Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4

Michael

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 4 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Our Lord was crucified by a group of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician. Today, let’s meditate on the cowardly politician. 

Pontius Pilate was not a coward in what we normally consider the manly sense. He was a soldier, and I would imagine a brave one. He certainly had no fear of putting people — even innocent ones — to death. Not too long before he was faced with the early-morning trial of this carpenter turned itinerate miracle worker and preacher from Nazareth, he had ordered the slaughter of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices.” 

Only God knew how many people Pilate had killed. I’m sure that Pilate had lost count long before he was forced to deal with the demands of the corrupt priests that he put yet another man to death. He knew the priests were corrupt because he was their corruptor. Rome left the Levitical priesthood in place when they conquered this land, but they did what governments always try to do: They tamed this priesthood with money and special favors; with the power of speaking for the larger populace to the ruling powers.

The uneasy population underneath this layer of Roman-Levitical governance gave the priests a certain power in dealing with Pilate. If Pilate had been an absolute ruler, or if Judea had been an unimportant area, this wouldn’t have been true.

But Pilate merely governed in the name of the Emperor in Rome. His head was as easily forfeit as that of any of the people he governed. Judea, for all its backward ways, was an important piece of real estate. It sat strategically along the trade routes between Rome and the breadbaskets of Egypt and the East. War here hurt commerce everywhere.  And Rome, like all empires, cared far more for commerce than human life, including the life of its governors. 

Pilate’s job was to keep things peaceable and those trade routes running. Uprisings and military clashes cost Rome money and endangered its privileged way of life. They weren’t to be tolerated.

The priest’s job in all this was to work with Pilate to keep the people down. Which meant that they had Pilate by the throat. Pilate, on the other hand, could certainly squeeze and punish them harshly if they cost him too much trouble, which meant he had them by the throat, also.

So, it was a gathering of political friends and allies that morning, come to haggle over what should have been a small thing to this Roman governor: The death of a single man. 

But there must have been something in Pilate, some honest thing or longing that only God saw. Because He dealt differently with Pilate than He did Herod, or even the priests.

He warned Pilate with a dream to his wife. Have nothing to do with that innocent man, she told her husband. For I have suffered greatly because of him in a dream last night. 

Jesus talked to Pilate, answering Him as directly as He ever did anyone. My kingdom is not of this world … I come to testify to the truth. 

Pilate responded with the answer of nihilists from then to now: What is truth? 

And yet, he tried. He tried hard to comply with his wife’s warning and what sounds like a cacophony of inner warnings in his own mind and step aside from killing this one man. He sent Jesus to Herod and tried to pass the problem off on him. He had Jesus scourged and displayed His wrecked and bleeding person to the priests with the words See the man! 

See how I have punished Him for you, he implies. See the blood and brokenness of Him. See the man! Isn’t this enough for you?

He even tried to use their own religious laws to free Jesus because of the Passover. 

But nothing worked, because they wouldn’t have it. And in the end, Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair declaiming that the blood of this man is on you to the priests and ordering Jesus murdered by means of crucifixion. 

It is fascinating that even though Jesus came for the purpose of redeeming all of humanity on Calvary, God still gave Pontius Pilate every opportunity to avoid his participation in this great crime. The point here is that God does not entrap us into sin, even if our sin plays a part in the on-going history of His Kingdom. 

We choose. 

The cowardly politician and the corrupt priests who murdered Our Lord did not have to know that they were dealing with God Incarnate to see that what they were doing was wrong. Their own laws told them that. The innate natural law that is inborn in each of us told them that.

You do not murder innocent people. Killing people to preserve your political career or your place in society or your special privileges is wrong. There is no qualifier to the wrongness of it. 

But the priests convinced themselves, as people do, that what they were doing was a political necessity to “save” the nation, and Pilate convinced himself that by killing this man he could avoid the uprising that might get him recalled. They convinced themselves and that is the key. It is the key to their evil that day and to most of ours today. 

We can convince ourselves of anything. 

That is what is at work in the political and religious justifications for the violent persecution of Christians around the world today. And for these persecutors now, just as it was for Our Lord’s murderers 2,000 years ago, there is no qualifier to the evil wrongness of what they are doing. 

The innate, inborn natural law that tells us every one that the murder of innocents is wrong condemns every person on this earth who breaks it. There is no confabulation or dissimulation or propaganda that we can use to convince ourselves otherwise that will wash away the stain of blood guilt for those who kill innocent people.

Those who kill Christians because they are Christians commit the almost unfathomable sin of crucifying Christ again in the persons of His followers. 

Without repentance and the grief that comes with the realization that they have done monstrous things, they are doomed. 

When we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, we need also to pray for their persecutors. 

For while those who are privileged to suffer for Christ are piling up crowns for themselves in heaven, their persecutors are committing sins, that, if they die with them on their souls, will condemn them to an eternity in hell. 


Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 4. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

The Tomb

HolyLand188

As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.

See mother, I am making all things new

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Stations of the Cross in Honor of Persecuted Middle Eastern Christians

In solidarity with the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, this is Wa Habibi, sung to the Stations of Cross in Arabic by Fairouz.

 

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Pope Francis, Holy Thursday and Us

For I was in prison, and you visited me.

Pope Francis will wash the feet of incarcerated young people tonight. Some of them have no faith. Others are Muslim. Many of them did not even know who the Pope was when they first heard he was coming.

Many Catholics, particularly those in prison ministry, are overjoyed by this act. But there are others who find it off-putting, even a bit scandalous. They expect the Pope to wash the feet of other priests, or at least other men, who are Catholic, Christian and probably important. I’ve read comments emphasizing that the young people whose feet the Holy Father will wash are nondescript boys and girls, many of whom are of no faith or Muslim.  They are people who won’t even appreciate the honor they are receiving.

But the Pope is only doing what Jesus did. He is seeking out those who are lost. It appears that this deep equality of all humanity that Our Lord lived and taught is as scandalous to some of us today as it was 2,000 years ago. But a failure to live this will kill the Church. We are not meant to be a closed-off, self-congratulatory faith that despises rather than serves those Jesus died to save.

People didn’t “appreciate” the honor of having God made flesh walking among them 2,000 years ago. The drama of Holy Week is a re-enactement of just how profoundly they didn’t appreciate it. Not even His own disciples really appreciated the honor they were receiving. No one, except His mother, understood what was happening.

Holy Thursday drives us back to the night when He was taken, to the moment when He gave us the Eucharist and instituted the priesthood. But He did not give us a priesthood created for palaces and fine things. It was and is and will always be a servant priesthood. It is priesthood of the kind that goes to prisons and washes the feet of young people who do not understand the meaning of what is happening any more than Peter did on that night in the Upper Room. When it ceases to be that, it ceases to be a priesthood of Christ and becomes a priesthood for itself.

The foot washing is a sign signifying that these young people — and all of us along with them — are children of the living God. It is a living memorial of the servant priesthood Jesus instituted in the upper room 2,000 years ago. If Christ The Lord could go down on his knees before a group of itinerant fishermen and tax collectors and wash their feet, why shouldn’t the Pope do the same for a group of incarcerated young people?

If the Son of God can submit to betrayal, false arrest, verbal abuse, beating, mockery, and a hideously painful, lingering death, then what makes us think that we’re so special?

When Jesus was asked questions similar to the ones that have been raised by those who oppose the Holy Father’s plans to go to the prison tonight, He answered them with a simple statement. The Son of Man came to save and seek the lost. I think He’s saying the same thing to us today and that Pope Francis is His voice.

At last, I get to meet someone who says he is my father!

One of the young people said that when they heard of the Pope’s plans. That statement, speaking as it does of a young person who has most likely led an unloved life, breaks my heart. It also fills me with gratitude that he or she can feel that way about our Holy Father. I am in awe of a Church whose leader can wield the power of a Pope yet move to touch and heal ones such as these. Only a Church whose true head is Christ Jesus could do that.

Two thousand years and counting, and the Gospel message of love, forgiveness and hope marches on to the ends of the earth.

Pope Francis: Preaching the Gospel Through Word and Deed

Pope Francis new coat of arms Courtesy of the Vatican Press Office CNA US Catholic News 3 18 13

Stfrancis

.- Pope Francis will celebrate a full schedule this Holy Week, including washing the feet of youth detainees and leading the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum.

His six main events are: Chrism Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday morning, followed by Mass at a youth detention center that evening, a Communion service and Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and Easter Mass on Sunday morning.

Pope Francis will start the week by celebrating Chrism Mass on March 28 with cardinals and other clergy from Rome at Saint Peter’s Basilica. During the Mass, the Pope will consecrate the oils that will be used throughout the year for Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick.

In keeping with his practice in Buenos Aires, he will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Casal del Marmo youth detention center, instead of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

When he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated the Mass in a prison, a hospital or a hospice for the poor and marginalized people. This time around he will be with youth offenders and will wash their feet.

On Good Friday, March 29, he will preside over a Communion service and the Veneration of the Cross in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. local time.

The pontiff will then go to the Coliseum to lead the Stations of the Cross at 9:15 p.m. The prayers for the 14 stations were written by two Lebanese youths with the help of Cardinal Bechara Rai.

The Vatican chose the young Arabs to highlight the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and the growing urgency of their situation.

After the procession around the Coliseum, Pope Francis will give a speech to people gathered there and impart his apostolic blessing.

On Holy Saturday, the Pope will celebrate the first of two Easter Masses when he holds the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He will bless a fire in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica and enter in a procession with the Paschal candle singing the Easter Proclamation.

The Pope will then concelebrate Mass at 8:30 p.m. local time with the cardinals and impart the sacrament of Baptism, which is traditionally done in churches worldwide at this time of year.

On Sunday at 10:15 a.m. Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Square, which will finish with his “Urbi et Orbi” greeting and blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. (Read the rest here.) 


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