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23 April: Looking After Jesus

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Sister Johanna finds treasure in Luke’s Gospel when she spots her own name and investigates further.

With Jesus went Mary, surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.                                                                                                                                      Luke 8: 2-3

This short passage from the Gospel of Luke is one that I have not really thought much about, until now. Today I was taken by the reference to Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and wondered why Chuza was mentioned, and what light this might shed on the text. After a bit or research, I discovered that this is the only reference to Chuza in the New Testament, and nothing is known about him except what is said here in this passage. But, surely, at the time Luke’s gospel was written, his name must have meant something. No one, not even St. Luke, name-drops without wanting to impress. And if I think about it, I can see what is probably being implied here.

Herod was not a man to be trusted. He was no friend of Jesus, and the term, ‘that fox’, was used by Jesus of Herod (Lk 13:32) as a put-down, and a bold one, for Herod was an important man and held power over Jesus – or at least, he held a certain kind of worldly power over him. He could, and eventually did, collude with the powers that crucified Jesus.

And Chuza was ‘that fox’s’ steward. As steward, Chuza was also rather important. Scripture scholars say that the exact nature of a steward’s job is no longer known, but it is thought that Chuza was probably a kind of chief administrator of Herod’s entire establishment, and not a mere domestic manager. He was in some way the man who made all the practical decisions at the palace and was responsible for its smooth running. The fact that Chuza’s name is dropped into this text would suggest that his name was well known by Luke’s audience. Eyebrows might rise on hearing that Joanna, wife of the famous Chuza, was known to be both a disciple of Jesus and one of his benefactors.

The text also suggests that Joanna was taking a risk, both on her own behalf and that of her husband, in publicly following this upstart Jesus – ever a controversial figure to those without faith, who had not yet learned to love and revere him. Herod would not approve. But, neither Joanna nor Chuza seem to be bothered by that. Jesus is worth the risk. What eventually happened to Chuza? The text doesn’t say. But we have established that his relative fame would not have been an advantage for Joanna. She carries on anyway, despite the risk.

What else do we know about Joanna? Joanna had been healed by Jesus. She is now dedicated to caring for Jesus and is one of those who provide for him and his companions. She gladly associates with Mary Magdalene, who had been freed from seven devils. Reputations linger, and surely Mary Magdalene was still regarded by many as a highly dubious character. Joanna doesn’t care about that either. Mary Magdalene had been healed, and so had Joanna. They were companions. Joanna was for Jesus and no one would stop her. Caring for Jesus was much more important than playing it safe. Caring for Jesus more important than caring for herself. She and the other women are loyal to Jesus and courageous.

What does Jesus think of their dedication? Does he thank them? Oh, yes. St. Luke’s gospel tells us later that Joanna and the other women received a reward from Jesus. In fact, we see that Jesus expresses his gratitude in the most profound way possible. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Joanna appears again; with her are Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. They are the first visitors to the tomb of Jesus. They go there intending to carry out the ritual anointing the body. What actually happens to them there is that they become the privileged three who converse with angels. They – these women who took risks for Jesus, who were loyal to him, who provided for his material needs – they are the first recipients of the astounding news that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead. They are the first to know, the first ones to experience the joy of knowing. And not only that, St Luke tells us that they are the first ones who actually remembered Jesus’ own words about his resurrection which he spoke when he was alive. They are the first to understand those words.

And this tells us something else about Joanna and the other women: they were attuned to Jesus’ teaching all along. This understanding they have after his death will be the carry-over from their profound grasp of his teaching before his death. They are, therefore, well chosen to be the first messengers of the Good News to the Eleven. This is Jesus’ way of thanking them, honouring them, showing his love for them and healing them of the deep sorrow his death would have caused. He reaches the most profound places in their hearts with the reality of his resurrection. This is indeed a gift.

This short text, one that I had not really pondered before, has messages of joy. It tells us that Jesus sees everything we do for him, sees our loyalty, sees the risks we take for him, sees the understanding we have of his teaching, sees the way we remember his words. He is grateful every time we embrace his word, every time we give generously to him and his followers. He will repay in ways we cannot imagine now, any more than the women imagined that they would see angels when they went to the tomb. Jesus will repay with currency from his risen life and reach us, raise us up on the deepest possible level of our being.

SJC

Image: Missionaries of Africa.

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14 April: Stations for Saint Peter, VIII: the third fall: Get behind me, Satan!

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Scripture references: Matthew 16:13-23, Get behind me; Luke 23:28, John 19:20-22, crowds watching.

Peter recalls when Jesus said that he would be killed, and Peter tried to stop him from going to Jerusalem.

It was a struggle to keep sight of Jesus on the way to Calvary. Not that he could make any speed, weak as he was, and with the soldiers, the crowds watching him go by, the hundreds who seemed to be following him.

I heard he had fallen, even with Simon on hand to help. I saw blood on the stones as I came up behind. Always I was behind him.

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‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he once said. And now it comes to this: what was God thinking of?

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And now it comes to my turn. Lord I am behind you, but not far behind now!

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

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30 March: Stations of the Cross XIII:

THIRTEENTH STATION
JESUS’ BODY IS TAKEN DOWN FOR BURIAL

Our witness is the widow of Naim. Jesus restored her son to life when he met the funeral on the way to the cemetery.
The story is told by Saint Luke,  in chapter 7, vv 11-16.


I know this man. My only son was dead. We took him out of town to say goodbye.

Jesus gave him back to me alive. Now Mary’s only son has been taken out of town and is dead.


Prayer :

God our Father, your son was taken out of town, out of sight, to be killed.

We try to hide away our sins, but we need to bring them to you and say we are sorry.

Jesus was lifted up; may we be drawn to him and follow him, even when no-one seems to see our witness to him.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lifted up, unless a grain of wheat shall fall … , Greyfriars’ chapel, Canterbury.

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26 March: Stations of the Cross, IX: Jesus is stripped.

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NINTH STATION
JESUS IS STRIPPED

Our witness is a Samaritan woman who met Jesus by the side of Jacob’s Well. He told her everything she had ever done.

Her story is given in Saint John, Chapter 4, vv 5-26


I know this man. He sat down and talked to me. He looked into my heart, my broken heart, but he did not mock me.

I told everyone I knew about him, then I followed him. Even to Jerusalem where I’m hardly welcome.

He was welcome on Sunday.

Now they strip the clothes off his body, his broken body. They jeer at his bruised and broken body. They mock him, but he did not mock me.


Prayer :

Lord, we do not always remember that the bodies and hearts of your people are where you have chosen to live. Help us to see and hear the Good News whoever brings it to us.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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19 March: Stations of the Cross II: Jesus takes up his Cross

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SECOND STATION
JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSS


Luke tells us the young man was one of the aristocracy. He would have been well known to Herod and the High Priestly Families, and able to gain entry anywhere in Jerusalem, including the Roman fort. Luke tells the story in Chapter 18, 18-23


I know this man; He is a good man, a good man.

He seemed to have something, to know something, something I could never quite get hold of. Something I could not understand.

I kept the law as well as anyone — God knows I tried to live by the rules. I should have been happy, knowing I was doing what God wanted but happiness was always just out of reach.

The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is among you; it is close at hand, it belongs to the children. If you want to get there welcome the Kingdom like a child. Sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow me.

Follow him? Now?


Let us pray :

Lord, show us what we need to throw away to be able to take up our cross and follow you — now. Show us that you are at hand when life is difficult. Lord in your mercy.

Brocagh School, Glenfarne, Leitrim, c1969.

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24 February: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XIII: A sense of humour helps 2.

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Hearing this Saint Francis, all overjoyed in spirit, lifting up his face unto heaven, stood for a great while with his mind uplifted in God; anon returning to himself again, he knelt him down and rendered thanks and praises unto God: and then with great fervour of spirit turned him to Brother Masseo and said: “Wilt thou know why after me? wilt thou know why after me? wilt thou know why after me? that the whole world doth run? This cometh unto me from the eyes of the most high God, which behold at all time the evil and the good: for those most holy eyes have seen among sinners none more vile, none more lacking, no greater sinner than am I: wherefore to do this marvellous work the which He purposeth to do, He hath not found upon the earth a creature more vile, and therefore hath He chosen me to confound the nobleness and the greatness and the strength and the beauty and wisdom of the world: to
the intent that men may know that all virtue and all goodness come from Him, and not from the creature, and that no man may glory in himself; but whoso will glory, may glory in the Lord, unto whom is honour and glory for ever. and ever.”

Then Brother Masseo, at so humble a reply uttered with so great fervour, was afraid, and knew of a surety that Saint Francis was rooted and grounded in humility.

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February 23: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XII: A sense of humour helps, 1.

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It is all too easy to be over solemn when reading about Jesus or his followers. Here Brother Masseo teases Francis, who takes it in good part and points a lesson from it. Another two-part post.


How Brother Masseo, as though mocking, said unto Saint Francis that all the world came after him: and he replied that this was for the confusion of the world and the grace of God.

W HENAS Saint Francis on a time abode in the House of Portiuncula with Brother Masseo of Marignano, a man of much sanctity, discretion and grace in speaking of God, for the which cause Saint Francis loved him much: one day Saint Francis returning from the wood and from his prayers, and being at the entrance to the wood, the said Brother Masseo desired to make proof of his humility, and stood over against him, and as though mocking said : “Why after thee ? why after thee ? why after thee?”

Replied Saint Francis: “What is this thou wouldest say?”

Quoth Brother Masseo, “I say, why doth all the world come after thee? And why is it seen that all men long to see thee, and hear thee, and obey thee? Thou art not a man comely of form, thou art not of much wisdom, thou art not noble of birth: whence comes it then that it is after thee that the whole world doth run?”

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January 16: Reflections from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. II.

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Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle, 2.

Saint Francis, thinking truly that Bernard was asleep, in his sleep rose up from his bed and set himself to pray, lifting up his hands and eyes unto heaven, and with exceeding great devotion and fervour said : “My God, my God.” And thus saying and sorely weeping he abode till morning, alway repeating : “ My God, my God,” and naught beside; and this Saint Francis said, while musing on and marvelling at the excellence of the divine Majesty, which deigned to stoop down to a perishing world and through his poor little Francis purposed to bring a remedy for the salvation of his soul and the souls of others.

Therefore illumined by the Holy Spirit, or the spirit of prophecy, foreseeing what great things God would do through him and his Order, and minding him of his own insufficiency and little worth, he cried unto God and besought Him that by His pity and almighty power, without the which the weakness of man may naught avail, He would supply his lack, aid and fulfil what of itself was nothing worth.

Bernard seeing, by the light of the lamp, the most devout acts of Saint Francis, and devoutly
pondering in his mind the words that he spake, was touched and inspired by the Holy Spirit to change his life; in the morning therefore he called Saint Francis and thus bespake him: “Brother Francis, I am wholly purposed in my heart to leave the world and follow thee in whatsoever thou rnayest bid me.” Hearing this, Saint Francis rejoiced in spirit, and said: “Bernard, this that thou sayest is a task so great and difficult, that thereof must we seek counsel of our Lord Jesu Christ, and beseech Him that He be pleased to show us His will therein, and teach us how we may bring it to pass: wherefore let us go together to the bishop’s house, wherein is a good priest, and let us let say the Mass; then let us continue in prayer until Tierce, beseeching God that in thrice opening of the missal He may reveal to us the path it is His will we should elect.” Bernard made answer that this pleased him right well.

Photo from the Missionaries of Africa. Here is a bishop of today, teaching from the Missal. Good grant Wisdom to all teachers and preachers!

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July 11: Saint Benedict, ‘Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.’

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Today the 11th of July, we celebrate the feast of St Benedict, Abbot. In the reading of today from the book of Proverbs,(2: 1- 9) God is telling us to take his word to heart, learn His commandments, and apply our heart to the truth. We can rest assured that God will keep watch over us. St Benedict left everything and followed Christ. Today am I setting my heart on His words asking Him to teach me? Am I turning my ear to His wisdom? St. Benedict advised:

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.’

When I am faced with difficulties, where do I turn? St Benedict lived a life of solitude and prayer. How often do I take my time to listen to God talking to me in the busy world of today? Do I hear God calling me to bless His name at all times? Do I hear the invitation of God to taste and see the Lord is good (Psalm 33: 2-11)? As Benedict’s Rule advises, ‘Listen carefully to the Master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart.’

St Benedict discovered the love of God and left everything and followed Him. I pray that each day, I also may hear God talking to me through His creation and have the grace to respond wholeheartedly. Amen.

 

FMSL 

St Benedict at Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland by Roland Zh

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29 June 2017: Mercy needs humans to live it.

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Mercy, as we have remarked more than once before, needs humans to live it, to give it. Masefield has one merciful man, the Apostle Peter, today’s saint, introduce himself:

A fisherman, who will pull oars and sail,

Mend nets and watch the weather by the lake.

A rough man, with rude speech, who’ll follow you. Giving up all,

And after, will go telling of your glory

A many hundred miles, to Babylon;

And feel your glory grow in him, and spread

To many others in that city, far

From lake and home and the chatter, mending nets.

And after, I will see you come for me;

For all I’m rude and did deny, you’ll come;

And I shall drink your cup, Master, you helping;

And enter glory by you.

Peter had been with Jesus at the Transfiguration (see today’s Gospel, Matthew 17:1-9) and was there when his Master prayed in the Garden, saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. Luke 22:43.

Peter’s Master and ours will give us mercy to drink his cup with us: the Eucharistic cup, which we remind ourselves at every Mass we can only drink worthily though his mercy; and the cup of daily life, which can be bitter or just too much for us at times.

WT

St Peter by Dirck van Baburen

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