know weakness. There are those of weak character who are also in need of healing. Christ emphasizes this in those whom he chose to be His apostles. The apostles were, initially, not the type of men most would have considered to be the best choice to further the cause of Christianity, nor ensure the growth of the Catholic Church.
But, God doesn’t choose the likely. Instead, He confounds by calling upon the unlikely to carry out his plan. His chooses not the strong, but the weak. He chooses not as subjective fallible men would, but as befits His infallible foreknowledge. He chooses not because of what one is, but because of what one can become.
“for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearances, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16: 6-7
Within God’s vision is hope for us all.
It is difficult for non-believers and believers alike to understand, let alone accept, that God can relate to our regrets, sorrows and suffering. How can a perfect being empathize with the imperfect? How can God feel what we feel as we endure the challenges of a chaotic and often merciless world; a world that, in the end, plays no favorites?
This brings to mind the question; Has God ever suffered?
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, through his wisdom, provides an answer to this question.
“Does God know anything about pain? Does God know what I suffer? Did God ever have a migraine headache, as if his head was crowned with thorns? Does God know anything about wounded hands and feet that are brought into to the accident wards of hospitals? Does God know anything about the starvation in India and Africa? Did he ever go without food for two days? Or three? Or five? Does he know anything about thirst? Does God know anything about homelessness? Was he ever without a home? Does he know what it is to be refugee? To flee from one country to another? Does he know what it is to be in jail? To be the victim of scourging? Does he know any of these things? Yes. God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”
By reflecting on what the Archbishop has said, it can be seen that we and God are connected. However, we must wonder how this can have come to be with such a chasm that separates us from Him. Man himself is incapable of traversing such an expanse.
In all the major religions of the world, man reaches out to God; with all his petitions, praise and sorrows. Yet only through Christianity does God come to man. That is how the chasm is bridged. And by being here He made himself available to all that we experience. He was like us in all things; suffered all things, including temptation. He was marked by all that marks man save sin. For He is God incarnate and by His divine nature is incapable of sin. However, He feels the pain we feel because He gave Himself to it on the cross. And by His sacrifice we are saved from the ravages of sin.
“But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. – Isaias 53:5
This is how we are united with God. Through the second person of the Holy Trinity we come to know the love of God for us. We find ourselves recipients of a love that is yet beyond our capacity to fully comprehend. We come to know that His love comes with a price. A price to be paid, not by us, but by Him. Because only God could bear such extreme demands of body, mind and spirit. Have you ever wondered how and why you are able to endure the pain and suffering from your trials; when you thought it impossible? You are able to, and will always be able to, because all has passed through Him first.
There is yet another important benefit that we fortunates receive through this union. Christ’s intercession for us ended not on the cross, but continues to this day. Even though the imprudent exercise of free will by men and women has wrought disorder upon the world, and sadly, at times, in the name of God; still Christ stays God’s Hand and gains Divine Mercy for the contrite of heart. He gains this favor for us by showing God the scars He received in paying the debt for our salvation; and further supports His plea on our behalf by saying: “See how I love them.”
Jesus said, “Don’t judge and you will not be judged: do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” – Luke 6:37-38
Judging our fellow human beings is as perplexing as the perceiving of colors on a spinning top. When it is at rest, or on a fixed state,…we think we can well judge his character. But when we see him in the whirl of motion of everyday life…all his goodness and badness blur into indistinctiveness. There is so much goodness at one moment, badness at another, sin in one instance, virtue in another, sobriety at one point, excess in another, that it is well to leave the judgment to God….
The way we judge others is very often the judgment which we pronounce upon ourselves…Every dramatist, scriptwriter, novelist, and essayist who attacks the moral law has lived against it in his own life. These men may not know it, but in their writings they are penning their own autobiography…. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, GUIDE TO CONTENTMENT
At times the good that we do is to offset some bad that we have done. We may give our attention to amend our inattentiveness elsewhere. We offer charity in recompense for being uncharitable. We express contempt toward atrocities when in our hearts we know that our own thoughts and behavior have been other than honorable; all in an attempt to balance the scales of justice. In and of themselves, these good works are commendable; yet would be of more value if their provider did so not to ease a guilty conscience, but rather to fulfill a merciful heart.
And if we are true to ourselves we come to realize, because of our own weaknesses and failures, that we are in no position to judge others. Our efforts would best be spent in straightening our ways and living right in the movement toward spiritual perfection. And, in so doing, we discover that we no longer have the desire to measure others; because we now understand that the concerns of judgment belong only to He who is flawless, and bears neither speck nor beam in eye as we.