From the ByzanTEENS at the March for Life this year, an icon of the Visitation, showing not only Mary and Elizabeth, but John the Baptist and Jesus in their mothers’ wombs. Notice that John is kneeling and Jesus is blessing him. Photo and caption from Political Housewyf.
The One who is the Light of the World – Lumen Gentium – is also the ‘King’ in the Kingdom of God.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has
not overcome it.” Jn 1:4-5
But what exactly is at the center of the Culture of Life? Without a doubt the Church is instrumental in creating and maintaining a Culture of life. Ultimately it is Christ who is the Centerpoint of the Culture of Life, its very Source.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth;
we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…
And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.” Jn 1:14,16
The Culture of Life is a moral compass for the world of today. And our modern world desperately needs this compass! Christ asks each Christian each day; “Will you hold up this moral compass for your neighbor to see, for your community in its turbulent and often misguided searching?”
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.
Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand,
and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men…” Mt 5:14-16
Yet the Source of this Life, the Source of this Light is Christ! If you look carefully, ‘midst the Glory and the Grace of it all, you will see a young pregnant woman standing in the glistening shadows of God. She is Mary, and within her womb – at the very Heart of the Culture of Life – is the Unborn Christ Child, hands outstretched, His tiny hidden heart rapidly pulsing with Love…merciful…redeeming…purifying…Love!
Oldest Madonna della Misericordia in Venice, dated circa 1325 detail Academia, by Paolo Veneziano
Anonymous Prato, Madonna of childbirth, Prato, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
By coming into the world as a little unborn baby, and living that existence for nine months, Jesus sanctified the unborn state and the relationship between the unborn child and his parents, particularly the relationship with his mother. Day after day, month by month Jesus was nothing but an insignificant unborn baby. He chose this restricted unborn life to show the depths of God’s love for us. Perhaps the world can not understand nor appreciate it, but we Christians must!
The modern world would have us judge unborn babies superficially by our limited abilities of observation; what we can observe them doing, learning, achieving and mastering. Not so with God. He sees us for who we are, rather than what we can or can not do. As the philosophical maxim states; “action follows being”. When God appeared to Moses He revealed His identity by stating: “I AM WHO AM.” So too, it is more important that we discover Who Unborn Jesus is rather than what things He might have done as an unborn baby.
And the same is true for all unborn babies. God designed “personhood” to be a secret core mystery of life to be discovered by oneself and others on nature’s terms, not ours. God hides the “unborn person” in the womb, almost in a suspended state of love that is, suspended between God’s creative love for the new creature and the mother’s nurturing love until the beauty of the infant’s physical development is sufficient to reflect the fullness of the infant soul. As one professor of pastoral theology has noted “awe is intrinsic to parenting”. Months of waiting contributes to the sense of awe that parents experience through pregnancy and birth. And awe is also an essential element in respecting human life as both gift and blessing.
Parents who, respecting nature and nature’s God, patiently wait for the birth of their child, grow themselves in that very virtue patience that they will need most in the upbringing of the child. The “unborn person” is literally a “buried treasure” of personhood and personality but, like wine, needs to age. Such a respectful attitude was that held by Mary and Joseph during the months of the second and third trimesters. It should be the attitude of all expectant parents.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections
The Lord is with thee. These words were often said of or to those to whom God was about to entrust some special work.
God told Abraham that he would be with him when made his covenant with him “Abram tell flat on his face. And God said to him: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. Genesis 17:2-4
He was “with Joseph ” while he was in Putiphar’s prison, preparing him for the great work of serving the nation during the famine. “But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” (Gen. 39. 21.)
“I will be with thee,” God said to Moses at the burning bush, when He told him that it was he who was to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. “I will be with you; and this shall be your proof that it is I who have sent you: when you bring my people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this very mountain.” (Ex. 3 12.)
And to Joshua, who had to bring the chosen people into the promised land, He said : “As I have been with Moses, so I will be with thee… Fear not, and be not dismayed: because the Lord thy God is with thee in all things whatsoever thou shalt go to.” (Jos. 1. 5,9.)
“The Lord is with thee, O most valiant of men.” This was the message the angel brought to Gideon at the threshing floor, for he was to leave his wheat and go to deliver God’s people from idolatry and from their enemies. (Jud. 6. 12.)
In the New Testament there are two instances where these special words are spoken. They are the last words Jesus said to the Apostles before he ascended into Heaven. These are the words that accompanied His commission to send them out to bring the Good News to the world. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
And they are among the first words spoken to Mary:
“And now when Mary is being singled out for the greatest work that was ever entrusted to any child of Adam that of being the Mother of Him Who was to save not one nation only, but the whole world, God sends an Archangel and bids him say to her : ‘The Lord is with thee.’ (Lk. 1:28 ) God was with Mary always; but now all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are to be with her in a very special way, to enable her to co-operate with God’s designs for her.” From Mater Christi by Mother St. Paul, 1920.
January 22 In America
It’s “that day” again.
Like any other day except…
From the bench they attacked us,
Those Solomon impostors
Knowing not when to cease.
Their wisdom aborted, their justice inept.
Morality’s sweet milk tainted-
The sacred standard of life succumbed.
Even the children seem lifeless today.
But on the horizon lies March twenty-five.
The feast of all hope and Christ alive!
His Incarnation to answer “bad justice” –
God’s Child is with us!
And in nine months only
We can embrace this tiny mercy.
December twenty-five, I will bend my knee
With the true wise men three,
Not to man’s injustice, but to a little baby.
By George A. Peate
Filed under: Pro-life
Pontius Pilate washing his hands
“I am personally opposed to abortion, but…”
Thousands of politicians around the world over the last number of decades, since the legalization of abortion, have borrowed heavily from the game plan of Pontius Pilate:
Pilate “took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this righteous man’s blood; see to it yourselves’ (Mt 27:24). Translation 2,000 years later: “I am innocent of this righteous unborn baby’s blood; exercise your freedom of choice”.
Two days before the inauguration, our local Ventura County, CA newspaper, The Star, featured a front page article about Catholic, Doug Kmiec, the one time conservative Republican, turned avid Obama supporter. The paper portrayed him as a visionary and martyr for truth. Quoting Kmiec about the rejection he has been receiving from conservatives: “We’re instructed as Christians to turn the other cheek. When the cheek keeps getting whacked, you feel the sting”.
On the abortion issue, Kmiec – who appeared a few months ago at the local Catholic seminary in a widely publicized event at which he was the only featured speaker – defends Obama: “Though Obama supports a woman’s right to choose, he’s personally opposed to abortion, Kmiec said…”
In this “personal opposition” Obama joins a long line of infamous “Christian” politicians before him who have freely chosen to write the unborn off! Enter Joe Biden, who has served 36 years in the Senate, presiding over the massive assault on the unborn from his safe Senate seat, while his conscience took a back seat. (It should be noted that he was first sworn into the Senate on January 3, 1973 – just 20 days before the Supreme Court legalized abortion.)
But few can equal the audacious unrepentant Obama, as when he flippantly told moderator Rev. Rick Warren at Saddleback Church during the Presidential Campaign “That’s above my pay grade” in response to the question about when human life begins. A debater’s slight-of-tongue! A false humility, behind which the cagey debater can dodge momentarily! Claiming ignorance as a cover for one’s duplicitous acts! Reading between the lines: if it is above his “pay grade”, and he’s going to be President of the United States then no one else should presume to know the answer either! In other words, “it’s above everyone’s pay grade” so it can’t be known, and no one is culpable. Treacherous trickery!
We consider now the last two verses of this beautiful Psalm, verses 5-6.
In the early Church, Psalm 23 was associated with the three sacraments of initiation: Baptism – verse 2 “beside the still waters”, Confirmation – verse 5 “thou anointest my head with oil”, Eucharist – verse 5 “Thou preparest a table before me”. Further, it even seemed to comment on one’s new life in the Church and one’s promised life hereafter: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (verse 6). It seems like a prophetic Ecclesiastical Psalm.
But let’s step back and look at two other simple themes running through this Psalm: the Path of Righteousness and the Will of God.
THE PATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: “he leadeth me” (v.2), “he leadeth me” (v.3), “in the paths of righteousness” (v.3), “I walk…thou art with me” (v.4), “shall follow me” (v.6). Psalm 23 describes a journey of faith, a journey along a path which leads us to a place; the Church. Nature reveals God’s creative hand to us (v.2), but proceeding we experience the tender hand of God as “He restoreth my soul” (v.3) and then comforts me (v.4). By the time we arrive at His Eucharistic liturgy, “He preparest a table before me” (v.5), almost like a servant – reminding us of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper. And Jesus did prepare the table for them at that last supper as He changed the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood – this was thoughtful loving preparation. So the “waters” of verse 2 have now been changed into wine “my cup runneth over”, and within the Church, into His blood. “He prepares the mystical table” as the early Church Father, St. Gregory of Nyssa, commented concerning verse 5.
THE WILL OF GOD: “The Lord is my shepherd” tells us right away that we are sheep who must follow the Shepherd’s “will”. It is His tender-hearted will that we rest and eat in “green pastures” and rest and drink “the still waters” (v.2) because He intends to “restoreth” our souls. He wills that we represent Him even within the “valley of the shadow of death” (v.4) – today read “valley of the culture of death”. He protects us by being with us; “for thou art with me” (v.4). He is strong and mighty, inspiring His flock to witness to the truth of His Culture of Life “for his name’s sake” (v.3). Verses 5-6 speak of the abundant blessings which the Lord intends for us; sacramentally, mystically, eternally, first in this world, then in the next. “Mercy and goodness shall follow me” within the Mystical Body of Christ, as God wills.
The Good Shepherd also entrusted Peter with this shepherding tradition and mandate: “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15,16,17).
The second of three reflections on Psalm 23, considers verse 4.
The last line of verse 3 – “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake” – brings us to “walking the walk” in verse 4:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Are we surprised that righteousness has led us into a certain element of risk and danger? Confronting evil in the world has become difficult. 21st century consequences – that is, problematic and unexpected ones – are now multiplying. What seemed simple has become much more complicated, partly due to the sins and weaknesses of the Good Shepherd’s followers, and partly due to the moral shambles of modern civilization.
We are walking through the sinister valley of the “culture of death”! But God is with us – that changes everything! “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). So the Christian, that is, the follower of the Good Shepherd, should not be afraid. Just stay close to Him, don’t wander off…
King David, the author of this Psalm, was a shepherd and later a king. Christ the Lord is also both Shepherd and King. But when Christ was coming into the world it was an awesome fearsome thing. First, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zechariah. His first words were: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah…(Lk 1:13). Then Gabriel appeared to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!…Do not be afraid, Mary…(Lk 1:28,30). Later, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife…(Mt 1:20). And finally in the hills of Bethlehem an angel of the Lord came to the shepherds watching their flocks: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy…(Lk 2:10).
He is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Isa 7:14). So, as verse 4 tells us: “I will fear no evil: for (God) art with me”…God is with us.
“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. The shepherd’s rod and staff remind us of the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs” (Gen 49:10). The rod (scepter-like) is for exercising power by striking an enemy, defending against evil. The staff is for steadying one on his journey, leaning upon it for comforting rest.
So the Messiah would be Emmanuel, “God with us”, a Shepherd King guiding and protecting us. His sign is a cross of two beams, much like a rod and staff intersecting and fastened together.With the cross He has already defeated death and evil. From our 21st century vantage point we look out to Nazareth and Bethlehem and we see Him coming: The Shepherd King of the Culture of Life.
See also: Another reflection on Psalm 23.