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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 6, 2017

Feast of Saint Paul Tinh (6 April 2017)

When we were studying sacred scripture in the seminary, we learned that the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels—a word that means “looking alike” and that the gospel according to John is notably different from those three.  One of the characteristic marks of Saint John is that he starts with a simple event and uses it as a stepping-stone to the heights of theology.

We have such a passage in today’s Mass.  Our Lord heals a man who has been unable to walk for thirty-eight years.  After he has cured him, Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and go home.  Ah, but there is a problem: it was the sabbath, when according to the hair-splitting Pharisees, it was forbidden to carry anything as large or heavy as a sleeping mat.  They accuse the man of violating the laws of the sabbath and therefore of committing sin.  And, because Jesus had told him to do so, Our Lord is also guilty of violating the sabbath and committing sin. Now let us look at the number of concepts that have already entered into this little event.  There is sickness, there is healing, there is the sabbath, there is virtue; there is sin.  And, because good health is a form of the fullness of life and sickness is related to death, we have life and death in the event.  Then, to add insult to injury, Our Lord tells his accusers that he is simply doing what his father does, and it is obvious that God is his father whom he is imitating and following.  A person cannot speak of “my father” unless he or she shares the nature of that father.  So to call God “my father” is tantamount to Jesus’s saying, “I am God.”  For the Pharisees, that is absolutely unacceptable, heretical, wicked, evil, arrogant, and intolerable.  They have got to get rid of this man who calls God “his father.”  If he were a mentally ill man who went around saying “God is my Father” that could be ignored.  But when this man shows himself able to perform very visible miracles, he becomes a real danger—a threat to the Pharisees and their theology, and he must be destroyed.  But of course, to approach Jesus’s death is also to approach Jesus’s resurrection which occurred about 40 hours after his death. And so new and eternal life enters into his discussion with his enemies.

Today let us adore our Lord who is the Son of God, the Son of Man, the source of life, both natural and supernatural, both temporal and eternal, the source of judgment, by whom we learn what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, and the perfect imitator of God the Father which makes him the greatest of the saints.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world, and by your resurrection you have brought us endless hope and 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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 3, 2017

Feast of Saint Richard of Wyche (3 April 2017)

We all know the story of Our Lord’s encounter with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers brought her to him because, as usual, they were trying to trap him in his doctrine.  The laws of those days prescribed that a woman like that should be stoned to death.  Jesus advocated mercy and forgiveness.  What would he say in this case?  He said nothing.  He was probably seated on the ground in the temple compound, and he simply leaned over and began to write in the dust with his finger.  Was he simply doodling—waiting for them to leave so that he could go on with his teaching?  Certainly, when something is important, you don’t write it in the dust on the ground.  He was showing his indifference to their conniving. They wanted to kill the woman, and to trap Jesus in a contradiction. But they wouldn’t leave him alone.  They demanded an answer.  So he looked up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  A brilliant answer, which manifests Christ’s wisdom, his refusal to condemn the woman, his refusal to call the law of Moses too harsh, his refusal to be made the judge in this unofficial trial.  His answer leaves them totally confused and aware of their own malice.  So, they simply vanish, leaving Our Lord with the sinful woman.  She is now in the presence of her savior—both temporally and eternally.  He asks her gently, “Where are your accusers?  Is none left to accuse you?”  “She answers simply and briefly, “No one, Sir.”  “Then neither do I accuse you.  Now go, and don’t sin any more.”

Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, one of our outstanding French Dominican scripture scholars, in commenting on this episode, points out that it fulfills the words of Psalm 85: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.”  A sinful woman confronts our forgiving Redeemer.  Her human accusers want to kill her and to trap him.  She is terribly frightened, thinking that she might well be near death because of her sin, and deeply humiliated by having her sin proclaimed publicly in the temple area.  But when the episode ends, Jesus has certainly not been trapped; the woman is alive, and free to go her own way, the malicious ones are slinking off in shame and confusion.  Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss in the thought, the words, and the actions of Jesus.  And we have the deep joy of knowing that he is our savior, too, and we can expect the same gentle mercy as the adulterous woman received, if we are truly repentant. 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 | March 31, 2017

Feast of Saint Guy of Pomposa (31 March 2017)

This weekend we have the beautiful account of the raising of Lazarus from death by Our Lord.  In the course of the account, the shortest verse in the Bible occurs; it is John 11: 35 and it says very simply: Jesus wept.  I would suggest that often, we meditate on the weeping of Our Lord and ask ourselves why he wept.  That might be an indiscreet question: how can we know the depths of any heart but our own, and especially the sacred heart of Jesus?  Yet, even though we might not be able to plumb those depths, we can at least get some idea of what went on in the mind, heart, and emotions of our savior as he was led to the tomb where his friend Lazarus had been buried.

Let me suggest some of these possibilities.  First, Jesus is a fully human being who can love deeply and can be deeply saddened by the death of a friend of his.  Then, he grieves not only over the death of Lazarus, but also over the sorrow of Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, who are profoundly affected by the death of their brother.  In addition to this, Our Lord knows that his raising of Lazarus, which he was going to do in just a few minutes, was going to infuriate Jesus’ enemies, call forth from them a great deal of malice, hatred, hostility, even to the point of murder.  So the great act of mercy which Jesus is about to perform will be a cause of great evil.  And that evil would bring about his own terrible sufferings and death.  And not only his sufferings and death, but the sufferings of his Mother, whom he loved as only a divine Redeemer can love his mother whose heart beat in unison with his own.  Certainly, one of the most painful aspects of Our Lord’s passion and death was the grief that it caused his mother, who stood at the foot of the cross and became the Mother of Sorrows—Mater Dolorosa. All of that would have been painful enough if every single human being, past, present, and future, would be saved and brought to heaven by those sufferings.  But that is apparently not the case; some will reject the redemption offered by Christ and choose their own fate.  One of Jesus’s own twelve apostles, namely Judas Iscariot, would probably be one of these.  How could a man who had lived in closest intimacy with Our Lord for about three years turn against him and betray him to his enemies?  And then go out and hang himself because he did not understand Jesus’ willingness to forgive him even for this monstrous sin?  Our Lord said of him, “It would better if he had never been born.”

Death is an evil and a source of grief for those who die and those who lose loved ones in death.  When Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus, his cosmic sorrow—the sorrow of the Savior who was to redeem the entire human race—embraced my death and yours.  And my sorrow over the loss of my loved ones, and yours over the death of those you have loved. So you and I are involved and included in this raising of Lazarus from the tomb, and in the resurrection of Christ himself from his tomb to which the raising of Lazarus will lead very soon.  In this event, Our Lord says “I am the resurrection.”  And Saint Martha says “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 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 | March 30, 2017

Feast of Saint Peter Regulatus (30 March 2017)

Do you ever feel frustrated? Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying, “If only I could do this, or had that, or didn’t have to be burdened with thus and such?” If you haven’t had experiences like that, you are in the very small minority, because most of us from time to time feel frustrated and hampered by either the presence of some problem in our lives or the absence of some advantage.  In today’s gospel, Our Lord tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches.  He goes on to say that our heavenly Father is the vinedresser who prunes the vine to make it bear more fruit.  Now, from the viewpoint of the vine, pruning is a form of frustration.  The natural tendency of the plant is to put forth more tendrils, more branches, more leaves.  But the human vine-grower is not interested in tendrils, branches, and leaves.  He wants grapes!  Thus, the need to prune.  And so with us and God.  Our tendency is toward self-expression, pleasure, the ability to manipulate our world to our own liking.  But that is not God’s desire, because if every human being were allowed to follow his and her own tendency, there would be constant conflict in the world—more so than there already is.  So, God prunes us, and we don’t always like it.

I think of the late Pope, John Paul II.  When he was elected to the Chair of Saint Peter in 1978, he was vibrant, healthy man of 58.  By the time of his death at the age of 84, he was a terribly debilitated man—having suffered the ravages of disease for years, having been shot and nearly killed by a would-be assassin, and having fallen and broken bones several times because of the Parkinson’s disease which slowly invaded his entire body and deprived him of more and more of his natural ability.  During the recent visit of Pope Benedict to our country, some film clips were shown on television taken during the last days of Pope John Paul II.  He came to his window to address the crowd in the square below, and was not able to utter a sound.  His voice totally failed him.  Can you imagine the frustration—knowing how much there was to be done, and eager to do it, and yet unable to perform his tasks as he saw them because of the totally worn-out condition of his body?

When we find ourselves fretting and complaining because we can’t do as we would like, or must carry a cross which we would like to get rid of, let us be aware that God is pruning us and let us offer to him “the pruning,” by which he imposes his holy will upon us and thus accomplishes his purposes far better than we could achieve them. 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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