Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rome prepares for two million pilgrims for beatification ceremony - International - Catholic Online

The Eternal City is preparing for an estimated two million pilgrims for Pope John Paul II's beatification this coming May 1, when the city will be thronged with Easter week tourists.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Eternal City is preparing for an estimated two million pilgrims for Pope John Paul II's beatification this coming May 1, when the city will be thronged with Easter week tourists.  There are no tickets and no reservations for the event as many of the  faithful want to be there to see the Polish-born pontiff beatified, the last formal step before canonization.

The Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman says "We don't give estimates" of the size of the crowds who will come.  Italian news reports say authorities in Rome were planning for two million pilgrims.

With St. Peter's Square and the boulevard leading from the Tiber to the Vatican able to hold a few hundred thousand people, large video screens are expected to be set up in nearby streets so the spillover crowd can watch the ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI.

The last comparable event to draw as many people in Rome was the three million mourners for John Paul's funeral following his death in April 2005 after he struggled for years with Parkinson's disease.

The most popular ceremonies in his papacy didn't come near to drawing so many faithful.  When an ailing John Paul beatified Mother Teresa in 2003 in St. Peter's Square, 300,000 pilgrims attended.  Padre Pio's sainthood ceremony, led by John Paul in June 2002, saw about 200,000 faithful in the square in one of the larger turnouts in his 26-year-long papacy.  In 2000, about 700,000 young Catholics streamed into Rome for church World Youth Day events stretched out over several days at locations throughout the city as well as at the Vatican.

La Stampa, an Italian daily, said the national civil protection agency personnel hope to rein in any chaos by meeting pilgrims' buses and channeling the faithful down selected streets to the square.

In addition, Easter falls on April 24, meaning Rome's hotels will be brimming with Easter week tourists, when many students are on school break and families pour into Italy, so organizers might look to Romans to open their homes to pilgrims.

Friday, April 29, 2011

US Court Revoves Ban on Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Today, in a 2-1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit overruled a lower court's decision - clearing the way for federal financing of embryonic stem-cell research.  Last August a federal judge issued an injunction against federal funding, ruling that embryonic stem-cell research appears to violate a ban on taxpayer support for research that involves the destruction of human embryos.  The issue of federal financing of stem cell research is a contentious one — pitting scientists who say that stem cells will lead to medical advances against opponents who say it is immoral to destroy human embryos to obtain stem cells.

The Obama administration appealed the lower courts decision, resulting in today's disappointing 2-1 reversal. 

Obama administration officials hailed today's decision: “This is a momentous day — not only for science, but for the hopes of thousands of patients and their families who are relying on NIH-funded scientists to pursue life-saving discoveries and therapies,” Francis S. Collins, director of National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

Opponents said it was still early in the legal battle. “It’s disappointing, but we have a long way to go,” said David Prentice, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, which opposes federal funding for stem cell research but is not a party in the legal action.

Today's decision is disheartening for several reasons:
  • First and most importantly, as Catholics we believe that life begins at the moment of conception.  The purposeful destruction of human embryos for the purpose of obtaining their stem cells for scientific research is an attack on an innocent person - it is killing a human person (albeit so small) for the sole purpose of research and it is thus a gravely immoral act.
  • Secondly, there is a great silence and deception going on here.  Embryonic stem cell research has brought about FEW hopes and promises for cures.  HOWEVER, umbilical cord research and adult stem cell research has showed GREAT promise - but scientists refuse to acknowledge or move to these forms of research, preferring instead to continue to destroy human life in the name of science.
We must continue to pray for our government leaders and scientists and those who support the destricution of human life in order to obtain embryonic stem cells for the purpose of research - we must pray that God will enlighten them and help them to see the intrinsic evil they are supporting - and pray that they re-direct their efforts to forms of research which do not destroy human life when it is most vulnerable, but support it at every stage and moment - from conception until natural death.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Easter Octave

The "Alleluia" of Easter Sunday is not confined to one day - but, because our cries of jubilation continue, they are extended through 8 days - the Easter Octave.  What is this about?  Eight days of Sundays?  Where did and "octave" come from.  These are the questions I've tried to answer for you this week.

Origin of the "Octave"
The number 7 played a very important role in Jewish life.  Every seventh day is a sabbath; the seventh month is sacred; the seventh year is a sabbatical year.  The jubilee year was brought about by the number seven multiplied by seven; many Jewish feasts lasted seven days, the feast of Pentecost was seven times seven days after the Passover; the feast of the Tabernacles lasted seven days, the days of convocation numbered seven (Willis, "Worship of the Old Covenant", 190-1; "Dict. of the Bible", s.v. Feast and Fasts, I, 859). 

However, the octave day, without having the symbolic importance of the seventh day, also had its role.  The eighth day was the day of circumcision (Genesis 21:4; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59; Acts 7:8 etc.).  The feast of Tabernacles, which lasted seven days, was followed on the eighth by a solemnity which may be considered as an octave (Leviticus 23:36, 39; Numbers 29:35; Nehemiah 8:18); the eighth day was the day of certain sacrifices (Leviticus 14:10, 23; 15:14, 29; Numbers 6:10). It was on the eighth day, too, that the feast of the dedication of the Temple under Solomon, and of its purifications under Ezechias concluded (2 Chronicles 7:9; 29:17).  Many speculate that the custom of celebrating the octave of feasts dates back to the days of the Apostles themselves, although there is no solid evidence to support this speculation.  At first the Christian feasts had no octaves.  Sunday, which may in a sense be considered the first Christian feast, falls on the seventh day; the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, which are, with Sunday the most ancient, form as it were only a single feast of fifty days.  The feast of Christmas, which too is very old, originally had no octave attached to it.  However in the fourth century, when the idea of the fifty days' feast of the paschal time began to grow dim, Easter and Pentecost were given octaves.  Possibly at first this was only a baptismal custom, the neophytes (those newly baptized at the Easter Vigil) remaining in a kind of joyful retreat from Easter or Pentecost till the following Sunday (and thus the origin of "White Sunday" which we will celebrate next weekend during the 10:45am Mass when the neophytes leave their albs at the altar at the conclusion of the Mass).   The octave seems then to have developed of its own accord.  

The first octave mentioned in liturgical history is that of the the dedication of the Churches of Tyre and Jerusalem, under the Emperor Constantine (the Roman emperor whose conversion to the Catholic faith made Christianity legal in the Empire - after years of persecution) in the 300's, and these solemnities, in imitation of the dedication of the Jewish Temple, lasted eight days (Eusebius, "De vita Constant"., III, xxx sq.; Sozomen, Church History).  This feast may possibly have influenced the adoption of the octave by the Christians.  From the fourth century onwards the celebration of octaves is mentioned in liturgical history much more frequently.  II.26

Celebration of octaves in ancient and modern times

The liturgy of the octave assumed its present form slowly.  In the first period, that is from the fourth to the sixth and even seventh century, little thought seems to have been given to varying the liturgical formulæ during the eight days.  Early liturgical books simply mention that on the octave day the prayers of the feast is repeated.  The dies octava is indeed made more prominent by the liturgy.  The Sunday following Easter (i.e. Sunday in albis) and the octave day of Christmas (now the feast of Mary, Mother of God on January 1) are treated very early as feast days by the liturgy.  Certain octaves were considered as privileged days, on which work was forbidden - even the civil courts and theaters were closed on these days.  After Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas had received their octaves, the tendency was to have an octave for all the solemn feasts of the Church year. 

The Greeks (or Eastern Churches) also admitted the celebration of octaves into their liturgy.  Although having the same origin as the Latin octave, their octave celebration differs in it occurs sometimes on the eighth, and sometimes on the fifth, the fourth, or the ninth day.  

The Easter Octave in Particular 

The Octave of Easter is really 8-days of Sundays.  Every day we have a different account of the resurrection from each of the Gospel writers.  These various readings encourage us to constantly reflect on, as we've been asking, what Christ has done for us.  We also see how different people responded to the Lord's resurrection, and the different places and people to whom He appeared.  Each day we sing the Gloria, the Sequence before the Gospel, speaking of "this Easter day" in the preface of the Mass and beginning and ending Mass with an Easter Song.  Also this week we begin praying (and I hope soon, singing) the Regina Caeli (the "Queen of Heaven") rather than the Angelus prayer just prior to Mass.

The week ends, as I mentioned, with what was formerly called "white Sunday" - now, following it's institution by Pope John Paul II, Divine Mercy Sunday.  This year, it will also be the day on which John Paul will be Beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.  There will be lots more about JP II's beatification on this blog in the days to come.  Until then - enjoy this week of Easter Sunday!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Easter is the feast of feasts, the unbridled joy and gladness of all Christians.

In the very center of the Mass, the great prayer of thanksgiving, from the first words of the Preface, expresses the unrivalled motive for this joy: if it is right to praise You, Lord, at all times, how much more so should we not glorify You on this day when Christ our Passover was sacrificed, for He is the true Lamb who took away the sins of the world, who by His Death destroyed our death and by His Resurrection restored our life.  Easter means, then, Redemption obtained — sin destroyed, death overcome, divine life brought back to us, the resurrection of our body which is promised immortality.  With such a certitude, we should banish all trace of sadness.

Today's Psalm says, "This is the day which the Lord has made."  Throughout the octave we will sing of the unequalled joy which throws open eternity to us.  Every Sunday will furnish a reminder of it, and from Sunday to Sunday, from year to year, the Easters of this earth will lead us to that blessed day on which Christ has promised that He will come again with glory to take us with Him into the kingdom of His Father.

"I rose up and am still with Thee."  After His labors and His humiliations, Christ finds rest with His Father.  "I am still with Thee."  This is perfect beatitude.  Through His cross He entered into the possession of eternal glory.  Christ has gained the crown of victory; through Christ men also win their crowns of victory.  Humanity was under a curse and subject to the wrath of God.  Now that they have risen with Christ, their guilt has been destroyed.  "I rose up and am still with Thee."  The liturgy places these words in the mouth of the Church that she may pray them with Christ.

"The earth trembled and was still when God arose in judgment."  The resurrection of Christ is the judgment and condemnation of those who have turned away from God.  This judgment was prefigured by the angel who passed through the land of Egypt destroying the first-born of the Egyptians. The  Israelites marked the doors of their houses with the blood of the paschal lamb.  We are the new Israel, and "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed."  We mark ourselves with His blood, which we enjoy in the Holy Eucharist.  We have been pardoned, we are saved, we shall live.

"He is risen."  The resurrection of Christ is a pledge of our own resurrection.  It is the foundation upon which our faith rests.  It is the guarantee of our redemption and God's assurance that our sins are forgiven and that we are called to eternal life.  "This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice therein.  Give praise to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.  Alleluia."  "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed. . . . The Lamb redeems the sheep.  Christ, the innocent One, hath reconciled sinners to the Father." 

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Shroud of Turin - a Relic of Christ's Death

Good Friday

Good Friday (also called "Great Friday" or "Holy Friday") is the most somber day of the entire year.  A silence pervades, socializing is kept to a minimum, things are done quietly; it is a day of mourning; it is a funeral.  The Temple of the Body of Christ is destroyed, capping the the penitential season begun on Ash Wednesday and becoming more intense throughout Lent.  Some ethnic Catholics wear black, cover their mirrors, extinguish candles and any lamps burning before icons, keep amusements and distractions down, and go about the day in great solemnity.

Jesus was put on the Cross at the very end of the third hour (the time between 9 and noon), and almost the sixth hour. He died at the ninth hour:
Mark 15:25, 33
And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him... And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole earth until the ninth hour.
Because Jesus was on the Cross between the hours of Noon and 3:00 PM, these three hours today are considered the most sacred of all.  A devotion called "Tre Ore" or "Three Hours' Agony" might be held at this time; if not, you can do it yourself by meditating on His Passion -- reading the Gospel narratives of the Passion, making the Stations of the Cross (which our parish will do at 12 noon), praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, praying the Litany of the Passion, or watching the film The Passion of the Christ (which we will show at 1pm in the parish hall).  Draw the curtains, take the phone off the hook, turn off televisions and radios, quiet your environment and yourself, and meditate on, as Father Bill said last night, "Do you realize what I have done for you?"  At 3:00, "The Hour" He died, the atmosphere should be as if you are standing next to the deathbed of your father who died a moment ago.

Catholics also focus their attention on Mary this day and tomorrow (Holy Saturday),   empathizing with the pain she endured as Our Lady of Sorrows.  

Though a somber atmosphere will last until the Easter Vigil, after "The Hour" (3:00 PM) passes, it eases a bit, and life can go back to a "somber normal."  The phone can put back on the hook, etc., but candles and other symbols of Christ shouldn't be used, music shouldn't be played, raucous games should be eliminated, etc., while Christ is "in His Tomb" -- i.e., until after Vigil of Holy Saturday when Eastertide officially begins.

No true Mass is offered today (or tomorrow until the Vigil tomorrow evening); instead a liturgy called the "Mass of the Presanctified" is offered , which is not a true Mass because no consecration takes place.  Instead, we consume Hosts consecrated at yesterday's Mass of the Lord's Supper.  Vestment colors will be red, and the liturgy consists of readings from Scripture, prayer, St. John's version of the Passion, and ends with a long series of prayers for various intentions: the Church, the Pope, the faithful, those engaged in public affairs, catechumens, the needs of the faithful, unity, the conversion of the Jews, the conversion of infidels.  These intentions are called the Great Intercessions, and we kneel after each.

Then the Cross will be unveiled and and elevated to be adored by our kneeling during the words "Venite, adorĂ©mus" (come, let us worship).  Then the priest stands with the cross at the front of the church and removes the red veil.  He takes off his shoes, like Moses before God, and kneels to kiss the Cross.

The Cross is held up for us, and we file past to kneel and kiss the Cross while we sing.  Originally the choir sang the Improperia (the Reproaches) of Christ, in which Our Lord reminds of us all He has done for us and our ingratitude towards Him.  The first three of the twelve Reproaches were:
O My people, what have I done to thee?  Or wherein have I afflicted thee?  Answer Me.  Because I led thee out of the land of Egypt, thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Savior.

Because I led thee out through the desert forty years: and fed thee with manna, and brought thee into a land exceeding good, thou has prepared a Cross for thy Savior.

What more ought I to have done for thee, that I have not done?  I planted thee, ineed, My most beautiful vineyard: and thou has become exceeding bitter to Me: for in My thirst thou gavest Me vinegar to drink; and with a lance thou hast pierced the side of thy Savior.
A second choir used to respond to each of those Reproaches with a trisagion in Greek and Latin.   You might recognize its English translation if you've ever prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet:
O holy God!
O holy God!
O holy strong One!
O holy strong One!
O holy immortal One, have mercy on us.
O holy immortal One, have mercy on us!
After the Veneration of the Cross we receive Communion, receiving Hosts consecrated at yesterday's Mass.

Basilica of the Holy SepulchreOur Lord was laid in the tomb owned by St. Joseph of Arimethea, at a site over which stands now the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, first built on the spot by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great.  In Jesus's time, the tomb was outside the city; by the time St. Helena was told of it, it was inside the city walls because Hadrian expanded the city's perimeter -- and had built a pagan temple over the site.  The basilica built by St. Helena was destroyed by Caliph al-Hakim in A.D. 1009, and was later re-built over time.
The exact spot where "the New Adam" was crucified is marked inside the Basilica, and is said to stand over the place where the first Adam was buried. Matthew tells us what happened when Our Lord's Soul left His Body:
Matthew 27:51
And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent.
Calvary (above) and the Chapel of Adam (below)Tradition tells us that among those rocks which were rent were those beneath the Cross, and that His Blood dripped down into the crevices (visible today) and reached the spot where the first Adam was interred.  The Blood of the New Adam covers the sins of the first Adam!  A chapel to the first Adam sits under the area marked as the place Our Lord died.

We know the names of the thieves between whom Jesus was crucified from the apocryphal "Acts of Pilate" (or "Gospel of Nicodemus"), attributed to St. Nicodemus, the member of the Sanhedrin who, along with St. Joseph of Arimethea, entombed Jesus (John 19:39). Book IX:5 reads
Then Pilate commanded the veil to be drawn before the judgment-seat whereon he sat, and saith unto Jesus: Thy nation hath convicted Thee as being a king: therefore have I decreed that Thou shouldest first be scourged according to the law of the pious emperors, and thereafter hanged upon the Cross in the garden wherein Thou wast taken: and let Dysmas and Gestas the two malefactors be crucified with Thee.
Dismas is considered a Saint -- the patron of prisoners -- and his memorial is on 25 March, the date believed to be the date of the Crucifixion.  You'll notice that the date is the same as the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her she was to have a son; it is ancient tradition that the Prophets died on the same day they were conceived.  Legend has it that when the Holy Family went on their "flight to Egypt" to escape Herod's wrath, they were accosted by thieves, among whom were Dismas and Gestas.  Dismas felt that there was something different about this Family, and ordered his comrades to leave them alone.  His act of natural virtue was repaid by the supernatural gift of faith he received when being crucified next to Our Lord.  This pious tale is recounted in the Arabic Infancy Gospel, an apocryphal book likely dated to the 4th c., and originally in Syriac.  In it, the thieves' names are given as Titus and Dumachus:
And turning away from this place, they came to a desert; and hearing that it was infested by robbers, Joseph and the Lady Mary resolved to cross this region by night.  But as they go along, behold, they see two robbers lying in the way, and along with them a great number of robbers, who were their associates, sleeping.  Now those two robbers, into whose hands they had fallen, were Titus and Dumachus.  Titus therefore said to Dumachus: I beseech thee to let these persons go freely, and so that our comrades may not see them.  And as Dumachus refused, Titus said to him again: Take to thyself forty drachmas from me, and hold this as a pledge.  At the same time he held out to him the belt which he had about his waist, to keep him from opening his mouth or speaking.  And the Lady Mary, seeing that the robber had done them a kindness, said to him: The Lord God will sustain thee by His right hand, and will grant thee remission of thy sins.  And the Lord Jesus answered, and said to His mother: Thirty years hence, O my mother, the Jews will crucify me at Jerusalem, and these two robbers will be raised upon the cross along with me, Titus on my right hand and Dumachus on my left; and after that day Titus shall go before me into Paradise.  And she said: God keep this from thee, my son.  And they went thence towards a city of idols, which, as they came near it, was changed into sand-hills.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

In a beautiful and solemn liturgy, tonight our parish will begin the Sacred Triduum.  

Holy Thursday is the day on which we recall the Lord's Last Supper, the institution of the Priesthood, the institution of the Eucharist, and the "Mandatum" - the command to wash one another's feet.  Jesus celebrated the Last Supper as part of the Passover (or Seder) Meal which commemorates the escape of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  It was during this supper that Jesus offers Himself as THE Paschal Lamb - the Paschal Sacrifice.  Every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ's authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ's farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny Him before the sun rose again.

The Holy Thursday liturgy, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown, also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, or washing in Jesus' washing the feet of His disciples, and in the priest's stripping and washing the feet of some of his parishioners (in our case, the Knights of the Holy Temple). Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.

The action of the Church on this night also witnesses to the Church's esteem for Christ's Body present in the consecrated Host in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, carried in solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, where it will remained 'entombed' until the celebration of the Night Prayer of the Church.  The people were invited to come and spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.

Also during this Mass, the Oils which were consecrated by Bishop McFadden during the Chrism Mass on Monday will be officially presented in the parish.  Marge Kiersz (who is one of our Extraordinary Ministers who takes Communion to the sick and homebound each Sunday) first carried in the Oil of the Sick.  Then Brooke Mendyka, one of our Catechumens (one who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil) brought in the Oil of Catechumens.  Finally, one of our Confirmation Students, Laura Clement, carried in the Sacred Chrism which will be used to anoint the faithful during the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral, Leonardo's ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century, and the reminiscence called Holy Thursday, by the French novelist, Franasois Mauriac, written in the 1930s. 

Tomorrow our liturgical mind will shift to the Crucifixion of Christ.  The schedule for the day: Morning Prayer at 8am; the Office of Readings at 11:30; the Stations of the Cross at 12noon; showing of the film The Passion of the Christ at 1pm; and the solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 7pm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Spy Wednesday"

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
"What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?"
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
"Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?"
He said,
"Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
'The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."'"
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
"Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
"Surely it is not I, Lord?"
He said in reply,
"He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"
He answered, "You have said so."

Today's Gospel reading preludes the betrayal of Judas.  How appropriate then is the sometimes used phrase of, "Spy Wednesday," for this period before our celebration of the Sacred Triduum.  The events that lead Jesus to the cross are filled with intrigue, suspense and an impending sense of disaster.

Clearly, the powers of good and evil, light and darkness, sin and salvation are poised to exhibit themselves at the place we call Golgotha.  The Joannine account of Jesus betrayal seems to show Jesus' deep understanding of His role as the Messianic fulfillment.  Judas in his interrogatory and somewhat cynical half statement of,"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" provides the catalyst for the process of darkness to unravel.  What is so significant about this, "Spy Wednesday" is that it theologically reflects the daily struggles we all endure in order to accept a relationship with the Lord.

To live the life that Jesus intended for us is a perpetual struggle on a daily basis with good and evil.  Sometimes when we are questioned about our transgressions, we, sometimes answer back.  "It's not me Lord."  But the tranquility of Jesus' realization of His mission provides us with hope in the days to come.  Rather than provide a discourse to the Twelve, Jesus calmly recalls the Old Testament references to Him and even shares a piece of food with Judas, simultaneously dipping a morsel into the bowl.  We should remember that the act of sharing a meal with others is a deeply rooted Semite notion of intimacy and close relationship.  Jesus is sharing the meal, not with strangers, but with intimate friends.

Often, we dip morsels and share food with those we love; we feign intimacy and even deceive one another.  Jesus is not blind to the events that are revealing themselves as a result of Judas' clandestine negotiations. Judas has turned on Jesus' friendship and love.  We too in our lives are sometimes turned against Jesus' love through sinful and unloving activities.  There is a real message here in Jesus' tranquil resignation to the events that are coming.  Faith in the love and power of the Father.

As believers in the power of God's love and goodness, Spy Wednesday, should provide a period for reflection and introspective prayer.  We need to examine our lives and look for the moments that we have falsely shared intimacy with our brothers and sisters in faith.  More precisely, contemplate of lack of true, "communio" in our lives.  With Judas' false interrogatory response to Jesus, he reveals his true self.  Betrayer.  Jesus sees right through Judas' false piety and friendship.  Jesus sees right through our own appearances when we falsely present ourselves as holy and faithful followers.  Our frail human spirit reflects in our sinful acts and lack of faith. 

Jesus recognizes this and offers new hope to Judas and us.  The "morsel" which Jesus offers to Judas is an offering of friendship and love.  Some biblical scholars have even indicated that the "morsel" is symbolic of Jesus' Eucharistic manifestation.  Judas does not partake of the meal with Jesus, but he was invited just the same.  There is a sense that Jesus recognizes Judas' confrontation with the powers of evil.  Jesus does not admonish him or chastise him, but permits Judas to engage in this struggle and reveal the implications of his actions and unfaithfulness.  There is hope for conversion.  There is hope for grace.  There is hope in Jesus' acceptance of the Father's plan.  There is hope for Easter glory.

As preparations begin for the Church's celebration of our New Passover, this Wednesday before the Triduum invites all of us to share in, "Holy Wednesday", not to pursue darkness and evil, but progress on the path of light and life.  The Church in its wisdom sees this period of "Holy Wednesday" as a time for personal preparation.  Unlike Judas, our preparations should be motivated by the promise of new life in the Paschal Mystery and not a rejection of the "morsel" which Jesus offers to us in friendship and love.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pregnancy Ministry Fundraiser - Judy's 1.5 Mile Challenge is Today

By Stephanie Harbaugh
Waynesboro, Pa. —White balloons will line Vista Drive Thursday, April 14, as students from the St. Andrew School running club participate in Judy’s Challenge, a 1.5-mile run dedicated to raising funds for Waynesboro’s Pregnancy Ministries Inc. on behalf of the late Judy Clement and her family.

The run is to begin at 3:30 p.m. on the front lawn of St. Andrew Catholic Church on East Main Street and will take runners past the Clement home on Vista Court to show respect and support for the family.

Clement, the 45-year-old mother of nine, died after her van was hit by a speeding car early on March 17 at the intersection of West Main and Grant streets.

Original idea

Back in February, the 75 students involved with the St. Andrew running club wanted to create a challenge run to promote healthful living. After Clement’s death in March, the runners decided to make it fundraiser for PMI on behalf of Clement and her family.

“This is going to be a fundraiser, a drive to bring awareness to something that Judy was very passionate about — and that was the Pregnancy Resource Center here in Waynesboro,” said Chris Manning, leader of the St. Andrew student running club.

The Challenge

The big challenge of the 1.5-mile run will be the steep hill on Vista Drive behind Waynesboro Hospital.

“We wanted to run by the Clements’ house to show them that the St. Andrew’s entity supports them,” said Manning. The family has belonged to St. Andrew Catholic Church since 1998.

The challenge run, which was originally only for students in the running club and their families, has expanded greatly.

“This is getting so big,”  Manning said.

Members of the local Catholic community from St. Andrew and St. Rita’s in Blue Ridge Summit, including their priests, are coming together for the fundraiser and members of CFAR, Waynesboro’s local running group Community, Fitness, Fun and Running, also are involved.

CFAR has been crucial in providing guidance and advice on how best to build the event, said Manning.

Manning also indicated that the Clement children who still live at home will also be participating.

Students and other participants are encouraged to bring $1 or more to donate to PMI. Initially, Manning was hoping to raise a few hundred dollars for PMI, but since the event is expanding her goal is closer to $1,000.

Helping a good cause

“We are so proud of these young people for their willingness to do something so special in the name of Judy and for the cause of life,” said Beverly Hannah, director of the Pregnancy Resource Center in Waynesboro.

Just a month ago, PMI in Waynesboro was in dire need of donations to keep its doors open.

“Donations are fewer and there’s less coming in,” Hannah told the Record Herald at the time. “This has caused the board to take a hard look at finances and there’s the possibility of closing the center.”

The scenario has changed in the last month, with the center receiving about $10,000, including almost $7,000 given in Clement’s memory.

“The ladies at the pregnancy center knew Judy very well because she was passionate about her faith and this ministry because it supports the ideals of the Catholic Church,” Manning said.

Haydee Middour and Penny Marks from PMI will be at the event handing out baked cookies and greeting the public.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The 5th Sunday of Lent - the Raising of Lazarus

Of all the miracles Jesus did, the raising of Lazarus ranks as the most astonishing to the people of his time.  Traditional Jewish belief had it that the soul of a dead person somehow remains with the body for three days.  After three days the soul departs finally from the body never to return, and that is when corruption sets in.  When Martha objects to the opening of the tomb and says, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days” (John 11:39), she is expressing the common view that this is now a hopeless situation.  Is that why Jesus delayed coming to the funeral, to let the situation become “impossible” before acting on it?  G.K. Chesterton once said, “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.”  In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back to life a person who is already four days dead and decaying is as unthinkable as the prophet Ezekiel’s vision in which the grey, dry bones of the dead are miraculously restored to life.

For the early Christians the story of the raising of Lazarus was more than a pointer to the resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus rose on the third day; his body never saw corruption.  For them this miracle is a challenge to never give up hope even in the hopeless situations in which they found themselves as individuals, as a church or as a nation.  It is never too late for God to revive and revitalize a person, a church or a nation.  But first we must learn to cooperate with God.  This is why the raising of Lazarus is such an important part of the RCIA process - and this 3rd Scrutiny for the Elect.  These adults have been preparing for months (if not for years) - and now, as the day of the Baptism approaches - they are reminded of how God desires to revive and revitalize them through the waters of Baptism.

The question for them, and for all of us, is: How can we cooperate with God so as to experience God’s resurrection power in our lives and in our world?  Well, everyone knows the answer already: faith.  But that is not the point that John makes in this story.  In fact there is no one in the story, not even Mary or Martha, who believed that Jesus could bring Lazarus back to life after four days dead.  No one expected him to do it, so expectant faith is not the emphasis here.  Rather the emphasis in the story on how we cooperate with a miracle-working God is placed on practical obedience and doing God’s will.

To effect the miracle, Jesus issues three commands and all of them are obeyed to the letter.  That is how the miracle happens.  First, “Jesus said, ‘Roll away the stone.’ … So they rolled away the stone” (verses 39-41).  Did the people understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the tombstone to expose a stinking corpse?  You bet they didn’t.  But it was their faith in Jesus expressing itself not through intellectual agreement with Jesus but through practical agreement with him, through obedience.  Why didn’t Jesus command the stone to roll away all by itself, without bothering the people?  We don’t quite know.  All we know is that divine power seems always to be activated by human cooperation and stifled by non-cooperation.  As C.S. Lewis said, “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures.”  God will not do by a miracle what we can do by obedience.

The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: “‘Lazarus, come out!’ and the dead man came out” (verses 43-44).  We do not know the details of what transpired in the tomb.  All we know is that Jesus’ word of command is followed by immediate obedience.  Lazarus gropes his way out of the dark tomb even with his hands and feet tied up in bandages, and his face all wrapped up.  Even a man rotting away in the tomb can still do something to help himself.

The third command again is addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (verse 44).  Even though Lazarus could stumble himself out of the tomb, there was no way he could unbind himself.  He needs the community to do that for him.  By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death bands the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them.

Many Christian individuals and communities today have fallen victim to the death of sin.  Many are already in the tomb of hopelessness and decay, in the bondage of sinful habits and attitudes.  Nothing short of a miracle can bring us back to life in Christ.  Jesus is ready for the miracle.  He himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Are we ready to cooperate with him for the miracle.  Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face?  Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death?  Are we ready to unbind (i.e. forgive) one another and let them go free?  These are the various ways we cooperate with God in the miracle of bringing us back to life and reviving us as individuals, as a church, and a nation.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Students to be Confirmed at Corpus Christi Parish

When were you confirmed?  Do you remember the ceremony?  I was a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Good Shepherd Church in Camp Hill.  Today, the 8th graders from our parish will be confirmed by Bishop McFadden at Corpus Christi Parish in Chambersburg.  For us in the Diocese of Harrisburg, 8th grade is the normal age for Confirmation - but it's not that way everywhere - just to the west of us in PA, the age for Confirmation is 2nd grade (although they are changing this) - just a little closer, in Altoona Johnstown, the age is 10th or 11th grade.  We've gotten used to seeing Confirmed during the Easter Vigil as they become members of the Catholic Church.  We might be surprised to know that in most Easter Catholic Rites, infants are Confirmed at Baptism.  

The sacrament of Confirmation gives the Holy Spirit; but with so many different ways in which Confirmation is celebrated, we might well ask why the wide variety.  What is Confirmation?  Is it a sacrament of "Christian maturity" when given to infants?  How does it make children "soldiers of Christ"?  Is the Spirit given at Confirmation somehow "different" from the Holy Spirit given at Baptism?  Are these even the right questions to ask?

Sacrament of initiation
The best way to understand Confirmation is to see it standing between Baptism and Eucharist as part of the Rites of Christian Initiation.  This is the approach taken by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which treats Confirmation under the heading "Sacraments of Christian Initiation," and insists that the unity of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist "must be safeguarded." 

For those Catholics who are not accustomed to thinking of Confirmation, together with Baptism and Eucharist, as part of the initiation process, perhaps this analogy will be helpful: What do we do when invited out to eat?  In most cases there would be three steps: When the time comes (1) we take off our old clothes and wash up by taking a shower or bath.  Then (2) we dry off and put on our good clothes.  Finally (3) we go to the place where we have been invited and there we join with our friends to talk, eat, drink, celebrate.

Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist exist in a similar relationship: In Baptism (1) we take off the old, sinful person and wash away Original Sin.  In Confirmation (2) we are anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit and filled with his sevenfold gifts.  Finally, (3) we are led to the Eucharistic banquet. 

Confirmation is like the "drying off" part of the above analogy.  To understand this analogy, it is helpful to remember that our liturgical ceremonies for initiation are influenced by Roman customs at the time our rites were being formed.  In second-century Rome, after bathing, people rubbed their bodies with oil to moisturize the skin and dry off.  Similarly, the bath of Baptism was followed by an anointing: Confirmation. 

In early Church documents we do not find much written about Confirmation because it was considered part of Baptism.  In these documents the authors, when writing about Baptism, often meant both Baptism and Confirmation, both the water bath and the anointing with oil.  Likewise today, if I said, "I am going to take a bath," I would mean both the "washing" and the "drying off." 

Another aspect of this "bath" analogy might be helpful in understanding Confirmation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When we take a bath, we get clean by washing off the dirt. We can speak of "getting clean" and we can speak of "washing off dirt" but, in fact, removing "dirtiness" and receiving "cleanness" go together.  In the Sacraments of Initiation, we wash away Original Sin and receive the Holy Spirit.  Taking away sin, and being filled with the grace (presence) of the Holy Spirit, are something like the "washing off" and "getting clean."  The two actions go together and are understood in relation to each other. 

We can call one action Baptism and the other Confirmation. We can even celebrate them at two different times in a person's faith journey, but to understand them correctly we must view them together.  It is one and the same Holy Spirit celebrated at Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. 

Each sacrament is both sign and words.  To understand Confirmation, the Sacrament of the Spirit, we examine the words that accompany the anointing and compare them with the prayers which speak of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Eucharist.
Confirmation and the Holy Spirit
At Baptism, we hear of the role of the Holy Spirit in the prayer over the baptismal water:
Father, look now with love on your Church,
and unseal for her the fountain of baptism.
By the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font
the grace of your Son...
cleanse [those to be baptized] from sin in a new birth of innocence
by water and the Spirit.

(Roman Sacramentary)
At Confirmation, we learn the implications of this new life in the Holy Spirit:
All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit
you freed your sons and daughters from sin
And gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of [1] wisdom and [2] understanding,
the spirit of [3] right judgment and [4] courage,
the spirit of [5] knowledge and [6] reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of [7] wonder and awe in your presence.

(Rite of Confirmation)
This prayer names the traditional "Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit." The biblical origin of these seven gifts is found in Isaiah (11:1-3) where he is foretelling the qualities of the Messiah.
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

[The ancient Greek and Latin translations of this passage read "piety" for "fear of the Lord" in line six; this gives us our traditional seven gifts.]
These seven gifts are the signs that the Messiah will be guided by the Spirit.  The relation of these gifts to the sacrament of Confirmation becomes clear when we remember that the word "Messiah" (Christos in Greek) means "anointed."  Jesus was "anointed," filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism.  At Confirmation we are anointed with the Holy Spirit.  Throughout the Gospels we see how these seven gifts form Jesus' personality.  They are characteristic of his activity.  Consider the wisdom expressed in his parables; his understanding of the poor and the sick; his right judgment when tested by the Pharisees; his courage to continue the journey to Jerusalem where he surmised what fate awaited him; his knowledge of God's will; his reverence for his heavenly Father; his awe before the wonders of creation—the lilies of the field, the birds of the air....  The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are the manifestation of the Divine Power active in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

In Baptism, our sins are washed away and we come up from the water bath to be clothed in a new garment.  Putting on the baptismal garment is a visible symbol of the invisible reality of "putting on Christ."  When we are anointed with oil in Confirmation, it is a visible symbol of the invisible reality of being anointed with the Spirit, being "Christ-ed" or "messiah-ed."  We put on Christ, and the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit become our gifts.  We pray that the qualities of the Messiah take root in us and become our qualities so that we may become signs of God's presence in the world. 

At the actual anointing during Confirmation we hear the words: "(Name), be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit."  Here the gift referred to is the Holy Spirit himself.  We are sealed with the gift of (that is, the gift which is) the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God's "first gift to those who believe" (Eucharistic Prayer IV).
Confirmation leads to Eucharist
"The Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation" (Catechism).  With our sins washed away and clothed in the Spirit, we are led to the banquet table of the Eucharist.  The Eucharistic Prayers given us following Vatican II express the role of the Holy Spirit even more clearly than the traditional Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I).  Although the words vary according to the prayer, at each Eucharist we ask God: "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and the blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ... [so that] ... all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ may be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit" (Eucharistic Prayer II). 

At each Eucharist we ask the Holy Spirit to do two things: first, to change the bread and wine into the sacred Body and Blood of Christ; and, second, to change us—those who eat and drink the sacred bread and wine—into the sacred Body and Blood of Christ.  The saying, "You are what you eat," certainly holds true here.  As St. Augustine reminded his fourth-century audience: "If then you are the body of Christ and his members, it is your sacrament that reposes on the altar of the Lord....  Be what you see and receive what you are" and "There you are on the table, and there you are in the chalice."

As Catholics, we are proud of our tradition of reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ, which by faith we perceive really present in the action of the Spirit changing the bread and wine.  This same Spirit challenges us to the often more difficult reverence for the Body of Christ which, by faith, we perceive really present in the action of the Spirit who changes our faith community.  "Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ" (Eucharistic Prayer III). 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2nd Scrutiny - the Man born Blind

St. Andrew's Catechumens and Candidates at the Rite of Election on the 1st Sunday of Lent 2011
In St. John's Gospel, there is the account of the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41).  It is the sixth of the seven signs recounted by St. John that announce the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in the New Covenant and the passing away of the old rites, replaced by the grace and sacraments of Jesus Christ.  It is also the 2nd of three passages from St. John's Gospel associated with the Scrutinies undergone by the Elect (those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass) in the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  The three passages are:  
  • First Scrutiny – I Am the Living Water: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4:5-42)
  • Second Scrutiny – I Am the Light of the World: Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41)
  • Third Scrutiny – I Am the Resurrection and the Life: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead (John 11:1-45)
The Church teaches that “the scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good.”  While the Scrutinies are for the elect, these passages from the Gospel are also helpful for all Christians as we seek to deepen our relationship with the Lord.  

Jesus Christ - The Light of the World  

In the very opening of his Gospel, St. John announces in the prologue that a light has come into the world shrouded in darkness:  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.  But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God.  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
This is the proclamation of the coming of the Messiah whose announcement by the Archangel Grabriel to Mary we celebrated recently on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  St. John develops the theme of Light and Darkness in chapters 9 and 10 of his Gospel.  

Jesus tells us in John 9:5 that he is the Light of the World.  Let us discover what the Church teaches us in this passage.  

Spiritual Blindness  

A literal reading of this event tells us that a man who was physically blind from birth was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath.  The authorities focus on the fact that Jesus performed this healing on the Sabbath and accuse Him of not "keeping the Sabbath" – therefore accusing Him of sin and asserting that He cannot be sent from God.  In their misunderstanding of the law and in their pride that made them fearful of losing their influence over the people, they remained closed to the work and presence of God in their midst.  In this way, they too were blind – spiritually blind.  

But if we read carefully, we will see that it was not only the authorities who were blinded by pride and ignorance.  Others were blind as a result of their own circumstances and beliefs, even good people such as the apostles.  This should serve as a warning to us today to be on guard against pride, ignorance and sin in our own lives and to be prepared, by the grace of God, to recognize it, root it out and leave it behind.  We can see at least four groups of people who are blind, in some fashion, in this story:  
  • The apostles
  • The Man Born
  • The Parents of the Man Born Blind
  • The Pharisees
1.  The Apostles  
As the recounting of the event begins, we read that the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for an extended time, they clung to the common belief of the day that some particular personal sin was the cause of this man's physical blindness.  Some Jews would have thought that the man was guilty of some personal sin committed before birth, while others might have believed his blindness was due to the personal sin of his parents or other ancestors.  The question raised by the apostles suggests they believed the same or possibly that the blindness was in anticipation of some sin of the man committed after he was born.  Jesus does not answer their question in general, but does answer in regards to this particular man, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”  

While it is true and death and suffering in the world are the result of sin, both Original and personal, we must remember that even the righteous suffer.  This is clearly taught in the Old Testamet story of Job.  

2. The Man Born Blind  
Here was a man born blind for the glory of God.  That his physical suffering prepared him to be open to receive the Light of Christ is apparent.  We will see his stages of conversion in just a moment and see how his response can guide each of us in our day.  

3. The Parents  
At first, the authorities doubted that the man was actually blind prior to his "healing".  So they called in the man's parents to receive their testimony.  His parents were afraid of being expelled from the temple, so in their fear would only attest to his blindness from birth; they would not acknowledge his healing as God's work, but instead told the authorities to ask their son themselves.  

4. The Pharisees  
As said above, these men were puffed up in pride and were also afraid of losing their position and influence, so they refused to see the obvious – as such, they were the truly blind.  

What We Can Learn  

The true light has come into the world and He is Jesus.   We receive this light that enlightens mankind when we are baptized.  At baptism, we promise to live in the light and give testimony to Him.  But, we must not be prideful in this fact; we must honor and be faithful to our baptismal promises.  Nor must we be afraid of doing so.  It is at our baptism that our conversion began.  If we were baptized as infants, there came a time when we had acquired the use of reason when we needed to take on personally this act of conversion and surrender to the Lord.  But as we should know, just as their are stages of conversion leading to that acceptance of Christ, the conversion continues until the time of our death.  And there will be times when we want to cling to the ways of the world and the pressure of our peers.  We will be tempted in pride to assert that we know better than God and to do it "our way".  There will be times when we are afraid – afraid of losing acclaim, acceptance, wealth, prestige, and even what we mistake for love – and we will be tempted to reject the Light of the World.   The message of the world is loud and persistent, and if we let it, the message can be persuasive.  We will be tempted to deny the obvious – the one thing we do know with certainty – and to accept the lies of the evil one.  Let's look at the example of the man born blind for guidance.  

As the man born blind was cured of his physical blindness, he also underwent a healing of his spiritual blindness.  We can see this in how he progressively refers to Jesus, first as "the man called Jesus" in verse 11, then "he is a prophet" in verse 17, then as "from God" in verse 33 and finally when he said, "I do believe, Lord" and worshiped Christ in verse 38.  Because this man was open to the truth, the darkness gave way to the Light and his spiritual blindness was healed also.  Throughout our own days, we too are called to this ever deepening relationship with the Lord, even beyond the point of calling Him Lord and worshiping Him.   This conversion must continue to deepen so that our communion with Him will deepen and we will attain our supernatural end.  

The irony of the confrontation between the man and the Pharisees is shared by us in our daily confrontation with the world and our own temptations.   This man who was supposedly an inferior of the Pharisees was the more enlightened of the two.   And we Christians who are not of the world, but are nonetheless in the world, are to be the more enlightened of the two also.  The Pharisees absurdly demanded that this man deny the one thing of which he was certain – that he had been born blind that that the Lord had restored to him his sight; they demanded that he accept their spiritual blindness as truth and embrace darkness as light.  We can look to our own encounters with the world and see the times when we are asked to deny the one thing that we know with certainty – the love and grace of Christ our Savior – and instead we are asked to embrace the sin that this world demands that we mistakenly see as enlightenment.  Absurd! Really!  Could anything be more absurd than to give up eternal happiness and blessedness for a destructive pleasure and a lie? 

May we ever cling to the Light that banishes the darkness which is all around us. When the world, in its own language, twists the meaning of the words of the man whose sight was restored and asks us, "Do you want to become his disciple, too?"... let us shout, unafraid and in loving faithfulness, "We do and we are!"