Posted by: fvbcdm | April 21, 2017

Easter Friday (21 April 2017)

During the 1920s and 1930s, Our Lord appeared repeatedly to a Sister in Poland; her name was Faustina Kowalska and she belonged to the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy. During those apparitions to her, Our Lord revealed himself to her as the risen Savior, with white and red rays streaming from his Sacred Heart. He explained that the rays represented the water of baptism and his blood shed on the cross for us and then offered to us in the Holy Eucharist.

Furthermore, he asked that the Sunday after Easter be especially honored as the Sunday of Divine Mercy because the gospel which is read on that Sunday is the one describing Our Risen Savior’s institution of the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation—the Sacrament in which we receive divine forgiveness and mercy. Our Lord also asked Sister Faustina, who is now SAINT Faustina, to have a picture painted of him as he appeared to her, with the white and red rays emanating from His heart and bringing his mercy to the world. Now, we find copies of that painting everywhere we look and we are reminded constantly of God’s desire to forgive our sins and shower his mercy upon us.

In the Compendium, that is, the shortened form, of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, the question is asked: “What does the acceptance of God’s mercy require of us?” The answer is this: “It requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins. God himself by his Word and his Spirit lays bare our sins and gives us the truth of conscience and the hope of forgiveness.” Thus we are given the divine grace to recognize that we have done wrong, to be sorry for having offended God and to be firm in our resolve not to repeat these wrongs. And then, to live in the joy of knowing that our savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is kind, merciful, and eager to forgive us and reunite us with himself if we have alienated ourselves from him by serious sin.

There is a favorite prayer used for centuries by the Christians of the East which we can also make our own. It says, simply and beautifully, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is very appropriate for this Sunday in particular, that we ask him for his mercy to us, acknowledging that we are sinners in need of divine forgiveness and mercy. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 20, 2017

Easter Thursday (20 April 2017)

We speak of Our Lord as “Jesus Christ.” I suspect that some people believe that Jesus was his first name and Christ was the last, or family, name.  But it didn’t work like that in those days. There were ordinarily no family names then as we understand them.

Our Lord was given the name of Jesus by his blessed mother and Saint Joseph, his foster-father, because they had been commanded to do so by the Archangel Gabriel before Our Lord was born. The name “Jesus” means “savior” or “God saves.” “Christ” is not a name strictly speaking; it is a title. In history, we speak of Alexander “the Great”, William “the Conqueror”, Ivan “the Terrible”, etc.  Alexander, William, and Ivan were their names; “the Great,” “the Conqueror,” and “the Terrible” were titles by which they came to be designated.  “Christ,” which means “the Anointed One,” “the Promised one” is also a title.  So when we speak of Jesus Christ, we are speaking of the man who was Savior and the Anointed or Promised One.

And what does “anointed” mean? Oddly, it means the one upon whom oil has been poured. Why? Because in the Old Testament, the Jewish people were instructed to use olive oil to indicate a special, and holy, purpose for certain things or persons set aside for a relationship with God. Thus, priests were anointed with oil, kings were anointed with oil, the altar in the temple was anointed with oil. When you live in a very dry, dusty climate, it is very helpful to rub oil on yourself to bring back moisture to the skin to prevent chapping, drying, cracking.  And often perfume was added to the oil to make the individual fragrant. So the oil of anointing became symbolic of the good, pleasing, fragrant, soothing action of God upon human life. We still use olive oil to anoint certain persons and things in our sacred rites of the Catholic Church.  At baptism, confirmation, and in Holy Orders, we are anointed with oil. We become “Christs”—anointed ones—to indicate that God has been given to us in a special, sanctifying way.

I speak of these things today because in the two readings at Mass for this Thursday of Easter week, Saint Peter tells us that God revealed centuries before the birth of Jesus that “his Christ would suffer.” His anointed one, his special gift to the human race, would suffer in atonement for sin.  Saint Peter goes on to say that we want to receive “the Christ already appointed for you: Jesus.” And then, in the gospel, Our Divine Lord speaks of himself by saying, “It is written that THE CHRIST would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”

Let us pray in keeping with the spirit of this Easter day. Let us salute and adore and honor our Lord, Jesus who is OUR CHRIST — our anointed savior, who gladly shares with us that which is symbolized by the oil of anointing: the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown., O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 19, 2017

Easter Wednesday (19 April 2017)

Today we come to my favorite passage in the gospels.  It occurs in the last chapter of the gospel according to Saint Luke.  I have always thought that if I could have been present at any moment in the life of Jesus, either before or after his resurrection, it would be that one.  We all know the story: two of our Lord’s disciples are returning from Jerusalem to their own homes, evidently in the village of Emmaus.  They are deeply disappointed and saddened because they thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and now all their hopes and joy have been destroyed because his enemies were able to capture him and kill him.  So much for their messianic dreams and faith! Then a stranger catches up with them, going the same way.  They begin to talk; he sees that they are dejected, and they admit that they hoped Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but then, the beautiful bubble burst.  He hears them out, and then begins to speak.  “How foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and thus enter into his glory?”  They listened in fascination!  He seemed to know what he was talking about.  It made sense.

Their previous delight over Jesus, his preaching, his miracles, his marvelous personality, came rushing back into their minds and hearts.  They came to the town to which they were going, but he seemed to be going farther on.  And they said to him one of the most touching things addressed to our divine Lord in all of scripture.  They said, “Stay with us. It’s getting dark and the day is nearly over.”  He went with them for supper.  They sat at table, he blessed and broke bread and gave it to them. And in that wonderful moment, they recognized him.  It was Jesus himself!  Alive, as fascinating as ever; full of truth. And before they could even embrace him or ask him what it was like to be dead and now to be alive again, he vanished from their sight.  And now they say something else very touching, very beautiful. “Weren’t our hearts BURNING within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  This time there would be no disappointments, no sorrow, no dashed hopes or destroyed faith.  They rushed back to Jerusalem where they met with the apostles and each told the other their experiences of that day—that first Easter Sunday.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 18, 2017

Easter Tuesday (18 April 2017)

During these beautiful days of the Easter octave, we continue to celebrate Our Divine Lord’s resurrection from the tomb. The opening prayer of the Mass yesterday indicated the Church’s interest in those who have come into the Church this Easter either through baptism or through profession of faith in Catholicism.

As I thought about the sacrament of baptism, I marveled at how much is accomplished by the infinite power of God who uses such little, modest instruments to do what He wants done. Take baptism, for example. We become Christians by means of a sacrament which involved about two spoonfuls of water and a baptismal formula that is exactly nineteen words long in English, and only twelve in Latin, the language used to baptize those of my age. On Easter Monday many years ago, I was ordained to the priesthood. What was involved in the conferring of that marvelous power? The bishop laid his hands upon my head and chanted a prayer. That was it. We find the same thing in the life of Our Lord himself. He raised a little girl from the dead by taking her young corpse by the hand and saying, “Little girl, get up.” He restored sight to a blind man by mixing a bit of his saliva with some dirt, spread it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash it off. He fed great crowds with five small loaves of bread and two fish. At the Last Supper, he took a piece of bread, blessed it, broke it, and said to his apostles: take this and eat it; this is my body. And then: do this in memory of me. Can you imagine how many times the Holy Eucharist has been given to the faithful since that simple gesture nearly two thousand years ago? How many have been baptized? How many priests, deacons, and bishops ordained? Very small, simple things and actions and words. But when God is involved, they take on infinite value and power.

And when you think of it, we ourselves are very small things in the great scheme of creation and salvation history. And yet, each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, and Our Lord would gladly have died for the salvation of any ONE of us. Saint Teresa of Avila is quoted as having once said, about money: one peseta (a Spanish unit of money at that time) can provide very little of what we need to live. But with one peseta and Jesus, we are immensely wealthy! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown., O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 17, 2017

Easter Monday (17 April 2017)

The great feast of Our Lord’s resurrection has come and gone, and we are now able to bask in the happy afterglow that is called “the Easter Octave” and then “the Easter season.” Today I would like to ask you to think and pray with me about the meeting between Our Lord Jesus and his Blessed Mother when he rose from the dead.  The four gospel accounts of the resurrection, each giving its own details but all affirming the return of Jesus to life after his death on the cross, speak of the various persons who saw Our Lord on that first day of the Jewish week, which we call Sunday.  Our risen lord appeared to several women who came to complete what they considered the proper preparation of the body of their Lord for death; then he appeared to Saints Peter and John, two of the disciples that afternoon on the road to Emmaus, and then that night, to the apostles assembled in the upper room in Jerusalem.  But you notice: nothing is said about our Lord’s appearance to his Mother to share with her the tremendous joy of his resurrection. Why? Because that was a private moment, one which was not witnessed by anyone else, and which is therefore not recounted in any of the gospels. But from the earliest days of Christian mysticism, our saints have been quite sure that the first one to know that Jesus had risen was the same one who was first in her knowledge of the moment of his becoming a human being, the only one to feel the stirring of that divine child in her womb, the only one to feed that literally adorable infant nursing at her breast, the only one whom he called “mother” when he was a child and whom he obeyed as any virtuous child obeys his or her mother.

What was the moment like when the risen Jesus appeared to Our Lady early on that first Easter Sunday? I would not even venture to imagine. It is too private, too personal, too joyous for us even to guess at. Were there words? Or was it simply a time of unspoken happiness now that all the horror of Calvary was over and the happiness of new life was without measure. I leave it to your meditations, your prayers, to unite yourself with the risen Christ and his mother, Our Lady of Joy. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 14, 2017

Good Friday (14 April 2017)

When I was a child and a teenager, there was less emphasis upon the official liturgy of the Church than there is now, and its place was often taken by devotional prayers and exercises.  On Good Friday, it was a tradition in our family to go to the church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus—the Jesuit church on the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans, where the parish held what was called the Tre Ore, in Italian: three hours.  It was a beautiful and moving service, especially because the Loyola College of Music sent its organists and singers, both soloists and choirs, to lend beauty and drama to the three hours of prayers and meditations between noon and three p.m. And what they played and sang was the musical composition by Theodore Dubois, a French symphonic composer, called “The Seven Last Words of Jesus.”

What were those seven last words of Our Lord as he hung dying on the cross?  They were “words” in the sense of utterances, and we can find them in the accounts of Our Lord’s death as given to us by the four gospels.  They are these:

As the executioners were nailing Jesus to the cross and causing him unspeakable pain, he said, “Father, forgive them.  They know not what they do.”

One of the thieves crucified with Jesus said to him, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And Our Lord replied, “I assure you: today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Looking down from his cross, Jesus saw his blessed mother and Saint John the Apostle standing near him.  He said to her, “Behold your son.” And to John, “Behold your mother.”

He cried out the opening words of the 22nd psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Due to his agonizing thirst after losing so much blood and having had nothing to eat or drink since the previous night, he said, “I am thirsty.”

As he felt his death approaching, he said, “It is finished.”

And then, finally, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Each of these sayings of our dying Savior can give us much food for thought and prayer.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday (13 April 2017)

Today is Holy Thursday, a day full of meaning and very important in our Church life, our liturgical life, our spiritual life, our Christian cultural life.  It commemorates the last meal that Our Divine Lord had with his disciples before his death and resurrection.  It was a Passover meal, a religious rite and service, crucial to Jewish observance.

Ordinarily, a servant washed the face, hands and feet of the guests who came into a home.  But Jesus wants to be our servant, so he insists upon washing the feet of his disciples himself.  It is very striking to see the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Almighty God, down on the floor, a towel wrapped around his waist as in the case of a domestic servant, washing the feet of his disciples, knowing as he did that within just a few hours one of those disciples would betray him to his enemies and another of them would deny that he even KNEW Our Lord.

They ate the Passover meal together; on the menu of that meal was lamb which had been sacrificed as an offering to God.  Its flesh was eaten by those present.  It was eaten with unleavened bread, that is, flat bread somewhat like our soda crackers and the Jewish matzos.  Later on, when the meal was ended, another cup of wine was drunk with an appropriate blessing. This man, whom Saint John the Baptist had called “The Lamb of God” enters into the Passover meal for that particular meal on that special night and in all the Passover and Eucharistic meals until the end of time.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away sin.  He takes the bread and says, “This is my body.”  He takes the cup of wine and says “This is the cup of my blood.”  And then he says something extremely important for the entire Christian community.  He says “Do this in memory of me.”  And by saying this, he gives those disciples of his the ability to change bread and wine into his body and blood, and thus confers upon them the power of the Christian priesthood.

He then leads them out of the city, onto the Mount of Olives where the garden of Gethsemani—an olive grove—is located, there to prepare by prayer for the ordeal that lies ahead of him. Ordinarily in an olive grove there was an oil press in which the olives were squeezed to obtain their precious oil which was used for so many things in that culture, principally for food.  We will think of that later this week.   Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 12, 2017

Wednesday of Holy Week (12 April 2017)

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week, which was called “Spy Wednesday” in old England because we are told in the gospel of today’s Mass that Judas began to look for an opportunity to betray Our Divine Lord to his enemies—to spy on him—in order to earn the thirty pieces of silver they had promised him. And the main theme for this day in the liturgy is the OBEDIENCE of Our Lord. The entrance antiphon of today’s Mass says: “Christ became obedient for us even to death, dying on a cross.” Notice: “obedient for us.” He is always obedient to the Father, since the three divine Persons are totally conformed one to the others in their Divine Will. But Jesus became obedient FOR US even to the terrible extreme of dying on a cross.

At the very beginning of our human race, our first parents allowed themselves to be seduced by Satan. Satan, a fallen angel, persuaded our mother Eve to disobey God. She in turn led her husband, Adam, to do the same. Thus disobedience to God is the root of all our ills. What was needed by way of redemption and salvation was obedience. So, in the garden of Eden, we find an angel (fallen, but an angel nonetheless), a disobedient woman and a disobedient man. At the beginning of the New Covenant, we find another angel—the Archangel Gabriel—an obedient woman: the Mother of Jesus, and an obedient man: Our Divine Lord.

In the opening prayer of today’s Mass we address these words to our Heavenly Father: “your son Jesus Christ accepted the cross and freed us from the power of the enemy.” I remember one time seeing a picture which impressed me. It was of the second station of the Way of the Cross, where Jesus is given the cross to carry. The look on the face of Jesus in that picture was almost one of joy, and the way he stretched out his hands and arms to accept the cross seemed to embrace, to welcome, to be eager for this moment. After all, he had been awaiting this moment all his life. This cross would be the instrument of universal salvation; this cross would become the greatest of Christian symbols and a sign of faith, hope, and love.

Let us think of this often when we make the sign of the cross or when we look upon a crucifix. Let us be grateful for the suffering of Jesus on the cross for our redemption. Let us be grateful for our own crosses by which we are conformed to the suffering Christ. And let us pray often, with great fervor: 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:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 11, 2017

Tuesday of Holy Week (11 April 2017)

In the gospel reading for today’s Mass—that of Tuesday in Holy Week—Our Lord begins by saying, in anguish, “One of you is going to betray me.” And the passage ends with Jesus responding to Saint Peter’s impetuous declaration: “I will lay down my life for you” by telling him, “this very night, you will deny me three times.” Let us remember that Our Lord hand-picked twelve men to be his disciples, his apostles, his intimate friends, the first bishops of his Church. This little group of twelve men is, in a real sense, the most elite group in history.  Never again will such a group exist, since never again will the Church of Our Lord be started and its foundations laid anew. And yet, despite Our Lord’s careful choice of these men, and their months and years of intimate companionship with him, one of them denies him and one of them betrays him. What further proof do we need of the fickleness of our human condition—our weakness, our unreliability.

But let us see how those two stories turn out. Saint Peter, who denied Jesus three times that night out of fear, was contrite, repentant.  He wept bitterly, the scripture tells us, and no doubt when he could, he fell at the feet of Jesus and begged forgiveness, which Jesus was only too willing to impart.  And that same cowardly, denying Peter became the Rock upon which Christ built his Church: the first Pope, to whom Jesus gave “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  How did the great change occur?  Very simply: by means of God’s grace.  Without grace, we can do nothing.  With it, we can do whatever God wants us to do.

Now let us look at Judas. He negotiated with the enemies of Jesus, who offered him thirty pieces of silver—since it was money he wanted—for helping them to identify and arrest Jesus and bring him before the high priest.  He did what he had agreed to do; he got his money.  But then something went terribly wrong.  What was it?  I suppose it was that Judas had not really understood that Jesus’s enemies intended to kill him.  He wanted to make some money by betraying Our Lord, but he really didn’t want to be guilty of Our Lord’s DEATH.  But the process that he started could not be stopped; the kiss that he bestowed upon the innocent Christ in the garden was leading to crucifixion.  Suddenly the horror of what he had done dawned upon him.  What to do now?  Did he understand that Jesus would rise from the dead, and then Judas could approach him as did Peter, beg forgiveness, and be reinstated in the band of apostles?  Evidently not.  Or maybe he was simply too proud, too hard-hearted to think of asking forgiveness.  Whatever was going through his tortured mind, he went rushing back to the people of the high priest and wanted to give them back their money, crying out, “I have betrayed innocent blood!”  But they wouldn’t take the money, tainted as it was with blood.  So Judas flung it into the temple and went out and hanged himself.  How tragic!  How close he had been to becoming not only holy because of his association with Jesus, but a canonized saint as are the other apostles and one of the foundation stones of the Church!  But no: he would not go back; he would not ask pardon.  He may have even doubted that Jesus would rise and continue his sublime work of redemption.  And so Judas has become the proverbial traitor rather than a great saint.

Let us learn from both these men the importance of returning to Christ again and again and saying, in the words of the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown., O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 10, 2017

Monday of Holy Week (10 April 2017)

On the Saturday night before that first Palm Sunday, and before the death of Jesus, a dinner party took place in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the three siblings in Bethany.  It was to thank Our Lord for the great gift of his having raised Lazarus from the tomb.  During that dinner, Mary brought in an expensive container of perfume and poured it over the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair.  Again, a token of her gratitude for his having raised her brother to new life.  This is described in today’s gospel reading at Mass. When that happened, Judas Iscariot protested, asking why that perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor. And when reporting this event in his gospel account, Saint John tells us that Judas was concerned not about the poor, but about the money, because he was a thief and used to help himself to the contributions given to the little group of Jesus and the apostles. Those words of Saint John always impress me.  Having lived in community life for fifty-three years now, I can sympathize with Saint John who is aware that one of the twelve men chosen by Jesus to be his intimate friends, apostles, and the first bishops of the new Church, is stealing from Our Lord and the others!  How sad, how demoralizing it must have been to know that one of his confreres is dishonest and immoral and would steal even from the savior of the world!  We are all members of some sort of group—family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church organizations, etc. And human nature being what it is, we can detect faults and failings in the others, and we are sometimes unaware that they can also see OUR faults and failings. But we can be sure that we don’t appear perfect to all our relatives, friends, and acquaintances.  Or even to a single one of them.  But I suppose that they usually put up with our irritating habits and attitudes just as we tolerate theirs with patience and in silence.

We know what Judas’s thievery led to, but that is another story.  Let us, in our relationships with others, be patient, tolerant, and silent.  Let us try to be as perceptive as we can be to the elements in our behavior that others find difficult to deal with and not to be so quick to criticize them and assume that we are without fault.  As Our Lord said elsewhere in the gospel, remove the plank from your own eye before trying to remove the splinter from the eye of your neighbor.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

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