Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Pastor Brunson: “I began to see there was value in my suffering”

October 17, 2018

Brunson tells Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he realized the Lord was ‘going to do something with my suffering’

As the months dragged on while Turkey kept American pastor Andrew Brunson in a jail cell, his thoughts started drifting to a dark place.

Brunson, who recently returned to the United States after two years of incarceration, described his efforts to maintain his sanity.

“It seemed that there was no way out,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday evening. “And I lost a lot of hope. And what helped me — I began to see there was value in my suffering, especially as time went on. I saw that many people around the world began praying for me.”

It was his wife and God who got him through the ordeal, Brunson said.

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President Donald Trump meets with American pastor Andrew Brunson, left, in the Oval Office of the White House, Saturday Oct. 13, 2018, in Washington.

The evangelical pastor said his wife was his only contact with the outside world. Turkish authorities allowed her to see her husband through glass for half an hour each week.

“She would bring encouragement to me and tell me that people are praying for me,” he said. “And as I learned that, I began to see that God was involved in this and that God was going to do something with my suffering.”

“I began to see that God was involved in this and that God was going to do something with my suffering.”

Brunson found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time after Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in 2016.

Suddenly, Brunson (pictured above) was in custody, charged with terrorism and aiding the overthrow of the government. The charges were false, Brunson said, and a bit disorienting.

“The truth is, we had been preaching Jesus Christ, sir. That’s why we were in Turkey for 23 years, up until that time — to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Turks,” he said. “We’d done that openly and never had a problem. So it was very shocking to be accused of terrorism.”

Brunson told Hannity it was difficult being the only Christian in the jail. But he said his fellow prisoners treated him well.

Related: Freed American Pastor Andrew Brunson Prays with President Trump in the Oval Office

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Pastor Brunson Prays for President Trump in the Oval Office

“Part of that time, it was a very crowded cell. And part of the time, I was also in isolation,” he said. “So it was a very difficult time, and I was surprised, because I had never really considered prison as a possibility.”

Brunson’s detention became a sore spot in increasingly deteriorating relations between the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally. Evangelical leaders took up his cause.

Erdoğan tried and failed to broker a deal exchanging Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher accused of supporting the coup attempt. He has been living in exile in the United States.

President Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on Turkey in August.

A Turkish court last week convicted Brunson of aiding terrorism but sentenced him to time served and released him.

A grateful Brunson returned home and this past weekend prayed over Trump at the White House.

Brunson’s explanation of his motivation was simple: “Our president needs prayer,” he said.

Includes video:

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Pastor Brunson Prays for President Trump in the Oval Office


Prayers for Saturday, June 9, 2018 — Immaculate Heart of Mary

June 9, 2018

Grant, Lord God, that we, your servants, may rejoice in unfailing health of mind and body, and, through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, may we be set free from present sorrow and come to enjoy eternal happiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph

To whose faithful custody Christ Jesus , Innocence

Itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed;

I pray insistently and beseech you by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary,

that being preserved from all uncleanness, I may

With spotless mind,

Pure heart, and chaste body, ever most chastely

serve Jesus and mary all the days of my life.


(Prayer to St. Joseph from the Laudate App)


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The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century


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Holy Trinity Sunday: God Is Love — The mystery of the Holy Trinity simplified — God’s simplicity — Are we seeking ‘Oneness’? — Am I a beacon of love?

May 27, 2018

Fr Matthew Jarvis delights in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, The Triune God who, as a beacon of Love, draws us ever further into glory.

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‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Or more literally: ‘into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ That’s also what the original Creed says: ‘I believe into God the Father… and into the Son… and into the Holy Spirit.’ We are on a journey into God, a journey into the dynamic life of the Holy Trinity. It’s a journey into love.

‘I love you.’ Three of the simplest words in the world, but we use them to express an inexhaustible mystery in our human relationships. 

‘God is love.’ Again, three simple words but they open up the infinite mystery of the Trinity.

‘The Lord is God indeed,’ we read in Moses today, ‘he and no other.’ Reason finds no problem in thinking of God as the Absolute, the One, but we need revelation to teach us about the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is Three and God is One; both are true mysteries, and they are connected. To appreciate why we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of the Holy Trinity (God’s personal threeness), it helps to remember that we really cannot grasp the mystery of the Divine Simplicity (God’s substantial oneness) either.

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The doctrine of divine simplicity states that God is not complex (made up of parts) in any way. Father, Son and Spirit are not parts of God, but One God. Easier said than understood! G. K. Chesterton recounts the story: ‘A lady I knew picked up a book of selections from St Thomas [Aquinas], with a commentary; and began hopefully to read a section with the innocent heading, The Simplicity of God. She then laid the book down with a sigh and said: “Well, if that’s His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like.”’

But God is not complex. The Platonists understood that simplicity is found at both the highest and lowest realities, both in the mere potentiality of ‘pure matter’ and in the luminous glory of the One. Is this what a modern American writer, variously cited as Ralph Waldo Emerson or Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, is also saying? ‘I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.’

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God’s simplicity is not like pure matter, because God is pure Actuality, white-hot Light, total and unconditional Love. This actuality envelops and drives everything, as its source and goal, the Alpha and Omega. I’m deliberately mixing philosophical language with Scriptural images, because both reason and revelation should guide us on our journey into the mystery of the Triune God.

Our journey into God’s simplicity will not take us back again to square one, empty-handed, but instead we will discover that a fullness has sent us out and a fullness will receive us home, transformed. There is a fullness in the simplicity that encloses complexity, like there is a fullness in the God whose eternity encloses time and is not enclosed by it. So, our journey into the Trinity is an attraction to the divine simplicity, not a stagnation in human simple-mindedness.

After all, there is a lovely simplicity in genius that differs from simple-mindedness. Often a beautiful object is found to have a simple rationale, despite its manifold appearance, whether it’s the mathematical iteration of the ‘Hofstadter butterfly’ or the musical unfurling of a Bach fugue.

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We cannot draw the Trinity or compose its theme-tune, but there’s a decent medieval attempt in the simple yet profound pictogram called the Scutum Fidei (Shield of Faith) that summarises: the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father.

The Trinity does not undermine the simplicity of God, because there’s nothing simpler nor stronger than persons united in love. The unity of God is a perfect communion of persons. And then St Paul pronounces God’s extraordinary invitation to us: receive the Spirit of God, let God dwell within you and make you his child, his heir, and take you into his glory.

The Light is too bright for our eyes right now; it’s too pure and simple, but it beckons us, a beacon of Love, drawing us ever further into glory – into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Spirit.

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Deut 4:32-34, 39-40  |  Rom 8:14-17  |  Matt 28:16-20

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of the ‘scutum Fidei’ depicted in a window in the church of St Denis in Hanover, MA.


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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 27, 2018 — Trying To Understand What Often Cannot Be Understood — Time For Faith

May 26, 2018

TODAY’S FEAST is one which many preachers would prefer not to have to talk about.  What can one say that is meaningful about such an abstract concept as the Holy Trinity?  In one sense, of course, they are right.  It was the great St Thomas Aquinas who said that it was much easier to say what God was not than what he is.  In other words, every positive statement made about God has to be immediately denied.  If we say God is “good”, it is obviously true but our concept of “goodness”, however exalted, is so limited that God’s “goodness” cannot remotely correspond to our limited concept of it.  And so of every other attribute applied to God.

Art: Holy Trinity by Nicoletto Semitecolo

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 165

Reading 1DT 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This is why you must now know,
and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22

R. (12b) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
For he spoke, and it was made;
he commanded, and it stood forth.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Reading 2  ROM 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

AlleluiaRV 1:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
to God who is, who was, and who is to come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Art: The Holy Trinity by José de Ribera

Gospel MT 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
From The Abbot
Monastery of Christ In The Desert

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Abba, Father!  We come to the Lord today, asking that He keep us aware of this great mystery of the Trinity.  It is this belief that God is Trinity, three in one, that distinguishes the Christian faith from all other beliefs.  We believe that God is Father, that Jesus is Son and equal to the Father and is God, and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son and also God.  It is a truly challenging belief and we believe because Jesus taught us to believe.

The first reading today is from the Book of Deuteronomy.  This passage tells us of the incredible experience of our ancestors in the faith.  God spoke to them!  This is what you and I receive from our ancestors in the faith:  God speaks to His people!  Today not many still believe in such revelation.  We believe and because of that belief, we believe in Jesus Christ and in the Spirit.  God speaks to us today in His Church and through the Sacraments and in our daily lives through faith.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans.  We must come to know within ourselves that our faith is a gift of the Spirit, that we can speak of Jesus as our Lord and Savior because of the Spirit within us, that we call God our Father because the Spirit is the pledge of our adoption as children of God, of the Father.  These words must become words that speak of the reality that we experience.  Today, as we honor Father, Son and Spirit, let us seek to live these mysteries more profoundly in our lives.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Matthew and gives us the formula of Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism is the wonderful gift of being incorporated into Jesus Christ and into all the mysteries of our faith.  Most importantly, it is a proclamation that God is Triune, Three-in-One, that God is in Jesus teaching us about the mysteries of God.

For many of us, we only know this great mystery because we have come to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord.  It is He who teaches us.  It is He who draws us into this great mystery of God.  To Him be glory and honor forever.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip



Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
27 MAY, 2018, Trinity Sunday

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 4:32-3439-40Ps 33Rom 8:14-17Mt 28:16-20  ]

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, according to some theologians, could be the reason why Christianity has become less attractive, especially to people with a simple mind.  It is much easier just to confess faith in the One God than to try to figure out how God is One in being and three in persons.  The doctrine is mind boggling when we try to understand how the inner life of God works.  How could God be one being or one substance and yet there are three persons sharing the same being in thinking, in will, in majesty, in power, omnipotence and omniscience and yet are different?  In truth, even with all the intellectual attempts to make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity, we know that we cannot truly explain the inner life of God because it is a mystery of faith.  Indeed, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a mystery.

The path to understanding the Trinitarian God is not through reason.  If we try to explain why God is one being and three persons, it will create more confusion rather than enlightenment.  Speaking about the Holy Trinity via a doctrinal exposition is not the best way to introduce someone to the Holy Trinity.   The discourse is useful for clarification and to calm the intellect in searching for the truth, but this presupposes the person experiences God as such.  Thus the way to speak about the Holy Trinity is the way of experience, the way of prayer and the way of encountering God concretely.  Without this prior experience of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, such theological expositions remain abstract propositions.

The first step in coming to know the doctrine of the Trinity presumes faith in the One God. Our creed begins with the opening article of faith, “I believe in one God.”  This must be the starting point, for Christianity is a monotheistic religion.  However, faith in God again cannot be simply a conceptual or intellectual assent to a truth.  Many people do not have faith in God simply because they do not experience His presence in their lives, more so, when society is so secularistic and God is removed from public life.  When God is not felt or heard or seen, how could there be faith in God?

Indeed, in the first reading, Moses demanded obedience of the people to God only because this God was encountered by them intensely.  The Lord worked in their lives and history, delivering them from their enemies, especially from slavery.  Truly, they had heard the voice of God, they had seen Him in nature, thunder, lightning, a pillar of fire and clouds.  They witnessed God’s power over nature in the Ten Plagues and in their fight with the Egyptians and their enemies on their march to the Promised Land.

Unless we have experienced God concretely in our lives, it is difficult to profess our faith in Him.  Often, people give up faith in God because they feel that God was not with them in their pains and sufferings, in their illnesses, failures or when they lost their loved ones or their job.  Only if we have encountered God personally and concretely, can we profess with Moses, “The Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.”  So the question of faith in God is whether one has encountered Him radically in their lives.  If in our helpless moments and desperation, a miracle happens, then faith becomes stronger and God becomes real in our lives.  This is why testimonies of God’s love for us in our daily life is the most convincing way to lead people to faith in Him; not through doctrines.

Nevertheless, Christian faith does not stop at believing that God is one.  God is Father but He also sent us His Son who revealed to us the full identity of God.  Jesus made it clear, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”  (Jn 14:10)  Christ revealed to us that He is one with the Father.  “The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:30)

But how do we know that Jesus and the Father are one?  This is proven by His death and resurrection. In His resurrection from the dead, the Father endorsed everything that Jesus said and did.  All the claims of Jesus about His identity and the work He did for His Father make sense with His resurrection.  It shows that He is the Lord of life and Lord over death, which has no power over Him.  “The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.”  In this statement, we see how the disciples bowed down in worship; and if some hesitated, it was because the Risen Lord had been so transformed from the Jesus of Nazareth that only faith could perceive His Presence.   But once perceived, the conclusion is that Jesus is the Risen Lord and therefore in assuming the powers of God, He now has the authority of God.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

But for us who have not seen the Risen Lord, how can we know that His Risen presence is real?  How can we encounter Him today so that we know that God is our Father through Christ?  This is where Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit.  This is what St Paul wrote, “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God.”   The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  When we are baptized, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that in the Holy Spirit we come to encounter the Risen presence of the Lord.  This happens in our hearts at prayer, especially during worship, when the Word of God is read, preached and shared.

Beyond experiencing the Fatherliness of God in prayer, we also experience His strength and power working in us in our triumph and fortitude in the face of sufferings.  St Paul wrote, “And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.”  In our union with Christ’s suffering even unto death, we also share His resurrection and new life.  Finally, in our fellowship with the Body of Christ, in our service to the poor and the abandoned, we encounter the Lord Jesus present in them. Jesus is felt, heard, touched and seen in our brothers and sisters, especially when we belong to a Catholic community.

Only then, can we speak about the work of evangelization and the obligation of mission.  Without this interior and personal experience of God as the Holy Trinity, we cannot be His witnesses.  Only after the disciples had seen Him, did Jesus tell them, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations.”   Unless we know from our heart that God is real and He is experienced as Father, Son and Spirit, we cannot share the Good News. Indeed, the Lord commanded us to “baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Baptism is not in the names but name, singular, because there is one God.

Christian joy is to know the Father more and more through understanding the Son and acceptance of His teachings so that the Holy Spirit can live in our hearts.  Indeed, we are “to teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Dying to Christ in baptism, rising to a new life in the Spirit, sharing our communion with the rest of the family of God, together, we help each other and support each other to become more and more like Jesus and living together as God’s family.  In conclusion, not only is our experience of God triune, but our life as Christians must be lived in imitation of the Trinitarian communion.  We who are individuals, too, must learn to live in unity.  We need to become more and more united in love and service, sharing our uniqueness and talents together for the service of God and humanity, so as to build a community of love.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 



Commentaries on Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20 From Living Space

TODAY’S FEAST is one which many preachers would prefer not to have to talk about.  What can one say that is meaningful about such an abstract concept as the Holy Trinity?  In one sense, of course, they are right.  It was the great St Thomas Aquinas who said that it was much easier to say what God was not than what he is.  In other words, every positive statement made about God has to be immediately denied.  If we say God is “good”, it is obviously true but our concept of “goodness”, however exalted, is so limited that God’s “goodness” cannot remotely correspond to our limited concept of it.  And so of every other attribute applied to God.

When it comes, then, to speaking of the meaning and inner relationship of three “Persons” in one God we are floundering in territory where ordinary human language is totally inadequate to express the reality.  Our God can only be reached in the “cloud of unknowing”, as Julian of Norwich so beautifully expressed it.  God is not any of the things we say he is.  It is, as Fr Anthony de Mello used to put it, something like trying to explain the colour green to a person who has been totally blind since birth.

No getting off the hook

However, we should not try to get off the hook too easily and decide to speak or think about something altogether different on this Sunday.  Provided we are aware of God’s basic unknowability by our limited minds, there are still many helpful things we can consider about our God and the inner relationships which are part of his* being.

While it is of the utmost importance that we realise this, there are many statements we can make which will help in our relationships with God.

To go back to Thomas Aquinas again, one of his basic principles was that “Behaviour is determined by the nature of things” (Agere sequitur esse).  From the way things act we know something about what they are.  We can thus distinguish the different natures of minerals and other non-living substances, plant life, bacterial and viral life, animal life, human life from the different ways in which each is able to function and react.  We normally will not confuse a cow and a horse, a bird or a bat, a shark or a whale, a gorilla or a human being.  It is not simply their appearances that are different.  We realise that each has certain capabilities and that those capabilities arise from the way they are essentially constituted in their inner being.  We don’t expect animals to talk as humans do, except in TV cartoons.  We don’t expect snails to run in the Derby or the Grand National or horses to fly.

And, in our daily rubbing shoulders with other people, the only way we can know them is by what they reveal of themselves through their behaviour and interactions.  We say they ARE kind, because they consistently behave in a way that is kind.  Or they ARE cruel, again because of what is perceived as consistently cruel behaviour.  “By their fruits you will know them,” said Jesus.  “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a bad tree good fruit” – because agere sequitur esse.

A level of unknowability

At the same time, while we may feel we can know a lot about people from their behaviour (and do not hesitate to pass judgement!), we can by no means know everything.  Every human being, indeed as science constantly discovers, every created thing is a mystery whose innermost reality is really impossible for us to penetrate totally.  And that even applies to our own selves.  We do not know ourselves totally.  We are a mystery to ourselves – and, a fortiori, to others!

If this is true of created reality, we should not be surprised to face the same dilemma with the Creator.  God, in his deepest being, is a mystery we cannot ever fathom.  This is not just a “cop out”; it is a fact.  Nevertheless on the basis of what God DOES we do get some very clear indications of what he IS.  Agere sequitur esse applies to God also.

What the Scripture tells us

And it is in the Christian (New) Testament especially that it has been revealed to us that there are three Persons in our one God.  What it means to have three Persons in one Being is something we do not even try to understand.  But we can get some inkling if we confine ourselves to seeing what each of the persons DOES as a clue to what they ARE.

In Greek classical drama in the time of Jesus and earlier, the actors put on a mask to indicate the role they were playing (not unlike the elaborate painting of the face in Chinese opera).  The Greek word for this mask was prosopon (proswpon, literally, ‘in front of the face’) and the Latin translation was persona (that through which the sound of the speaker’s voice came).

So, speaking analogically, we can say that in our God there are three masks, three personae, three roles pointing to three separate sources of action.  This is not an explanation.  It is a groping effort to get some understanding.  Those three roles are that of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit acting from one single Source.


We see God as Father, a loving and compassionate Father.  Not a daunting patriarchal figure but one that is easily approached and who can be addressed by the familiar and intimate term Abba(Abba, compare the English ‘Papa’ or ‘Ah Ba’ in Chinese and other languages).  He is the creator and giver of all life.  Everything good that can be discerned in the world around us comes from him and through him.  In him, through him and with him all things exist.

He is the one who cares, the one who waits for the Prodigal to return and forgives completely and immediately.  He is the Father of truth, the Father of love and compassion, the Father of justice.  The whole of this beautiful world in which we lives is a testimony and, at the same time, only a faint indication of what he really is.  If we really look at the world he has made (and not at the one we have unmade), our hearts can only be overcome with praise and thanks.


We see God as Son, who in an extraordinary way came to live among us, and whom, in a paradox beyond all understanding, we humans killed.

In the Son as a human being, we can see, hear and touch God.  We see something of the nature of our God as Jesus heals the sick, identifies with the weak and socialises with the sinful.  We see him challenge the dehumanising values that form the fabric of most of our lives and, in the process, he is rejected by those he loves.  Though he is God, he empties himself of all human dignity that he might open for us the way to true and unending life.


We see God as Spirit, becoming, as it were, the soul of his people.  All the good that we do, all our evangelising work, our hospitals, schools, works of social development and social welfare, our care of the sick, the weak, the oppressed and the outcast – all are the work of God’s Spirit working in and through us.  Wherever there is genuine loving there is the Spirit of God at work.

Growing into his likeness

And yet, being aware of all this, we still cannot say that we know our God.  But there is enough here – if we pray and reflect on it – that is already overpowering in its significance.

We need to remember that we have been called to be and to grow into the image of God himself.  In what has been revealed to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, we have more than enough to challenge us and to help us to approach closer to our God.  Our ultimate goal, and it is the only goal for all living, is to achieve perfect union with him.  We do that, above all, by loving as he loved, by loving unconditionally and continuing to love where no love, and even hate, is returned.

For this we need the creative power of the Father, the compassion of the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They are all available to anyone who opens their heart to receive.

*Although God has been referred to here in male terms, we need to remind ourselves that the three persons of the Trinity are sexually inclusive of both male and female.

We need also to remember that, although Jesus as the incarnate Son is male, our Creed professes that the Second Person of the Trinity became primarily a human being (et homo factus est).  The word ‘homo’, although grammatically masculine, refers to any human being: man, woman or child.


Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
A key to guide the reading:The text reports the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. This is like a testament, his last wish for the community, that which is uppermost in his mind. In our reading, let us try to pay attention to the following: What does Jesus insist on most in his final words?A division of chapter 14 to help with the reading:

Mt 28:16 – Geographical indication: return to Galilee.
Mt 28:17 – Jesus’ apparition and the reaction of the disciples.
Mt 28:18-20a – Jesus’ finalinstructionsMt 28:20b – The great promise, source of all hope..The text:

16: Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them..
17: When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated..
18-20a: Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you..
20b: And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’.

A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.

Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What struck you and touched your heart most?
b) Identify the chronological and geographical information in this text.
c) How do the disciples react? What is the content of Jesus’ words to the disciples?
d) What is this “all power in heaven and on earth” given to Jesus?
e) What does it mean, “to become a disciple” of Jesus?
f) In this context, what does the baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” mean?
g) What do the words “I am with you always, even to the end of time” remind us of in the OT?

A key to the reading

for those who wish to go deeper into the text.

The context of Matthew’s Gospel

* Matthew’s Gospel, written about the year 85, is addressed to a community of converted Jews who lived in Syria-Palestine. They were going through a deep identity crisis concerning their past. When they accepted Jesus as the awaited Messiah, they continued to go to the synagogue and to observe the law and the ancient traditions. Moreover, they had a certain affinity with the Pharisees, and after the revolution of the Jews in Palestine against the Romans (65 to 72), they and the Pharisees were the only two groups to have survived the Roman oppression.

* From the 80s, these Jewish brothers, Pharisees and Christians, only survivors, began to fight among themselves as to who had inherited the promises of the OT. Each claimed to be the inheritors. Gradually, tension grew between them and they began to excommunicate each other. The Christians could no longer attend the synagogue and were cut off from their past. Each group began to regroup: the Pharisees in the synagogue, the Christians in church. This added to the identity problem of the community of Jewish Christians because it raised serious questions in need of urgent solutions. “Who has inherited the promises of the OT, those of the synagogue or those of the church? On whose side is God? Who are really the people of God?

* Now, Matthew writes his Gospel to help these communities overcome their crisis and to find an answer to their problems. His Gospel is, first of all, a Gospel of revelation showing how Jesus is the true Messiah, the new Moses, the culmination of the whole of the history of the OT and its promises. It is also the Gospel of consolation for those who felt excluded and persecuted by their Jewish brothers. Matthew wants to console and help them to overcome the trauma of the split. It is the Gospel of the new practice because it shows the way to achieve a new justice, greater than that of the Pharisees. It is the Gospel of openness and shows that the Good News of God that Jesus brought cannot be hidden, but must be placed on a candlestick so that it may enlighten the life of all peoples.

Commentary on the text of Matthew 28: 16-20

* Matthew 28:16: Returning to Galilee: It was in Galilee that it all began (Mt 4:12). It was there that the disciples first heard the call (Mt 4:15) and it was there that Jesus promised to reunite them again after the resurrection (Mt 26:31). In Luke, Jesus forbids them to leave Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). In Matthew they are commanded to leave Jerusalem and go back to Galilee (Mt 28: 7.10). Each evangelist has his own way of presenting the person of Jesus and his plans. For Luke, after the resurrection of Jesus, the proclamation of the Good News has to begin in Jerusalem in order to reach to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). For Matthew, the proclamation begins in Galilee of the pagans (Mt 4:15) in order to prefigure the passage from the Jews to the pagans.

The disciples had to go to the mountain that Jesus pointed out to them. The mountain reminds us of Mount Sinai, where the first Covenant took place and where Moses received the tablets of the Law of God (Ex 19 to 24; 34:1-35). It also reminds us of the mountain of God, where the prophet Elijah took refuge in order to find again the meaning of his mission (1Kings 19:1-18). It also reminds us of the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, appear with Jesus, thus confirming that he is the promised Messiah (Mt 17:1-8).

* Matthew 28:17: Some doubted: The first Christians had great difficulty in believing in the resurrection. The evangelists insist in saying that they doubted a lot and did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus (Mk 16:11.13.14; Lk 24:; Jn 20:25). Faith in the resurrection was a slow and difficult process, but ended by being the greatest certainty of Christians (1Cor 15:3-34).

* Matthew 28:18: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me: The passive form of the verb shows that Jesus received his authority from the Father. What is this authority? In the Apocalypse, the Lamb (the risen Jesus) received from the hand of God the book with seven seals (Ap 5:7) and became the Lord of history, he who must assume the responsibility for the execution of God’s project as described in the sealed book, and as such is adored by all creatures (Ap 12:11-14). By his authority and power he conquers the Dragon, the power of evil (Ap 12:1-9). And captures the Beast and the false prophet, symbols of the Roman Empire (Ap 19:20). In the Creed at Mass we say that Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, thus becoming the judge of the living and the dead.

* Matthew 28:19-20a: Jesus’ last words: three commands to the disciples: Vested with supreme authority, Jesus passes on three orders to the disciples and to all of us: (i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; (ii) baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; (iii) teach them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.

i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations: To be a disciple is not the same as being a student. A disciple is in relation to the master. A student is in relation to the teacher. The disciple lives with the master 24 hours a day; the student receives lessons from the teacher for a few hours then goes back home. The disciple presupposes a community. The student presupposes being present in a classroom for lessons. The state of discipleship in those days was marked by the expression to follow the master. In the Carmelite Rule we read: To live in obedience to Jesus Christ. For the first Christians, to follow Jesus meant three connected things:

– To imitate the example of the Master: Jesus was the model to imitate and to be repeated in the life of the disciple (Jn 13:13-15). Living together every day meant a constant meeting. In this School of Jesus only one subject was taught: the Kingdom! This Kingdom could be seen in the life and practice of Jesus.

– Sharing in the fate of the Master: Those who followed Jesus, had to commit themselves to “stay with him in temptations” (Lk 22:28), and in persecution (Jn 15:20; Mt 10:24-25) and had to be willing to take up the cross and die with him (Mk 8:34-35; Jn 11:36).

– To possess in oneself the life of Jesus: After Easter, a third dimension was added: “I live now not I but Christ lives in me”. The first Christians sought to identify themselves with Jesus. This is the mystical dimension in the following of Jesus, fruit of the Spirit’s action.

ii) Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: The Trinity is the source, the end and the way. Those baptised in the name of the Father, revealed in Jesus, commit themselves to live as brothers and sisters in fraternity. And if God is Father, we are all brothers and sisters.


Those baptised in the name of the Son, Jesus, commit themselves to imitate Jesus and to follow him even unto the cross in order to rise with him. And the power that Jesus received from the Father is a creative power that conquers death. Those baptised in the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus on the day of Pentecost, commit themselves to interiorising fraternity and the following of Jesus, allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit alive in the community.

iii) Teaching them to observe all my commands: For us Christians, Jesus is the New Law of God, proclaimed from on high in the mountain. Jesus is the chosen of the Father as the new Moses, whose word is law for us. “Hear him” (Mt 17:15). The Spirit sent by him will remind us of all the things he taught us (Jn 14:26; 16:13). The observance of the new Law of love is balanced by the gratuitous presence of Jesus in our midst, till the end of time.

* Matthew 28:20b: I am with you always, even to the end of time: When Moses was sent to free the people from Egypt, he received a guarantee from God, the only guarantee that offers complete certainty: “Go, I shall be with you!” (Ex 3:12). It is the same certainty promised to the prophets and other persons sent by God to undertake an important mission in God’s plan (Jer 1:8; Jud 6:16).


Mary received the same guarantee when the angel said to her, “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The person of Jesus is the living expression of this guarantee, because his name is Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1:23). He will be with his disciples, with all of us, even to the end of time. Here we see Jesus’ authority. He controls history and time. He is the first and the last (Ap 1:17). Before the first, nothing existed and after the last, nothing is. This guarantee sustains people, nourishes their faith, sustains hope and generates love and the gift of oneself.

Highlighting the words of Jesus: The universal mission of the community.

Abraham was called to be the source of blessings not only for his descendants, but for all families on earth (Gen 12:3). The slave people were called not only to restore the tribe of Jacob, but also to be light to the nations (Is 49:6; 42:6). The prophet Amos said that God not only freed Israel from Egypt, but also the Philistines from Kaftor and the Aramaians from Quir (Am 9:7). God, then, looks after and is concerned for the Israelites as well as for the Philistines and the Aramaians who were the greatest enemies of the people of Israel!


The prophet Elijah thought he was the only defender of God (Kings 19:10.14), but he had to be told that apart from himself there were seven thousand others! (1Kings 18:18) The prophet Jonah wanted Yahweh to be only the God of Israel, but had to admit that he is the God of all nations, even the inhabitants of Niniveh, the bitterest enemies of Israel (Jo 4:1-11). In the New Testament, John, the disciple, wanted Jesus only for the little group, for the community, but Jesus corrected him and said, He who is not against me is for me! (Mk 9:348-40).

At the end of the first century after Christ, the difficulties and persecutions could have driven the Christian communities into losing the missionary impetus and to close in on themselves, as if they were the only ones defending the values of the Kingdom. But Matthew’s Gospel, faithful to this long tradition of openness to all nations, tells the communities that they cannot close in on themselves. They cannot claim for themselves a monopoly on the action of God in the world.


God is not the community’s property; rather the community is Yahweh’s property (Ex 19:5). In the midst of humanity that struggles against and resists oppression, the communities must be salt and yeast (Mt 5:13; 13:33). They must proclaim aloud to the whole world, among all nations, the Good News that Jesus brought us. God is present in our midst, the same God who, in Exodus, commits himself to free those who call on his name! (Ex 3:7-12). This is our mission. If this salt loses its savour, what will it be good for? “It is of no use for the earth or for the fertiliser” (Lk 14:35)

Psalm 150

Universal praise

Praise God in his holy sanctuary;
give praise in the mighty dome of heaven.
Give praise for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his great majesty.

Give praise with blasts upon the horn,
praise him with harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance,
praise him with flutes and strings.

Give praise with crashing cymbals,
praise him with sounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
give praise to the Lord!

Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
31 MAY 2015, Trinity Sunday

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Deut 4:32-34.39-40; Ps 32:4-6,9,18-20,22Rom 8:14-17Matt 28:16-20

In the first reading, we read how God chose the People of Israel to be His own.  Indeed the people were merely slaves in Egypt.  They were under the bondage of Pharaoh.  But God in His mercy set them free from the slavery of the Egyptians.

The new life of Christ has now been given to us as well.  We are called not simply to be God’s people but His very own, that is, to be His sons and daughters.  The fullness of our identity can be realized only in Christ.  By His death and resurrection, He not only revealed to us our identity as the adopted sons and daughters of His heavenly Father, but that we have a share in His divine life.  This is made possible when the Father poured out the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts in His name.  This is what St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans.  “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’”

Knowing that God is not just a transcendent God but our personal Father makes us feel that we are not merely His creatures but His children as well.  This experience of sonship and daughtership frees us from slavery and fear.  We can now live our lives in total freedom because we know that God our Heavenly Father will look after us as He looked after Jesus.  Even when we find the trials of life too overwhelming and difficult, we can surrender our lives to the Heavenly Father as Jesus did.  We can also commend our spirit to the Father whom we know will help us to overcome every trial and even death.  So with the rediscovery of our true identity as the adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ, our lives are now lived with a purpose and with dignity.  We no longer need to live as slaves to the world but in total freedom as God’s children.  Indeed, the partial revelation of the people of God as God’s own and the deliverance from physical slavery is not fully revealed with the declaration that we are the children of God and that we are interiorly free.

How can one mediate this Trinitarian experience of the One God whom we worship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?   This experience is transmitted through baptism.   This is why the Lord commands us to baptize.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   Baptism therefore is the matrix in which a person is initiated into the experience of a Trinitarian God.

However, it is not sufficient to know that we are God’s children.  All children must grow to adulthood and maturity.  What is the use of being born again when we die a premature death? The gift of baptism and rebirth requires that we bring the gift of eternal life given to us to fullness.  We are not only called to be baptized but Jesus specifically makes it clear that we are called to be disciples.  “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations.”   Indeed, we cannot be contented with making converts to the Faith.  More importantly, we must make them disciples.

This is the real weakness of the Catholic Church.  We are good at making converts. We even boast of the number of converts each year.  We are proud of the large number of Catholics in our country.  But what is the quality of their faith?  Are they mature in their faith?  Are they making others disciples of Christ?  Are they evangelizing?  Are they living as sons and daughters of God?  Do they know the Father more and more intimately?  Do they live the gospel of Christ?  How many of our young have left the Church after confirmation?  How many of them live the gospel and moral life as demanded of us?  Are they proud to be Catholics and to be identified as such in the world? How are they bringing the gospel into the lives of the people in their place of work, family and society?

Discipleship is an ongoing reality.  We never stop being disciples.  We need to underscore once again the importance of Christian discipleship.  We cannot be left on our own.  We need formation throughout our lives.  Our Catholic faith cannot be reduced to attending mass on Sundays and praying the occasional prayers.  Unless we seriously see the importance of our on-going formation in our faith, in doctrines and most of all our spiritual life, a deepening prayer life and love for the Word of God, we cannot expect to truly enjoy the fullness of life as the sons and daughters of God.  The truth is that many of us are Christian in name but not in fact.  This explains why many of us are nominal Catholics.  We do believe in God and in Christ but it is not a living and lively personal faith.  Our faith in God is merely notional and unconscious rather than a conscious personal relationship.  The only time when faith becomes more personal is when we are desperate to seek God’s help and divine intervention to solve our problems.

However, discipleship cannot take place without a community.  It is not enough to confess our faith in the Holy Trinity in name but not in fact.  To confess our faith in the Trinity and therefore the desire to live the Trinitarian life since we are baptized in the name of the Trinity, we must also imitate the life of God.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, although distinct within the being of God, yet all three are in each other, for each other, by each other and from each other.  The unity of the three persons in the inner life of God is one of intense union, reciprocal love, of interpenetration of life.  This accounts for the dynamic and vibrant life of God.  God is a living God because He is a God of life and love, of mutual giving and receiving.

Accordingly, to be a disciple is to live the Trinitarian relationship among ourselves.  We, too, wherever we go, at home, in our place of work, in the community, in society and in the country, we must live a life of communion.  We are called to support each other in every way.  We are called to live a life of love and unity among ourselves.  We are distinct and different, yet the strength of the Catholic lies in living a life of unity not in spite but because of our diversity.  We are all one in the Lord, regardless of our race, language, culture or status in life.   As Catholics, we need a community in which our fellow brothers and sisters can journey with us in our faith, support us when we are going through the trials of life.  Formation happens formally or informally, always within the community of faith.  Faith is very much connected with the extent of our relationship with the community.  This also explains why those who do not take discipleship and formation seriously normally have not much link to the community.  They are alone and eventually drop out of the Church.

Finally, through the empowering of God’s love in the community, we are inspired and filled with joy and zeal to share our fellowship with God and with each other with the world.  Truly, this is what it means to fulfill the command of our Lord to go out to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel and baptize them in the name of the Trinity.




Catholic Teaching on the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is encapsulated in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus instructs the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The parallelism of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is not unique to Matthew’s Gospel, but appears elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:14, Heb. 9:14), as well as in the writings of the earliest Christians, who clearly understood them in the sense that we do today—that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three divine persons who are one divine being (God).

The Didache

“After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. . . . If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Didache 7:1 [A.D. 70]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“[T]o the Church at Ephesus in Asia . . . chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God” (Letter to the Ephesians 1 [A.D. 110]).

“For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God’s plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit” (ibid., 18:2).

Justin Martyr

“We will prove that we worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God himself, that he holds a second place, and the Spirit of prophecy a third. For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things; but they are ignorant of the mystery which lies therein” (First Apology 13:5–6 [A.D. 151]).

Theophilus of Antioch

“It is the attribute of God, of the most high and almighty and of the living God, not only to be everywhere, but also to see and hear all; for he can in no way be contained in a place. . . . The three days before the luminaries were created are types of the Trinity: God, his Word, and his Wisdom” (To Autolycus 2:15 [A.D. 181]).


“For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, the Father Almighty . . . and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).


“We do indeed believe that there is only one God, but we believe that under this dispensation, or, as we say, oikonomia, there is also a Son of this one only God, his Word, who proceeded from him and through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made. . . . We believe he was sent down by the Father, in accord with his own promise, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father and the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. . . . This rule of faith has been present since the beginning of the gospel, before even the earlier heretics” (Against Praxeas 2 [A.D. 216]).

“And at the same time the mystery of the oikonomia is safeguarded, for the unity is distributed in a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in being, but in form; not in power, but in kind; of one being, however, and one condition and one power, because he is one God of whom degrees and forms and kinds are taken into account in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (ibid.).

“Keep always in mind the rule of faith which I profess and by which I bear witness that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and then you will understand what is meant by it. Observe now that I say the Father is other [distinct], the Son is other, and the Spirit is other. This statement is wrongly understood by every uneducated or perversely disposed individual, as if it meant diversity and implied by that diversity a separation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (ibid., 9).

“Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent persons, who are yet distinct one from another. These three are, one essence, not one person, as it is said, ‘I and my Father are one’ [John 10:30], in respect of unity of being not singularity of number” (ibid., 25).


“For we do not hold that which the heretics imagine: that some part of the being of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father from non-existent substances, that is, from a being outside himself, so that there was a time when he [the Son] did not exist” (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:4:1 [A.D. 225]).

“No, rejecting every suggestion of corporeality, we hold that the Word and the Wisdom was begotten out of the invisible and incorporeal God, without anything corporal being acted upon . . . the expression which we employ, however that there was never a time when he did not exist is to be taken with a certain allowance. For these very words ‘when’ and ‘never’ are terms of temporal significance, while whatever is said of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is to be understood as transcending all time, all ages” (ibid.).

“For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds every sense in which not only temporal but even eternal may be understood. It is all other things, indeed, which are outside the Trinity, which are to be measured by time and ages” (ibid.).


“The Word alone of this God is from God himself, wherefore also the Word is God, being the being of God. Now the world was made from nothing, wherefore it is not God” (Refutation of All Heresies 10:29 [A.D. 228]).


“For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God. Because it does not set forth him to be the Son of God only, but also the son of man; nor does it only say, the son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of him as the Son of God. So that being of both, he is both, lest if he should be one only, he could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that he must be believed to be God who is of God. . . . Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God” (Treatise on the Trinity11 [A.D. 235]).

Pope Dionysius

“Next, then, I may properly turn to those who divide and cut apart and destroy the most sacred proclamation of the Church of God, making of it [the Trinity], as it were, three powers, distinct substances, and three godheads. . . . [Some heretics] proclaim that there are in some way three gods, when they divide the sacred unity into three substances foreign to each other and completely separate” (Letter to Dionysius of Alexandria 1 [A.D. 262]).

“Therefore, the divine Trinity must be gathered up and brought together in one, a summit, as it were, I mean the omnipotent God of the universe. . . . It is blasphemy, then, and not a common one but the worst, to say that the Son is in any way a handiwork [creature]. . . . But if the Son came into being [was created], there was a time when these attributes did not exist; and, consequently, there was a time when God was without them, which is utterly absurd” (ibid., 1–2).

“Neither, then, may we divide into three godheads the wonderful and divine unity. . . . Rather, we must believe in God, the Father Almighty; and in Christ Jesus, his Son; and in the Holy Spirit; and that the Word is united to the God of the universe. ‘For,’ he says, ‘The Father and I are one,’ and ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me’” (ibid., 3).

Gregory the Wonderworker

“There is one God. . . . There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever” (Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).

Sechnall of Ireland

“Hymns, with Revelation and the Psalms of God [Patrick] sings, and does expound the same for the edifying of God’s people. This law he holds in the Trinity of the sacred Name and teaches one being in three persons” (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 22 [A.D. 444]).

Patrick of Ireland

“I bind to myself today the strong power of an invocation of the Trinity—the faith of the Trinity in unity, the Creator of the universe” (The Breastplate of St. Patrick 1 [A.D. 447]).

“[T]here is no other God, nor has there been heretofore, nor will there be hereafter, except God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, upholding all things, as we say, and his Son Jesus Christ, whom we likewise to confess to have always been with the Father—before the world’s beginning. . . . Jesus Christ is the Lord and God in whom we believe . . . and who has poured out on us abundantly the Holy Spirit . . . whom we confess and adore as one God in the Trinity of the sacred Name” (Confession of St. Patrick 4 [A.D. 452]).


“All the Catholic interpreters of the divine books of the Old and New Testaments whom I have been able to read, who wrote before me about the Trinity, which is God, intended to teach in accord with the Scriptures that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are of one and the same substance constituting a divine unity with an inseparable equality; and therefore there are not three gods but one God, although the Father begot the Son, and therefore he who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, himself, too, coequal to the Father and to the Son and belonging to the unity of the Trinity” (The Trinity1:4:7 [A.D. 408]).

Art: Vision of St Augustine By Sandro Botticelli

Fulgence of Ruspe

“See, in short you have it that the Father is one, the Son another, and the Holy Spirit another; in Person, each is other, but in nature they are not other. In this regard he says: ‘The Father and I, we are one’ (John 10:30). He teaches us that one refers to their nature, and we are to their Persons. In like manner it is said: ‘There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit; and these three are one’ (1 John 5:7). Let Sabellius hear we are, let him hear three; and let him believe that there are three Persons. Let him not b.aspheme in his sacrilegious heart by saying that the Father is the same in himself as the Son is the same in himself and as the Holy Sprit is the same in himself, as if in some way he could beget himself, or in some way proceed from himself. Even in created natures it is never able to be found that something is able to beget itself. Let also Arius hear one; and let him not say that the Son is of a different nature, if one cannot be said of that, the nature of which is different” (The Trinity 4:1–2 [c. A.D. 515]).

“But in the one true God and Trinity it is naturally true not only that God is one but also that he is a Trinity, for the reason that the true God himself is a Trinity of Persons and one in nature. Through this natural unity the whole Father is in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and the whole Holy Spirit, too, is in the Father and in the Son. None of these is outside any of the others; because no one of them precedes any other of them in eternity or exceeds any other in greatness, or is superior to any other in power” (The Rule of Faith 4 [c. A.D. 523).

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Vatican urged not to sign ‘devil’s pact’ with China

April 14, 2018

‘IMMORAL’: China follows ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ a Chung Hua University professor told a Taipei forum, while a researcher said China still persecutes because of religion

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer
Taipei Times

Academics attending a forum in Taipei yesterday urged the Pope not to choose a “devil’s pact” with the “modern theocratic government” that is China.

A “modern theocracy” has already formed in China, Chung Hua University Department of Public Administration associate professor Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元) told the forum hosted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses so-called “Xi Jinping Thought” (習近平思想) to command the psychology of Chinese and anyone who might challenge the party-state’s authority is kept under strict control, he said.

According to China’s newly amended Regulations on Religious Affairs (宗教事務條例), any religious groups unwilling to register would receive “unsystematic” treatment, he said.

The standard for the CCP’s so-called “Sinicization of religion” would be set by the CCP, he said.

By making a “devil’s deal” with the CCP, Pope Francis would be betraying the Catholics and advocates of religious freedom who have been persecuted by the CCP, he added.

The key to religious persecution by the CCP today does not lie in a dispute between theism and atheism, but rather in the CCP’s view of faith groups as potentially hostile forces, said Wu Renhua (吳仁華), a visiting academic at Soochow University’s Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights who also attended the forum.

If these believers were to become political opposition groups, it would have a considerable impact on the CCP regime, he said, adding that the CCP has therefore always persecuted religious groups since its founding.

Catholics aside, the number of Christians in China has in recent years increased to more than 100 million, Wu said, adding that this has made them key targets of CCP attacks.

If the Vatican gives up on a free Taiwan and establishes diplomatic relations with China, the church would be making a “foolish” move, Wu said.

Moreover, such a move would not be in line with the interests of Chinese Catholics, but would be an abandonment of their sense of morality, Wu said.

The Vatican would be making an immoral decision, he added.

China-Vatican relations are at times real and at times fake, Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) said.

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Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen, right, speaks at a forum organized by the Cross-Strait Policy Association in Taipei

It is true that the Vatican wants to establish diplomatic relations with China because it cannot overlook the potential number of believers in China, Tung said.

However, the two states have been unable to establish diplomatic relations because the CCP fears religious freedom, he said.

The CCP was originally atheist, but in recent years it has loosened its grip and allowed religious belief while still maintaining a high level of control over the staffing, organization and property of religious groups, Tung said.

However, after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took office, he further clamped down on religion, Tung said.

Citing observations made by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Tung said the CCP was not soft in its curtailment of religious belief last year.

The CCP’s persecution of church members included arrests, house arrests and limitations on the participation of underaged people in churches, he said, adding that there were more than 100 victims last year.

It also forcibly removed crosses, forced churches to relocate and cut off churches’ power and water supply, Tung said, adding that more than 100 churches were affected.

If the Roman Curia wants to establish diplomatic relations with China, it must submit to the CCP, Tung said.

“If it does, how will Catholics around the world view the Vatican?” Tung asked.


Who Made Xi Jinping Pope?

A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006.
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006. PHOTO: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table.

As this newspaper reported Feb. 1, the pope “has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government.” This means the pope will no longer have full control over his bishops. The power will go instead to atheist bureaucrats determined to suppress religion, with the pope’s role in appointing bishops reduced to a veto over their selection. The pope got almost nothing in return from his Chinese counterparts, and he is also being mocked. News reports allege that at least two of the seven excommunicated bishops selected by China have had relationships with women and even fathered children.

This appalls Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was born in Shanghai in 1932 and was bishop of Hong Kong from 2002-09. He has plenty of firsthand experience tussling with Chinese communists. He has negotiated the release of priests and bishops imprisoned in China, while raising funds abroad for the families of the persecuted. He was also under constant surveillance for his role in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Few understand the true nature of a communist regime as well as he does.

Late last year, the cardinal told me of the Vatican’s effort to compel two good and faithful bishops to retire to make way for men chosen by Beijing. “Imagine what the communists think?” he asked. “They must be laughing at us.” Last month Cardinal Zen flew to Rome to make a personal appeal to the pope. He was ignored.

The pope’s dealings with similar regimes, notably Cuba and Venezuela, do not inspire confidence. Perhaps he dreams of becoming the first pope to celebrate Mass in Tiananmen Square. That would make for a powerful image. But the hard-liners in Beijing are not naive. They are very conscious of the church’s role in communism’s fall, especially in Poland.

Because the Vatican wants a deal more than Beijing does, the Holy See has negotiated from a weak position. “If the Holy Father gives up enough, they will take it, but the communists will offer nothing of substance in return,” Cardinal Zen says. If there is a deal, it will no doubt be the first of many surrenders. Perhaps the churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan will be next.

Do the pope and his diplomats really think Mr. Xi is merely going through the motions when he imprisons priests and bishops? Consider that China is in the midst of a military buildup, a multitrillion-dollar economic expansion across Asia and Africa, and a revival of aggressive communist ideology at home. No one should expect a resurgent China to honor a deal with the Vatican.

The proposed deal also needlessly deepens pre-existing divisions. Catholics in China currently belong to either the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—a government-controlled church—or the underground church. The deal requires all underground bishops to join the government church, though not necessarily with their current title, or resign. It also forces all the priests and faithful in the underground church to join the CPCA. Anyone who doesn’t comply could face arrest for illegal activity, all while being declared disobedient by the Vatican.

Knowing that the Holy Father was on their side helped millions of Chinese Catholics—including Cardinal Zen—through their darkest days. But now they have to wonder about the Holy See’s judgment. Perhaps the only real hope for the Catholic faithful in China is that an aggressive and emboldened Beijing will insist on further capitulations. Maybe that would finally get the pope to walk from a deal.

Mr. Simon is an executive with Next Digital in Hong Kong.


A crane winching a large red cross from one Guantou’s three domes

A crane winches a large red cross from one of three domes on the Guantou church in Wenzhou


The Challenge of Easter

April 3, 2018

Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no way to ignore the radical claim of the Resurrection

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Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. PHOTO: BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

When was the last time you felt stressed out by Easter? So much Easter shopping to do, so many Easter cards to write, so many Easter gatherings to attend. Not to mention the endless stream of Easter commercials on television and online, the nearly unavoidable Easter-themed movies and all those tacky Easter sweaters that you’re forced to wear every spring. And don’t forget the travails of setting up the annual Easter tree and stringing Easter lights on your house.

Every year you lament how overly commercialized Easter has become. Can the holiday get any more money-oriented? You feel that way every year, don’t you?

Of course you don’t.

That is because Easter has stubbornly resisted the kind of commercialization, commodification and general crassification that long ago swallowed up the celebration of Christmas, at least in the U.S. Here’s a confession: It’s reached the point where I have begun to, yes, dread the Christmas season, and it can be fairly stated that I now dislike Christmas. By that I mean the commercial complex that has grown up around the holiday. (The Feast of the Nativity is another story. That I love.)

So how has Easter—with some notable exceptions, like ever-expanding Easter baskets with more and more expensive gifts for the kids—maintained its relative religious purity?

Mainly, I would say, because of its subversive religious message: Christ is risen.

That is quite a statement. And it’s one that non-Christians can readily grasp, even if they don’t believe it. Jesus of Nazareth, the man whose followers claim that he healed the sick, stilled storms, raised people from the dead and made the poor the center of his ministry, was crucified under the orders of Pontius Pilate and died an agonizing death in Jerusalem. Then, as his followers believe—myself included—after three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead.

If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you can go on living your life while perhaps admiring Jesus the man, appreciating his example and even putting into practice some of his teachings. At the same time, you can set aside those teachings that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable—say, forgiving your enemies, praying for your persecutors, living simply or helping the poor. You can set them aside because he’s just another teacher. A great one, to be sure, but just one of many.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, however, everything changes. In that case, you cannot set aside any of his teachings. Because a person who rises from the grave, who demonstrates his power over death and who has definitively proven his divine authority needs to be listened to. What that person says demands a response.

In short, the Resurrection makes a claim on you.

This is unlike Christmas. To be clear, Christians believe that, at the first Christmas, God became human. This is the meaning of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” God took on flesh, a concept as bizarre then as now.

But the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.

Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.

In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, one of the few disciples who did not desert him at the Crucifixion. (The fidelity of the women disciples—in contrast to all but one of the men—is an undervalued aspect of the narratives of the death and resurrection of Jesus.) Mary arrives at the place of Jesus’ burial early in the morning, peers into the empty tomb and eventually sees someone. It is the Risen Christ.

But she thinks he is the gardener. “Sir,” she says, “if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” When he speaks her name, “Mariam” (the Greek texts preserve her original Aramaic name), she realizes who it is.

What is going on? How could Mary not recognize the person that she has been following for so long? In later stories, Jesus seems similarly hard to recognize. In the Gospel of Luke, when two disciples encounter him as they are walking to the town of Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, they don’t recognize him at all.

How is this possible?

Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015.
Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015. PHOTO: NURPHOTO//ZUMA PRESS

More confusion: In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears as an almost ghostly figure, apparently able to walk through walls; in other accounts, he is decidedly corporeal. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says explicitly, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he appears to the unfairly named Doubting Thomas (for who wouldn’t doubt?), he says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

Ghostly and yet physical, recognizable but unrecognizable. Which is it? How could Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have presented the details of such an important story with such seeming contradictions? The agnostic or atheist will point to this as proof that it never happened. I would suggest that it’s quite the opposite.

Most likely, the narratives reflect the struggle of the eyewitnesses and, later, the evangelists to understand and communicate what had been experienced. After all, no one had ever encountered what theologians call the “glorified body,” the appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection. So they struggled to explain it. It was him, but more. It was his body, but something else. It was like this, but not like this.

If the Gospel writers were intent on getting their stories straight and providing airtight narratives with no inconsistencies, each would have made sure to agree with the others, so as not to give rise to any confusion. Instead, the Gospel writers, composing their accounts at different times and for different communities, simply reported what they had been told. And what they had been told was beyond telling.

But it was him. One of the most astonishing insights about Easter is that this is the same man who was crucified. Sometimes people speak, inadvertently, as if Jesus of Nazareth died on Good Friday and a new person, the Risen Christ, appeared on Easter Sunday. But as the Jesuit priest and New Testament scholar Stanley Marrow has written, for him to have risen as anything other than the Jesus the disciples knew would strip the Resurrection of all meaning.

As Father Marrow wrote, “Showing them ‘his hands and his side,’ which bore the marks of the crucifixion and the pierce of the lance, was not a mere theatrical gesture, but the necessary credentials of the identity of the risen Lord, who stood before them, with the crucified Jesus whom they knew.”

That has implications for all Christians. For one thing, it means that Jesus carries upon himself the visible marks of his human life. In other words, he remembers his suffering. So when one prays to Jesus, one prays to someone who knows, in the most intimate way possible, what it means to live a human life. One also prays to someone who is not only God but man. Who understands you.

This is the mystery of Jesus’ two “natures”: human and divine. The divine one suffered human pain, and the human one is now raised from the dead.

But this was true before the Resurrection.

As mysterious as it is, Christians believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at all times—fully human when healing someone from an illness, fully divine when sawing a plank of wood in his workshop. So his teachings are not simply divinely inspired but flow from his human experience.

To take a homey example, during the time of Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood, Nazareth was a poor village of no more than 400 people, as archaeology has revealed. The backwater hamlet was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” says the Apostle Nathanael when he first hears about the messiah’s hometown.

Jesus worked there as a tekton, a Greek word usually translated as carpenter but also as craftsman, woodworker or even day laborer. It was a job considered below the status of a peasant, since a tekton did not even have the benefit of a plot of land.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes.

But a mere 4 miles from Nazareth was the bustling city of Sepphoris, then being rebuilt by King Herod. Sepphoris had a population of 30,000 and included a Greek amphitheater that seated 3,000, a fortress, courts, a royal bank and so on. Most contemporary scholars believe that the poor carpenter from Nazareth almost certainly visited this cosmopolitan city, called the “ornament of all Galilee” by the Jewish historian Josephus. There Jesus would have seen beautiful buildings and houses decorated with mosaics and frescoes (the ruins of which one can still see today).

What did Jesus think when he walked back from the wealthy city to his poor hometown? How could his heart not have been moved by how the poor were forced to live in Nazareth? How could he have seen Mary and Joseph at their backbreaking chores and not have been grieved by the glaring disparities in wealth?

When Jesus witnessed injustices—the shunning of certain of the sick, the mistreatment of the powerless and gross material inequalities—he was inspired to preach against them not simply out of divine inspiration but because his human heart was, as the Gospels often say, “moved with pity.”

When we listen to Jesus, then, we are listening not only to a God who cares for the poor but a human being who knew the poor and who was poor himself.

A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015.
A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015.PHOTO: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

What difference does Easter make in the life of the Christian? The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word.

Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an odd thing to read in a secular newspaper. But I’m merely stating a central Christian belief. And if he is Lord, and if you’re a Christian, then what he says has a claim on you. His teachings are invitations, to be sure, but they are also commands: Love your neighbors. Forgive. Care for the poor and the marginalized. Live a simple life. Put the needs of others before your own.

Jesus’ message still has the power to make us feel uncomfortable, as it did in first-century Palestine. It was just as much of a challenge to pray for your enemies in antiquity. It was no easier to hear Jesus’ judgment against the excesses of the wealthy during a time of degrading poverty for so many. It was just as subversive a message to be asked to pray for your persecutors as it is now.

By walking out of the tomb on Easter, Jesus declared something life-changing, something subversive and something that cannot be overcome by commercialism. It is a message that refuses to be tamed. The Resurrection says not only that Christ has the power of life over death, but something more subversive.

The Resurrection says, “Listen.”

Father Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of several books, including “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” and, most recently, “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship With Jesus.”

Appeared in the March 26, 2016, print edition.

Re-posted this year. Suggested by a friend.

EDITORIAL – Beyond Easter — Each of us has the power to “reset”

April 1, 2018


(The Philippine Star) – April 1, 2018 – 12:00am
 Image result for suffering of the christ, film, movies, Passion of Christ, mel gibson, photos

After the long Holy Week break, Christians are reenergized and, it is hoped, renewed spiritually. The faithful in this predominantly Catholic country as usual combined religious devotion with relaxation during the week, and today celebrate the miracle of the risen Jesus Christ.

Through the passion, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ fulfilled the promised redemption from sin of the descendants of Adam and Eve. Redemption also heralds change for the better, which is a good commitment to make for the faithful on this special day. The nation can certainly use positive changes.

Non-Filipinos have wondered why Asia’s bastion of the Roman Catholic faith, where politicians like to present themselves as prayerful, devout churchgoers, continues to grapple with endemic corruption and one of the highest homicide rates in the world. In many parts of the country, murder has become the ultimate tool for eliminating political rivals and keeping a clan’s stranglehold on power.

Murder is also used to silence media critics and left-leaning militants, with the failure to solve the crimes breeding impunity. Tough anti-corruption laws and a code of conduct and ethical standards for public servants are brazenly violated. The few who control power and wealth have resisted meaningful reforms that would deprive them of their entitlements even if it would make economic growth inclusive and promote national prosperity. Social injustice pushes victims to insurgent movements, which also employ lethal violence to advance their causes.

Today families gather to celebrate the risen Christ, the greatest miracle of the faith. The Christian faithful have just gone through one of the holiest periods of the year, with Easter heralding a fresh start. Commitments to change for the better must be sustained beyond Easter Sunday.

A joyous, blessed Easter to all!


Image: Simon of Cyrene assist Jesus with his cross — From the film, The Passion of the Christ.

Good Friday Message from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Homilist to Pope Francis — In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness”

March 30, 2018

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Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Homilist to Pope Francis

ROME – Even as sinful people in a society filled with violence and increasing secularism, we have hope because Christ’s cross perdures, the papal preacher said at the Vatican’s Good Friday Service.

“The cross, then, does not ‘stand’ against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history,” Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said April 14.

He gave the homily during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cantalamessa also gave the homilies at Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Fridays throughout Lent.

Today, we are constantly hearing about death and violence, he said. “Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago?

“The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning,” he said.

Cantalamessa preached: “The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

RELATED: Pope’s preacher today once again fills a singular slot

He explained how the Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that hangs at the entrance to their monastery. It has a globe of the earth with a cross above it, and written across it: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,” or “The cross stands firm as the world turns.”

He described a painting by Salvador Dali, called “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” It depicts Christ on the cross as if you are looking from above. Beneath him are clouds, and below that, water.

In a way, the water beneath Christ in this image, instead of earth, is a symbol of the lack of firm foundation of values in our current society, he explained. But even though we live in this very “liquid society,” there is still hope, because “the cross of Christ stands.”

“This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: ‘O crux, ave spes unica,’ ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope.’”

The point of Christ’s Passion, however, is not an analysis of society, he said. “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings.”

In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness,” he said. In the Bible, it is called “a heart of stone.”

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life,” he said.

He explained that even as practicing Christians we have these hearts of stone when we live fundamentally for ourselves and not for the Lord.

Quoting God’s words through the prophet Ezekiel, Cantalamessa said: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

He went on to explain how in Scripture we are told that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”

This description, using apocalyptic language and signs, indicates “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.

“The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart,’” he said.

We believe that though he was slain, because Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, his heart has also “been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body.”

And when we receive the Eucharist, we “firmly believe” that the very heart of Christ has come to “beat inside of us” as well, he explained.

“As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ and then we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified’.”

Pope washes feet of 12 prisoners on Holy Thursday — There is no good reason to kill your fellow man — We are here to love each other

March 30, 2018


By washing feet outside the Vatican, Pope Francis continued in a Holy Thursday tradition he started five years ago

Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve inmates in a Rome prison on Thursday, telling them that jail sentences must be “open to hope” and condemning the death penalty as “not Christian or human”.

The 81-year-old Argentinian pontiff continued in a Holy Thursday tradition he started five years ago of taking the washing of the feet ritual away from the Vatican and out to the margins of society, this time to the Regina Coeli prison.

Celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, the first of the Easter Triduum services, the Pope said that Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples feet showed that leadership is service, and lamented that Christ’s example was ignored by so many in positions of power.

“Those who lead must serve,” Francis said during his homily. “If so many kings, emperors, heads of state had understood this teaching of Jesus and done this instead of giving orders to be cruel, to kill people, how many wars would not have happened!”

His central message for the prisoners was not to give up hope; that however bad their situation, there is the possibility of forgiveness; and that even though society has discarded them, Jesus tells them: “You are important to me.”

Explaining that Jesus “takes a risk on each of us” the Pope explained: “Know this: Jesus is called Jesus, he is not called Pontius Pilate,” in reference to the Roman prefect who sentenced Christ to death but first “washes his hands” of the matter. “Jesus can not wash his hands”, the Pope said. “He only knows how to risk.”

After the homily, the Pope got on his knees to wash the feet of twelve male prisoners, including two Muslims and a Buddhist. He has in the past washed the feet of non-Christians; he has also washed the feet of women and changed the liturgical rules to allow the latter to participate in the ritual.

“I am a sinner but come as Christ’s ambassador,” the Pope told the prisoners. “When I wash your feet, remember that Jesus never abandons you and he never tires of forgiving you.”

Pope Maundy Thursday Mass prison

Later, in off the cuff remarks at the end of Mass, the Pope said that every prison sentence must be “open to hope”, otherwise it is not human, and for inmates to be able to return to society. And he once again condemned the death penalty, something he has done repeatedly throughout his pontificate.

Saying that he would be having a cataract operation next year to improve his eyesight, Francis added it was important to have a “cataract operation on our souls” in order to “renew our gaze”.

The Regina Coeli is Rome’s oldest and best known prison, just a stone’s throw from the Vatican and housing 900 male inmates, the majority of whom are foreigners. Originally built in the 17th century as a convent it was converted into a prison in the 19th century. Other Popes have paid visits there before including a famous one by John XXIII on Boxing Day 1958 when he told them: “You could not leave to see me, so I have come to see you.”

Throughout his pontificate – and also when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires –  Francis has paid special attention to prisoners, often visiting detention centres and spending Sunday afternoons speaking to inmates.

On Thursday, during the sign of peace, he urged those present to use it as a moment for reconciliation and to think of “those who do not love us” and the people “we would like to take revenge on”.

Pic 1: Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate during Holy Thursday Mass March 29 at Regina Coeli prison in Rome. The pope celebrated Mass and washed the feet of 12 inmates at the prison. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

See also:

Pope, in Holy Thursday prison visit, says death penalty not Christian



 (Also contains the 2012 message)

Pope washes prisoners’ feet in exercise of humility for Holy Thursday — Commemorates Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles [Video]

March 29, 2018

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Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates during his visit to the Regina Coeli detention center in Rome, Thursday, March 29, 2018, where he celebrated the “Missa in Coena Domini”. Pope Francis visit to a prison on Holy Thursday to wash the feet of some inmates, stresses in a pre-Easter ritual that a pope must serve society’s marginalized and give them hope. (Vatican Media via AP)

ROME (AFP) – Pope Francis washed prisoners’ feet at a Rome jail on Thursday, including two Muslims, an Orthodox Christian and a Buddhist, once again choosing to celebrate Holy Thursday among Italy’s incarcerated.

“Everyone always has the opportunity to change life and one cannot judge,” said Francis to the prisoners of the city’s all-male Regina Coeli prison.

It is the fourth time in the pope’s five year papacy that he has celebrated the Holy Mass in an Italian jail.

“For me, visiting the sick, going into prison, making the prisoner feel that he can have hope of rehabilitation, that is the preaching of the Church,” said Francis in a recent book of interviews.

This year, the twelve inmates washed by Francis hailed from Italy, the Philippines, Morocco, Colombia, Moldova, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.


The rite, performed yearly on Maundy or Holy Thursday, commemorates Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles .

In Christian tradition, Jesus is said to have washed their feet ahead of the meal in a gesture of humility.

“I am a sinner like you but today I represent Jesus… God never abandons us, never tires of forgiving us,” Francis said to the inmates.

The ceremony is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday.

Since his election in 2013, the pope has moved the feet washing ceremony outside the walls of the Vatican and into centres for vulnerable people or those on society’s margins.

In his first year he visited a youth detention centre where he performed the ritual on a group of young inmates including two Muslims — the first Catholic leader ever to do so.

In 2014 he washed the feet of elderly and disabled people, in 2015 he did so in a prison, and in 2016 he chose a migrant reception centre.

Last year the pope went to Paliano jail outside Rome where he washed the feet of former mafiosi in a prison known for housing inmates who have informed on old mobster allies.


Pope Francis at Mass of the Lord’s Supper: ‘Jesus risks himself in service’

Pope Francis tells the inmates at Regina Coeli prison present for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that Jesus risks himself by serving others because he loves so much.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Pope Francis, speaking off the cuff during his homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Regina Coeli prison, contextualized the Gospel passage from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet.

Jesus does what a slave does

He explains that this was a task done by slaves. After having dirtied their feet on the dusty roads, people would return home. As soon as they entered their house, a slave would provide the “service” of washing their feet. “Jesus wants to do this service to give us an example of how we must serve one another,” Pope Francis says.

Those who command must serve

The Pope then brought up the passage where two disciples “who wanted to climb the corporate ladder” asked Jesus to give them the most important places. After looking at them with love like he always did, Jesus told them they didn’t know what they were asking. He described what those in positions of power do: “command and make others serve them.” In thinking of times past, Pope Francis says that there have been many kings and cruel people who have made slaves of other people. But Jesus says it must not be this way with us. “The one who commands must serve,” the Pope reminds us. “Jesus overturns the historical cultural habits of that time, but also of our own day.” If only the kings and emperors of the past had understood Jesus’ teaching and had served instead of commanding and killing, “so many wars would never have happened,” Pope Francis observes.

Jesus serves today in me

Turning to those present, Pope Francis told them that Jesus tells those discarded by society that they are important. “Jesus serves us today, here in Regina Coeli.” Jesus risks himself for each person. Jesus does not know how to wash his hands of people. He knows how to risk for his name is Jesus, not Pontius Pilate. In going after the lost sheep, Jesus risks being wounded, Pope Francis asserts.

“I am a sinner like you. But I represent Jesus today,” Pope Francis confessed. He then invited the prisoners to think of the fact, as their feet were being washed by him,  that “Jesus took a risk with this man, a sinner, to come to me to tell me that he loves me. This is service. This is Jesus. Before giving us himself in his body and blood, Jesus risked himself for each one of us—risked himself in service—because he loves us so much.”