Thursday After Ash Wednesday
Sirach, Chapter 4, Verse 17-18
17 “I will walk with them in disguise, and at first I will test them with trials. Fear and dread I will bring upon them and I will discipline them with my constraints. When their hearts are fully with me, 18 then I will set them again on the straight path and reveal my secrets to them.
Road to Emmaus
‘Walk with sinners, open the Book, break the Bread’
And this is a first great evangelical lesson. The successful evangelist does not stand aloof from the experience of sinners, passing easy judgment on them, praying for them from a distance; on the contrary, she loves them so much that she joins them and deigns to walk in their shoes and to feel the texture of their experience. Prompted by Jesus’ curious questions, one of the travelers, Cleopas by name, recounts all of the “things” concerning Jesus of Nazareth. “He was a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people; our leaders, though, put him to death; we thought he would be the redeemer of Israel; this very morning, there were reports that he had risen from the dead.” Cleopas has all of the “facts” straight; there is not one thing he says about Jesus that is wrong. But his sadness and his flight from Jerusalem testify that he doesn’t see the picture. I love the clever and funny cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, but occasionally there is a cartoon I just don’t understand. I’ve taken in all of the details; I’ve seen the main characters and the objects around them; I’ve understood the caption. Yet I don’t see why it’s funny. And then there comes a moment of illumination: though I haven’t seen any further detail, though no new piece of the puzzle has emerged, I discern the pattern that connects them together in a meaningful way. In a word, I “get” the cartoon. Having heard Cleopas’ account, Jesus says, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said.” And then he opens the Scriptures to them, disclosing the great Biblical patterns that make sense of the “things” that they have witnessed. Without revealing to them any new detail about himself, Jesus shows them the form, the overarching design, the meaning—and through this process they begin to “get” him: their hearts are burning within them.
This is the second great evangelical lesson. The successful evangelist uses the Scriptures in order to disclose the divine patterns and ultimately the Pattern who is made flesh in Jesus. Without these clarifying forms, human life is a hodge-podge, a blur of events, a string of meaningless happenings. The effective evangelist is a man of the Bible, for the Scripture is the means by which we “get” Jesus Christ and, through him, our lives. The two disciples press him to stay with them as they draw near the town of Emmaus. Jesus sits down with them, takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it and gives it to them, and in that moment, they recognize him. Though they were, through the mediation of Scripture, beginning to see, they still did not fully grasp who he was. But in the eucharistic moment, in the breaking of the bread, their eyes are opened. The ultimate means by which we understand Jesus Christ is not the Scripture but the Eucharist, for the Eucharist is Christ himself, personally and actively present. The embodiment of the paschal mystery, the Eucharist is Jesus’ love for the world unto death, his journey into god forsakenness in order to save the most desperate of sinners, his heart broken open in compassion. And this is why it is through the lens of the Eucharist that Jesus comes most fully and vividly into focus.
And thus, we see the third great evangelical lesson. Successful evangelists are persons of the Eucharist. They are immersed in the rhythms of the Mass; they practice eucharistic adoration; they draw the evangelized to a participation in the body and blood of Jesus. They know that bringing sinners to Jesus Christ is never primarily a matter of personal witness, or inspiring sermonizing, or even exposure to the patterns of the Scripture. It is primarily a matter of seeing the broken heart of God through the broken bread of the Eucharist.
So prospective evangelists, do what Jesus did. Walk with sinners, open the Book, break the Bread.
Even if they be are leaders!
Thursday After Ash Wednesday
EPISTLE. Isaias xxxviii. 1-6
IN those days Ezechias was sick even to death, and the prophet Isaias, the son of Amos, came unto him, and said to him: Thus saith the Lord: Take order with thy house, for thou shalt die and not live. And Ezechias turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, and said I beseech Thee, O Lord, remember how I have walked before Thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight. And Ezechias wept with great weeping. And the word of the Lord came to Isaias, saying: Go and say to Ezechias: Thus saith the Lord the God of David thy father: I have heard thy prayer, and I have seen thy tears: behold I will add to thy days fifteen years: and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of the Assyrians, and I will protect it, saith the Lord Almighty.
GOSPEL. Matt. viii. 5-13.
At that time: When Jesus had entered into Capharnaum, there came to Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. And the centurion, making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. And Jesus, hearing this, marveled, and said to them that followed Him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. And I say to you that many shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion, Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.
Prayer. O God, Who by sin art offended, and by penance pacified, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy people, making supplications to Thee, and turn away the scourges of Thy anger, which we deserve for our sins.
The Devil and Temptations
The Kingdom of Darkness and Forbidden Power
· Witchcraft or superstitious magic is used to produce effects that are beyond the power of man. These effects may be good or bad and are brought about by the use of magical words or gestures, or the use of magical herbs, powders, liquids or similar things. There is often a specific invocation of the devil. Physical evils are directed against individuals because of hatred or jealousy. We have all heard about sticking pins in dolls, the evil eye, the eating of cursed food or drinking a liquid, that through the power of darkness is to cause harm, sickness, or death. This is witchcraft. Today, witches can be found almost everywhere, and often they are presented in a positive light. Just remember everyone involved in false worship, seeking forbidden knowledge, or using forbidden power should be absolutely avoided.
· There is also an increased interest in African witchcraft-- voodooism. The gods of voodooism are good and bad. Usually a voodoo service begins after sunset and ends in the early morning. It often includes a bloody sacrifice of a goat or chicken. There is prayer and singing. The gods are supposed to briefly enter into the persons during the ritual.
· In voodooism and witchcraft, Catholic objects such as images of saints, crucifixes, candles, holy water and Catholic prayers are sometimes used, as well as other objects and prayers. Do not be fooled by the apparent religious nature of what happens.
· If you have any objects or written prayers that have been used in witchcraft or given you by a witch, they should be completely destroyed.
If you have been involved in witchcraft you must renounce the devil, renounce the witchcraft in which you have been involved and all witchcraft, ask God's pardon, and confess your sin to a priest. In Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) there is Divine Power needed to free one from the influence of evil.
Can I believe in Wicca and still be Catholic?
Fr. Joe: My friend believes in Wicca because it honors nature. I think I can believe in Wicca, too, and still be Catholic. My mom says “no.” What do you think?
The Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old institution that is blessed by God in a special way to lead people to and in Christ. In those 2,000 years, we have engaged every culture that has existed during this time. We have done beautiful things; made terrible mistakes and we have learned much. Because of this, I submit myself to the wisdom of the Catholic Church. I understand that I am not in charge. I understand that in order to be Christ-like, I need to humble myself and not seek my own power.
Why am I saying this if the question is about witchcraft? Because the issue of humility and submission are two of the places where witchcraft is an offense against God. Let’s take it apart.
First of all, let’s define witchcraft. When I say witchcraft, I am talking about the practice of Wiccans and other things like using Ouija boards, consulting horoscopes, going to fortunetellers, etc., OK? The Church, without exception, condemns all of these practices. Look at your catechism, sections 2115-2117.
See, the problem is, in these practices, we take God’s job away from Him. We try to claim God’s power over the future. For example, in trying to predict our future or have someone predict it for us, we are trying to take control over something that is not ours to control! You are God’s own precious possession and all you and I need to know about the future is that God is there. The future is not ours to know or control. It is God’s.
In casting spells, we run into the problem of trying to manipulate the spirit world. You cast spells and do different things to get what you want. This is not how we deal with God. God is in charge. He is not manipulated, and we can’t “force His hand.” As Christians, we should not seek to be in charge, we should try to humble ourselves and be under God’s authority.
Now, let’s talk turkey. Witchcraft exposes us to a dangerous element of the spirit world. For some reason, all kinds of TV shows and movies have popped up which try to make witchcraft look fun, acceptable, harmless or even good. This is not the case.
Witchcraft is a practice which is dangerous and alienates us from God. We have to understand something very important and basic to our faith: as Catholics, heck, even as Christians, we believe that there are two beings out there that want us with them. One of them is God who loves us and desires great things for us (John 10:10). The other is the devil and he wants us dead (I Peter 5:8).
Whether we believe it or not, witchcraft brings contact with evil spirits. They may appear to be good, or even do nice things, but the problem is they only want our deaths. That is why I am being more serious in this article than usual. I don’t want anyone reading this to get mixed up in it.
Please understand witchcraft is not “contacting God in a different way.” God has strictly forbidden the practice. Witchcraft is not harmless or good, it is using evil spirits who appear to be good to get what we want, and that is not holy. If you are engaging in practices of witchcraft, I urge you to step away from them and pray for help. See your priest and ask him for guidance.
God loves us. We can trust Him to give us what we need and help us discover what we want. God is in charge of the future and, by humbly placing ourselves in His hands, we don’t need special powers from Wiccan practices, and we don’t need to know the future. All we need to know is this: God who loves us is in control.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence!
Manhood of the Master-Day 19
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896