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Tuesday, April 24, 2018




Jonah

The story of Jonah has great theological import. It concerns a disobedient prophet who rejected his divine commission, was cast overboard in a storm and swallowed by a great fish, rescued in a marvelous manner, and returned to his starting point. Now he obeys and goes to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s ancient enemy. The Ninevites listen to his message of doom and repent immediately. All, from king to lowliest subject, humble themselves in sackcloth and ashes. Seeing their repentance, God does not carry out the punishment planned for them. At this, Jonah complains, angry because the Lord spares them. This fascinating story caricatures a narrow mentality which would see God’s interest extending only to Israel, whereas God is presented as concerned with and merciful to even the inhabitants of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire which brought the Northern Kingdom of Israel to an end and devastated Jerusalem in 701 B.C. The Lord is free to “repent” and change his mind. Jonah seems to realize this possibility and wants no part in it. But the story also conveys something of the ineluctable character of the prophetic calling. The book is replete with irony, wherein much of its humor lies. The name “Jonah” means “dove” in Hebrew, but Jonah’s character is anything but dove-like. Jonah is commanded to go east to Nineveh but flees toward the westernmost possible point, only to be swallowed by a great fish and dumped back at this starting point. The sailors pray to their gods, but Jonah is asleep in the hold. The prophet’s preaching is a minimum message of destruction, while it is the king of Nineveh who calls for repentance and conversion; the instant conversion of the Ninevites is greeted by Jonah with anger and sulking. He reproaches the Lord in words that echo Israel’s traditional praise of his mercy. Jonah is concerned about the loss of the gourd but not about the possible destruction of 120,000 Ninevites. Unlike other prophetic books, this is not a collection of oracles but the story of a disobedient, narrow-minded prophet who is angry at the outcome of the sole message he delivers. It is difficult to date but almost certainly is postexilic and may reflect the somewhat narrow, nationalistic reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah. As to genre, it has been classified in various ways, such as parable or satire. The “sign” of Jonah is interpreted in two ways in the New Testament: His experience of three days and nights in the fish is a “type” of the experience of the Son of Man, and the Ninevites’ reaction to the preaching of Jonah is contrasted with the failure of Jesus’ generation to obey the preaching of one who is “greater than Jonah”[1].

aPRIL 24 Tuesday
feast of saint fidelis


Jonah, Chapter 1, Verse 5
5 Then the sailors were afraid and each one cried to his god. To lighten the ship for themselves, they threw its cargo into the sea. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship, and lay there fast asleep.

According to bible-study-for-everyone.com[2]:
Christians regard the prophet Jonah as a type foreshadowing Jesus. Jesus said that he did not come for the healthy but for the sick. The healthy are well and they know it. So, they have no need of a doctor. But the sick may be diseased and not know it. They require someone to diagnose their sickness and prescribe the remedy. They need a healer. People can be sick physically. And they can be sick mentally, spiritually, emotionally. For instance, the physical ailment of blindness is plain because the person cannot see. But there is also the blindness of selfishness. People can be blind in many ways. A person can be blind to themselves. They see with their eyes but they do not understand what they see. Or they can be blind as to their experience. They interact with their world and with other people but remain isolated and lonely because they cannot see the depth and love within their relationships. Or they have very deep emotional or mental feelings but they do not see (understand) from where the feelings came. They do not know what the feelings indicate. They are in the dark as to any remedy. Jesus came in order for us to understand, to see and gain a remedy. He came as the source of knowledge, as light in darkness and as the cure for our illness. Those in light do not need a lamp but those in darkness need the light. Jesus was sent as the light that shines in the darkness. From the beginning to the end of the bible the theme is repeated. Humankind is lost due to deafness, blindness, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance, selfishness and greed. That is the first act of the play. The second act is God seeking and searching for lost humankind, looking for them in the various places of their fear, the haunts of darkness, the hiding places of those who are afraid of God. The final act is played out in the response of each individual and society, each nation and epoch of human history.
Will man and God be enemies or friends? Will God win and regain the trust and fidelity of his creation? Or will humankind forever remain estranged? Will the people always wander outside in the desolation or will they be admitted once again into the intimacy of the Garden of Paradise?


Amoris Lætitia[3] The Tenderness of an Embrace

Christ proposed as the distinctive sign of his disciples the law of love and the gift of self for others. Against this backdrop of love so central to the Christian experience of marriage and the family, another virtue stands out, one often overlooked in our world of frenzied and superficial relationships. It is tenderness. The word of God tells us that the family is entrusted to a man, a woman and their children, so that they may become a communion of persons in the image of the union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The family is called to join in daily prayer, to read the word of God and to share in Eucharistic communion, and thus to grow in love and become ever more fully a temple in which the Spirit dwells. Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Like Mary, we are asked to face our family’s challenges with courage and serenity, in good times and bad, and to keep in our hearts the great things which God has done. An excellent program that is modeled on the Holy Family is available on line. (http://thechoicewine.org/)

Saint Fidelis[4]


Saint Fidelis who became a martyr and was murdered for his faith in 1622, while traveling back to his home church after preaching in Seewis, Switzerland to former Catholics who had converted to Calvinism. Saint Fidelis on the day of his martyrdom preached with great energy, he exhorted the Catholics to constancy in the faith. After a Calvinist had discharged his musket at him in the Church, the Catholics entreated him to leave the place. He answered that death was his gain and his joy, and that he was ready to lay down his life in God's cause. On his road back to Grüsch, he met twenty Calvinist soldiers with a minister at their head. They called him a false prophet, and urged him to embrace their sect. He answered: "I am sent to you to confute, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages, I fear not death." One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on the head with his backsword. Fidelis rose again on his knees and stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, said with a feeble voice "Pardon my enemies, O Lord: blinded by passion they know not what they do. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Mary, Mother of God, succor me!" Another sword stroke clove his skull, and he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. The soldiers, not content with this, added many stab wounds to his body with their long knives, and hacked-off his left leg, as they said, to punish him for his many journeys into those parts to preach to them. How shall we deal with truly evil people?

In Judaism, the Amalekites came to represent the archetypal enemy of the Jews. In the Jewish folklore the Amalekites are considered to be the symbol of evil. This concept has been used by some Hassidic rabbis (particularly the Baal Shem Tov) to represent atheism or the rejection of God. Elliot Horowitz and Josef Stern suggest that Amalekites have come to represent an "eternally irreconcilable enemy" that wants to murder Jews, and that Jews in post-biblical times sometimes associate contemporary enemies with Haman or Amalekites, and that some Jews believe that pre-emptive violence is acceptable against such enemies.[5]

 The truly wicked are animals as the bible mentions they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Strong men and women whether laity or religious have a duty to protect the flock; they are the shepherds of the church that protect the weaker ones. Who are the Amalekites of our time; how shall we recognize them.


According to Christian Counselor Lesie Vernick[6] there are five indicators that you may be dealing with an evil heart rather than an ordinary sinful heart.

·         Evil hearts are experts at creating confusion and contention. They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, deny reality, make up stories, and withhold information.

·         Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words. But if you look at the fruit of their lives or the follow through of their words, you will find no real evidence of godly growth or change. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

·         Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference. They reject feedback, real accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. They use Scripture to their own advantage but ignore and reject passages that might require self-correction and repentance.

·         Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card. They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust.

·         Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse. They do not struggle against sin or evil—they delight in it—all the while masquerading as someone of noble character.

Hmm…sounds like politicians to me? I would like to finish with some thoughts of Saint John Paul II on the subject.

I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world…"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.[7]

Men Seek Heroes[8]

God has created men by nature and vocation with a natural desire for Himself and men can only find happiness in God.  But men become lost as they seek God due to ignorance and sin.  Realizing real dangers in the world and the God-implanted understanding of the need for salvation, men aspire to heroic deeds and seek courageous heroes to protect and lead them through the challenges of life.  The desire and need for true heroes is perennial in the hearts of men across time and cultures. From an early age, boys naturally seek heroes.  They look up to their fathers, older boys and other men as role models and as defenders/protectors.  Boys are intrigued by the heroic deeds of fictional characters (e.g. Superheroes in movies, TV and books, videogame heroes, sports heroes, etc.).  Boys admire and seek those with heroic virtues. When grown, men continue to seek heroes.  Some continue on with the fictional heroes of youth, trading comic books for the action/superheroes and celebrities in the media.  Most men also look up to heroes in real life.  Many follow and celebrate sports teams and athletes.  Others admire and follow politicians, social activists or business leaders.  Still others look up to and follow real life heroes in the military (Medal of Honor winners), religion (saints) and people who perform extraordinary deeds in the face of tough challenges (911 responders, those who battle life-challenging illnesses).   All men, in some way, desire to be heroes and to associate themselves with heroic leaders.


27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.

44 Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God.

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.


Men fall for false heroes

Many men are confused about the definition and true nature of heroism.  Heroism is confused with celebrity.  Heroism is confused with self-serving athleticism, political opportunists, charlatans who deceive, “anti-heroes” or outright scoundrels.   The meaning of the word “hero” has been dumbed down to the point of being almost meaningless.   Doing an Internet search for websites, news articles or images provides ample evidence of the misuse of the word “hero”.  Heroism is associated with movie stardom, video games (Guitar Hero), relatively routine athletic accomplishments and even a sandwich.  Sadly, many of the real life men who masquerade as heroes, fail, and fail spectacularly.


The Definition of “Hero”

The word “hero” comes from the Latin, hero, meaning, “defender, protector” and “to save, deliver, preserve, protect.”  Closely related is the word, “Savior” which comes from the Latin, salvatorem, meaning “one who delivers or rescues from peril” or “heals.”  Modern definitions of the word “hero” provide other characteristics of a hero.  A hero: faces danger or adversity with courage; sacrifices self for the greater good of humanity; displays moral excellence”; “is placed high above his fellows.”


Jesus – The True Hero

·         Jesus is infinitely higher above all other heroes – He is the Son of God; there can be no hero that compares.  Heroes come and go, but only Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.  No hero, except Jesus, was anticipated for thousands of years before His birth and remains a hero two millennia after His death (and Resurrection).

·         He physically protects people on earth – He saves the Disciples who are in fear of drowning.  He stands up to the bloodthirsty mob that is going to stone the adulterous woman. He protects the disciples from the violent legion when He is taken in the Garden.  He is the ultimate protector.

·         Jesus is the perfect demonstration of virtue – He demonstrates prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude and charity with perfection that no man has met, or can ever, match.

·         He heals people from sickness, madness and death – Jesus healed the multitudes of every illness and raises them from the dead.

·         He stands for Truth against falsehood – Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and corrects their falsehoods, despite their collusion to kill Him.  He refuses to yield to Pilate, even as Pilate threatens Him with death.  Jesus is Truth itself.

·         Jesus defeats man’s greatest foe, Satan – There is no greater enemy of man than Satan.  Jesus defeats Satan when tempted in the Wilderness, by casting out demons, and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853).  He defeats Satan on his home turf (Hell) when Jesus descends to offer His “redemptive works to all men of all times and all places…” (CCC 634).  Only Jesus delivers us from evil.

2853 Victory over the "prince of this world" was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is "cast out." "He pursued the woman" but had no hold on her: the new Eve, "full of grace" of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). "Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring." Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: "Come, Lord Jesus," since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

634 "The gospel was preached even to the dead." The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.


·         He defeats man’s greatest scourge, Sin – He saves people from sin (CCC 2854).  For example, He tells the sinful woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”
.
2854 When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ's return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has "the keys of Death and Hades," who "is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

·         Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

·         He sacrifices Himself for others – Jesus makes an infinite sacrifice, for His life is of infinite value and he gives it for the sins of all mankind.  He chooses a horrible death freely, saying, “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

·         He offers salvation for all mankind – His Name means “God saves” (CCC 430) and it is only the name of Jesus that can actually save.  “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of His cross…” (CCC 517).  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”.  “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

430 Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves." At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, "will save his people from their sins". In Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.


517 Christ's whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ's entire life:

- Already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
- In his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
- In his word which purifies its hearers;
- In his healings and exorcisms by which "he took our infirmities and bore our diseases";
- And in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.

·         He is recognized as a Savior during His life on earth – The Samaritans profess, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Daily Devotions

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Please pray for me and this ministry

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