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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Introduction to 2 Kings[1]

First, we'll re-cap a few things about the two Books of Kings, as a whole. They're part of the Deuteronomistic history. What does that mean?"

Well, it means that the Book of Deuteronomy, and its religious legal code, helped inspire the viewpoint of the Books of Kings' editor (or editors). In fact, 2 Kings describes what appears to be the discovery of a version of the Book of Deuteronomy, which inspires King Josiah to hack down sacred poles and slaughter priests on the altars they've made to foreign gods. So, there you godrop the word "Deuteronomistic" at parties and win the respect and fear of your besties. In line with the above, The Second Book of Kings takes a pretty black and white view of the rulers it discusses. You might be a king who prevents starvation and improves sanitation, but if you bow down to one sacred pole dedicated to a female goddess, you get discarded into 2 Kings' "totally wicked" pile. However, those are the rules of the game according to the Deuteronomy-inspired outlook of the book. It's all about intense religious law and hard monotheism. The kings and prophets who adhere to those standards end up being the heroes of the work. A big part of the work's purpose is to explain why the Assyrians were able to destroy Israel and why most of the inhabitants of Judah were sent into exile in Babylon. The book hammers home this point with insistency: it's because they turned away from God, worshipping deities like Moloch with child sacrifice or Asherah with sacred poles. Even the good guys, who start to get the right idea, often aren't perfect. Their efforts to turn things around don't last long and can't prevent destruction and exile.

Essentially, the book is a way of interpreting the past through a specific religious perspective, picking at the various faults it sees as leading to destruction. At the same time, it gives a picture of the ideal, right way of doing thingswhich could work, if only people managed to really get it together for once. The history it tells both threatens and promises. 
Why Should I Care?

Normally, we would simply say, "This is a book where ferocious bears fatally maul a crowd of forty-two children"assuming that that's more than enough to get anyone interested. And that really does happenbut as it is, we'll try to show you that there's more to 2 Kings than bears attacking kids, dogs eating a wicked queen's corpse, the angel of destruction slaughtering 180,000 Assyrian soldiers, and blasts of fire from heaven killing scores of warriors (although, again, all of those things totally happen here).

The book takes a long, hard look at "What It Takes" to gain and retain power, and what it finds isn't pretty: conspiracies, assassinations, intrigue, and ruthless manipulation. These kings kick it Machiavelli-style.

Righteous Rebels and Rogues

At the same time, there are plenty of good guys in 2 Kings, and the book has a lot to say about courage, perseverance, sticking to your convictions under pressure, and more. Like Elijah in 1 Kings (who also appears in the first two chapters of the sequel), the prophet Elisha is one of the major heroes of 2 Kings, and we suppose you could say he lives by the same motto as Kanye West in his present day lyrics: "I'm a man of God / My whole life in the hand of God / So you better quit playing with God!" (The more things change, the more they stay the same, we guess.)  But people do keep playing with God, and Elisha is determined to stop them. A few righteous kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah, get in on the act, along with more prophets. When the chips are down, the righteous people step it upalthough (spoiler alert) in the end, Israel and Judah are destroyed and almost everyone is sent into exile in Babylon. Nevertheless, the book gives some inspiring examples of people who stuck up for a cause greater than themselves, in addition to cataloguing the rogues' gallery of ruthless power seekers.

MAY 26 Sixth Sunday after Easter

2 Kings, Chapter 1, Verse 15
Then the messenger of the LORD said to Elijah: Go down with him; you need not be afraid of him. So, Elijah left and went down with him to the king.

When God’s messenger comes you would be wise to listen. We are told that the messenger to Elijah was an angel. We are not told more but I would imagine that most likely it was his guardian angel. Listening to and asking your guardian angel to assist you in accomplishing God’s will is wise.

Guardian Angel[2]

According to Saint Jerome, the concept of guardian angels is in the "mind of the Church". He stated: "how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it".

The first Christian theologian to outline a specific scheme for guardian angels was Honorius of Autun in the 12th century. He said that every soul was assigned a guardian angel the moment it was put into a body. Scholastic theologians augmented and ordered the taxonomy of angelic guardians. Thomas Aquinas agreed with Honorius and believed that it was the lowest order of angels who served as guardians, and his view was most successful in popular thought, but Duns Scotus said that any angel is bound by duty and obedience to the Divine Authority to accept the mission to which that angel is assigned. In the 15th century, the Feast of the Guardian Angels was added to the official calendar of Catholic holidays.

In his March 31, 1997 Regina Caeli address, Pope Saint John Paul II referred to the concept of guardian angel and concluded the address with the statement: "Let us invoke the Queen of angels and saints, that she may grant us, supported by our guardian angels, to be authentic witnesses to the Lord's paschal mystery".

In his 2014 homily for the Feast of Holy Guardian Angels, October 2, Pope Francis told those gathered for daily Mass to be like children who pay attention to their “traveling companion.” “No one journeys alone, and no one should think that they are alone,” the Pope said. During the Morning Meditation in the chapel of Santa Marta, the Pope noted that oftentimes, we have the feeling that “I should do this, this is not right, be careful.” This, he said, “is the voice of” our guardian angel...” “According to Church tradition”, the Pope said, “we all have an angel with us, who guards us...” The Pope instructed each, “Do not rebel, follow his advice!”. The Pope urged that this “doctrine on the angels” not be considered “a little imaginative”. It is rather one of “truth”. It is “what Jesus, what God said: ‘I send an angel before you, to guard you, to accompany you on the way, so you will not make a mistake’”. Pope Francis concluded with a series of questions so that each one can examine his/her own conscience: “How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I bid him good day in the morning? Do I tell him: ‘guard me while I sleep?’ Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? ...Each one of us can do so in order to evaluate “the relationship with this angel that the Lord has sent to guard me and to accompany me on the path, and who always beholds the face of the Father who is in heaven”.

There was an old Irish custom that suggested including in bedtime prayers a request for the Blessed Mother to tell one the name of their guardian angel, and supposedly within a few days one would "know" the name by which they could address their angel. An old Dominican tradition encouraged each novice to give a name to their Guardian Angel so that they could speak to him by name and thus feel closer and more friendly with him. The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments discourages assigning names to angels beyond those revealed in scripture: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

Sixth Sunday after Easter[3]

THIS Sunday is a preparation for the feast of Pentecost. At the Iiitroit of the Mass, the Church sings: “Hear, O Lord, my voice, with which I have cried to Thee, alleluia. My heart hath said to Thee, I have sought Thy face; Thy face, Lord, will I seek; turn not away Thy face from me, alleluia, alleluia. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall, I fear?

Prayer. O almighty and everlasting God grant us ever to entertain a devout affection towards Thee, and to serve Thy majesty with a sincere heart.

EPISTLE, i. Peter iv. 7-11.

Dearly Beloved: Be prudent, and watch in prayers. But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves; for charity covereth a multitude of sins. Using hospitality one towards another without murmuring. As every man hath received grace, ministering the same to one another, as good stew ards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speaks, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the power which God administereth: that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Practice. The virtues here recommended are excellent preparatives for receiving the Holy Ghost, for nothing makes us more worthy of His grace than temperance, prayer, charity, unity, and hospitality towards our neighbors. Endeavor, therefore, to exercise these virtues, and every day during the following week pray fervently to the Holy Ghost for help in your endeavors.

GOSPEL. John xv. 26, 27; xvi. 1-4.

At that time Jesus said to His disciples: When the Paraclete cometh Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, Who proceedeth from the Father, He shall give testimony of Me: and you shall give testimony, because you are with Me from the beginning. These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized. They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth a service to God. And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the hour shall come, you may remember that I told you.

What kind of sin is scandal? It is a frightful sin. By it countless sins are occasioned, thousands of souls are carried to perdition, while the loving design of God for the salvation of men is frustrated.

How, in general, is scandal given? By saying, doing, neglecting to do something which be comes the occasion of sin to another.

When do parents give scandal? When they set a bad example to their children. When they do not correct them for doing wrong, or neglect to keep them from what is bad and to teach them that which is good.

How do employers give scandal? In much the same way that parents give scandal to their children: when, by bad example or by command, they keep their servants or other employees from divine service, or neglect to make them attend it. When they themselves use, or give to others, flesh-meat on days of abstinence. When they order the commission of sin.

Rogation Sunday

It is only a few weeks since Good Friday when we commemorated the agonizing death of Christ on Mount Calvary. This was an excruciating, shameful death even for hardened criminals who deserved it. But for our loving Savior, the innocent lamb of God, one who had never offended God or neighbor, it was something of which the whole human race should be ashamed forever. What caused Christ that torment and death on the cross was our sins, the sins of all mankind and not the spite and hatred of his Jewish opponents, who were only instruments in the tragedy. Atonement had to be made to God for the sins of the world, so that men could reach the eternal inheritance which the incarnation made available to them. However, not all the acts of the entire human race could make a sufficient atonement to God. A sacrifice, an expiation of infinite value was needed. The death of the Son of God in his human nature was alone capable of making such an expiation. That Christ willingly accepted crucifixion for our sakes, that he gave the greatest proof of love which the world has ever known, by laying down his life for his friends, did not make his sufferings any less, did not ease any of the pains of Calvary. His agony in the Garden before his arrest shows this: he foresaw all the tortures and pains which he was to undergo and sweated blood at the thought of what awaited him. But he was to keep his Father's commandment "not my will but thine be done." We Christians must have hearts of stone, hearts devoid of all sense of gratitude, when we forget what Christ has done for us and deliberately offend him! Alas, this is what all of us do sometimes, and many of us do all the time. Christ died to bring us to heaven, but we tell him, by our sins, that he was wasting his time. We do not want to go to heaven, we are making our happiness here! How far can human ingratitude and thanklessness go?

Christ told us, through the disciples on Holy Thursday night, that he had made us his friends, his intimates. We are no longer servants in the household, who merely earn their daily wage and have no intimacy with the family and no hope of ever sharing in the family possessions. Instead, we have been adopted into the family by Christ becoming man, we have been guaranteed all the rights of children intimacy with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the future sharing in the eternal happiness of that divine household. Christ's incarnation made us God's children; Christ's death on the cross removed sin. Sin is the one obstacle that could prevent us reaching our eternal inheritance. Because God gave us a free will we can in a moment of folly, a moment of madness really, deprive ourselves of the privileges and possessions which Christ has made available to us. We can choose to exchange an eternity of happiness for a few fleeting years of self-indulgence on earth. We can fling Christ's gift of love back in his face and tell him we don't want it. God forbid that we should ever act like this, that we should ever forget God's purpose in creating us. It is a marvelous thing to be alive, if we have hope in a future life. If nothing awaited us but the grave, then to live on this earth, which is a valley of sorrow and tears for the vast majority, would be the cruelest of jests. But of this we need have no fear. Life on earth is but a short prelude to our real existence. If we use this brief period as Christ has told us how to use it, death for us will be the passage into the eternal mansions. Be grateful to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; love the Blessed Trinity; prove your love by loving your fellowmen. By doing this you are fulfilling the whole law and the prophets; and you are assuring yourself of the place in heaven which Christ has won for you.

Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Universal Man Plan
·         Manhood of Christ Day 3, Twelfth Week.
·         90 Days for our Nation, 54-day rosary-Day 14
·         drink only water. Coffee and Tea are also allowed.

[3] Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896