Archive for the ‘Typology’ Category

“The Ten Virgins & Wedding Party Prudence” — 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year A

November 13, 2017

Learning about first century Jewish marriage customs helps us understand the Gospels better, including the Parable of The Wise and Foolish Virgins. In Jesus’ day, when a young man wished to marry a woman, he would journey from his father’s house to hers. He and her father would agree upon a dowry and once this dowry price was paid the marriage covenant was established. This event was called “betrothal” and the man and woman thereafter were considered husband and wife. The groom, however, would not then begin to live with his bride. He returned to his father’s house for twelve months, manifesting his respectful self-restraint and honorableness toward her. (Betrothal was the situation St. Matthew described: “When Mary… was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” So Mary was never an unwed mother, but she knows the experience of having a crisis pregnancy.) During their year apart, the man and woman would prepare for their new life together. One of the groom’s most important tasks in this period was to prepare living accommodations for them at his father’s house.

Once their time of separation was over, the groom would return to his bride’s house with his groomsmen, usually at night with a torchlight procession. She would be expecting him but not know the exact hour of his arrival. That is why the groom’s second coming would be preceded by his messenger’s shout. Then the bride and her female attendants and the groom and his groomsmen would return to his Father’s house (their new home) for a wedding feast with their other gathered friends, family, and neighbors. There the husband and wife would consummate their marriage, and seven days of feasting and merriment would begin.

In the Gospels, Jesus is declared and calls himself “the bridegroom.” The New Testament names the Church his “bride.” The relationship between Christ and his Church parallels a Jewish marriage. For instance, in the Incarnation, God the Son left his Father’s house in Heaven to journey to our dwelling place on earth. Jesus paid our dowry price with his own blood. And after establishing his covenant, Jesus ascends to his Father’s house for a time until his second coming. This is why Jesus says at the Last Supper:

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

This Sunday’s second reading describes this return.  As St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “The Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven…” Notice how the Lord’s angelic messenger announces to the bride that her bridegroom is at hand. St. Paul continues, “And then the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

In the Book of Revelation we see this nuptial union of Christ and his Church continues above. St. John hears Heaven sing:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.‘”

The virgin, young women in today’s parable are the bride’s attendants awaiting the bridegroom. Five are called wise and five are called foolish. The important distinction between them is not one of I.Q.—of being naturally intelligent or unintelligent—but in being thoughtful versus thoughtless. In the 1994 Best Picture Winning film, Forrest Gump is a man of below-average intelligence who, by his simple virtue, lives an admirable and remarkable life. A couple of times he’s asked, “Are you stupid or something?” and Forrest replies, “Stupid is as stupid does, sir.” I didn’t know what this meant when I was a kid, so I asked my dad. He explained that if you’re blessed with intelligence, but keep doing bad or foolish things, then you’re stupid. On the other hand, even if you’re not that bright but you make good and smart choices, then you are wise.

What is the meaning of the oil lamps that play such a significant role in Jesus’ story? The consensus of the Church Fathers is that they represent good works. Elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus likens lamps to good deeds:

No one lights a lamp and then put its under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

(But doesn’t Jesus warn us, just a few verses before in his Sermon on the Mount, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father”? What reconciles these two teachings The answer is in whose glory is being sought. If I pray, fast, and give alms for my own glory, then some people may think well of me for a little while until they forget, and I will have received my reward. But if I do good works for the glory of God, then he will be glorified and he will reward me and I will share in his glory.)

The two types of virgins in the parable represent two types of people awaiting Christ the bridegroom. All the virgins fall asleep. Likewise, all of us (unless Jesus comes again first) will experience the falling asleep of death. They virgins are roused from sleep. Likewise we will be roused from sleep in the Resurrection. All of the virgins have at least a little oil, some light. At the Judgment, I suspect everyone will have some good deeds to point to – even murderous dictators have loved their dogs. But is that love sufficient? Are those good deeds enough? For the thoughtless, foolish virgins, their little oil is not enough.

They say, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise ones reply, “No, for there may not be enough for us and you.” (Apparently, their oil and abundance is not something that can be shared or transferred between persons.) “Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.” That’s where the wise virgins would have bought their oil in preparation, but remember what time it is. The bridegroom’s arrival was announced at midnight. All the stores are closed. Where are the foolish virgins going to find a merchant to sell them oil? They won’t. It’s too late.

Who are these merchants that we must buy our oil from now, before it is too late? These merchants are your neighbors in their need. At the judgment of the world, the Lord Jesus will say the righteous, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked & you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’Then these righteous ones will wonder when this happened. And our king will say in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” And elsewhere, Jesus tells us, “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Our neighbors, near and far, are the merchants from whom we obtain the oil of good works now for our lamps of glory later. We pay our neighbors with our time, our talents, and our treasure to purchase our good deeds.

This opportunity to do good on earth will not last forever. In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” old man Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley.

[Standing in his bed chamber, Scrooge] became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The [ghost of Jacob Marley], after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night. Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out. The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few…were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.”

We know the souls in Heaven can help effect good on earth – that’s why we pray for their intercession. The souls in Purgatory may or may not be able to pray and intercede for us – that’s an open question in Catholic theology. The souls in Hell definitely do not help us, but both they and those in Purgatory regret and lament having failed to do more good on earth when they had their chance in life.

When the foolish virgins finally arrive late to the wedding feast they find the door is locked. They cry, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But the bridegroom says in reply, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” This echoes what Jesus teaches elsewhere:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’”

Jesus is teaching us that we are not saved by faith alone, by the mere acknowledgment that he is “Lord, Lord.” Nor are we saved by the vast accumulation of good works, for one could even prophesy, drive out demons, or do mighty deeds without having a saving relationship with him. We are saved by Jesus’ love for us and our loving him in return; by both faith in him and good works in him.

So what was the foolish virgins’ great sin? Who hasn’t accidentally forgotten to pack something on occasion? It’s hard to imagine Jesus condemning people for a mere accident. I think the virgins’ oversight in this parable suggests a far more serious fault. These young women heard there was going to be a big party and that a lot of people were going. They jumped on the bandwagon but were just going along for the ride. They did not really know the bride or groom and didn’t really care about them. If they had loved the couple, they would have put more thought into being their good guests and true friends, they would have been more serious in their personal preparations, and that prudent diligence would have saved them from being locked out in the end.

I do not wish to unsettle you, but Jesus preached this parable to the crowds and ensured that it was included in Matthew’s Gospel because he wanted us to consider this question: am I loving the bridegroom and his bride, am I loving the Church and her Lord? Are you dedicating your time, talents, and treasure to God and your neighbor? Are you striving for the narrow path and the narrow door that Jesus tells us few attain? Or are you, like many, just going with the flow in comfortable complacency? Jesus’ final warning in today’s gospel is, “Stay awake, (be vigilant, be diligent,) for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The bridegroom and bride request the honor of your presence at their banquet. So let us wisely be diligent, doing good works in Christ, while this precious daylight remains.

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Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant

September 4, 2017

Did you ever see Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark? You may recall seeing the movie’s replica of the Ark of the Covenant featured as the McGuffin artifact everyone was seeking out. This movie has been very helpful to preachers in providing a visual aid to everyone of what the Ark of the Covenant looked like.

Like Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant was a box constructed according to God’s design and command. It served as a portable throne bearing the presence of God on earth. The Ark held inside of it three important things: the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the wooden staff of Moses’ brother Aaron the High Priest, and a gold jar containing some of the Manna God provided his people to eat in the desert. The reason I mention these things today is because the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament foreshadows the Blessed Virgin Mary in the New Testament.

The old Ark held the Ten Commandments, the word of God in stone; the Virgin Mary bears the Word of God in flesh. The old Ark held the priestly staff which on one occasion miraculously blossomed despite being dead; Mary conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit despite her perfect virginity. The old Ark contained Manna bread in a golden vessel; Mary’s holy womb contains the true Bread from Heaven, provided to us for our journey to Promised Land — Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King.

At God’s command, the old Ark was made of natural wood overlaid with pure gold inside and out. Mary is a human woman who is made “full of grace.” King David once joyfully leaped and danced before the Ark of the Lord. At the Visitation, when Mary visits Elizabeth her relative, John the Baptist likewise leaps with joy within his mother’s womb. David once asked, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth likewise asks, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” On one occasion, the old covenant ark was kept for three months in the house of a man named Obed-edom outside Jerusalem, and Scripture records that God blessed his whole household. Mary likewise dwelt three months in the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth near Jerusalem and was surely a blessing to them.

No man was to touch the Old Covenant Ark, lest they be struck down dead. (God instructed his ministers to move that holy Ark only by means of two gilded poles which slid through rings on the sides of the Ark.) Joseph of Nazareth held a similar reverence towards Mary, his ever-virgin wife. In the Old Testament, the Lord was to be found wherever the old Ark dwelt, from the Sinai wilderness to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the New Testament, “on entering the house, [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother,” and, “standing by the cross of Jesus [was] his mother.”

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Nazis were looking for the “lost” Ark because Scripture reports that the Old Covenant Ark was hidden soon before the Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. Jeremiah the Prophet took the Ark and placed it in a secret cave. Unlike in the 1981 movie, the Lost Ark has never been recovered. Yet, in his revelations recorded at the end of the New Testament, John the Apostle sees the new Ark revealed. John writes: “God’s temple in Heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” The next thing John describes is a glorious woman pregnant with the Christ child, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” This is Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, whom at the end of her time on earth God lifted up body and soul into Heaven.

The old Ark was of central, though secondary, importance in the Old Covenant. Drawing physically nearer to it brought one closer to the presence of God on earth. Likewise, God gives the Blessed Virgin Mary, the new Ark, a central role in his New Covenant. If you draw closer in your relationship with her, you will surely draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

But It Was Not Enough For Him

April 16, 2017

At Passover, in Jesus’ day and in our own, the Jewish people remember and celebrate the great Exodus, how God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and led them into the freedom of the Promised Land. Through Moses, God commanded his people to keep the Passover feast as an everlasting memorial. Jesus’ Last Supper was something of a transformed Passover meal, and his Passion, Death, and Resurrection are the mystery that the Passover foreshadowed and prefigured.

Jews today observe their annual Passover meal with an assortment of ancient traditions. Among these is singing or reciting an up-beat Hebrew song named “Dayenu” (Da-yea-nu.) Dayenu means “it would have been enough for us!” Here is an English translation of this more than one thousand year old song:

If [the Lord] had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had destroyed their idols, and had not struck their first-born
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had struck their first-born, and had not given us their wealth
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the Manna
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had fed us the Manna, and had not given us the Sabbath
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had given us the Sabbath, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Law
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had given us the Law, and had not brought us into the land of Israel
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and not built for us the Holy Temple
Dayenu, it would have been enough!

It would have been enough for us,” for how could we demand more than what God had given? He created the universe out of nothing and every good thing is his gift. Apart from God’s promises (freely-imposed upon himself by His covenants) we could not rightfully insist upon anything more. As Job said at the onset of his trials, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” We could not demand more—but we would still desire more.

We would continue to desire life without end. We would still want deliverance from evils, outside us and within us. We would still desire unending delights, for as King Solomon observed, “The eye is not satisfied by seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing.” And would long for divine intimacy with the Holy Source of all good. All these desires are fulfilled for us through Jesus Christ.

We could not demand more, but we would still desire more, for the Lord has placed these desires within us. He did this that He might fulfill our desires and they reflected his own desires for us.

The Lord did all the great things that came before
— But this was not enough for Him!

He did all these great things, and then He became man for us
— But this was not enough for Him!

He became man for us, and then He taught us the New Law of Love
— But this was not enough for Him!

He taught us the New Law, and then He suffered and died to forgive us
— But this was not enough for Him!

He suffered and died to forgive us, and then He rose from the dead to save us from death
— But this was not enough for Him!

He rose from the dead to save us from death, and then He left us the Church
— But this was not enough for Him!

He left us the Church, and then He wedded and united himself to us through the Holy Sacraments

What God has given us, what Jesus has done for us, what we are given, what we are promised — this is enough for us. Let us rejoice in Him this day!

Jesus as the Anti-Cain

February 17, 2017

A Reflection on Genesis 4:1-15

Cain and Abel Mosaic in Monreale, Sicily, 12th century.Adam had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Through Eve, Cain is the firstborn of man. Through Mary, the new Eve, Jesus is firstborn of God.

Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. This implies that Cain is not offering his very best. Jesus’ sacrifice offers everything to God.

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Jealousy and a hardened heart leads Cain to murder his brother in the countryside. Similar wickedness leads to Jesus being murdered by his own outside Jerusalem’s gates.

The Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain is not a keeper of animals, but Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” (John 10:14)

The Lord God then said to Cain: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!” The blood that Cain shed cried out to Heaven for vengeance, but “the sprinkled blood [of Jesus] speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24) The blood of Jesus outpoured begs mercy, for the forgiveness of sins on earth.

Cain said to the Lord: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” “Not so!” the Lord said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. Cain is given a protective mark (perhaps a tattoo, common in violent nomadic cultures.)

Jesus enjoys no protective  distinction: “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” Cain was not executed for his crime, but Jesus “was pierced for our sins” and “the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2,6) Killing Cain would have returned “seven fold revenge,” but Jesus’ death  brings forth multitudes of mercy, as through the seven Sacraments.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the anti-Cain. Praise be to God!

The Significance of Anna’s Age and Lifestyle — Sixth Day in the Christmas Octave

December 31, 2015

Readings: 1st John 2:12-17, Luke 2:36-40

Whenever we read the Bible, it is profitable for us to remember that every detail is there for a reason. The sacred authors and the Holy Spirit chose to omit so many minor facts that “I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” if they had described everything. (John 21:25) Instead, all that we find in Scripture has been purposely included for our benefit. (John 20:30-31) Consider the details mentioned in this encounter from the Presentation, when Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the first time:

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by James Tissot

There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

This is the only episode in the New Testament where the prophetess Anna appears. Why does St. Luke include Anna’s age and the length of her marriage? Let’s explore this obscure detail. The 84-year-old widow was married for seven years, and thus was unmarried for 77 years of her life. She is 7 x 12: the Jewish number symbolizing completeness and perfection times the number of the tribes of Israel. Anna personifies Old Testament Israel at her best. But of the twelve tribes, which tribe would correspond with Anna’s seven years of marriage?

After the death of Saul, all the tribes of Israel came to David (of the tribe of Judah) seeking to make him their king. They said: “Look! We are your bone and your flesh,” echoing the words of Adam towards Eve at the beginning of their marriage covenant, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (2nd Samuel 5:1, Genesis 2:23) Old Testament Israel had been wedded for a time to David, but now she awaited the kingship of a Son of David from the tribe of Judah. While David had once conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, Anna and others in her day were “awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” by the Messiah/Christ. (1st Chronicles 11:4-5)

Living like a Christian nun veiled in anticipation of her bridegroom’s arrival, Anna “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Why would Anna, or any woman, choose to live in this way? St. John’s first epistle offers this admonition:

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

Alexandrian World Chronicle (5th century) featuring Anna the ProphetessThough Anna understood the evil corruptions of “the world,” she was also well aware of the goodness of creation. She had known the blessings of marriage and the (at least occasional) pleasures of feasting, but Anna knew that these passing things could not fully satisfy her. Her deepest longings could only be met by the One to come, not only for her but for all Jews and Gentiles. When Jesus Christ came to the temple, Anna rejoiced, gave thanks, and “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” Because she devoted herself to “the will of God,” Anna’s scriptural legacy and joy before the Lord ‘remain forever.’

The Two (Old & New) Arks of God

December 17, 2015

Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? The Ark that Indiana Jones and the Nazis were pursued in that entertaining film was the most precious object in the entire Old Testament. But what is lost on many is how that holy artifact is related to the most important woman in the New Testament and its New Covenant.

The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was a box built in the days of Moses according to God’s instructions at Mount Sinai. It was made of wood overlaid with pure gold, inside and out. No man was allowed to touch God’s Holy Ark—lest they die—so it was designed to be carried about using a pair of poles. The Ark was the throne for God’s presence on earth. The wings of two, golden Cherubim angel statues atop the Ark’s lid served as his “mercy-seat.” The Ark itself contained within several interesting items from the time of the Exodus: the two stone tablets of the 10 Commandments, the wooden staff of Aaron (which miraculously blossomed to confirm his divinely-ordained priesthood), and a gold container holding some of the Manna from heaven which God provided to feed his people on their desert pilgrimage.

Ark

About 450 years after its construction, around 1000 BC, King David reigned over all of Israel. He tried to bring the Ark up to his royal city, Jerusalem, until one of the priests (who should have known better) touched the Ark and fell down dead. David exclaimed, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” He arranged for it to be kept at the house of Obed-edom in the Judean countryside. The Ark remained there for three months and manifestly blessed the whole household. When it was reported to the king how richly Obed-edom was being graced, King David decided to try transporting the Ark into Jerusalem once more. David himself led that procession, dancing and leaping before the Lord with joyful abandon.

The Ark would eventually reside in the Jerusalem Temple built by David’s son, King Solomon. It is written that before that Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC, Jeremiah the Prophet took the Ark and hid it in a secret cave, saying, “No one must know about this place until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy.”Unlike in the 1981 film, the Lost Ark has never been found, but a new Ark of God did appear.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant because she bears Jesus Christ, God’s fullest presence on earth. By God’s design, the first Ark was made of wood and covered with gold; Mary is a human being full with grace. The former Ark carried the word of God in stone; Mary’s womb carries the Word become flesh. Aaron’s dead staff miraculously flowered; Mary’s virgin womb blossomed with a bud from the stump of Jesse. The Ark held Manna from heaven; Mary bore the true bread from heaven. Mary’s womb holds Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King.

The Visitation by Albertinelli, 1503.As the Gospel of Luke tells us, after she was visited by St. Gabriel the Archangel at the Annunciation, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” And Mary would bless them with her help and companionship, staying at their house in the Judean hill country about three months.

Like King David, St. Elizabeth questions and St. John the Baptist leaps for joy before the Ark of the Lord. St. Joseph, regarding the inviolable sanctity of his wife with reverent fear, never touched her virginity. Mary would also go on to literally serve as God’s throne, his mercy-seat; “On entering the house [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother.”

In the Book of Revelation, St. John’s vision of heaven includes a sighting of the Lost Ark: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of his Covenant could be seen in the temple.” Then John beholds “in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” We soon discover that this  glorious woman is pregnant with “a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations….” This is the Christ, and she is his Holy Ark.

Now the Lord’s Ark is not meant to be worshiped. (Though among God’s most holy creations, an Ark of God is not divine.) Yet, as one draws nearer to the Holy Ark, one inevitably draws nearer to God’s presence. Just as the old Ark of the Covenant was of central (though secondary) importance in the Old Covenant, so God gives the Blessed Virgin Mary an essential role in his New Covenant. All who come to her are drawn nearer to her Son.

Imagine daring to enter the old Jewish Temple’s the Holy of Holies where the Ark of God was kept. What awe and reverence would you feel before the all-holy presence of God? Now consider drawing near to the even greater Ark, Mary the Mother of all Christians, who reaches out to each of us with love and takes away our fear. And now reflect upon the great privilege we have in approaching and even touching the Christmas Gift of God she bore, Jesus Christ himself. Mary is blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. But blessed are we who would believe in all that the Lord has revealed to us.

“One on His Right, the Other on His Left”

March 24, 2015

Revealing fascinating prophetic connections between Moses, Joshua, Samson, and Jesus Christ on the Cross; featuring the religious paintings of James Tissot (1836-1902.)

Mysteries of the Holy Family

December 26, 2014
  • Mary with Jesus in Swaddling ClothesThe Holy Family’s first Christmas was both stressful and joyful.
  • Jesus the Bread of Life was born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread.”
  • Jesus was born and laid to rest in caves. His body was wrapped, in birth and death.
  • Joseph taught carpentry to Him through whom all things were made.
  • Mary taught prayers to God.
  • St. Joseph, protector of the Holy Family, is now universal patron of the Church.
  • St. Mary, the bearer of one child, is now mother of all Christians.

Our Lady’s Wisconsin Message: The Meaning of the Two Trees

September 25, 2014

In the Garden of Eden, there were many fruit-bearing trees, but Genesis mentions only two by name: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By partaking of the Tree of Life the human race could keep living forever, but the Lord warned that to eat from the other tree would mean our certain death. On October 9th, 1859, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared near Green Bay to a 28 year-old Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise while she was walking eleven miles home from Sunday Mass. Interestingly, Our Lady chose to appear to Adele not in a church, or a thousand other places, but between two trees: a Maple and a Hemlock.

Maple LeavesYou’re familiar with the beauty and goodness of the Maple. In the fall, its leaves turn the most striking colors, and in the spring its sap yields sweet syrup. But do you know about the Hemlock tree? The poison that the Greek philosopher Socrates was condemned to drink came from this plant. Ingesting just six or eight fresh Hemlock leaves can kill a healthy adult. The Maple is a tree of life while the Hemlock is a tree of death. Mary, the New Eve, stood between the two.

Three Conium Maculatum (or Poison Hemlock), Cedar Bog, Champaign CoMary told Adele, “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.” Our Lady’s message between the two trees is akin the words of Moses, who told the Israelites: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land….

Peshtigo Fire MapApparently, Our Lady’s warnings were not sufficiently heeded. In October of 1871, exactly twelve years later, disaster came. Both in terms of size and number of lives lost, the Peshtigo Fire remains the worst recorded forest fire in U.S. history. Between 1,200 and 2,400 lives ended in that firestorm which saw, according to an eyewitness, “large wooden houses torn from their foundations and caught up like straws by two opposing currents of air which raised them till they came in contact with the stream of fire.” This seems to be the punishment due to sin that Mary spoke of, yet this does not mean that everyone who perished in that fire was condemned. We should remember that at harvest time, the wheat and the weeds are pulled up together in a moment, but their future fates are not the same. Once uprooted, the good are gathered and kept in the barn, while the bad are thrown away forever.

The firestorm came and surrounded the shrine of Our Lady, where hundreds had come for refuge with their families and herds, beseeching her intercession before God. As many as fled to her there were saved. The shrine’s consecrated earth was an emerald-green island in an ocean of smoldering ashes as far as eyes could see.

Mary, the Queen of Heaven, prays for the conversion of sinners and she wishes you to do the same. You receive Holy Communion, and that is well. But you must do more. Begin by receiving the sacrament of reconciliation regularly, because it is powerful for growing in holiness. The sinner whose conversion you are most responsible for is your own.

The Two Mountains — Wednesday, 3rd Week of Lent

March 26, 2014

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:5-9, Matthew 5:17-19

[W]hat great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

The greatness of Israel among the nations consisted not merely in their moral law but in their intimacy with God. As C.S. Lewis once observed, “The road to the promised land runs past Sinai.” The morality of Mount Sinai is essential to the journey, but our goal is to worship on Mount Zion.

Immediately following today’s Gospel about fulfilling the Law, Jesus declares, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and scribes kept the commandments pretty well but they were often far from God.

This Lent, let us not only focus on growing in our moral practices, but also on our love and intimacy with the Lord.

Reflections on St. Joseph — March 19 — St. Joseph

March 19, 2014
  • Joseph was probably the first person Jesus Christ called “Abba.”
  • As a carpenter, Joseph created things by his mind and hand, imaging God the Father, Creator of the universe.
  • Joseph never gave a stone, a snake, or a scorpion to Jesus when asked for a loaf of bread, a fish, or an egg.
  • Like God the Father, Joseph can seem quiet, but he never ceases in his love and action.
  • As God loved ancient Israel purely, so Joseph loved Mary—the icon of perfected Israel.
  • Joseph was the protector and provider in the household of the Son of God. Now he is the patron of the universal Church.

Stained Glass Symbols — The Dove

February 9, 2014

Holy Spirit Dove - Sacred Heart Catholic Church -  Wauzeka WIA Symbol of the Holy Spirit

From the Ark, at the time of the Flood, Noah released a dove three times to scout for land. The bird’s return with a fresh olive leaf in its beak signaled an end to the deadly judgment and the beginning of new life. Noah’s dove revealed that peace was restored between heaven and earth. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, they saw the Holy Spirit descend in bodily form, like a dove, and land upon Christ. By receiving Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on us, pouring into us the new life and graces of the Trinity.

What do the Virgin Mary & the Ark of the Covenant Have in Common?

August 17, 2013

The Ark of the Covenant bore the presence of God and three other important things, while Mary’s womb bears Jesus Christ, our Priest, Prophet and King. (Hebrews 9:4)

The Ark bore the Ten Commandments, the word of God in stone, while Mary’s womb carries Jesus Christ, the Word of God in flesh. (Deuteronomy 31:26, John 1:14)

The Ark bore the staff of Aaron which had miraculously blossomed, while Mary’s womb carries Jesus Christ, a bud blossoming miraculously from the stump of Jesse. (Numbers 17:10, Isaiah 11:1)

The Ark bore a gold container of Manna from heaven, while Mary’s womb carries Jesus Christ, the Bread from heaven. (Hebrews 9:4, John 6:41)

The Ark was made of wood overlaid with pure gold, inside and out, while Mary is a human being who is made “full of grace.” (Exodus 25:10-11, Luke 1:28)

King David joyfully leaped and danced before the Ark, while St. John the Baptist leaps within his mother’s womb at Mary’s arrival. (2 Samuel 6:14, Luke 1:44)

David asks, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me,” while St. Elizabeth asks, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9, Luke 1:43)

The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom outside Jerusalem for three months, and God blessed his whole house, while Mary remains in the house of Zechariah in Judea for three months. (2 Sam 6:14, Luke 1:56)

No man was to touch God’s holy Ark, lest they die. St. Joseph holds a similar reverent regard towards Mary, his wife. (Numbers 4:15, 2 Samuel 6:7, Matthew 1:25)

The Ark was a mercy-seat which served as the throne for God’s presence on earth. “On entering the house [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother.” (Exodus 25:22, Matthew 2:11)

In his vision of heaven, St. John saw the Ark revealed. The next thing he sees is a glorious woman pregnant with the Christ child. (Revelation 11:19, 12:1)

Just as the Ark of the Covenant was of central, though secondary, importance in the Old Covenant, so God gives the Blessed Virgin Mary an essential role in his New Covenant.

Eliakim the Prime Minister Prefigures Peter

April 28, 2013

Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, was master of the palace, the prime minister in the Davidic kingdom. (Isa 22:15,20)
Simon Peter, son of Jonah, is always first in lists of Jesus’ Apostles—while Judas is listed last. (Matt 16:17, Matt 10:2, Mark 3:16. Luke 6:14, Acts 1:13)

Eliakim’s predecessor, Shebna, had hewn a tomb in a great rock which he hoped would be a lasting a resting place. (Isa 22:16)
Simon Peter is declared to be the “rock” (“Petros”) upon which Jesus will build his Church. (Matt 16:18)

Eliakim was clothed with a robe and girded with a sash. (Isa 22:21)
Peter stretches out his hands to be dressed by another. (John 21:18)

Eliakim was “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.” (Isa 22:21)
Peter is the pope (“papa” or “Holy Father”) to the Church on earth.

Eliakim was given authority, “the key of the House of David.” (Isa 22:22)
Peter is given “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 16:19)

The Lord said of Eliakim, “What he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open.” (Isa 22:22)
Jesus says to Peter, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:19)

Satan Prefigures Absalom

April 26, 2013

Satan was among the angels, called the “sons of God.” (Job 1:6)
Absalom is one of King David’s sons. (2 Sam 3:3)

Satan was called “the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
Absalom proves false to his name, which means “father of peace.”

Satan was “a murderer form the beginning.” (John 8:44)
The first Bible story about Absalom has him arranging his brother’s murder. (2 Sam 13:28)

Satan afflicts the world to gain attention and achieve his ends. (Job 2:7)
Absalom sets fire to a field to get the attention of Joab, who is ignoring his requests. (2 Sam 14:30)

Satan lied to tempt humanity away from loyalty to God. (Gen 3:4-5)
Absalom sits at the city gates hearing legal cases, flattering all that they are right, and lamenting that he is not in power to help; thereby stealing loyalties away from the king. (2 Sam 15:2-6)

Satan inspired the betrayal of Jesus at the Mount of Olives, where he felt sorrow and distress. (Luke 22:39)
Absalom’s betrayal leads David to flee by way of the Mount of Olives, where he cries aloud. (2 Sam 15:30)

Satan plotted against Jesus using Caiaphas, who said, “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” (John 11:50)
Absalom’s advisor Ahithophel counsels, ‘Let me choose twelve thousand men and be off in pursuit of David tonight. When all the people with him flee, I shall strike down the king alone. It is the death of only one man you are seeking; then all the people will be at peace.’ (2 Sam 17:1-3)

Once Satan was finished using the betrayer, Judas went away and hanged himself. (Matt 27:5)
Once Absalom’s advisor sees his counsel is ignored, Ahithophel leaves and hangs himself. (2 Sam 17:23)

Satan, called “Lucifer,” was radiant like the morning star. (Isa 14:12)
“In all Israel there was not a man who could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” (2 Sam 14:25)

Satan was a proud creature. (1 Tim 3:6)
Absalom shaves his hair every year—because it grows too heavy—and has the clippings weighted. (2 Sam 14:26)

Satan’s pride led to his downfall. (Isa 14:14-15)
Absalom is killed after his hair gets tangled in the branches of a tree. (2 Sam 18:9)

Satan, despite his unrepentance, is still loved by God. (Wis 11:24-12:1)
Absalom, despite his wickedness, is inconsolably mourned by his father, David. (2 Sam 19:1)