Posted by: fvbcdm | April 19, 2014

Good Friday (18 March 2014)

Today is Good Friday, the day on which much of the Christian world observes the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Years ago, I read a very moving book called “A Doctor at Calvary,” written by a French physician named Pierre Barbet. He accepted the shroud of Turin as being authentic, and beginning there, he examined the shroud carefully from a medical point of view and then described his findings in his book, which makes very powerful reading for those of us who love Our Lord and recognize that he died that terrible death for our redemption. Then, more recently, we have been inundated with information about the crucifixion of Jesus. The shroud of Turin has continued to fascinate the Christian world since its rediscovery toward the end of the 19th century when a photographer took a picture of it, and was astounded to find that the negative of his photograph was a positive image of the body of man who had suffered a severe beating, crowning with thorns, and then an apparent crucifixion since there are wounds in the hands and feet of the man on the shroud. I remember vividly Dr. Barbet’s choice of words, at least in English translation, when, after analyzing the sort of suffering depicted on the shroud, he speaks of the “ghastly suffering” of anyone who would be subjected to that kind of torture.

Then, in the 80’s, a carbon-14 test of the shroud was made and the scientists who conducted it concluded that the shroud is a fake since their findings pointed to a medieval origin of the shroud rather than one from the time of Christ.  However, it has subsequently been discovered that the samples which they used were taken from patches sewn on the shroud much later than its origin, as the result of a fire in the church where the shroud was preserved. More recent tests indicate that the original cloth does indeed date from the time of Jesus.

In  recent years we have seen Mel Gibson’s striking movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” which has brought to the attention of the movie-going public—not necessarily a devoutly Christian audience—the crucifixion of Jesus. And on the front page of today’s Times-Picayune, our New Orleans daily newspaper, there begins a long article on the physical causes of Jesus’s death.

The author comes to a conclusion similar to that of Dr. Barbet: a man crucified dies not so much from simple loss of blood, but rather of suffocation because of the increasing difficulty in breathing when immobilized in that position for hours combined with traumatic shock to the human body caused by loss of body fluids and blood. These authors and movie directors agree that the suffering of one subjected to that kind of death is terrible—possibly the greatest kind of physical cruelty ever devised by the inhumanity of man.

We must not lose sight of these clinical considerations as we observe Good Friday this year. It was a terrible Friday because of the agony that Our Lord suffered. It was terrible because the immaculate heart of his mother underwent a martyrdom all her own as she stood beside the cross and watched her divine son die in such pain. But we call it “Good” Friday because on that occasion, our savior showed his goodness to us by undergoing all that misery in atonement for our sins and for the redemption of our souls.

Greater love than this no man has, Jesus had said during his public life, than that he lay down his life for his friends. Not only did he speak of that supreme sacrifice; he accomplished it. As we look at the crucifix, we must always remember that he is basically saying to each of us from the cross, “I love you, and I have been willing to do even this for you, that you may be with me forever in heaven.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday (17 April 2014)

Holy Thursday is always a very special day for us priests, since it is the anniversary of Our Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders—the two sacraments which give to us our identity and purpose as Catholic priests.

Satan, who has been so active in the past forty or so years in his attacks upon the Church, has sown the seeds of doubt in the value of the Eucharist. And doubt, of course, leads to neglect, to abuse, and then to loss of faith and the loss of human souls. Nothing could please Satan more. If statistics can be believed, many Catholics nowadays claim to believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol of Christ, and thus they deny the Real Presence and the fact that any substantial change takes place in the bread and the wine when the words of consecration are spoken over them.

If the Holy Eucharist is merely symbolic, why bother attending Mass? If I believed that it is only symbolic, I would never have become a priest; I would not continue in my priesthood now, and I would give up my Catholic faith since the Eucharist is the very heart of Catholicism.

But, fortunately for all of us, the Holy Eucharist is not merely symbolic. It is very real. “This is my body,” Jesus assures us. “This is the cup of my blood.” That remains profoundly true, despite the errors of many today, despite the falling away from the Catholic faith on the part of many, despite the way some people dress and behave in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and despite the fact that they often receive it in the state of serious sin, thus committing the grave sin of sacrilege.

Be all that as it may, Our Divine Lord, on the night before he died, instituted the Holy Eucharist and gave to his apostles and their successors the fullness of the priesthood so that they could bring the Eucharist into being among his people until the end of time. One of those apostles was Saint Peter, the rock upon which Christ built his church. That church will last forever, and will continue to make Christ present among his people in the Eucharist until the end of time. You and I have the great advantage of believing that, and of receiving the Eucharist with deep faith, devotion, and gratitude all our lives. Join me in celebrating these two great sacraments on this very special day when we observe Christ’s precious gifts to us.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 16, 2014

Wednesday of Holy Week (16 April 2014)

If you look at old missals or church calendars, you will sometimes find that the Wednesday of Holy Week was called “Spy Wednesday.”  The reason was that Judas Iscariot, one of our Lord’s twelve apostles, had made a deal with the enemies of Jesus to deliver Jesus into their hands, and now he began to spy upon our Lord to decide the best time and way to betray his master into the hands of his enemies.

There are several passages in the gospels that give us a tragically sad idea of what Judas was like.  When Saint Mary of Bethany poured expensive perfume over Our Lord’s head and feet, Judas asked, “Why this waste?”  In his opinion, the anointing of the body of Jesus, which was a generous and beautiful gesture on the part of Mary, was simply “waste.” Then Saint John the evangelist explains to us why Judas called that gesture “waste.”  It is because Judas was a thief and used to take the money given to Jesus and the other apostles for their sustenance.  Had Mary given the money to them rather than buying perfume with it, Judas could have stolen some, if not all, of it.

Then, when it became clear that the religious leaders of Jerusalem wanted to kill Jesus, Judas saw an opportunity to turn their desire to money for himself.  He went to them and began his conversation with them by saying “How much will you give me . . . .?”  Thirty pieces of silver was the price agreed upon. Our Lord’s enemies were willing to give that much to capture Our Lord, and Judas was delighted to make some easy money by betraying his Lord and Master.

And one last indication of the sort of man Judas was.  The enemies of Jesus needed a sign by which Jesus could be identified in the dark, since what they were going to do was to be done at night, outside.  Judas came up with a sign: the man he would kiss, THAT was the one they wanted.  And when Judas came up to Our Divine Lord and kissed him, Jesus asked, almost incredulously, “Judas, you betray me with a KISS?”  By this act of love you show your indifference to me, the God of love itself?  Yes; that’s the way Judas did it.  Ordinarily when one person kisses another, it means “I love you.”  In this case, it means “You mean nothing to me, and I gladly betray you for an amount of money.”  That is why this day was called Spy Wednesday; that is why the very name “Judas” has come to be synonymous with treachery and malice.

In these next four days, there will be two groups of people who appear in the gospels. One group is composed of Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, the torturers of Jesus and his executioners.  And of course, Judas.  The other group is composed of Our Blessed Mother, Saint John the Apostle, Saint Mary Magdalene and the other devoted women who stood at the foot of the cross with Our Lady; Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  Let us consider them both carefully, and then decide with whom we will side. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 15, 2014

Tuesday of Holy Week (15 April 2014)

Catholic Daily Message for Tuesday of Holy Week (15 April 2014)

When we look at a crucifix, I think that we ordinarily think of the physical sufferings of Jesus on the cross. We can see the terrible spikes in his hands and feet, his body torn by the brutal whipping, his head crowned with thorns, and most of us know something about the fact that a crucified man dies basically of suffocation as his chest cavity becomes incapable of breathing, and he dies a slow, tortured death of oxygen deprivation along with the indescribable suffering of nails and a body totally lacerated by the whips.

Today, on this Tuesday in Holy Week, the Church turns our attention to the emotional, mental, and spiritual sufferings that Our Divine Lord underwent, which might well have been more terrible than any physical pain. The gospel passage for today opens as Our Lord sits down or reclines at table with the apostles for that Passover meal which we call the Last Supper. Saint John tells us that Jesus was troubled in spirit and said to them, “One of you will betray me.”

Jesus had hand-picked these twelve men some three years before. He was with them pretty much constantly during that time; they shared life together at a very close and intimate level.  A camaraderie, a fraternity, a spiritual bond was built up among them that we might well envy. He was preparing them to be the first bishops of his Church, the foundation stones of his kingdom. One of them would be the first Pope; two of them would be evangelists, i.e., writers of the gospels. The other nine would also devote their lives after Pentecost to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus and the establishment of the Church wherever they went. And now, at the climactic moment of Our Lord’s life, one of those immensely privileged men actually turns traitor and betrays his divine master into the hands of his enemies—for what? For money. Judas deemed thirty pieces of silver enough to betray Jesus into the hands of those who were determined to kill him.

And then, the leader of the little band of apostles whom Jesus had chosen to be the first Pope, the “rock upon which he would build his church,” denied under oath that he even knew Jesus, fearing that he might suffer a fate like that of his Lord.

In this midst of all this human unreliability and undependability, Our Lord nonetheless says, “Now has the Son of Man been glorified and God has been glorified in him.” What does that mean? It means that Jesus has come to the high point of his redemptive life on earth. Whether we realize it or not, Jesus came into this world primarily to die in atonement for our sins and then to rise to share new and eternal life with us. This is why all four gospels devote as many words and as much space to the few hours between the last supper and the resurrection as to all the rest of their accounts of Our Lord’s life taken together. Jesus’s sufferings and death were terrible, but he welcomed them because they were the greatest act of his obedience to his heavenly Father. The betrayal by Judas and the denial by Peter were almost incredibly ungrateful, cowardly, calculating, and despicable. But they were the means by which our redemption was accomplished. What those men did was very sinful, but God writes straight with crooked lines. By their lack of love, and the malice and cruelty of high priest, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, and the hostile populace, the sufferings and death of Our Lord were brought about and our salvation was achieved.

When we gaze upon the crucifix, we see what the prophet Isaiah described as, “A worm, and no man.” But what we also see is the Redeemer of the world at the supreme moment of his mission to the human race. Earlier in his life, Jesus had said, “I have a baptism with which I am to be baptized, and how eager I am that it be accomplished!” He was referring to his baptism in his own precious blood.

So again, we adore Our Divine Savior suffering for us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And we do our best to be deeply grateful for that suffering so that as he hung upon the cross, he could look down the ages and see us now, offering him our hearts full of thanks for what he was undergoing at that time. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 14, 2014

Monday of Holy Week (14 April 2014)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is one of the utterances of Jesus while hanging in agony on the cross, and is the one which provokes the largest number of questions from people hearing those utterances. We heard it at Mass this past weekend when the passion narrative according to Saint Matthew was read. Let’s consider it briefly here.

To begin with, it is the first line of Psalm 22. You can find it in the book of psalms in the Old Testament, which has been the prayerbook of Jews and Christians for centuries. If I were to hear you say, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” and then lapse into silence, I would assume that you are continuing that prayer in your own heart, inaudibly. Now, if you read the entire psalm 22, you will find that it contains a graphic description of a man dying of crucifixion: “My bones are all disjointed . . . my heart is like wax melting within me . . . my tongue is stuck to my jaw . . . a pack of dogs surrounds me . . . they tie me hand and foot . . . I can count every one of my bones . . . they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes.”

But then the tenor of the psalm changes dramatically. “Do not stand aside, O God. O my strength, come quickly to my help; rescue my soul from the sword, my dear life from the paw of the dog, save me from the lion’s mouth, my poor soul from the wild bulls’ horns . . . then I shall proclaim your name to my brothers . . . praise you in full assembly . . . you are the theme of my praise in the Great Assembly . . . those who seek God will praise him. Long life to their hearts . . . my soul will live for him . . . my children shall serve him.” Thus, what begins on a note of despondency and deep anguish ends with a cry of exaltation, hope, and joy.

So it was with Jesus on the cross. He was suffering horribly, not only in body but in mind and emotions. He was surrounded by malice, hatred, rejection, ridicule, accusation. But he knew perfectly well that he would die and then, some forty hours later, would rise from the tomb to new and eternal life. In his body and his human soul and emotions, there was immense sorrow, pain, grief, and the sense of death encroaching to envelop him. But He who had said, “I am resurrection and life,” could not die permanently.

The fact that he died at all was a miracle of divine mercy so that he could make atonement for our sins.  Shortly after he had cried out those words that we have been contemplating, he said, filled with satisfaction that he had obeyed his Father’s will even to death, and with trust in his Father’s love, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And with that, Our Divine Lord died for you and for me.

Did he think on the cross that the Father had forsaken him? Of course not. But his sorrow was as great as anyone’s who has felt forsaken and abandoned. Did he know that he would rise? Of course he did. And was he thinking of us during those long hours of misery on the cross? Of course he was; our salvation was the whole reason for his sufferings.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 11, 2014

Feast of Saint Stanislaus (11 April 2014)

We come this weekend to Palm Sunday, and in our spiritual life, we remember the things that happened in that last weekend of the life of Jesus before his sufferings and death.

On that Saturday night, he was invited to dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. To show her deep gratitude for restoring her brother to life, Mary poured a whole jar of expensive perfume over his feet and wiped them with her hair.  Judas, who was about to betray Jesus, protested, calling it a waste of money. Our Lord told Judas to leave Mary alone; what she had done was done in preparation for his burial. He knew that exactly one week from that night, he would be lying dead in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

The next morning, Our Lord and the apostles were making their way over the Mount of Olives toward the city of Jerusalem, just two miles from where the dinner had been given. The rising sun was to their backs; the clear, beautiful April morning caused the holy city to gleam in the sunrise and the temple stand out in all its magnificence. The slow process of rebuilding it had been going on for about 50 years, and the glorious limestone complex of buildings crowned the hill called Moriah. It was the pride and joy of every devout Jew who saw it in the house of God upon earth. The apostles marveled at its beauty, but Our Lord began to weep, knowing that the people of Jerusalem—and indeed most of Israel—would refuse to accept him as their savior, and would thus bring destruction upon themselves. In fact, this splendid group of buildings called the temple would, in just about 40 years, be totally destroyed by the Roman armies so that there would not be left a stone upon a stone.

Jesus instructed them to procure a donkey—a rather odd request, since nowhere else in the gospel does Jesus ride a donkey. But there was a reason for this. The prophet Zechariah had foretold: Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion (that is, Jerusalem). See, your king is coming mounted on the colt of a donkey. The donkey was the animal of peace as contrasted with the horse, used in battle. It is a peaceful king, not a warlike one, who enters the holy city on a donkey. Probably because of the excitement of his having raised Lazarus from the dead, the people treat him like a celebrity. They greet him with “Hosannas”, a Jewish cheer meaning something like “Praise God!” and strew the branches of trees and their own clothing on the roadway to form a kind of “red carpet reception.” However, Jesus knows very well that this excitement and greeting will turn in just five days to rejection because of the rabble-rousing of his enemies and these same people will be yelling for his death by crucifixion. So much for human fame, notoriety, and popularity.

As we use the blessed palms this weekend, let’s be sure to recognize in Our Divine Lord the eternal Messiah, Redeemer, Savior, and not just a Hollywood-type hero for the moment. He is our king on the donkey and amid the palms; he is our king at the last supper, instituting the Holy Eucharist. He is our king in agony on the cross. And he is our king, springing out of the tomb to new life which he wants to share with us. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 10, 2014

Feast of Saint Michael de Sanctis (10 April 2014)

In the gospel for today’s Mass, Our Lord makes the sweeping statement: Before Abraham came to be, I AM! Now, Abraham came from what we call Iraq to the Holy Land (Canaan, Palestine, Israel) in about the year 1850 before Christ. That means that Abraham lived approximately during the century of 1900 to 1800 B.C. So, what can Jesus have meant when he said: before Abraham came to be, I AM?  It is a very important statement, and by it, he intends to show us that he exists in a totally different dimension from our own.

God does not exist in time, but rather in eternity.  Does God begin? Will he ever end? Does he grow older?  How old is God? These questions cannot be answered since they betray a failure to understand the nature of God.  When Our Lord says “before Abraham came to be” he is speaking of time. And when he says “I AM” he is speaking of his own eternity.  We may recall that when God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, Moses asked him: what is your name?  When Pharaoh asks me who is sending me to him, how shall I answer?  And God answered “I am who am. Tell him I AM sent you.”  I suspect that when Pharaoh heard that, he might have thought of the great pyramids which he could probably see from his windows.  How old were they?  An Egyptian might have answered: they are not old or young.  They are forever, like the sun or the moon.

Our Lord could correctly have said, “I am eternal”; “I am divine,” “I am God.”  But who would believe those statements?  Some of the bystanders probably remembered Jesus when he was a baby, a child, a beardless youth.  And they had seen him hungry and eating; thirsty and drinking, tired and going to sleep. Who ever heard of a god doing things like that?  They might have known that Mary was his mother.  How can an eternal being have a mother?  Since the people of that time did not understand concepts like “nature” or “person,” Our Lord couldn’t use those words to them.  He couldn’t expect them to understand that he was only ONE person but had TWO natures, the divine and the human.  So he spoke as he did, and allowed his words to form the basis of Christian theology in the years to come.

We can rightly say to this Lord of ours: I love you, my human friend.  I adore you, my divine savior.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Catholic Daily Message for Feast of Saint Hugh of Rouen (9 April 2014)

Let’s review very briefly the events in salvation history that come into play especially at this time of the church year:

God created the human race to be with him in eternal happiness.

He made us free, so that by the exercise of our free will, we could have a share in our own achievement of that eternal happiness.

However, our first parents violated that freedom by doing what God had forbidden, rather than what he commanded.

That violation created a state of alienation from God that we call original sin.

Original sin closed heaven to the human race, so that none of us could achieve our God-given goal.

But God loves us too much to allow that sad situation to perdure, so he promised a savior who would reverse the damage done by the first Adam.

In his own good time, God established a special group of people: the Jews. They would be his chosen people, and from them arise the Savior of mankind.

Not only did God establish a special people, but he gave them a special religious life by which they would know much about him, about themselves, and about how to relate to him.

That religion, Judaism, was given an elaborate system of worshipping God: the temple, the priesthood, the levites, and the Jewish liturgy.

Then God sent into the world his only Divine Son who would be the second Adam, the repairer of the damage done by the first Adam. As the first Adam had been disobedient, the second one would be totally obedient.

The second Adam is our Lord Jesus Christ. He was obedient even to death, a terrible death on the cross.

His redemption of us causes us to pray: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 9, 2014

 Feast of Saint Julie Billiart (8 April 2014)

In our liturgy for Tuesday of this week, we have the concept of Christ’s being “lifted up.” It is an important one, for it has to do with three different elevations of our Lord: his lifting up on the cross, where he died; his lifting up out of the tomb at the moment of his resurrection, and his lifting up into heaven where he goes to prepare a place for us.

On the cross, we see him suffering and dying. But those sufferings and that death mean healing and life for us. On Easter morning, we see him in glory, bringing joy to all who see him. And by the eyes of faith, we see him seated at the right hand of the Father, preparing a place for us now that he has reopened the gates to paradise by his redemptive death on the cross.

Let us adore Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, lifted up on the cross, lifted up out of the tomb, lifted up into heaven. And let us remember with deep gratitude that all that he did as a human being, he did for our salvation. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Did Jesus know, in his human nature, how to read and write? He certainly knew how to read, because we are told that he read the scriptures in the synagogues of Galilee. Our Lady and Saint Joseph would have been careful to teach him these skills. And although he no doubt knew how to write, we do not know for sure that he wrote anything, and certainly did not leave anything written.

I mention this today because in the gospel for this Monday, we find him writing with his finger in the sandy dust on the floor of the temple in Jerusalem. What we call “the temple” was a vast open space, about the size of three football fields, totally surrounded by a row of buildings in which there were two stories with many rooms used by the priests, levites, and members of the Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jewish nation. In the huge open area, groups of people could gather to converse, study, sing, practice music, buy and sell animals or other offerings for sacrifice, pray, and meet friends in a religious atmosphere. The dust and sand from the surrounding countryside continually blew into the area; as a result, the floor of the temple enclosure was perpetually dusty and sandy, so that Jesus, seated on the floor and talking to his hearers, would have found it very easy to simply lean over and write with his finger in the dust on the floor. This is the only time we are told by the gospels that Our Lord wrote anything.

But what did he write? We don’t know. He was surrounded by a group of Scribes and Pharisees who had come upon a woman caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses said that she was to be stoned to death; Jesus preached mercy and forgiveness. So what would he do in this case? The malicious men were using her as a bait to trap Jesus. How did Our Lord answer their question: “What do you have to say about the case?” He bent down, and wrote with his finger in the dust. Unhappy with his failure to answer them, they pressed him. This time, he straightened up and said, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.” Then he went back to his writing, or perhaps doodling, on the temple floor. Whatever he was writing, it seemed to indicate his unwillingness to become involved in their malice. Some of the commentators have suggested that he was writing the sins of the men who were bent upon the death of the adulteress, since Saint John tells us that they went away, “beginning with the elders.”

Maybe Jesus was writing the sins of these men, beginning with the elders.  When all her accusers were gone, Jesus looked up at the woman. “Has no one condemned you?” he asked her. “No one, sir.” “Nor do I condemn you. You may go, but from now on, avoid this sin.” A few moments before, her life was about to be ended.

Now, she is a free woman. Terribly embarrassed, shaken, and still quivering with fear, but free. When she was in the hands of the religious leaders, she was as good as dead. But now they have left her in the hands of Jesus. And she is free, and has a new lease on life. It is not the way of Jesus to condemn and to kill. Rather, to point out sin, forgive, and reconcile. It is because of this beautiful glimpse of the personality of Our Lord that we are encouraged to pray, “Lord, have mercy on us.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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