Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Holy Priesthood

Volume 3 No. 122 January 24, 2013

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Inauguration of the Malankara World Journal Megaspecial on Women and the Church
Releasing the  Malankara World Journal Mega Special on Women and Church

Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Geevarghese Kunnath MD Corepiscopa, (Malankara World Board Member and Managing Trustee of St. Gregorios Cancer Hospital and Institute, Kothamangalam) released Malankara World Journal Issue 121 by giving the first printed copy of the eBook to Dr. Shila Mathew, MD (Board Certified Psychiatrist and Member of the Managing Committee of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio) at Cleveland, Ohio in a public meeting held after the Holy Qurbana on January 20, 2013 in the presence of a large group of Christians, prominent Professionals and well-wishers that came from several states in the United States.

Table of Contents
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Editor's Note
by Dr. Jacob Mathew

This Sunday in Church

Bible Readings for This Sunday (Jan 27)

Kohne - All Departed Clergy

Sermons for This Sunday (Jan 27)

Sermons for the Kohne Sunday (Departed Clergy)
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_departed-clergy.htm

Articles Based on The Gospel Reading This Sunday (Matthew 24:42-51)

Reflections on Matthew 24: 42-51
by Lectio

The Gospel today speaks about the coming of the Lord at the end of time and exhorts us to be watchful, to watch. At the time of the first Christians, many persons thought that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned afterwards. Today many persons think that the end of the world is close at hand. And therefore, it is well to reflect on the meaning of vigilance, of watching. ...

Watch-Be Ready
by David B. Curtis

The lives of those early Christians were dependent upon their watchfulness. They were to be watching for their Lord's coming in judgment upon apostate Israel. Before we go any further, let me ask you a question, "Who was to be watching?" Christians! Isn't that who the Lord was talking to? ..

Reflections on Matthew 24:42-51
by Daily Homily

I like the parables that teach us to come anytime and Jesus will accept you just the way you are. But there is an end to the window of opportunity, and it comes at death or at the second coming, which ever comes first for you. And then there are no second chances. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment." Are you ready? Is your life in order? If He were to come right now are you prepared to meet him? ...

Thematic Articles: Articles Based on the Theme This Week (Priesthood)

Reflection: The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

Featured: Six Decades of Priesthood
by Pope Benedict XVI

At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to Him by yourselves alone -- a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day. ..

Priest
by Fr. John Hardon

What is a priest? What are the powers and duties of a priest? ...

The Priest is a Gift From Christ
by Pope Benedict XVI

The priest is formed by Christ's charity itself, that love that moved him to give his life for his friends and also to pardon his enemies. Because of this, priests are the first builders of the civilization of love. ...

The Priesthood: The Love of The Heart of Jesus
by St John Vianney

But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ. ..

The Dignity and Duties of the Priest
by St. Alphonsus Liguori

I. Idea of the Priestly Dignity
II. Importance of the Priestly Office
III. Grandeur of the Priestly Power
IV. The Dignity of the Priest Surpasses all other Created Dignities
V. Elevation or the Post Occupied by the Priest
VI. Conclusion

Articles of General Interest

Health: Missing Link in The Fight Against Fat
by Al Sears, MD

There is one mineral vital to managing excess fat. It controls your appetite and helps carry protein where your body needs it most. This helps you lose the fat while building lean muscle mass. It also plays an essential role in how your body processes carbohydrates and fats... plus it's been shown to promote cardiovascular health and help keep your blood sugar within a normal range. ...

Recipe: Almond Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Family Special: Common Family Issues From a Psychiatrist's View

At the heart of almost all of his patients' problems, says psychiatrist Gary Malone, are issues that stem from the family that raised them creating problems in the family they've started. ...

Humor: Kids in Church

About Malankara World

Editor's Note
Nineveh Lent (3 Day Lent or Moonnu Nombu) is over. We are now looking forward to the Great Lent or 50 day Lent that begins on February 11. The three Sundays between the end of Nineveh Lent and Great Lent is designated by the Holy Church to remember the departed clergy called Kohne Sunday (Jan 27), All the Departed Faithful called Aneede Sunday (Feb 3) and Pethrutha of the Great Lent or Kothne Sunday on Feb 10. Ma'altho or presentation of Infant Jesus in the temple comes on February 2. It is the last of the feasts of the Christmas Season.

So, this Sunday our church lectionary exhorts us to look at the second coming of Jesus as given in Matthew 24:42-51. This is part of what is generally called Olivet Discourse. Chapter 24 and part of 25 of Matthew is very significant from the prophecy point of view.

If you recall, advent season is the season for the anticipation of the second coming of Jesus in Western Churches.

Unexpectedness is one of the keys to the Christian life because someday, maybe in our day, Jesus Christ is going to return. The Second Coming is one of the greatest themes in the Bible. When Jesus was ascending into heaven after being with his disciples, angels told them:

"This same Jesus ... will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11

We know that Jesus is coming back; we allegorically show that at the end of our qurbana; but we don't know when that is going to happen. Jesus clearly told us that no one knows when He is going to come again; so we need to be vigilant and be ready.

While driving on one of the many deserted roads in Texas, Fr. Alfonse came across a sign that read, "Live today as if there were no tomorrow because one day you will be right!" There is lot of truth in that message. We have a limited amount of time to do so much. We need to live as if there is no tomorrow. Make everyday special and count.

The reformed churches often questions the need for priests. Their position is that in the new covenant of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice is replaced by grace. The veil that separated the holiest of holies from the general faithful was torn at the death of Jesus providing us access to God. Yes, Jesus brought heaven closer to us and we have all equal access to God as we received sonship or daughtership in God through Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ also established the Eucharist and has entrusted the Apostles to continue doing it. He also gave them power to forgive sins (hoosoyo). This is an awesome power. Before the incarnation of Jesus, only God had power to forgive sins. (Remember the conversations Pharisees had with Jesus questioning why he said, 'your sins are forgiven' arguing that only God can forgive sins.) If you read the articles on Priesthood given in this article, you will notice that priests have power that exceeds the power of angels or even that of Virgin Mary because of this power to forgive sins and to celebrate Eucharist and consubstantiation.

I like the definition of a priest given by a Cardinal in Catholic Church.

"A priest is a man of his word; a man of the Word; a man made Word." He is another Christ - a living, breathing icon of the Lord. We see many icons of the Lord on walls. A priest is a living icon of Jesus Christ. Let us pray to the Master of the vineyard; of the household; of life itself, to send holy and numerous men after his Holy Son's heart! "

I hope that this issue of Malankara World Journal will help you understand the important role of priests in our church.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Jan 27)

Sermons for This Sunday (Jan 27)

Articles Based on The Gospel Reading This Sunday
(Matthew 24:42-51)

Reflections on Matthew 24: 42-51
1) Opening prayer

Father,
help us to seek the values
that will bring us enduring joy in this changing world.
In our desire for what you promise
make us one in mind and heart.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 24: 42-51

Jesus said to his disciples: 'So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

'Who, then, is the wise and trustworthy servant whom the master placed over his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed that servant if his master's arrival finds him doing exactly that. In truth I tell you, he will put him in charge of everything he owns. But if the servant is dishonest and says to himself, "My master is taking his time," and sets about beating his fellow-servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.'

3) Reflection

The Gospel today speaks about the coming of the Lord at the end of time and exhorts us to be watchful, to watch. At the time of the first Christians, many persons thought that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned afterwards. Today many persons think that the end of the world is close at hand. And therefore, it is well to reflect on the meaning of vigilance, of watching.

Matthew 24, 42: Watch. "So stay awake! Watch, because you do not know the day when your master is coming". Concerning the day and the hour of the end of the world, Jesus had said: "But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father!" (Mk 13, 32). Today, many people live concerned thinking about the end of the world. Have you seen when walking through the streets of the city that it is written on the walls: "Jesus will return!" And how will this coming be? After the year 1000, basing themselves on the Gospel of John, people began to say (Rev 20, 7): "1000 years have gone by, but 2000 will not pas by!" This is why, as the year 2000 approached, many were worried. There were even some people who were anguished because of the proximity of the end of the world, so much so that they committed suicide. Others, reading the Apocalypse of John, even were able to foretell the exact hour of the end. But the year 2000 came and nothing happened. The end of the world does not arrive! Many times, the affirmation "Jesus will return" is used to frighten people and oblige them to belong to a given church! Others, because they have waited so long and have speculated so much concerning the coming of Jesus, are not aware of his presence among us, in the most common things of life, in the facts of every day.

The same problems existed in the Christian communities of the first centuries. Many persons of the communities said that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned. Some of the community of Thessalonica in Greece, basing themselves on the preaching of Paul said: "Jesus will return!" (1 Th 4, 13-18; 2 Th 2, 2). And this is why, there were even persons who no longer worked because they thought that the coming of the end was so close at hand, within a few days or a few weeks so, "Why work, if Jesus will return afterwards?" (cf. 2 Th 3, 11). Paul responds that it was not so simple as they imagined. And to those who had stopped working he would say: "Anyone who does not want to work, has no right to eat!" Others remained looking up at the sky, waiting for the return of Jesus in the clouds (cf. Ac 1, 11). Others rebelled because he delayed coming back (2 P 3, 4-9). In general the Christians lived with the expectation of the imminent coming of Jesus. Jesus was coming to realize or carry out the Final Judgement to end with the unjust history of this world and to inaugurate the new phase of history, the definitive phase of the New Heaven and the New Earth. They believed that this would have taken place within one or two generations. Many persons would still be alive when Jesus would have appeared again, glorious in Heaven (1Th 4, 16-17; Mc 9, 1). Others, tired of waiting would say: "He will never come back!" (2 P 3,).

Up until now the coming of Jesus has not arrived! How can this delay be understood? It is because they are not aware that Jesus has already returned and lives in our midst: "I am with you always, till the end of time." (Mt 28, 20). He is already at our side, in the struggle for justice, for peace, for life. The fullness has not as yet been attained, but a guarantee of the Kingdom is already in our midst. This is why, we expect with a firm hope the full liberation of humanity and of nature (Rm 8, 22-25). And while we wait and struggle, we say with certainty: "He is already in our midst" (Mt 25, 40).

Matthew 24, 43-51: The example of the householder and of his servants. "Consider this: if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house." Jesus says this very clearly. Nobody knows anything regarding the hour: "Concerning this day and this hour, nobody knows anything, neither the angels, or the Son, but only the Father

What is important is not to know the hour of the end of this world, but rather to be capable to perceive the coming of Jesus who is already present in our midst in the person of the poor (cf. Mt 25, 40) and in so many other ways and events of our daily life. What is important is to open the eyes and to keep in mind the commitment of the good servant of whom Jesus speaks about in the parable.

4) Personal questions

On which signs do people base themselves to say that the end of the world is close at hand? Do you believe that the end of the world is close at hand?

What can we respond to those who say that the end of the world is close at hand? Which is the force which impels you to resist and to have hope?

5) Concluding Prayer

Day after day I shall bless you, Lord,
I shall praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is Yahweh and worthy of all praise,
his greatness beyond all reckoning. (Ps 145,2-3)

Copyright 2013. The Order of Carmelites - www.ocarm.org

Watch-Be Ready

by David B. Curtis

Gospel: Matthew 24:42-51

As we come to the close of Matthew 24, the Lord gives his disciples a parable to push home the truth of their need to "watch" for His coming. Remember, the Lord is here talking to his disciples, they have asked Him questions concerning; the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, His parousia and the end of the Jewish age. Their question was basically two fold; when will these things happen and what signs will precede them? Jesus has given them several signs; He told them that the gospel would be preached in all the world (vs. 14), He told them that they would see the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Daniel (vs. 15), He told them that they would see the great tribulation (vs.21), and that they would see the collapse of the heaven and earth of Jerusalem (vs. 29 ), thus ending the Jewish age and manifesting the parousia of Christ. Jesus told them that all these things would happen in their generation (Matthew 24:34).

A generation was about 40 years, so they knew that the Lord would return in their life time, but they did not know the "day or the hour," as Jesus told them in Matthew 24:36: Because they did not know the day or hour, they were to always be ready and watching (Matthew 24:42). In light of His coming in judgment on Jerusalem, Jesus cautions His disciples to "watch." This exhortation to watch is not given to us, twentieth century Christians, but to them, first century Christians. We must understand this or we will never understand what our Lord is saying here.

The word "watch" is the Greek word gregoreuo. It means to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.):--be vigilant. It is in the present imperative, meaning "to be constantly on guard." Would it make sense for Jesus to urge His disciples "to be constantly on guard" for something that was not to take place for another 2,000 years or so? Some think so. Cook said, "The use of the second person does not necessarily imply, as Meyer maintains, that our Lord represents His presence in judgment as coming during the lifetime of the disciples. They, like the rest of mankind, are to be kept in ignorance of that day: this very ignorance is to be the ground of their watchfulness: and it is equally their duty, and that of all men, to watch, whether the day is fixed in God's counsels within their own lifetime or not."

I think the second person does imply that he was speaking to the disciples, but we don't need an implication, we have plenty of clear evidence that He was to come during the lifetime of the disciples (Matthew 16:27-28, Mark 8:38 - 9:1, Luke 9:26-27). Their Lord had told them that He would come in their lifetime, but they did not know the day or hour so they (first century Christians) were to always be watching. Since we know the day was fixed in their lifetime, it was that generation and that generation alone that was to be watching. They were to be watching for His coming in judgment upon that wicked city of Jerusalem. Israel's house was to be destroyed. Christians who were watching could escape the judgment on the city by fleeing from it, as their Lord had instructed them (Matthew 24:15-18).

The lives of those early Christians were dependent upon their watchfulness. They were to be watching for their Lord's coming in judgment upon apostate Israel. Before we go any further, let me ask you a question, "Who was to be watching?" Christians! Isn't that who the Lord was talking to?

The comparison of the Lord's coming with that of a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43-44) is found in several places in the New Testament. As we look at these different texts, please take note of who is being addressed.

The apostle exhorts to be always ready for the coming of Christ in judgment, which will be with suddenness and surprise (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Who is he speaking to? "Brethren" or Christians. How did they know this? Their Lord had told them this in the sermon on Mount Olive. The phrase "day of the Lord" is an expression taken from the Old Testament, and was used many times as regards to the judgments and destruction of various nations. It usually meant a time when God, Himself, would punish or judge people by the means of armies of other people. The invading armies of other nations brought judgment and destruction upon various nations, and these times were each called "the day of the Lord," when they were proclaimed of the Lord.

While the various references to "the day of the Lord" in the old Testament referred to various nations, the reference in all such expressions in the New Testament are to that "day of the Lord" in AD 70, when the nation Israel was destroyed. So, the phrase "The day of the Lord" refers to Jerusalem's destruction by the Roman armies, and Paul here says that it will come "as a thief in the night." We can see by comparing 1 Thessalonians 5: 3-4,6, with Matthew 24 that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70 and the coming of the Lord are synonymous events.

Notice the difference here in 1 Thessalonians 5: 3-4 between the "you" and the "they." "They say," "destruction comes upon them," "they shall not escape," "but you, brethren." The Lord is a thief in the night only to those who are not watching. Therefore, the Christians are admonished to watch.

Peter uses this same idea of the Lord coming as a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10): So, Jesus used it, Paul used it, Peter used it, and John uses it in quoting Jesus (Revelation 3:3): Notice what Jesus says, He comes as a thief if they are not watching. Again, we see Christ coming as a thief and the blessedness of those watching (Revelation 16:15).

Common in all of these passages is the idea of suddenness and unexpectedness of the coming, and consequently, the danger of unpreparedness on the part of those first century saints who saw the promise of His parousia fulfilled.

The idea of a thief, with us, means one who takes goods without doing violence, secretly, silently. The original word means one who does it by housebreaking, or by highway violence. Jesus had told them he was coming, and they were to be expecting it and prepared for it. If a man knows the approximate time a thief may come to break into his house, he takes precautions and prepares accordingly.

Let me illustrate:

When I was in youth work, several of the teens would come by my house in the middle of the night and cover my trees with toilet paper. The precious little darlings would also take the wood from my wood pile and spread it all over my yard. These little visits of theirs would take me some time to clean up. This happened on several occasions. To say the least, I was not too thrilled with their expression of love.

One night before a big youth activity, I received an anonymous phone call from someone telling me that the teens were going to TP my house that night. I was thrilled! I waited up all night in the front bedroom ready for their arrival. Every time I heard a car, I would look and see if it was them. I fell asleep a couple of times but I woke up at each sound I heard. I was ready for their coming. But they never came.

That morning, as the teens were arriving for the activity and getting on the bus, one of the teens said to me with a big smirk on his face, "Did you get a good night's sleep last night?" I could have killed him. Well, let me say that the Lord is not like those kids. He was not pulling a prank on the first century saints. He told them to watch because He was going to come in their generation and destroy Jerusalem and the Old covenant system.

In verse 44, the Lord says to His disciples, "Therefore you also be ready" (just like a man who knows a thief is coming is ready) "for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." The Greek word for ready is hetoimos, from an old noun heteos (fitness); adjusted, i.e. ready:--prepared. Luke puts this same warning in Luke 21:34-36: They were to always be watching and praying that they would be able to escape the coming judgment of Jerusalem.

To drive home the need of watchfulness, the Lord gives His disciples a parable to contrast the difference there would be between those who were watching and those who were not (Matthew 24:45-51). This parable intensifies the need to "watch." The contrast is extreme! Those who are faithful servants are blessed and put in charge of all the master's goods. Those who are not faithful are cut in half. That is a strong contrast.

Let me say a word here about parables. A parable is a brief story or narrative drawn from human life or from nature, not relating to some actual event, but true to life and concerning something very familiar to the listeners, given for the purpose of teaching "a" spiritual truth. It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The etymological meaning of the word parable is "a placing alongside of" for the purpose of comparison.

The intention of parabolic teaching is given by Christ in Matthew 13: 11-17. First, it is a method of teaching the responsive disciple. The second intent of parabolic teaching was to hide the truth from the unresponsive, and so aid in the hardening of their heart as they continuously rebelled against God.

Bernard Ramm, in his book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, says, "The golden rule of parabolic interpretation is -- Determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach. Practically all writers on the subject mention it with stress." Dodd says, "The typical parable presents one single point of comparison, the details are not intended to have independent significance." Others have put the rule this way: Don't make a parable walk on all fours. So, our objective, as we study this parable, is to find its one central message.

It should be clear that this parable is an amplification of one word which our Lord gave to his disciples, after he had outlined the course of events. He said to them, "Watch!" That word is stressed throughout this whole passage. It is the one command Jesus gives to those that are waiting for his coming. This parable tells us what it means to watch. What did our Lord mean when he said, "Watch?" Our Lord did not mean that they were to be standing forever gazing up into the heavens, like an air raid sentry on duty. He meant that they were to live a life of faithfulness to His commands. The word "then" indicates the connection with the preceding verses; as if to say, "such readiness implies faithfulness." The ever present anticipation of His return was to keep them faithful in the midst of the apostasy that surrounded them. Lang says, "Watching is here indicated in its concrete form, as fidelity to the calling."

In this parable, we have a household whose master is away and the household is waiting for him to return. The master has appointed certain servants and given them responsibility during the time of his absence. The only activity mentioned is that of feeding the household. These servants have the primary and important task of feeding the household at the proper time. That is the first essential, then, in watching. Watching included feeding and being fed by the Word of God. This is most obvious in the parable, is it not? The household must be fed the Word of God or they will, out of ignorance, turn back to Judaism and would thus be destroyed in its fall. That is basic, fundamental. If they do not eat, they will not survive, they will perish. They can do nothing else until they have established their health and strength by eating. To feed the flock of God, was the primary responsibility of the church's leaders (John 21:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2). As the early church was taught the truth of the New Covenant, they were being protected from apostasy.

The Word of God is truth. It is the unveiling of reality. It is the revelation of the way things really are. Thus, if you are going to live, you have got to know what life is all about, to know the way things really are. That is why the word of truth is also food. It is referred to as such in many places in Scripture: In his first letter, Peter exhorts us:

1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV) "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,"

There is a certain quality about the Word of God that is like milk to a baby: it feeds and establishes life. In another place, Paul mentions the strong meat of the word (Hebrews 5:12-14): It touches everything. You never can understand life unless you understand the Word of God. Paul told Timothy that in order to prevent apostasy, he was to continue in doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1,13-16). Timothy was to save himself and his hearers from apostasy by continuing in the Word. The faithful servants are those who were involved in teaching the truth of Scripture.

Notice that the faithful servants are blessed. Because of their faithfulness, they are made rulers over all the master's goods. We see this principle fleshed out in the life of many Old Testament saints. Joseph is just one example of this (Genesis 39:4). And not only Joseph, but David, Daniel, and Esther became more than subjects under their respective masters. This parable was to the first century disciples in view of the coming of the Lord, but it applies to us in that God also calls us to be faithful, and that faithfulness comes through being students of His Word. The truth that God rewards faithful service, still applies to us also. As we spend time in His Word we will be strengthened in our faithfulness, and thus be rewarded by our Lord.

In contrast to the faithful servant, there is the unfaithful servant (Matthew 24:48-51). Notice that the evil slave says, "My master is delaying his coming." The evil slave then proceeds to "beat his fellow-slaves and eat and drink with drunkards." But to the surprise of the "evil slave," the master returned when he least suspected. The master did not return to cut the evil slave's distant relatives in pieces; he cut him in pieces. The evil slave was alive when the master left, and he was alive when the master returned. In this context, "delaying his coming" must be measured against a person's lifetime. In context, two years could be considered a long time if the master usually returned within six months. It is not hard to imagine that the passage of several decades would lead some to doubt the reliability of the prophecy, especially as the promised generation was coming to a close. The horrendous events of A.D. 70 silenced those who thought his delay would go on.

This unfaithful servant fails to feed the household of God. The Lord tells us what happens. He begins to beat them. He indulges his own appetite to extremes, eats and drinks with the drunken. When the master returns, he finds the man failing in his primary task, and he is destroyed. He is cut in two. This is quite a contrast to the blessing received by the faithful servant. The one was ready, watching and faithful. The other was not ready, not watching and unfaithful.

Who is this unfaithful servant? Many say it represents an unbeliever and their punishment in hell. But does that fit the context? Who is told to watch? Are unbelievers told to watch? No, it is believers who are to watch for His coming. In Matthew 24, we know that the Lord is talking to His disciples. But notice what Luke adds (Luke 12:39-41): The Lord doesn't really answer Peter; He goes on and gives the parable that we are looking at in Matthew. But look at what Mark says (Mark 13:33-37).

So we see that Jesus is addressing all believers when he says, "watch." He warns them not to get caught sleeping, but to be watching. The idea of sleeping is not to be taken literally. I think the idea is that of morally sleeping; not being faithful to the Word of God. This idea is seen many places in the New Testament.

In Ephesians 5:1-3, Paul is exhorting the believers to walk in love. Walk is speaking of their conduct. They are to put away sin and walk in holiness. They are to do this because they are light and they are to live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). They are light. That is their position, their identity. Because of who they are, they are to walk as children of light. That is to be their practice.

The Greek word used in Ephesians 5:14-17 for sleep is katheudo, to lie down to rest, i.e. (by impl.) to fall asleep (lit. or fig.). This is the same word used in Mark. This is a call for believers to "watch," to awake out of sleep. He is speaking about their conduct. They are to wake up and be careful how they walk, that is speaking of their practical lives. Notice also 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5: Again, he affirms their identity, their position, they are children of light; and because of that they are to stay awake.

1 Thessalonians 5: 6, "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."

"Therefore"- because of who we are. The word "sleep" here is katheudo and the word "watch" is gregoreuo. These are the same words that our Lord used in the parable of the unfaithful servant. It is believers who are not to sleep. The wrath in 1 Thessalonians 5: 7-9 is not speaking of Hell, but the destruction of Jerusalem that they can escape if they watch. Notice carefully, what he says in the next verse (1 Thessalonians 5:10): Who did the Lord die for? His elect! These are the same Greek words; if they wake or sleep, they will still live together with Jesus Christ. The difference is that if they sleep, they will suffer great harm physically.

In Revelation 3:3, The word "if" is a third class condition - maybe you will and maybe you won't. If those in Sardis did not watch, Christ would come to them as a thief, speaking of judgment. If they watched, His coming would not take them by surprise. Let's go back to our text and see what happens to the unfaithful servant.


Matthew 24:51 (KJV) "And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

He is cut asunder- that is physical punishment. It doesn't say he is a hypocrite, but that he shares in their punishment. Many see the weeping and gnashing of teeth as a reference to hell. I think it is a picture of the pain and torment that was experienced in the Jewish war in AD 70. In Luke's version of the parable of the unfaithful servant, he records Jesus (Luke 12:49). The fire the Lord kindled is on earth. He is referring to judgment at the hand of the Romans. Each time this phrase is used it is used in relation to Israel and their punishment for rejecting Christ. Their city was burned, destroyed forever.


Matthew 8:12 (NKJV) "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 22:13 (NKJV) "Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 24:51 (NKJV) "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 25:30 (NKJV) "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Luke 13:28 (NKJV) "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out."

In this closing section, Jesus is again stressing the need to watch and be ready for his coming. When they see the signs approaching, they are to flee. He is warning them that if they turn back to the decaying system of the Old Covenant, they will greatly suffer for it: "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). He would come in their lifetime and bring destruction on Jerusalem. If they were faithful and watched, they could escape.

All of this underscores the importance of feeding on and knowing the word. That is the whole thrust of this parable, it is what our Lord wants to emphasize. What does the Word of God accomplish that makes it so absolutely, fundamentally, necessary?

The Word of God reveals Jesus Christ as the savior of all who will put their trust in Him. And it thus strengthens and refreshes the human spirit. That is its primary purpose. If it does nothing else than that, it has achieved its major task. It is not to give us information, primarily; it is to help us to see a Person, the Lord Jesus. What the Son says to us is the ultimate revelation of life. To see the Son, through the medium of the word, is to find your own heart attracted and drawn to this marvelous personality, this magnificent One, this spotless, unsullied Son of God, in all the magnificence of his strength and greatness. That is the Bible's primary purpose. When you read it, read it for that. Read it to find Christ, because he is on every page of the Old and the New Testament.

The Bible is all about Jesus Christ. 

Reflections on Matthew 24:42-51

by Food for Thought

Scripture: Matthew 24:42-51

I like the parables that teach us to come anytime and Jesus will accept you just the way you are. But there is an end to the window of opportunity, and it comes at death or at the second coming, which ever comes first for you. And then there are no second chances. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment." Are you ready? Is your life in order? If He were to come right now are you prepared to meet him?

If you are here today, it is because you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Have you been daily seeking to freshen and deepen that relationship? You are either going forward or backward. How is your prayer life? Are you daily getting refreshed by prayer, studying Gods word? How is your walk with the Lord? Are you daily growing deeper and more in love with the Father?

If you knew that tomorrow was your last day on earth, how differently would you live? You need to ask yourself that question. I am going to ask a series of questions I would like you to reflect on them and then respond to them so that one day you will receive the gift of eternal life.

If you knew that today is your last day on earth, would you confess hidden sins that you thought you got away with? If you know that today is you last day on earth, would you still hold a grudge against your brother or sister, or neighbor?

If you know that today is you last day on earth, would you finally follow through in committing your life 100% to God and quit being a part time Christian?

If you knew that today is your last day on earth, would you not heal a relationship with someone you are angry with or someone you hurt?

If you knew that today is your last day on earth, would you not spend a little more time talking with your children and your grandchildren about Jesus?

If you knew that today is your last day on earth, would you not spend a little more time talking with God in prayer?

If you knew that today is your last day on earth, would you not tell your neighbor or your co-worker or a friend about the saving grace of Jesus Christ?

If you knew that right now would be your last chance to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, would you do it or take your chances that there will be another chance?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then start putting them today. Because right now, today, this very moment may be your last moment or your last day.

Revelation 16:15 says: "I will come unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for Me, who keep their robes ready so they will not need to walk naked and ashamed."

Do you anticipate His return or are you ready? Perhaps the Lord has finished his count concerning you. Ready or not, here he comes. Right now, Jesus is standing before you with outstretched arms, inviting you to follow him all the way. Please don't turn Him away.

Source: Daily Homily

Thematic Articles
Articles Based on the Theme This Week (Priesthood)

Reflection: The Beautiful Hands of a Priest
The Beautiful Hands of a Priest--
We need them in life's early morning,
We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek them when tasting life's woes.

At the altar each day we behold them,
And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness;
Their dignity stands all alone;

And when we are tempted and wander,
To pathways of shame and of sin,
It's the hand of a priest that will absolve us--
Not once, but again and again.

And when we are taking life's partner,
Other hands may prepare us a feast,
But the hand that will bless and unite us--
Is the beautiful hand of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy,
For the Host which their fingers caress;
When can a poor sinner do better,
Than to ask Him to guide thee and bless?

When the hour of death comes upon us,
May our courage and strength be increased,
By seeing raised over us in blessing--
The beautiful hands of a priest.
 

Featured: Six Decades of Priesthood

by Pope Benedict XVI

[Editor's Note: Adapted from a homily delivered on June 29, 2011 on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The pope recalled his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination. It is a moving account of what is expected of a priest as well as the spiritual joys of being a priest.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos" -- "I no longer call you servants, but friends" (cf. Jn 15:15).

Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice.

According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. "No longer servants, but friends": at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord Himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation He had already drawn us close to Him, He had already received us into God's family. But what was taking place now was something greater still.

He calls me His friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those He had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom He knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know Him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only He, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins.

He wants me -- with His authority -- to be able to speak, in His name ("I" forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies His suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in His Passion He went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, He lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of His suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of His love.

He confides in me: "No longer servants, but friends". He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim His word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts Himself to me.

"You are no longer servants, but friends": These words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one's own frailty and His inexhaustible goodness.

"No longer servants, but friends": This saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life.

What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle -- wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: "I know My own and My own know Me" (Jn 10:14). The Shepherd calls His own by name (cf. Jn 10:3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally.

Do I know Him? The friendship that He bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know Him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by Him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more.

Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with His will. For His will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit.

No, in friendship, my will grows together with His will, and His will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself.

Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives His life for us (cf. Jn 15:13; 10:15). Lord, help me to come to know You more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with Your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with You to live it for others. Help me to become ever more Your friend.

Jesus' words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: "I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). The first commission to the disciples, to His friends, is that of setting out -- appointed to go out -- stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew's Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19f.).

The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God's kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside Himself, He set His glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us His light and His love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that He himself can enter our world.

After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does He expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, by day and by night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation.

Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavours, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of His love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.

Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God's law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed -- no, it still remains true.

The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one's neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God's will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand -- faithfulness to Christ and to his Church -- seeks a fulfillment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows.

At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to Him by yourselves alone -- a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H Ev 1:6:6 PL 76, 1097f.).

Amen.

Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Priest
An authorized mediator who offers a true sacrifice in acknowledgment of God's supreme dominion over human beings and in expiation for their sins. A priest's mediation is the reverse of that of a prophet, who communicates from God to the people. A priest mediates from the people to God.

Christ, who is God and man, is the first, last, and greatest priest of the New Law. He is the eternal high priest who offered himself once and for all on the Cross, a victim of infinite value, and he continually renews that sacrifice on the altar through the ministry of the Church.

Within the Church men who are specially ordained as priests to consecrate and offer the body and blood of Christ in the Mass. The Apostles were the first ordained priests, when on Holy Thursday night Christ told them to do in his memory what he had just done at the Last Supper. All priests and bishops trace their ordination to the Apostles. Their second essential priestly power, to forgive sins, was conferred by Christ on Easter Sunday, when he told the Apostles, "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained" (John 20-22,23).

All the Christian faithful, however, also share in the priesthood by their baptismal character. They are enabled to offer themselves in sacrifice with Christ through the Eucharistic liturgy. They offer the Mass in the sense that they internally unite themselves with the outward offering made by the ordained priest alone.

Source: Excerpted from 'Modern Catholic Dictionary' by Fr. John Hardon, Eternal Life.

The Priest is a Gift From Christ

by Pope Benedict XVI (June 13, 2010)

The priest is a gift from the Heart of Christ: a gift for the Church and for the world. From the Heart of the Son of God, overflowing with charity, there stream all the goods of the Church and in a special way it is the origin of the vocations of those men who, conquered by the Lord Jesus, leave everything to dedicate themselves entirely to the service of the people, following the example of the Good Shepherd.

The priest is formed by Christ's charity itself, that love that moved him to give his life for his friends and also to pardon his enemies. Because of this, priests are the first builders of the civilization of love.

The Priesthood: The Love of The Heart of Jesus

by St John Vianney

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest? A man who holds the place of God a man who is invested with all the powers of God.

"Go," said Our Lord to the priest; "as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me."

When the priest remits sins, he does not say, "God pardons you"; he says, "I absolve you." At the Consecration, he does not say, "This is the Body of Our Lord;" he says, "This is My Body."

Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again, the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, "Go in peace; I pardon you." Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the death and passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! They can have no share in the blessings of redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, "What can we do in this church? There is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home." When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, "Where are you going?" you might answer, "I am going to feed my soul." If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, "What is that golden door?" "That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept." "Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?" "The priest." "And what is the Food?" "The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord." O God! O God! How Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world. Someone said, "Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?" Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul." At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place?" "The Body of Our Lord." "Why is He there?" "Because a priest has been there, and has said Holy Mass."

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Source: Catholicism Pure & Simple Blog

The Dignity and Duties of the Priest

by St. Alphonsus Liguori

[From the Editor:

This is one of the best treatises on the important role of a Priest in our church. The saint backs up his key points with liberal quotes from the Doctors of the Church. The author points out that even the Virgin Mary or the angels do not have the power vested in the priests to absolve or forgive sins and to conduct Holy Mass where the Christ is incarnated. It is an awesome power and responsibility. ]

I. Idea of the Priestly Dignity

In his epistle to the Christians of Smyrna, St. Ignatius, Martyr, says that the priesthood is the most sublime of all created dignities: "The apex of dignities is the priesthood." St. Ephrem calls it an infinite dignity: "The priesthood is an astounding miracle, great, immense, and infinite."

St. John Chrysostom says, that though its functions are performed on earth, the priesthood should be numbered among the things of Heaven." According to Cassian, the priest of God is exalted above all earthly sovereignties, and above all celestial heights --- he is inferior only to God.

Innocent III says that the priest is placed between God and man; inferior to God, but superior to man. St. Denis calls the priest a Divine man. Hence he has called the priesthood a Divine dignity. In fine, St. Ephrem says that the gift of the sacerdotal dignity surpasses all understanding.

For us it is enough to know, that Jesus Christ has said that we should treat his priests as we would his own person: "He that heareth you, heareth Me; he that despiseth you, despiseth Me."

Hence St. John Chrysostom says, that "he who honors a priest, honors Christ, and he who insults a priest, insults Christ."

Through respect for the sacerdotal dignity, St. Mary of Oignies used to kiss the ground on which a priest had walked.

II. Importance of the Priestly Office

The dignity of the priest is estimated from the exalted nature of his offices. Priests are chosen by God to manage on earth all his concerns and interests. " Divine," says St. Cyril of Alexandria, "are the offices confided to priests."

St. Ambrose has called the priestly office a Divine profession. A priest is a minister destined by God to be a public ambassador of the whole Church, to honor Him, and to obtain His graces for all the faithful. The entire Church cannot give to God as much honor, nor obtain so many graces, as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass; for the greatest honor that the whole Church without priests could give to God would consist in offering to Him in sacrifice the lives of all men. But of what value are the lives of all men compared with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is a sacrifice of infinite value? What are all men before God but a little dust? As a drop of a bucket, as a little dust. They are but a mere nothing in His sight: All nations are before Him as if they had no being at all.

Thus, by the celebration of a single Mass, in which he offers Jesus Christ in sacrifice, a priest gives greater honor to the Lord, than if all men by dying for God offered to Him the sacrifice of their lives. By a single Mass, he gives greater honor to God than all the Angels and Saints, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, have given or shall give to Him; for their worship cannot be of infinite value, like that which the priest celebrating on the altar offers to God.

Moreover, in the holy Mass, the priest offers to God an adequate thanksgiving for all the graces bestowed even on the Blessed in Paradise; but such a thanksgiving all the Saints together are incapable of offering to Him. Hence it is, that on this account also the priestly dignity is superior even to all celestial dignities.

"Besides, the priest," says St. John Chrysostom, "is an ambassador of the whole world, to intercede with God and to obtain graces for all creatures.." "The priest," according to St. Ephrem, "treats familiarly with God." To priests every door is open. Jesus has died to institute the priesthood. It was not necessary for the Redeemer to die in order to save the world; a drop of His Blood, a single tear, or prayer, was sufficient to procure salvation for all; for such a prayer, being of infinite value, should be sufficient to save not one but a thousand worlds. But to institute the priesthood, the death of Jesus Christ has been necessary. Had he not died, where should we find the victim that the priests of the New Law now offer? a victim altogether holy and immaculate, capable of giving to God an honor worthy of God.

As has been already said, all the lives of men and Angels are not capable of giving to God an infinite honor like that which a priest offers to Him by a single Mass.

III. Grandeur of the Priestly Power

The dignity of the priest is also estimated from the power that he has over the real and the mystic body of Jesus Christ. With regard to the power of priests over the real body of Jesus Christ, it is of faith that when they pronounce the words of consecration the Incarnate Word has obliged Himself to obey and to come into their hands under the Sacramental Species.

We are struck with wonder when we hear that God obeyed the voice of Josue --- The Lord obeying the voice of man --- and made the sun stand when He said move not, O sun, towards Gabaon . . . and the sun stood still. But our wonder should be far greater when we find that in obedience to the words of his priests --- HOC EST CORPUS MEUM --- God Himself descends on the altar, that He comes wherever they call Him, and as often as they call Him, and places Himself in their hands, even though they should be His enemies. And after having come, He remains, entirely at their disposal; they move Him as they please, from one place to another; they may, if they wish, shut Him up in the tabernacle, or expose Him on the altar, or carry Him outside the church; they may, if they choose, eat His flesh and give Him for the food of others.

"Oh, how very great is their power," says St. Laurence Justinian, speaking of priests. "A word falls from their lips and the body of Christ is there substantially formed from the matter of bread, and the Incarnate Word descended from Heaven, is found really present on the table of the altar! Never did Divine goodness give such power to the Angels. The Angels abide by the order of God, but the priests take Him in their hands, distribute Him to the faithful, and partake of Him as food for themselves."

With regard to the mystic body of Christ, that is, all the faithful, the priest has the power of the keys, or the power of delivering sinners from Hell, of making them worthy of Paradise, and of changing them from the slaves of Satan into the children of God. And God Himself is obliged to abide by the judgment of His priests, and either not to pardon or to pardon, according as they refuse or give absolution, provided the penitent is capable of it.

"Such is," says St. Maximus of Turin, "this judiciary power ascribed to Peter that its decision carries with it the decision of God." "The sentence of the priest precedes, and God subscribes to it," writes St. Peter Damian. Hence, St John Chrysostom thus concludes:

"The sovereign Master of the universe only follows the servant by confirming in Heaven all that the latter decides upon earth."

Priests are the dispensers of the Divine graces and the companions of God. "Consider the priests," says St. Ignatius, Martyr, "as the dispensers of Divine graces and the associates of God."

St. Prosper says:

"They (Priests) are the glory and the immovable columns of the Church; they are the doors of the eternal city; through them all reach Christ; they are the vigilant guardians to whom the Lord has confided the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; they are the stewards of the king's house, to assign to each according to His good pleasure His place in the hierarchy."

Were the Redeemer to descend into a church, and sit in a confessional to administer the Sacrament of Penance, and a priest to sit in another confessional, Jesus would say over each penitent, "Ego te absolvo," the priest would likewise say over each of his penitents, "Ego te absolvo," and the penitents of each would be equally absolved. How great the honor that a king would confer on a subject whom he should empower to rescue from prison as many as he pleased!

But far greater is the power that the eternal Father has given to Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ has given to his priests, to rescue from Hell not only the bodies but also the souls of the faithful: St. John Chrysostom says:

"The Son has put into the hands of the priests all judgment; for having been as it were transported into Heaven, they have received this Divine prerogative. If a king gave to a mortal the power to release from prison all prisoners, all would pronounce such a one happy; but priests have received from God a far greater power, since the soul is more noble than the body."

IV The Dignity of the Priest Surpasses all other Created Dignities

Thus the sacerdotal dignity is the most noble of all the dignities in this world. "Nothing," says St. Ambrose, "is more excellent in this world." "It transcends," says St. Bernard, "all the dignities of kings, of emperors, and of Angels."
According to St. Ambrose, the dignity of the priest far exceeds that of kings, as the value of gold surpasses that of lead. The reason is, because the power of kings extends only to temporal goods and to the bodies of men, but the power of the priest extends to spiritual goods and to the human soul. Hence, says St. Clement, "as much as the soul is more noble than the body, so much is the priesthood more excellent than royalty."

"Princes," says St. John Chrysostom, "have the power of binding, but they bind only the bodies, while the priest binds the souls." The kings of the earth glory in honoring priests: "It is a mark of a good prince," says pope St. Marcellinus, "to honor the priests of God." "They willingly," says Peter de Blois, "bend their knee before the priest of God; they kiss his hands, and with bowed down head receive his benediction."

"The sacerdotal dignity," says St. Chrysostom, "effaces the royal dignity; hence the king inclines his head under the hand of the priest to receive his blessing."

Baronius relates that when the Empress Eusebia sent for Leontius, Bishop of Tripoli, he said that if she wished to see him, she should consent to two conditions:

first, that on his arrival she should instantly descend from the throne, and bowing down her head, should ask his benediction;

secondly, that he should be seated on the throne, and that she should not sit upon it without his permission.

He added that unless she submitted to these conditions he should never go to the palace.

Being invited to the table of the Emperor Maximus, St. Martin, in taking a draught, first paid a mark of respect to his chaplain, and then to the emperor. In the Council of Nice, the Emperor Constantine wished to sit in the last place, after all the priests, and on a seat lower than that which they occupied; he would not even sit down without their permission. The holy king St. Boleslans had so great a veneration for priests, that he would not dare to sit in their presence.

"The sacerdotal dignity also surpasses the dignity of the Angels, who likewise show their veneration for the priesthood," says St. Gregory Nazianzen. All the Angels in Heaven cannot absolve from a single sin. The Angels guardian procure for the souls committed to their care grace to have recourse to a priest that he may absolve them: "Although," says St. Peter Damian, "Angels may be present, they yet wait for the priest to exercise his power, but no one of them has the power of the keys --- of binding and of loosening."

When St. Michael comes to a dying Christian who invokes his aid, the holy Archangel can chase away the devils, but he cannot free his client from their chains till a priest comes to absolve him.

After having given the order of priesthood to a holy ecclesiastic, St. Francis de Sales perceived, that in going out he stopped at the door as if to give precedence to another. Being asked by the Saint why he stopped, he answered that God favored him with the visible presence of his Angel Guardian, who before he had received priesthood always remained at his right and preceded him, but afterwards walked on his left and refused to go before him. It was in a holy contest with the Angel that he stopped at the door.

St. Francis of Assisi used to say, "If I saw an Angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the Angel."

Besides, the power of the priest surpasses that of the Blessed Virgin Mary; for, although this Divine Mother can pray for us, and by her prayers obtain whatever she wishes, yet she cannot absolve a Christian from even the smallest sin. "The Blessed Virgin was eminently more perfect than the Apostles," says Innocent III. "It was, however, not to her, but only to the Apostles, that the Lord intrusted the keys of the kingdom of Heaven."

St. Bernardine of Sienna has written: "Holy Virgin, excuse me, for I speak not against thee: the Lord has raised the priesthood above thee." The Saint assigns the reason of the superiority of the priesthood over Mary; she conceived Jesus Christ only once; but by consecrating the Eucharist, the priest, as it were, conceives Him as often as he wishes, so that if the person of the Redeemer had not as yet been in the world, the priest, by pronouncing the words of consecration, would produce this great person of a Man-God.

"O wonderful dignity of the priests," cries out St. Augustine; "in their hands, as in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, the Son of God becomes incarnate."

Hence priests are called 'the parents of Jesus Christ': such is the title that St. Bernard gives them, for they are the active cause by which He is made to exist really in the consecrated Host. Thus the priest may, in a certain manner, be called the creator of his Creator, since by saying the words of consecration, he creates, as it were, Jesus in the Sacrament, by giving Him a Sacramental existence, and produces Him as a victim to be offered to the eternal Father.

As in creating the world it was sufficient for God to have said, Let it be made, and it was created --- He spoke, and they were made --- so it is sufficient for the priest to say, "Hoc est corpus meum," and behold the bread is no longer bread, but the body of Jesus Christ.

"The power of the priest," says St. Bernardine of Sienna, "is the power of the Divine person; for the transubstantiation (consubstantiation in case of Orthodox Church, ed.) of the bread requires as much power as the creation of the world."

And St. Augustine has written, "O venerable sanctity of the hands! O happy function of the priest! He that created [if I may say so] gave me the power to create Him; and He that created me without me is Himself created by me!" "As the Word of God created Heaven and earth, so," says St. Jerome, "the words of the priest create Jesus Christ."

"At a sign from God there came forth from nothing both the sublime vault of the Heavens and the vast extent of the earth; but not less great is the power that manifests itself in the mysterious words of the priest." The dignity of the priest is so great, that he even blesses Jesus Christ on the altar as a victim to be offered to the eternal Father. In the sacrifice of the Mass, writes Father Mansi, Jesus Christ is the principal offerer and victim; as minister, He blesses the priest, but as victim, the priest blesses Him.

V. Elevation or the Post Occupied by the Priest

The greatness of the dignity of a priest is also estimated from the high place that he occupies. The priesthood is called, at the synod of Chartres, in 1550, the seat of the Saints. Priests are called Vicars of Jesus Christ, because they hold his place on earth. "You hold the place of Christ," says St. Augustine to them; "you are therefore His lieutenants."

In the Council of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo called priests the representatives of the person of God on earth. And before him, the Apostle said: For Christ we are ambassadors, God, as it were, exhorting by us. When He ascended into Heaven, Jesus Christ left His priests after Him to hold on earth His place of mediator between God and men, particularly on the altar. "Let the priest," says St. Laurence Justinian, " approach the altar as another Christ."

According to St. Cyprian, a priest at the altar performs the office of Christ. "When," says St. Chrysostom, "you have seen a priest offering sacrifice, consider that the hand of Christ is invisibly extended." The priest holds the place of the Savior Himself, when, by saying "Ego te absolvo," he absolves from sin. This great power, which Jesus Christ has received from His eternal Father, He has communicated to His priests.

"Jesus," says Tertullian, "invests the priests with His own powers." To pardon a single sin requires all the omnipotence of God. "O God, Who chiefly manifestest Thy almighty power in pardoning and showing mercy," etc., says the holy Church in one of her prayers. Hence, when they heard that Jesus Christ pardoned the sins of the paralytic, the Jews justly said: "Who can forgive sins but God alone."

But what only God can do by His omnipotence, the priest can also do by saying "Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis;" for the forms of the Sacraments, or the words of the forms, produce what they signify. What the priest does what is wonderful, for by saying "Ego te absolvo" he changes the sinner from an enemy into the friend of God, and from the slave of Hell into an heir of Paradise. Cardinal Hugo represents the Lord addressing the following words to a priest who absolves a sinner:

"I have created Heaven and earth, but I leave to you a better and nobler creation; make out of this soul that is in sin a new soul, that is, make out of the slave of Satan, that the soul is, a child of God. I have made the earth bring forth all kinds of fruit, but to thee I confide a more beautiful creation, namely, that the soul should bring forth fruits of salvation."

"The soul without grace is a withered tree that can no longer produce fruit; but receiving the Divine grace, through the ministry of a priest, it brings forth fruits of eternal life," St. Augustine says, "that to sanctify a sinner is a greater work than to create Heaven and earth."

"And hast thou," says Job, "an arm like God, and canst thou thunder with a voice like Him?" Who is it that has an arm like the arm of God, and thunders with a voice like the thundering voice of God? It is the priest, who, in giving absolution, exerts the arm and voice of God, by which he rescues souls from Hell. According to St. Ambrose, a priest, in absolving a sinner, performs the very office of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of souls.

Hence, in giving priests the power of absolving from sin, the Redeemer breathed on them, and said to them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. He gave them his own Spirit, that is, the Holy Ghost, the sanctifier of souls. and thus made them, according to the words of the Apostle, His own co-adjutors: We are God's co-adjutors.

"On priests," says St. Gregory. "it is incumbent to give the final decision, for by the right that they have received from the Lord they now remit, now retain sins." St. Clement, then, had reason to say that the priest is, as it were, a God on earth. God, said David, stood in the congregation of the gods. "These gods are," according to St. Augustine, "the priests of God."

Innocent III has written: "Indeed, it is not too much to say that in view of the sublimity of their offices the priests are so many gods."

VI. Conclusion

"How great, then," says St. Ambrose, "the disorder to see in the same person the highest dignity and a life of scandal, a Divine profession and wicked conduct!" "What," says Salvian, "is a sublime dignity conferred on an unworthy person but a gem enchased in mire?" "Neither doth any man," says St. Paul, "take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was."

For Christ did not glorify Himself that He might be made a high priest, but He that said unto Him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Let no one, he says, dare to ascend to the priesthood, without first receiving, as Aaron did, the Divine call; for even Jesus Christ would not of Himself assume the honor of the priesthood, but waited till His Father called Him to it.

From this we may infer the greatness of the sacerdotal dignity. But the greater its sublimity, the more it should be dreaded. "For," says St. Jerome, "great is the dignity of priests; but also, when they sin, great is their ruin. Let us rejoice at having been raised so high, but let us be afraid of falling."

Lamenting, St. Gregory cries out: "Purified by the hands of the priest the elect enter the Heavenly country, and alas! priests precipitate themselves into the fire of Hell!" The Saint compares priests to the Baptismal water which cleanses the Baptized from their sins, and sends them to Heaven, "and is afterwards thrown into the sink."

Articles of General Interest

Health Tip: Missing Link in The Fight Against Fat

by Al Sears, MD

Does your doctor try and make you feel bad about eating a big juicy steak?

The diet advice that modern medicine prescribes is to replace meat with unnatural grains, corn and soy. But your body doesn't recognize them as food because they don't have the nutrients you need.

If your doctor tells you not to eat meat, I want you to ask them a question. How are you supposed to get the one mineral vital to managing excess fat?

It controls your appetite and helps carry protein where your body needs it most. This helps you lose the fat while building lean muscle mass.

It also plays an essential role in how your body processes carbohydrates and fats... plus it's been shown to promote cardiovascular health and help keep your blood sugar within a normal range.

You used to be able to get enough of it to stay lean from fruits and vegetables. But thanks to over-farming and soil depletion, most of the produce you find on your grocery shelves today lacks this vital mineral.

I'm talking about chromium.

Chromium maintains proper blood sugar because it's a co-factor for insulin. Insulin uses it to transport sugar out of your blood and into your cells where it's burned as energy. Without chromium, you have a lot of excess blood sugar buildup, which causes you to pack on excess fat.

Having a deficiency of chromium is very common. An estimated 90% of all Americans consume less than the recommended amount of chromium each day. What's more, if you exercise regularly you'll need even larger amounts of chromium than your sedentary neighbors. Active men and women excrete more chromium than couch potatoes.

And you want more chromium because it can help you burn fat.

About 10 years ago, Dr. Gil Kaats and a team of researchers from the Health and Medical Research Foundation and the University of Texas Health Science Center studied over 150 people to see if they would lose fat just from taking chromium.

They split them into three groups. One group received a placebo (dummy pill). The other two groups received chromium: One getting 200 micrograms a day and the other getting 400 micrograms a day.

The participants were told not to change anything about their diet, exercise habits or how much they ate. In essence, they were allowed to do whatever they wanted.

After three months, the group taking the placebo showed no changes. The 200-microgram group lost an average of 3.4 pounds of body fat. But the 400-microgram group lost an average of 4.6 pounds of body fat about 35% more. In addition, both chromium groups gained an average of 1.4 pounds of muscle.

You can get chromium from grass-fed beef, ripe organic tomatoes and a source that may surprise you: red wine. But you need more. At least 200 mcg a day for optimal health. And even a delicious meal of steak, tomatoes and wine will only give you around 50 mcg. That's why I use a chromium polynicotinate supplement with my patients once a day with food.

I've treated hundreds of people with chromium supplements always with good results. So has my colleague, David Blyweiss, MD.

Disclosure: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before taking any supplements.

Recipe: Almond Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried coconut shreds
1/3 cup raisins
2 Tbs corn oil
3/4 cup mashed apple (peeled)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup toasted ground almonds
4 Tbs maple syrup

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients and set aside.

Blend apple and maple syrup until it forms a nice smooth mushy mass.

Add butter.

Add liquid to dry mixture and mix to form a homogeneous whole.

Scoop spoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheet or nonstick flat pans (e.g. pizza pan) and flatten to a 1/4" thickness.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes.

Cool on rack.

Source: Chet Day's Healthy Cookies Recipes Newsletter

Family Special: Common Family Issues From a Psychiatrist's View

Warped by Your Family? Join the Club

Psychiatrist Offers Tips to Overcome Common Issues

At the heart of almost all of his patients' problems, says psychiatrist Gary Malone, are issues that stem from the family that raised them creating problems in the family they've started.

"Almost all of us deal with this to some degree or another. Very few families are idyllic," says Malone, a distinguished fellow in the American Psychiatric Association, and coauthor with his sister Susan Mary Malone of "What's Wrong with My Family?" (www.whatswrongwithmyfamily.com).

"Forget 'Leave it to Beaver.' Normal families are more like 'The Twilight Zone.' "

Despite that, most of us manage to lead happy, productive lives.

"Once we recognize the childhood baggage we've carried into adulthood, we can take steps to compensate, make corrections, and change how we raise our own children," Malone says.

These are some of the qualities of a healthy family, and what you can do if that quality was missing or in short supply as you were growing up:

Shows love:

Family is usually the one place and time in life that a person experiences unconditional love. If you did not receive that as a child, you likely have difficulty loving and valuing yourself. There is no substitute for loving yourself; this issue is the No. 1 cause of unhappiness in adult relationships. The first step in healing is recognizing the damage and being willing to believe your feelings of unworthiness are not based in reality but are the product of a deficit likely handed down through generations in your family. Listen to what you tell yourself if it's things like, "I'm an idiot" and "I am really messed up," change that self talk. Words are powerful!

Respects autonomy:

Individuals in the family are encouraged to develop their own personal identity and separate from the family while maintaining a role within it. The family supports and even cheers on individuals in their personal quests. Children who are not allowed the freedom to express and explore their identities may become adults who develop co-dependent relationships wherein they put the needs of others before their own and/or are dependent on the control of others. Ways to begin addressing autonomy issues as an adult include learning how to comfortably spend time alone, pursuing interests (whether or not they are valued by friends and family) by taking classes or joining clubs, and boosting self-esteem through positive self talk.

Creates structure & boundaries:

Parents are the keepers of the rules; they provide structure for children, both to protect them and to foster learning and growth. People who grow up with little or no structure may fail to offer structure to their own children or overreact and be too rigid. Provide structure and consistency by setting up routines that everyone in the family is expected to follow daily, with occasional exceptions. These might include making your bed in the morning; daily chores; a set dinnertime, with everyone at the table; and "together" time, such as a game night.

About Dr. Gary Malone, M.D. & Susan Mary Malone

Dr. Gary Malone is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern and a teaching analyst at the Dallas Psychoanalytic Institute. He is a distinguished fellow in the American Psychiatric Association with board certifications in general and addiction psychiatry. He has worked in hospitals and private practices for more than 30 years. Dr. Malone is director of Adult Chemical Dependency Services at Millwood Hospital in Arlington, Texas.

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novel, "By the Book," and three nonfiction books, including "Five Keys for Understanding Men: A Women's Guide." More than 40 of the book projects she has edited were purchased by traditional publishing houses. She is Dr. Malone's sister.

Humor: Kids in Church
A Sunday school teacher asked her class, "What was Jesus' mother's name?" One child answered, "Mary." The teacher then asked, "Who knows what Jesus' father's name was?" A little kid said, "Verge." Confused, the teacher asked, "Where did you get that?" The kid said, "Well, you know they are always talking about Verge n' Mary.''

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3 -year-old, Reese: "Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen."

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A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, ! if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."

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A Sunday school class was studying the Ten Commandments. They were ready to discuss the last one. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. Susie raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, "Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbor's wife."

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After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

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I had been teaching my three-year old daughter, Caitlin, the Lord's Prayer for several evenings at bedtime, she would repeat after me the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. I listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word right up to the end of the prayer: "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us some E-mail.

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One particular four-year-old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

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A Sunday school teacher asked her children, as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?" One bright little girl replied,"Because people are
sleeping."

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Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. "You're not supposed to talk out loud in church." "Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked.
Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers."

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A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5 and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'" Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"

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A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what happened to him?" the son asked. "He died and went to Heaven," the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, "Did God throw him back down?"

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A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"
 

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