Vol 13 Issue 13 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
March 28, 2020 ~ Saint John Capistrano, opn!
1. What is the Holy Eucharist
2. Passion Sunday
3. Saints Jonas and Barachisius
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
As the world has entered a Lenten Season of closing its doors, forbidding public entertainment, and finding itself in fear of contracting a virus. However that reason is far removed from the spirit that should prevail during Lent: a time of spiritual renewal and union with God. As Catholics it is easy to be caught up in the pandemic of fear. But we should be reflecting on the Providence of God and recognize that many such activities would have been cancelled during Lent in times past which required the cessation of all festivities contrary to the spirit of Lent—even the celebration of marriage in a festive way.
For ourselves, reflecting upon our own sins, we should join in the 40 days of fast Christ kept, we should repent and join together in doing penance as the Ninivites did for 40 days, we should seek to be nourished for 40 days with the bread of life as Elias was before going to Mount Horeb, and we should stay with Moses on the Mount praying and fasting for 40 days inscribing in our hearts of stone the Commandments of God and again interceding that the sins of the nation will be forgiven. God has provided us this opportunity more so than normally in this time. Maybe, in choosing to do so, God will hear the prayers of His children in His house. Apparently, we have, according to the world, until Easter before things will change—for better or worse.
In addition, this Sunday the Church will be covered in purple as the Crucifix and imagery disappear in the last attempt to fix the faithful’s eyes upon the Sacrifice Christ continues to offer at Mass as He first did at the Last Supper and accomplished on Calvary. As we see the sanctuary in a robe of purple, let not the verse of Psalm 68 apply to us: And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none. (Ps. 68:21)
Here, at Saint Joseph’s, we are offering Mass and inviting the faithful to pray before Our Redeemer that He will forgive us our sins, that the wrath of His Father will be averted from us, that His people will be protected, that Catholics will be able to proclaim: Our God is the God of salvation! (Ps. 67:21)
As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor
WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST
By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
Christ Prepares the Apostles for the Sacrament of His Body and Blood
Just as Moses could not convince the Israelites to faith in the one true God, the God who visibly made manifest His presence by miracles, the God who freed them from Egyptian captivity, the God who promised to Abraham the Land of the Canaanites a land flowing with milk and honey which they saw in front of them, but rather murmured against Moses—of which the Israelites were condemned to die in the desert with the exception only of those who did believe (Josue, Caleb), so Jesus is telling His listeners that they, too, must have faith in the Promise to their father, Abraham, that God had sent the Christ into the world, whom they are seeing, or they will wander in the desert of this world and die eternally.
As I live: and the whole earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. But yet all the men that have seen my majesty, and the signs that I have done in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now ten times, and have not obeyed my voice, shall not see the land for which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any one of them that hath detracted me behold it. My servant Caleb, who being full of another spirit hath followed me, I will bring into this land which he hath gone round: and his seed shall possess it.
How long doth this wicked multitude murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel. Say therefore to them: As I live, saith the Lord: According as you have spoken in my hearing, so will I do to you. In the wilderness shall your carcasses lie. All you that were numbered from twenty years old and upward, and have murmured against me, shall not enter into the land, over which I lifted up my hand to make you dwell therein, except Caleb the son of Jephone, and Josue the son of Nun. (Num. 14:21-24, 27-30)
Leonard writes in His Commentary on this passage:
The giving is the Incarnation which is for the life not of one people but of the whole world—the life being supernatural life. . .
The fault is theirs not his, but Jesus explains the situation in terms of what we now call efficacious grace. They come who are given to him by the Father and Jesus cannot but welcome all that the Father gives. The use of a global neuter certainly insinuates that the faithful come to Christ in the social unity of a body [the Church]. [v.] 38. It is towards this body that Jesus must carry out the salvific will of his father, which is the programme of his life. [v.] 39. That programme or will of his Father is described as Jesus’ task, namely, to lose nothing of the ‘entrusted all’, but to save completely even to the resurrection on the last day. [v.] 40. Human liberty, which has not been expressly envisaged in this ‘giving’ by the Father, is clearly indicated when the salvific will is declared to be this: ‘That every one (individually) who seeth the Son and believeth in him may have life everlasting and I will raise him up in the last day’, Belief is a free act. Jesus’ work is to save and resurrect; faith leads to eternal life and final resurrection. The language of these verses is remarkable. The Father gives us socially—for we are saved socially—to his Christ, but we come individually. It belongs to Christ the Envoy to lose nothing of what the Sender gives him (cf. 17:12) but to save completely. On our part we have to believe individually in the Son, in order to have the life everlasting and glorious resurrection which the Father wills for us. (Orchard, 992, 993)
Again, the disbelief of the listeners becomes evident, for they take His words, I came down from heaven, (John 6:38) as an impossibility. The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. And they said: is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he then say, I came down from heaven? (John 6:41-42)
Saint Augustine penned this Commentary on these verses of John which is also read by the clergy on Wednesday during the Octave of Pentecost:
Think not that thou art drawn against thy will; the soul is drawn, not willingly only, but lovingly. Neither must we be afraid lest men who are great weighers of words, and very far from understanding the things of God, should catch us up upon this Gospel doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, and should say to us: How can my faith be willing if am drawn? I answer: Thou art not drawn as touching thy will, but by pleasure. And, now, what is being drawn by pleasure? Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Ps. xxxvi. 4. There is pleasure in that heart to which the Bread That came down from heaven is sweet. The poet is allowed to say His special pleasure draweth each, but pleasure, which so draweth, is not a necessity, not a bond, but a delight how much more strongly, may we say that men are drawn to Christ, who delight in truth, who delight in blessedness, who delight in righteousness, who delight in life everlasting, since truth and blessedness, and righteousness and everlasting life are all to be found in Christ? Or have the bodily senses pleasure, and the spiritual senses none? If the spiritual sense have no pleasures, wherefore is it written: And the children of men shall put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light shall we see light. Ps. xxxv. 8.
Give me a lover, and he will catch my meaning; give me one who longs, give me an hungerer, give me a wanderer in this desert, a thirst and gasping for the fountains of the eternal Fatherland; give me such an one, and he will catch my meaning. If I talk to some cold creature, he will not. Such cold creatures were they of whom it is written: The Jews then murmured at Him because He said, I am the Bread Which came down from heaven. And they said: Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and Mother we know? How is it then that He saith: I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them: Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to Me, except the Father, Which hath sent Me, draw him. 41-44. But wherefore speaketh Christ of them whom the Father draweth, since He Himself draweth. Why was it His will to say: No man can come to Me except the Father draw him? If we are to be drawn, let us be drawn by Him to Whom one that loved much said: Draw me, we will run after the savour of thy good ointments. Cant. i. 4. But let us consider, my brethren, what He meant, and understand it as well as we can. The Father draweth to the Son them who believe in the Son, because they are persuaded that He hath God to His Father. God the Father begetteth to Himself a coequal Son; and whosoever is persuaded, and realiseth unto himself by faith, and thinketh, that He in Whom he believeth is equal to the Father, him the Father is drawing unto the Son.
Arius, who believed that the Son was made, was not one of them whom the Father draweth since whosoever believeth not that the Father is a Father by the begetting of a coequal Son, such an one knoweth not the Father. What sayest thou, O Arius? What sayest thou, O thou heretic? What is thy profession? What is Christ? He is not, saith Arius, Himself Very God. Then, O Arius, the Father hath not drawn thee; thou hast not understood His dignity as a Father, to Whom thou deniest His Son. Thou dost deny the existence of the Son of God, the Father draweth thee not, and thou art not drawn to the Son, since the Son of whom thou speakest is another son, [existing only in thine imagination,] and not the really existent Son. Photinus said: Christ is a mere man, and not God at all. He who uttered those words was not one of them whom the Father draweth. But whom hath the Father drawn? The Father drew him who said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matth. xvi. 16, 17. Show a sheep a green bough, and thou drawest him. Let a boy see some nuts, and he is drawn by them. As they run, they are drawn, drawn by taste, drawn without bodily hurt, drawn by a line bound to their heart. If, then, among earthly things, such as be sweet and pleasant draw such as love them, as soon as they see them, so that it is truth to say, His special pleasure draweth each, doth not that Christ, Whom the Father hath revealed, draw? What stronger object of love can a soul have than the Truth? (26th Tract on John)
The response by Jesus may seem to be completely avoiding the attack of His listeners, but He has constantly pointed out the correlation between the Israelites with Moses in the desert and their lack of faith and murmuring and that of His listeners lack of faith and murmuring—and this brings out that they were rejecting the Truth not for lack of miracles or prophecies being fulfilled, but by their own choice. Jesus therefore answered and said to them: do not murmur among yourselves. No man can come to me, unless the Father, who has sent me, draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:42-43) Christ goes on to say: It is written in the prophets: and they will all be taught about God. Every one who has heard of the Father and has learned, comes to me. (6:45)
Thomas points out (op. cit. 6, 5, 942):
The manner in which we are drawn is appropriate, for God draws us by revealing and teaching; and this is what he says: it is written in the prophets: and they will all be taught about God. Bede says that this comes from Joel. But it does not seem to be there explicitly, although there is something like it in: O children of Zion, rejoice and be joyful in the Lord your God, because he will give you a teacher of justice (Joel 2:23). Again, according to Bede, he says, in the prophets, so that we might understand that the same meaning can be gathered from various statements of the prophets. But it is Isaiah who seems to state this more explicitly: all your children will be taught by the Lord (Isa 54:13). We also read: I will give you shepherds after my own heart, and they will feed you with knowledge and doctrine (Jer 3:15).
Instead of giving laws (commands) as Moses did, Christ is teaching them about the nature of God. Moses asked of God: For how shall we be able to know, I and thy people, that we have found grace in thy sight, unless thou walk with us, that we may be glorified by all people that dwell upon the earth?
And the Lord said to Moses: This word also, which thou hast spoken, will I do: for thou hast found grace before me, and thee I have known by name. And he said: shew me thy glory. He answered: I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me. And again he said: Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live.
And again he said: Behold there is a place with me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock. And when my glory shall pass, I will set thee in a hole of the rock, and protect thee with my right hand, till I pass: And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face thou canst not see. (Exod. 33:16-23)
Therefore, Jesus adds: Not that any man has seen the Father, but he who is of God has seen the Father. (John 6:46) Philip, at the last supper, asked: Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us. To which Jesus responded: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known me? Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, shew us the Father? (John 14:8-9)
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
JOHN viii. 46
At that time Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not.
The Jews therefore answered, and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever.
The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself?
Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God. And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it and was glad.
The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.
They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
EXPOSITION FROM THE CATENA AUREA
V. 51. Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word, He shall . . .
AUGUSTINE: He shall not see is said to convey the meaning of, ‘he shall not experience’. For since He Who was to die was speaking with those who were also to die, what does He mean by the words, If any man keep my word he shall not see death forever, if not that the Lord was contemplating another death, from which He had come to deliver us: eternal death, the death of damnation in the company of the devil and of his angels? This is true death; this other is but a crossing-over.
ORIGEN; And so this saying: If any man keep my word etc., is to be understood as though He said: If any man shall keep my light, he shall not be in darkness. That He says, for ever, must be taken in its ordinary sense; so that this is the understanding of the words: If any man keep my word for ever, he shall not see death for ever; because as long as a man keeps the word of Jesus, so long shall he not taste death. When therefore someone is inert as regards observing His word, and, becoming negligent in keeping it, ceases to obey it, from that time shall he taste death; not in another, but in himself. So therefore, taught by the Saviour, to the prophet asking: Who is the man that shall live, and not see death? (Ps. lxxxviii. 49) we can answer: He that keepeth the word of Christ.
CHRYSOSTOM: Keep means, not alone by faith, but also by a pure life. In a veiled manner He also infers that they can do nothing to Him. For if he who keeps His word shall not die for ever, much more shall He not die for ever.
V. 52. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil etc.
GREGORY: As it must be that the good grow better through injuries, so the wicked become more reprobate because of the favours granted them. For when they heard the words He had spoken to them the Jews again blaspheme. For it is said: They said therefore etc.
ORIGEN: Those who believe in the Scriptures comprehend that what is done by men beyond the capacity of reason does not happen without the help of demons. The Jews therefore believed that Jesus had spoken by the power of the demons when He said: If any man keep my word etc . . . . This happened to them because they did not discern the power of God; for here He makes known to them a death of a kind inimical to reason: by which evildoers perish. They, thinking that He was speaking of ordinary death, insult Him because of what He had said; as though Moses and the Prophets were not dead. Hence follows:
V. 53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? etc.
Since there is a certain difference between taste death and see death; for they, as inaccurate listeners quoting Our Lord’s words, for, not see death, say, shall not taste death. For the Lord in that He is Living Bread can be tasted (Ps. xxxiii. 9); in that He is Wisdom, He is of visible beauty (Wisd. viii. 2); so likewise His adversary, death, can be tasted, and can be seen. When therefore a man stands in that place of the understanding, through Jesus, he shall not taste death, if he safeguards that state; according to the words: Of them that stand HERE, that shall not taste death (Mt. xvi. 28). When a man therefore has received the teaching of the Lord, and kept it, he shall not see death.
CHRYSOSTOM: Again, out of vain glory they speak about their ancestry. Hence we have: Art thou greater etc? They could also say: Are you greater than God, Whose words they have died who heard them? But they do not say this, because they regarded Him as even less than Abraham.
ORIGEN: For they saw not that He Who was born of the Virgin is greater, not alone than Abraham, but than anyone born of woman. Nor did the Jews say what was true in saying: Abraham is dead; for he heard the word of God, and kept it. And you may say the same also of the Prophets, of whom they remark: And the Prophets are dead. For they kept the word of the Son of God; when word was made unto Osee (Os. i. 1), or to Isaiah (Is. ii. 1), or to Jeremiah (Jer. xiv. 1). Nor was any word made to anyone of these, save that Word which was in the beginning with God.); which if any man has kept, the prophets have kept. They therefore spoke a falsehood in this: We know thou hast a devil; and in this also: Abraham is dead, and the Prophets.5
GREGORY: For since they were held fast in eternal death, and saw not that death to which they clung, and had eyes only for the death of the flesh, they were blind to the words of truth. And so they ask: Whom dost thou make thyself? THEOPHYLACTUS: As though they say: You who are of no importance, the son of a Galilean carpenter, how do you take to yourself such honour? BEDE: Whom dost thou make thyself? That is, because of what merit or dignity do you wish to be believed? Abraham died in the body, but his soul was still living. But greater is the death of the soul that will be mastered for ever, than that of the body which at some time or other will dissolve.
ORIGEN: This was the speech of blind men: since Jesus did not make Himself what He was, but received it from the Father. Hence follows:
V. 54. Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing etc.
CHRYSOSTOM: He said this only because of their opinion of Him; as also upon another occasion: If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true (Jn. v. 31). BEDE: By these words He shows us that the glory of the present time is nothing.
AUGUSTINE, Tr. 43: He said this because of their remark: Whom dost thou make thyself? For He refers His glory to the Father; from Whom He is. Hence He goes on: It is my Father that glorifieth me. On this saying the Arians have spoken falsely of our Faith, saying: See, the Father is the greater, since He it is Who gives glory to the Son. Heretics, have you not heard the Son also saying, that He gives glory to the Father? (Jn. xiv. 13; Mt. iii; Mt. xvii; Jn. xii. 28).
ALCUIN: The Father glorified the Son at the time of His baptism, and on the mountain, and before the time of His Passion, when a voice spoke to Him in the presence of the multitude; and after His passion when He raised Him again, and placed Him on the right hand of His own Majesty.
CHRYSOSTOM: But He added: Of whom you say that he is your God. For He wished to show, that not alone did they not know Him as Father, but that they knew not God. THEOPHYLACTUS: For if they had truly known the Father, they would honour His Son. But they despise God also, Whose Law had forbidden murder, when they cried out against Christ. Hence He continues:
V. 55. And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I, etc.
ALCUIN: As though saying: You in a carnal minded manner call Him your God; you serve Him for temporal rewards; and you have not known Him, as He must be known. You have not known how to serve Him in the spirit.
AUGUSTINE: Some heretics say that the God announced in the Old Testament is not the Father of Christ, but some chief among the angels, whom I know not. Against these He calls Him Father Whom they say is their God, and Whom they have not known: for if they had known Him they would have received His Son. But of Himself He adds: But I know him. To those who judge in the wisdom of the flesh, at times He could here seem to be presuming. But the appearance of presumption may not be avoided, lest truth be overlooked; for which reason He goes on: And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar.
CHRYSOSTOM: As though He says: just as you in saying you know Him lie, so should I likewise lie if I say I know Him not. But the greatest proof that He was sent by Him is that which follows: But I do know him.
THEOPHYLACTUS: Possessing this knowledge wholly and naturally: for that which I am the Father is also. Since therefore I know myself, I also know Him. He provides a sign that He does know Him, when He adds: And do keep his word; describing His commandments as, His word. But some interpret what is here said: And keep his word, as, I retain the nature of His Substance: for the same is the nature of the substance of the Father and the Son; and therefore I know the Father; for (they say) and is taken here to mean ‘since’; so that the sense is: Since I keep His word.
AUGUSTINE: As His Son He was wont to speak the word of the Father; and He was the Word of the Father, that was spoken to men. CHRYSOSTOM: And because they had said: Art thou greater than our father Abraham? saying nothing of death, He goes on, in the words that follow, to show that He is greater than Abraham:
V. 56. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day etc.
THEOPHYLACTUS: He regarded my day as a day to be longed for, and full of joy; not any day, or the day of anyone. AUGUSTINE: He did not fear it, but, Rejoiced that He might see it; and believing, he truly rejoiced, while hoping, that he might see, by understanding, my day. It may be uncertain whether He here spoke of the temporal day of the Lord, in which He was to come in the Flesh, or of the day of the Lord that knows no rising and knows no setting. But I do not doubt that Father Abraham knew the whole; for he said to the servant whom he sent: Put thy hand under my thigh, and swear to me by the God of heaven (Gen. xxiv. 12). What therefore was this oath if not a signifying that the God of heaven would come in the flesh from the race of Abraham?
GREGORY, Hom. 18: Then also did Abraham see the day of the Lord, when He received as guests the three angels who prefigured the supreme Trinity. CHRYSOSTOM: Or He calls the day of the Cross His day; which Abraham prefigured in the offering both of Isaac and of the ram: showing by this, that not against His own will did He come to His passion, and showing also that they are not kindred to Abraham should they grieve over that in which he rejoiced. AUGUSTINE: What joy of heart beholding the enduring Word, His splendour shining in holy minds, abiding God with the Father, yet in time to come to us, clothed in our flesh though never receding from the Bosom of the Father! GREGORY: The carnal minds of the Jews, listening to the words of Christ, do not raise their eyes above His Flesh: since in Him they are regarding only the years of His Flesh; hence:
V. 57. The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old . . .
29: SS. JONAS AND BARACHISIUS, MARTYRS (A.D. 327)
WE are able to quote here from what purport to be the genuine acts of the martyrs SS. Jonas and Barachisius, compiled by an eye-witness called Isaias, an Armenian in the service of King Sapor II. The Greek versions contain certain additions and interpolations, but the original Syriac text has been published by Stephen Assemani and by Bedjan.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, Sapor or Shapur, King of Persia, began a bitter persecution of Christians. Jonas and Barachisius, two monks of Beth-Iasa, hearing that several Christians lay under sentence of death at Hubaham, went thither to encourage and serve them. Nine of the number received the crown of martyrdom. After their execution, Jonas and Barachisius were apprehended for having exhorted them to persevere and to die. The president began by appealing to the two brothers, urging them to obey the King of Kings, i.e. the Persian monarch, and to worship the sun. Their answer was that it was more reasonable to obey the immortal King of Heaven and earth than a mortal prince. Barachisius was then cast into a narrow dungeon, whilst Jonas was detained and commanded to sacrifice. He was laid flat on the ground, face downwards, with a sharp stake under the middle of his body, and beaten with rods. The martyr continued all the time in prayer, so the judge ordered him to be placed in a frozen pond; but this also was without effect. Later on the same day Barachisius was summoned and told that his brother had sacrificed. The martyr replied that he could not possibly have paid divine honours to fire, a creature, and spoke so eloquently of the power and infinity of God that the Magians in astonishment said to one another that if he were permitted to speak in public he would draw many to Christianity. They therefore decided for the future to conduct their examinations by night. In the meantime they tortured him too.
In the morning Jonas was brought from his pool and asked whether he had not spent a very uncomfortable night. “No”, he replied. “From the day I came into the world I never remember a more peaceful night, for I was wonderfully refreshed by the memory of the sufferings of Christ.” The Magians said, “Your companion has renounced!” but the martyr, interrupting them, exclaimed, “I know that he long ago renounced the Devil and his angels”. The judges warned him to beware lest he perish abandoned by God and man, but Jonas retorted, “If you possess your vaunted wisdom judge whether it is not wiser to sow corn rather than to hoard it. Our life is seed, sown to rise again in the world to come, where it will be renewed by Christ in immortal life.” He continued to defy his tormentors, and after further tortures he was squeezed in a wooden press till his veins burst, and finally his body was divided piecemeal with a saw and the mangled segments thrown into a cistern. Guards were appointed to watch the relics lest the Christians should steal them away.
Jonas having been thus disposed of, Barachisius was once more advised to save his own body. His reply was: “This body I did not frame, neither will I destroy it. God who made it will restore it, and will judge you and your king.” So he was again subjected to torments, and was finally killed by having hot pitch and brimstone poured into his mouth. Upon receiving news of their death, an old friend bought the martyrs’ bodies for five hundred drachmas and three silk garments, promising never to divulge the sale.
(Butler’s Lives of the Saints)
AND OUR CHILDREN
Planning the Family Activities for Christian Feasts and Seasons
By Mary Reed Newland (1956)
HOLY WEEK AND EASTER
ONCE WHEN Our Lord was going about healing, they brought to Him a man who was blind and dumb and possessed by a devil, and He cured him and drove out the devil. Then the Pharisees, bitter in their hearts to see that He could do these things, accused him of casting out devils by the power of the devil.
Our Lord turned on them. That was ridiculous, He said, and He likened the soul of the man to a kingdom in which the King, if he held the kingdom, would not war against himself to drive himself out of his own kingdom. If the devil possessed a soul, he would not come to the aid of a man who was trying to drive the devil out of the soul. And He warned the Pharisees in very strong language that to sin against the Holy Spirit, which is to deny the known truth when you know it is the truth, was an unforgivable sin and would not be forgiven in this world or in the world to come (which would mean Purgatory).
So the slippery sly Pharisees asked him: “Master, we would see a sign from thee.” As though they had not just seen a very great sign, a miracle, when He had healed the man blind and dumb and driven out his devil. This made Our Lord very angry indeed and He must have shouted at them.
He would not give them a sign, He said, because they were evil and adulterous; the only sign they would be given would be the sign of Jonas the prophet. “For even as Jonas was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights; so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (So the story of Jonas is a prophecy. We never realized that, all these years.)
This story from the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 12, beginning with verse 22, is the Gospel for the Mass on Ember Wednesday, the first week in Lent. It is a good Gospel to read aloud together. Then, in order to see exactly what did happen to Jonas, find the Book of Jonas in the Old Testament and read it aloud (it is very short).
Once a little girl said to Monica: “I believe all the stories in the Bible but one, that silly story about Jonas and the whale. Anybody that knows anything knows a man couldn’t live inside of a fish for three nights and three days.”
Monica said (and she was quite small): “Oh well, I guess if God could make the world out of nothing He could make a man live inside a fish if He wanted to.” And that was that.
Jonas was commanded by God to warn the people of Ninive that their wickedness would be punished. He would destroy them and their city. But Jonas was afraid (they were that wicked, in addition to being Gentiles), so he hurried off to the seashore and boarded a ship bound in the opposite direction. Then God sent a storm on the sea to sink the ship, and the captain and crew tried throwing the cargo overboard to lighten it, but in vain. Finally the captain ran down to the hold to find Jonas and cried out in words like this: “Why are you asleep? Get up, and pray to your God to ask Him to save us or we will perish!”
In the meantime, up on deck the sailors became suspicious that there was more to the situation than met the eye; so they decided to draw lots to see if God would indicate who was to blame. They did this, and it came to light that Jonas was to blame. Then they asked him who he was, and where he was going, and whence he came; and Jonas told them he was running away from God. So the sailors asked what they should do to him, and Jonas admitted there was nothing to do but throw him in the sea. The sailors must have been loath to do this; they even tried to row back to land, but to no avail. So finally and regretfully they threw Jonas into the sea. “Now the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonas, and Jonas was in the belly of the fish three nights and three days.” And Jonas prayed to God, and cried out with great faith that he knew God would deliver him from the deep. So when three days were done, God made the fish vomit out Jonas upon the dry land.
After Jonas was raised up out of the sea, God again sent him to Ninive. This time Jonas obeyed. He told the Ninivites that God would destroy them for their wickedness at the end of forty days.
Now the men of Ninive believed in God; so their king proclaimed a great fast that would include all the inhabitants of the city, even the beasts. All were to take off their garments and put on sackcloth; there were even to be sackcloth garments for the beasts. And the king wore sackcloth and sat in ashes. No one, he said, was to eat or drink, not even the beasts, and all were to turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord to deliver them. So at the end of forty days, God saw their good works and had mercy on them, and did not send the punishment He had promised.
There, as mentioned in chapter 12, is one of the types of Lent. And of course Jonas—safe and alive after the three days and three nights in the whale—is a type of the Resurrection.
But there is more, and this relates (as we said in chapter 12) to God’s teaching that the Jews were not to be so proud, nor to despise the Gentiles.
When Jonas saw that the Lord refused to destroy Ninive, he became very angry. Not because he was so bloodthirsty that he wanted to see them die, but because this whole affair was going to make something of a fool out of him . . . People would call him a false prophet; not only that, but in the future they would ignore the warnings of God, saying He did not keep His word. More and more angry, he begged God to let him die. But God only asked him if he thought he had good reason to be angry.
Then Jonas went out a little from the city, toward the east, and built himself a hut and sat there watching to see if anything would happen. Now God in His goodness let a vine grow up the side of the hut to shade Jonas. And Jonas was very glad, because he was fatigued ( it was a big city and that was a lot of running around). But in the night God sent a worm that gnawed the vine, so that it shriveled and died. Then He sent a hot dry wind, and a hot burning sun, and Jonas “broiled with the heat.” Then he got really angry. “It is better for me to die than to live!”
Then God asked (putting it in our kind of words), “Do you think you have reason to be angry on account of the vine?”
And Jonas answered, “I am angry, with reason, even unto death.”
God said: “You are grieved about the vine, for which you neither worked, nor made it grow, which in one night grew and in one night perished. Shall I not spare Ninive, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons”—and He used a phrase which, translated into our idiom, says “who know neither their right hand from their left”?
Aren’t we like Jonas? We like to have things just so. We demand to know why God does things and why He doesn’t. We like to say that this is fair, and that is not. Our mercy really does not extend very far. But God’s mercy does. Lent is a magnificent example of it. We adored Him at Bethlehem, and hardly finished, we betrayed Him with all our mean little secret sins and our horrid big ones. We ought to be made to pay with our lives, for even they are a gift from Him. But Christ in His Church offers us forty days to fast and pray; and at the end, He promises, His love will triumph over sin and death: at the end He will show us the sign of Jonas.
One of the symbols of this sign of Jonas—in other words, the Resurrection—is a gourd, which recalls the vine (assuming it was a gourd vine). It is interesting to know that there has been disputing over this vine ever since the beginning. Some scholars are sure it was the castor bean (a bush), some (among them St. Augustine) the gourd. If so, it is quite possible that it was a crook-necked squash. Remember this, next time you serve squash, and you will have, also, a conversation piece. At any rate, the symbol used is a gourd, and when it is used with an apple it symbolizes the triumph of the Resurrection over original sin. As Easter egg decoration, these symbols tell the whole meaning of Easter.
A JONAS PROJECT
Now for something to do. This is an activity that sums up all that Jonas teaches. The children use it during Holy Week. You need 9″ X 12″ colored construction paper, scissors, paste, and your choice of crayons, paint, or inks, and glitter. If you get glitter, don’t forget a tube of glitter-glue to use with it. All these things can be found in the Five-and-Ten.
The patterns for the fish, the ship, and Jonas are shown in the illustration. The fish, measuring 8″ X 5 1/2″, is cut from a folded piece of paper with the top of the head and tail on the fold. Paste the tails together and spread apart the base so that it will stand.
The ship is 6″ high and 61/2″ long, with the top of the sail on the fold. This is cut from one piece of folded paper. Cut another sail from another color and paste over the first; spread apart to stand.
Jonas is 3″ high with his hands on the fold. Paste his heads together and spread his legs apart.
Use different colors for each piece and decorate them to suit your fancy. On the sail of the ship we painted a single eye, a symbol of the watchfulness of God the Father, who saw Jonas run away and sent the storm at sea.
This is how they are used. Pour yellow corn meal on a tray ( if sand is not available), and the figures will stand up in it. At the beginning of Holy Week, Jonas is in the ship. Standing in the prow with his arms flung up like that, he looks as though he is about to be tossed overboard. Good Friday he goes into the fish. On Easter Sunday, the first child awake runs downstairs to take him out of the fish and put him on the shore, where he stands with his arms upflung in a great and joyful Alleluia! On the mast of the ship he tapes a cross, because the ship is a symbol of Christ’s Church, born out of the graces of the Redemption, and the fish is an ancient symbol of Christ. Icthus is the Greek word meaning fish, and each letter is the initial Greek letter of each word in the Greek phrase Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
There is a lot of doctrine here, and it is fun to learn it this way. It works out nicely as a classroom project also.
A WORD ON ALMSGIVING
One of the points to discuss when mid-Lent is reached is whether the family has given alms. Almsgiving during Lent is as much an obligation as the fasting and penance, although somehow in modern times the impression is current that it is optional. Perhaps if we have not denied ourselves enough in this respect we should include in night prayers these words of St. Basil:
Is God unjust that he distributes goods unequally to us? Why do you wax rich, while he begs, except that you may gain the merits of a good distribution, and he may be crowned with the laurels of patience? It is the bread of the famished that you retain; the cloak of the naked that you keep in your cupboard; the shoes of the barefoot that rot in your keeping; the money of the needy that you keep hidden away. As much as yet remains in your power to give, by so much do you harm others.
This is a thoughtful meditation, especially when related to the purchase of Easter clothes. Originally, Lent was the final period of preparation for the catechumens before their baptism. The white linen baptismal robes they wore on Holy Saturday, when they were baptized, and all through the week after Easter, were the forerunners of our “Easter outfits.” In our times, when so many are naked and cold, hungry and sick, all over the world, our own purification, “throwing off the old man” in the effort to be renewed, could have a profound significance if we were to give to the poor the clothes we do not need, the money we spend for things we do not need. One of the challenges to women who are seriously Catholic is to use all their ingenuity to dress themselves and their families, feed themselves and their families, both well and frugally, so that there is always something left to give to the poor.
Father Krier will be in Los Angeles April 7. He will be in Albuquerque, NM, April 13. On April 16 he will be in Pahrump and Eureka on April 23.
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