These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.
The women disciples seem to take second place as far as some of the gospels are concerned. But Luke’s naming of Mary Magdalene, (the first named of the women disciples, like Peter is of the men disciples), then Joanna and Susanna, and then adding that there were “many others who provided for them out of their resources” changes the conversation somewhat. These women disciples played a very important role in the ministry of Jesus. First, they were people of means who were able to provide for the others. Second, they were accompanying Jesus and the Twelve “from one town and village to another.” The women weren’t left behind. And of course, the Lucan gospel goes on to mention two other women disciples: the sisters, Mary and Martha (Lk 1:38-42). So, perhaps there is a lot more to the gospel witness about women in ministry than the church ever led us to believe.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received . . . .
(1 Cor 15:3)
It sounds so simple this little phrase from Saint Paul, but what a powerful message that follows. In fact, “I hand on to you what I myself received . . . “ is evidence of teaching that Paul had learned and in turn passes on to the Corinthian Community. Saint Paul uses this same formula in the teaching about the Eucharist: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you (1 Cor 11:23). How important it is to hand on the teaching we have received!
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
(1 Cor 13:4-8)
Saints Cornelius and Cyprian were both caught up in the persecutions of Christians: Cornelius, bishop of Rome, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. Although they died at different times and in different places, they are celebrated together for their witness to Christ and to the “Love that never fails.”
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Today’s feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is tied to the feast of yesterday, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The disciple “whom he loved” is unnamed in the scene beneath the Cross. And even though the church has always wanted to say that this disciple was “John” (to associate the gospel with one of the Twelve), the gospel writer was very clear. When we look at the 11th chapter of the Fourth Gospel, we see the remarkable triple identification of the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved:
So the sisters sent word to him [Jesus], saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” (Jn 11:3)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (Jn 11:5)
And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” (Jn 11:35-36)
Could Lazarus be the Beloved Disciple? Perhaps, and maybe most likely . . . but the most important teaching that the gospel writer leaves us in the scene beneath the Cross is that by not putting a name on the Beloved Disciple it allows each one of us to be that Beloved Disciple to whom Jesus entrusts his mother. And like Beloved Disciples everywhere, we take her into our home.
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
To have the same the same attitude as Christ . . . means to have the mind and heart of Christ. We want to accept the cross not as an obligation, but rather out of love. To be able to imitate Christ who emptied himself, so that Christ may now live in us.
The picture today is of the San Damiano Cross that now hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi.
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
hate not your neighbor; and overlook faults.
In the Rule of Saint Benedict the monk was counseled: To keep death daily before one's eyes. This is not some dark purpose to keep monks perpetually depressed . . . rather as that particular chapter of the Rule suggests it’s one of the “instruments of good works.” Saint Benedict knew, as well as the writer of the book of Sirach, that in the light of eternity the everyday squabbles that arise from living in community don’t really amount to much. If we can keep death before our eyes we might be able to “set enmity aside . . . and overlook faults” especially the faults of others. Forgiveness is not optional. As Jesus says:
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart (Mt 18:35).
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one Body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.
(1 Cor 14:16-17)
Our communion in the Body and Blood of Christ satisfies the deepest hunger of the human heart. And today as we celebrate the Most Holy Name of Mary, we remember her hymn of praise as she blesses the One who fills "the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty" (Lk 1:53).