Monday, April 16, 2007

God Gives Freedom, He Does Not Take It From Us

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Homily at the Mass for Detainees at the Penal Institute for Minors

Casal del Marmo, Rome
March 18, 2007

You may well ask, how difficult can it be to love, or to live well? What is the secret of love, the secret of life? Let's turn back to the Gospel we just heard. There are three characters in this Gospel -- a father and his two sons. Both sons live in peace, both are farmers who are well off, they sell their crop well, and life seems good.

Nevertheless, the younger son gradually finds this life boring and unsatisfactory. This can't be all there is to life, he tells himself: getting up every day, maybe at 6 a.m., and then following the Jewish tradition, a prayer and a reading of the Holy Bible, and then, to work, and at the end of the day, another prayer. And so, day after day, he thinks, "But there has to be more in life, I should go out and find some other life where I can be really free, where I can do whatever I please -- a life that will be free of this discipline, these standards set by the commandments of God, or by my father's orders. I'd like to be by myself, for a change, and have a life that is totally just for me, with all its pleasures. Because now, all I have is work."

And so he decides to get all the patrimony due him and to leave home. The father is very respectful and generous, and respects his son's freedom -- he lets him find for himself his own plan for life.

So the son goes, according to the Gospel, to a faraway place. Geographically far, probably, because he wants a change, but also internally, because he wants a completely different life. His idea of that life is freedom -- doing whatever he wishes, not to have to live by the standards of a remote God, to do everything that seems beautiful to him, what pleases him, to enjoy life in all its richness and fullness.

In fact, for a time -- possibly for several months -- everything seemed to go his way. He was happy he was finally able to “live,” he felt happy. And then gradually, he started to feel bored. It was the same thing all over, which in the end remains a void that is ever more disquieting. He feels increasingly that this still is not “the life,” that even going forward with all these new things, life seemed even farther away.

Everything becomes empty, and even now, he feels once again the slavery of routine. And ultimately, his money is gone, and he finds out that he has been reduced to a state of life even worse than pigs in their sty. So he starts to reflect, asking himself whether the way to living fully was through freedom, in the sense of doing whatever I want, to live just for myself. Or was it better to live for others, contribute to building a better world, to the growth of the human community.

So he embarks on a new road, an internal journey. The young man reflects and considers all these new aspects of the problem and begins to see that he was much more free at home -- as a proprietor himself, he could contribute to the well-being of his own family and of society, in communion with the Creator. He begins to recognize the purpose of his life, seeing the plan that God has for him.

In this interior journey, in the maturation of a new plan for life, the young man then sets out on the exterior journey, to go back home, to start his life anew. Because now he understands that he took the wrong track. I must start anew with a completely different idea, he tells himself.

And he arrives at the house of his father, who had given him the freedom to go, to give him the possibility of learning what it means to live and how not to live. The father, with all his love, embraces him, offers him a feast, and life can start again with this feast.

The son now understands that it is work, humility, the discipline of every day, that create true feasting and true freedom. And so he has come back home, matured and purified within. He has learned what it means to live. Certainly, his life was not always going to be easy, the temptations would return, but at least, he is now aware that a life without God does not work -- it lacks essence, it lacks light, it lacks the why, the great sense of human existence. He has understood that we can only understand God on the basis of His own words. We Christians may add that we know God in Jesus, who has shown us the face of God.

The young man understands now that the commandments of God are not an obstacle to freedom and the good life, but they are pointers for the road one must take in order to find true life. He understands that even work, discipline, commitment to others instead of only to oneself, broadens our life. Because this very commitment to work, to do what we have to do, gives depth to our life -- it makes us feel ultimately the satisfaction of having helped to make this world better, more free and more beautiful.

I will not now talk about the other son who remained at home, but in his envious reaction, we see that perhaps interiorly, he too had felt it might have been better to leave home and take all the liberties he wants to. But he, too, in his interior homecoming -- he had been out in the fields working -- would have understood that one can truly live only with God, with His Word, in communion with one's own family, in communion with others, in the great Family of God. . . .

The Gospel helps us to understand who God truly is: He is the merciful Father who, in Jesus, loves us beyond all measure. The errors we make, no matter how big, do not erode the faithfulness of His love. In the sacrament of confession, we can always start life anew -- He welcomes us always, He restores dignity to his children. So let us rediscover this sacrament of forgiveness which makes joy gush forth from a heart that is reborn into the true life.

This parable also makes us understand what man is: he is not a “monad,” an isolated entity that lives for himself alone and could have a life all by himself and all to himself. On the contrary, we live with others, we were created together with all others, and only in being with others, in giving ourselves to each other, can we find true life.

Man is a creature on which God has stamped His own image, a creature who is drawn into the horizon of His grace. But even if he is also a fragile creature, exposed to evil, he is still capable of doing good.

Finally, man is a free being. But we have to understand what is freedom, and what is simply the appearance of freedom. We could say that freedom is like a trampoline to launch us towards the infinite sea of divine goodness. But it can also be a slippery slope down which we can easily plunge toward the abyss of sin and evil, and thus lose both our freedom and our dignity.

[During Lent], the Church helps us to make our interior journeys and invites us to repentance which, before it is seen as an effort that is always important in order to change our behavior, should be considered an opportunity to decide to get up and begin anew, abandoning sin and choosing to return to God. . . . Every time, like today, that we participate in the Eucharist -- source and school of love -- we become capable of living this love, of announcing it and of being witness to it in our own life. But we must decide to go towards Christ, just as the prodigal son went back, interiorly and exteriorly, to his father. At the same time, we must avoid the selfish attitude of the older son, so sure of himself, so ready to condemn others, and who closes his heart to understanding, welcoming and forgiving his younger brother, forgetting that he too is in need of pardon.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

True Freedom Entails Saying "Yes" to God

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

-- Genesis 3:1-7

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2005

What picture does this passage show us? The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast Him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom. The human being lives in the suspicion that God's love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself.

Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God. He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God's level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

However, love is not dependence, but a gift that makes us live. The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom: only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop. We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God's will. For God's will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.

If we live in opposition to love and against the truth -- in opposition to God -- then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life, but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis. We call this drop of poison "original sin."

Precisely on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say "no," to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one's own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves. In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. * * * We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.

If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them. This is something we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: the person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring "yes man"; he does not lose his freedom.

Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good. The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God's hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.

Freedom is Contingent Upon Truth

Freedom, in its true sense, is the power to do what one ought to do, not necessarily what one wants to do. That is, true freedom is the ability to do what is right, and not the ability to do as one pleases. This is because one ought to do good, and what is good and right is that which is consistent with truth. And to do that which is inconsistent with truth is not freedom, but is instead being confined and controlled by error. Error causes disorder and leads to more error. True freedom is necessarily limited, in that it is inalienable, that is, it cannot be given away. If freedom were able to be given away, if one was free to be unfree and able to choose to be a slave, he obviously would no longer be free or in a state of freedom. The consequence of sin is that, by embracing a false and counterfeit “freedom,” we necessarily become a slave to error, even if we erroneously continue to insist that we are still free.

True freedom exists only in order, not disorder. A choice or act is freely made only when it is made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, with an understanding of the consequences of that choice or act. If one cannot, because of external factors or because of a defective internal conscience, recognize what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, then one cannot make an informed and intelligent choice. In short, one cannot be truly free. Error does not lead to truth, it leads to further error and ignorance of truth. Indeed, as Aristotle pointed out, a slight error in the beginning, if not corrected, leads to a great error in the end. Consequently, making erroneous choices, choosing to do that which is wrong, which is contrary to truth and order, distorts one's ability to further recognize truth and good over that which is false and evil and consequently detracts from our freedom.

Freedom is necessarily dependent and contingent upon truth. Thus, it is necessarily limited by truth, including moral truth. Such that the ability to engage in something contrary to truth, as one might want to do, is not freedom at all. For example, it has been said that a man is free to put water in his car's gasoline tank, but that man is no longer free to drive -- he is now a pedestrian.

Thus, we see that there is no true conflict between human freedom and God's law. The true end of human freedom is growth as a mature person into how each is created by God. The natural law governing human behavior is not opposed to human freedom, but rather "it protects and promotes that freedom." It is only in innocence and higher truth that one can be free, and eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge does not free us, it does not make things clearer, it does not make us like gods, empowered to choose and determine what is right and what is wrong; it only enslaves us to error and sin.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Free Choice of the Will

Contrary to the insistence of agnostic and atheistic determinists, as well as strict pre-destinationists, the Church recognizes and teaches that human persons have the power of free choice of the will.

“Free will” is the metaphysical truth of independent agency and elective power, including the ability to exercise autonomous and rational control over one’s decisions, thoughts, and actions. The existence of free will means that the actions of the body, including the brain and the mind, are not wholly determined by physical causality, that one’s thoughts somehow go beyond and transcend the physical body, suggesting the existence of an extra-corporeal aspect to the person, which we call the spirit or soul. It is because we are both body and spirit that we are able to transcend and overcome the mere biological electro-chemical reactions in the brain.

The human brain is like a computer. A computer operates strictly according to its software programming and the efficacy of its hardware. So long as there is no physical damage or defect, the computer will only do what its program dictates, without any deviation whatsoever. The actions of the computer are totally pre-determined by its programming. Likewise, the human brain operates according to its own hardware and software, by electro-chemical impulses along synapses, which interact with memory that has been created by certain chemical markers on the brain tissue. However, human persons are possessed with more than a body and computer-like brain.

Our Faith, revelation and reason, informs us that we are also possessed with a soul, and this spiritual component of our being is able to rise above and go beyond the merely material and physical, including the physical laws of cause and effect. As a result, we are able to make independent decisions with respect to actions taken. We lift our hand and move our fingers because we consciously choose to do so of our own volition, not because of some pre-programmed biological memory and electro-chemical reactions in the brain, and not because God has pulled a puppet string. We are made in the image of God, and therefore possess to a certain degree that same power of the Logos, that is, we have a certain power of creative reason, which transcends and overrides the physical brain and permits independent thought and agency. Now, we do not have the power of the Logos to create reality itself, much less a reality which is contrary to Truth, but we do have the limited power of creative reason to form our own thoughts and act upon a free choice of the will. That is, to break the chain of purely material cause and effect and create a completely new and independent cause.

Freedom belongs to the basic structure of creation, to the spiritual existence of man. We are not just laid out and determined according to a particular model. Freedom is there so that each one of us can shape his own life and, along with his own inner self, can in the end follow the path that best corresponds to his essential being.

-- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God and the World

Friday, April 13, 2007

Is Everything Pre-Determined Such That We Are Merely Pawns?

For those who believe in God, the idea of the existence of free will is rather simple to believe in. We have the evidence of its existence in our daily experiences of making choices in thought and action. But the person who does not believe in God, or who rejects the idea of God altogether -- along with the idea that human persons possess a soul, a spirit from God -- both the agnostic and atheist have a dilemma to overcome with respect to the supposed existence of free will. If they persist in their unbelief, then many necessarily must logically conclude that "free will" and "self-determination" do not really exist, indeed, "thought" does not really exist, they are simply illusions that we think that we are experiencing.

That is because the physical world is governed by certain fixed and uniform physical laws, as well as the law of cause and effect, and if God does not exist, that is, if a cause above and independent of the physical universe does not exist, then all effects are necessarily caused, or determined, by some prior pre-existing physical event or condition, just like dominoes falling according to their initial set-up and the falling of the first domino. In the case of a human being, he does not have a soul, but is merely a body, a biological entity whose apparent "independent thoughts" are nothing more than electro-chemical impulses interacting with chemical markers that have been laid down in brain tissue, and which we know as memory, with both those impulses and markers being themselves pre-determined by other purely physical causes.

Determinism, then, is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Determinism may also be defined as the thesis that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future. Determinists believe that the level to which human beings have influence over their future is itself dependent on present and past. Thus, most determinists believe that “free will” is merely an illusion, a mere feeling of independent agency. And if are thoughts and actions are all pre-determined and we have no personal power to think and do otherwise, then they are not really our own thoughts and actions, and we cannot justly be held morally responsible for them.

“Causal determinism” is the thesis that future events are necessitated by past and present events combined with the laws of nature, that is, the universe is nothing more than a chain of events following one after another according to the law of cause and effect. Causal determinism is associated with, and relies upon, the ideas of causality and materialism. Causality always implies at least some relationship of dependency between the cause and the effect. Causal determinism as been associated with Newtonian physics, which depicts the physical matter of the universe as operating according to a set of fixed, knowable laws. For example, Newton's first law, the law of inertia, states that "an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force, while an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force." The "billiard ball" hypothesis, a product of Newtonian physics, argues that once the initial conditions of the universe have been established the rest of the history of the universe follows inevitably.

“Biological determinism” is the idea that all behavior, belief, and desire are fixed by our genetic endowment. There are other similar ideas of determinism, including cultural determinism and psychological determinism.

“Theological determinism” is the thesis that there is a God, but He determines all that humans will do by decreeing their actions in advance. The problem of free will, in this context, is the problem of how our actions can be free, if there is a being who has determined them for us ahead of time, that is, if He has predestined us to a particular outcome. Ultimately, such thought often leads to the idea of "God as puppet master," with human beings being the puppets.

Fatalism, as a philosophy, does not refer to the idea that "we are all going to die," but instead refers to the idea of "fate." That is, in the philosophical sense, fatalism is the idea that all events are subject to fate or inevitable pre-determination. Such fatalism can refer to at least one of three interrelated ideas: (1) There is no free will, and everything including human actions, could only have happened as it did. This version of fatalism is very similar to determinism. (2) Although human actions are free, they are nonetheless ineffectual in determining events, because "whatever will be will be." This version of fatalism is very similar to predestination. Whereas determinists think the future is fixed because of causality, predestinarian fatalists think it is fixed in spite of causality. (3) An attitude of inaction and passive acceptance, rather than striving, is appropriate. This version of fatalism is very similar to defeatism.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Existence of Free Will

Having considered the question of Truth, and the position of the various relativists who insist that freedom and autonomy are the greatest goods, greater even than truth itself, a position which echos the serpent and the sin of Adam and Eve, who wanted to be free to choose their own truth, let us now proceed to consider the question of freedom -- true freedom.

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
-- John 8:31-34

Does freedom of choice really exist or is it an illusion? Does an individual have a real and true ability to determine the course of his thoughts and volitions, to decide which motives shall prevail within his mind, and to modify his own character, or are his thoughts and volitions, his character and external actions, all merely the inevitable outcome of his circumstances and biology? Is everything, including our choices, predetermined by some prior cause, either some bio-chemical, genetic or other physical cause, or by God controlling everything? Are choices and actions all inexorably predetermined in every detail along rigid lines by events of the past, over which the individual himself has had no sort of control? Or does a man genuinely have the ability to truly transcend and overcome nature by the free choice and exercise of his will?

Addressing the problem of the existence of free will requires understanding the relation between freedom and causation, and determining whether or not the laws of nature are causally deterministic. The issue of free will is especially important with respect to ethics and morality. Unless man is really free, he cannot be justly held responsible for his actions, any more than he can be held responsible for the date of his birth or the color of his eyes.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Whom Are You Seeking?

Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.
Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.
They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. He said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?"
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take him away."
Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, "Do not touch me: for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.
-- John 20:1-18

O Filii et Filiæ

O sons and daughters, let us sing!
The King of heaven, the glorious King,
over death today rose triumphing.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

That Easter morn, at break of day,
the faithful women went their way
to seek the tomb where Jesus lay.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

An angel clad in white they see,
who sat, and spake unto the three,
"Your Lord doth go to Galilee."
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

That night the apostles met in fear;
amidst them came their Lord most dear,
and said, "My peace be on all here."
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

On this most holy day of days
to God your hearts and voices raise,
in laud and jubilee and praise.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Exultet iam Angelica turba caelorum!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people! . . .

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night when Jesus Christ
broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!
Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the morning Star which never sets find this flame
still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Deposition and Burial

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.
Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
-- Mark 15:42-47

The Sacrifice of the Lamb of God

Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst."
A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished," and He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness -- his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth -- that you also may believe.
For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken." And again another Scripture says, "They will look on him whom they have pierced."
-- John 19:28-37

Behold Your Mother

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalen.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, 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 to his own home.
-- John 19:25-27

At the Cross
Her station keeping
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through Her Heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Lo! the piercing sword had passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother, highly blessed,
Of the Sole-Begotten One.
Mournful, with Heart's prostration,
Mother meek, the bitter Passion
Saw She of Her glorious Son.

Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left.
And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
And they cast lots to divide His garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at Him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!"
The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him sour wine and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"
There was also an inscription over Him, "This is the King of the Jews."
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

-- Luke 23:33-43

Good Friday 2002

Jesus is Handed Over to be Crucified

Pilate brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour.
He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"
They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!"
Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?"
The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar."
So he delivered Jesus over to them to be crucified.

-- John 19:13-16

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say,
'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed!'
Then 'they will say to the mountains,
"Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"'
For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
-- Luke 23:26-32

The Crowning with Thorns

The soldiers then twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus' head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands.
Pilate went out again and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him."
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!"
When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!"

The Truth is Scourged

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas into the Praetorium. . . .
Pilate entered and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?"
Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."
Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world -- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, "I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"
They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.

-- John 18:28-40, 19:1

Why is this night different from all other nights?
Because once we were slaves and now we are free.

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. . . .
The high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
And Jesus said, "I AM,
and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power,
and coming with the clouds of heaven."
And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?"
And they all condemned him as deserving death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.
-- Mark 14:53-65

Not an Act of Love, but Betrayal

While Jesus was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them.
He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."
-- Luke 22:47-53

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Agony in the Garden

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray."
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."
And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."

-- Matthew 26:36-46

Monday, April 02, 2007

His Holiness, John Paul II, Servant of the Servants of God, Returns to the House of the Father

At 10 p.m. (3 p.m. EST) on April 2, 2005, immediately after the crowd had finished praying the Rosary for John Paul II, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, made the following announcement: "At 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) our Holy Father returned to the House of the Father."

The majority of the faithful knelt down, many of them with tears in their eyes. A few minutes later, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica tolled the death of the Bishop of Rome.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
V- Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
R- That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

De Profundis
Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice.
Let Thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities,
Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness
and by reason of thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word,
my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night,
let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy
and with him plentiful redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Ora Pro Eo
Kyrie, eleison, Kyrie, eleison
Christe, eleison, Christe, eleison
Kyrie, eleison, Kyrie, eleison
Sancta Maria, ora pro eo
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro eo
Sancta Maria, Mater Ecclesiæ, ora pro eo
Sancta Maria, Salus populi Romani, ora pro eo
Sancti Michael, Gabriel et Raphael, orate pro eo
Omnes sancti Angeli, orate pro eo
Sancte Ioseph, ora pro eo
Sancte Ioannes Baptista, ora pro eo
Omnes Sancti Patriarchæ et Prophetæ, orate pro eo
Sancti Petre et Paule, orate pro eo
Sancte Andrea, ora pro eo
Sancti Ioannes et Iacobe, orate pro eo
Sancte Thoma, ora pro eo
Sancti Philippe et Iacobe, orate pro eo
Sancte Bartholomaee, ora pro eo
Sancte Matthæe, ora pro eo
Sancte Simon et Thaddaee, orate pro eo
Sancte Matthia, ora pro eo
Sancte Luca, ora pro eo
Sancte Marce, ora pro eo
Sancte Barnaba, ora pro eo
Sancta Maria Magdalena, ora pro eo
Omnes Sancti Discipuli Domini, orate pro eo
Sancte Clemens, ora pro eo
Sancte Calliste, ora pro eo
Sancte Fabiane, ora pro eo
Sancte Corneli, ora pro eo
Sancte Xyste, ora pro eo
Sancte Ioannes, ora pro eo
Sancte Martine, ora pro eo
Sancte Damase, ora pro eo
Sancte Leo Magne, ora pro eo
Sancte Gregori Magne, ora pro eo
Sancte Leo, ora pro eo
Sancte Pie, ora pro eo
Omnes Sancti Pontifices Romani, orate pro eo

Joannes Paulus Magnus

John Paul Two, We Love You
a video tribute

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Be not afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Be not afraid. Christ knows "what is in man." He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.

The Church United in Prayer

Holy Mary,
Mother of God
Pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death

Totus Tuus

Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt
I am all yours, and all that is mine is yours
-- Motto of His Holiness Pope John Paul II

Totally yours,
Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother,
Live in me, Act in me,
Speak in me and through me,
Think your thoughts in my mind,
Love through my heart,
Give me your dispositions and feelings,
Teach, lead me and guide me to Jesus,
Correct, enlighten and expand my thoughts and behavior,
Possess my soul,
Take over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself,
Incline me to constant adoration,
Pray in me and through me,
Let me live in you and keep me in this union always.

Love Overcomes Infirmity

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Holy Father John Paul the Great Pray for Us

Do not hesitate to pray and ask our Holy Father, Karol Wojtyla, Joannes Paulus Magnus, to intercede and offer prayers to God on your behalf. He was, and is, God's faithful servant, and surely God will listen to his pleas.

With Innocent Hands and a Pure Heart We Will Find Friendship with God

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Homily for Palm Sunday, April 1, 2007

Let us get back to the liturgy and the Procession of Palms. The liturgy proposes as hymn Psalm 24[23], which was, even in ancient Israel, a processional hymn used during the ascent to Temple Mount. The Psalm describes the interior ascent which the exterior ascent symbolizes, and therefore explains to as, yet again, what it means to ascend with Christ.

"Who will climb the mountain of the Lord?" asks the Psalm, and then indicates two essential conditions. Those who are making the ascent and who truly wish to reach the top, to the true heights, should be people who ask themselves about God. Persons who look around them to search for God, to find His face.

Dear young friends, how important this is today! Don't allow yourselves to be simply carried along willy-nilly by life. Don't be content with what everybody thinks and says and does. To scrutinize God, or the idea of God, is to look for God. Never allow this question of God to leave our souls: it is the desire for that which is greater, the desire to know Him, His face.

The other very concrete condition for this ascent with Jesus is this: “only he who has innocent hands and a pure heart” may be in the sacred place. Innocent hands -- hands that have not been used for acts of violence. They are hands that have not been soiled by corruption, by bribes.

A pure heart. When is a heart pure? A pure heart is one that does not pretend and is not stained by lying and hypocrisy. A heart that remains as transparent as spring water because it does not know duplicity. A heart is pure that is not hostage to the inebriation of pleasure; a heart in which love is true and not simply a passion of the moment.

Innocent hands and a pure heart! If we walk with Jesus, we will ascend and find the purification that comes to us at that elevation to which man is destined -- friendship with God Himself.

Following Jesus Means Giving Freely to the Other -- for Truth, for Love, for God Who, in Jesus Christ, Precedes Us and Shows Us the Way

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Homily for Palm Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Procession of Palm Sunday is also the procession of Christ the King: We profess the kingship of Jesus Christ, we acknowledge Jesus as the Son of David, the true Solomon -- King of peace and justice.

To recognize Him as King means to accept Him as He who shows us the way, He whom we trust and whom we follow. It means accepting His word every day as the valid criterion for our lives. It means seeing in Him the authority to whom we are subject. We subject ourselves to Him, because His authority is the authority of Truth.

The Procession of Palms -- like it was that time for the disciples -- is an expression of joy that we are able to acknowledge Jesus, because He has granted that we can be friends with Him and because He has given us the key to life. This joy, which is just beginning, is also an expression of our “Yes” to Jesus and our readiness to go wherever He brings us. The exhortation that was at the beginning of our liturgy today rightly interprets the procession also as a symbolic representation of that which we call “the following of Christ.”
"We ask for the grace to follow," we said. The expression “the following of Christ” describes the entire Christian existence, in general. What does it consist of? What does it mean, in concrete terms, “to follow Christ”?

At the beginning, with the first disciples, the sense was very simple and immediate: it meant that these persons had decided to leave their work, their business, all of their personal life, in order to go with Jesus. It meant undertaking a new profession: that of disciple. The basic content of this profession was to go with the Master, to entrust oneself totally to His guidance. And therefore, following Christ was an external manifestation but, at the same time, an interior one.

The exterior aspect was to walk behind Him in his travels throughout Palestine. The interior aspect was a new orientation of existence, which no longer had its points of reference in personal affairs, in the work by which one made a living, in one's personal wishes, but which abandons itself totally to the will of Another. To be available to Him had become the reason to live. What this renunciation meant -- of everything that pertained to each one, of such detachment from the self -- is something we can appreciate clearly in some episodes of the Gospel.

But this also makes clear what “following” means for us and what is its true essence for us: it means an interior mutation of our existence. It asks that I should no longer stay closed in within my "I," considering my self-realization to be the main reason for living. It asks that I give myself freely to the Other -- for Truth, for Love, for God who, in Jesus Christ, precedes me and shows me the way.

It means making the fundamental decision to cease considering utility and profit, career and success, as the ultimate purpose of my life, but instead to recognize truth and love as the genuine criteria. It means choosing between living just for myself or giving myself for a greater cause. And let us not forget that truth and love are not abstract values -- they are personified in Jesus Christ. So, following Him, I enter into the service of truth and love. And in losing myself, I find myself anew.

Today They Cheer Him

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

"Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey's colt!"

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him."

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
-- John 12:12-26