"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: Sacred Fear (DAY 23)

The Taking Of Christ
by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, c. 1602

Today is Day 23 of the whole community retreat in light of the lockdown.

Point Of Departure: "Each one of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest," written by, the "Doctor of Homilies," St. Peter Chrysologus ("Golden-worded"), bishop

I appeal to you by the mercy of God. This appeal is made by Paul, or rather, it is made by God through Paul, because of God’s desire to be loved rather than feared, to be a father rather than a Lord. God appeals to us in his mercy to avoid having to punish us in his severity.

Listen to the Lord’s appeal: In me, I want you to see your own body, your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is divine, but why not love what is human? You may run away from me as the Lord, but why not run to me as your father? Perhaps you are filled with shame for causing my bitter passion. Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them I draw you into my heart. My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all-embracing love. I count it no less to shed my blood: it is the price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to me and learn to know me as your father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.

Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all [of us] to priestly status. How marvellous is the priesthood of the Christian, for [being] both the victim that is offered on [one's] own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. [The person] does not need to go beyond self... Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed...

Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy... Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me. Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you. Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.

Fear of the Lord or "Sacred Fear"

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Psalm 110:10). Last among seven gifts of the Spirit but it is the most foundational for without it the soul will fail to rise to receive the other gifts. This is the gift needed for making a perfect act of contrition to receive the healing grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is another lower kind of fearfear of Hell or fear of condemnationwhich is also considered legitimate but it is imperfect, i.e., an imperfect act of contrition, whereby one goes to God out of, as St. Augustine calls it, "human fear" in contrast to "chaste fear"which is borne out of pure love. But perfection is less important here as long as the soul progresses to come close to God. St. Ignatius in the last annotation of the Spiritual Exercises (370) uses the terms "filial fear" and "servile fear," with the former as the more perfect.

According to Fr. Florencio Segura, SJ, fear is a passivity before something that has not yet come to pass. And as it still has not come, we cannot control it and so we wait for it passively. Christ, in Gethsemane, passed through this kind of fear. He knew that he will be taken to the tribunals before the authorities and he will have to react or respond to them. Even his silence was a kind of response. For the most part of Jesus' Passion he simply waited for that which closed in on him from all fronts. Jesus too, as a human being, was afraid. But he knew very well that all mortal injury will pass away. He held on to the love of his Father in heaven that will never pass away.

Opening Song

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire. To ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and most especially fear of the Lord. Let "sacred fear" awaken in me loving-reverence, striving not to offend my God nor to lose His grace and love.

Word Of God: (See full text below)

1. 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 (So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.)
2. John 13:21-33, 36-38 (One of you will betray me; the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.)

Questions and Consideration To Ponder:

1. How deep is my love for God that I am able to continue trusting in Him despite some sensations of fear?

2. Three different persons in the Holy Tuesday gospel reading are archetypes of different kinds of human fear: Judas' fear, Peter's fear and Jesus' fear. How do I react when confronted by different levels of fear? Name three experiences that you are fearful about. Arrange these in proper order from the least fearful to the most fearful. What appropriate actions do you do?

3. One Chinese proverb has it: "To know what is going on takes sense; to know what to do about it takes wisdom." What was in Jesus that made him go through his Passion? What can you hold on to that will never pass away?

"Love Will Conquer" by Emmet Fox

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;
no disease that enough love will not heal;
no door that enough love will not open;
no gulf that enough love will not bridge;
no wall that enough love will not throw down;
no sin that enough love will not redeem...
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble;
how hopeless the outlook;
how muddled the tangle;
how great the mistake.
A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.
If only you could love enough you would be the happiest
and most powerful being in the world...

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIP) using 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are currently sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
  But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
  If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
  Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
  Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

John 13:21-33, 36-38

One of you will betray me; the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.
  When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”
  Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

Commentary (Credits: Universalis.com)

Rather than telling us the story of the Last Supper, the Gospels give us only two incidents at the Supper, the marking of the traitor and the Institution of the Eucharist. The latter is absent from John, who gave us the Bread of Life discourse, but reserves the sacraments till after the death of Jesus and the foundation of the Church. John identifies the traitor, but the synoptic Gospels stress not his identity by name but the treachery of his deed as one who dips his hand in the dish with Jesus and immediately betrays this gesture of fellowship. 
  The Church puts before us the failure of the disciples, led by Peter. Throughout Jesus’s ministry this has been a theme, especially in Mark. Three times the disciples are rebuked for their failure to understand who Jesus is, each time on the Lake of Galilee, before – immediately after the gift of sight to the blind man of Bethsaida – Peter bursts out with his profession of faith, ‘You are the Christ/Messiah’ (Mark 8.29). After this turning-point of the Gospel, again three times they fail to grasp the teaching on suffering, that as Messiah Jesus can accomplish his mission only by suffering and death, and that his disciples must share this suffering. The theme reaches its climax with Peter’s repeated protestation at the Supper that he is ready to die with Jesus, and his panicked denial when he is accosted by the diminutive servant-girl in the High Priest’s house. In John at any rate we hear the story of his repentance and response to the Risen Christ’s threefold challenge at the Lakeside. The prominence given to this theme is surely a reminder that the Twelve are role-models for future disciples even in their failure – and in their repentance. Did Jesus choose them badly, or are they merely forerunners of our own failures? Perfection is less important than repentance.