Go Forth in His Victory

Christ’s resurrection is not just something that happened in the past. There is resurrection today just as much as there was back then, after Christ’s death…

So many Christians seem exclusively concerned with the life beyond. They are under the illusion that God stays eternally in heaven. They think that we are condemned to endure the pain of suffering for the time we live on this small orb called earth. And after our life here we will be either condemned or blessed, depending on our religious belief. And so it goes on throughout the ages – and we are content to leave it at that.

But this is nothing but unbelief. If all we aspire to is to get out of this world in order to be free in the next, then we are paying tribute to sin and death. We are also showing the greatest disdain for the scriptures when we reject the joyous hope of God’s coming reign, when we simply resign ourselves to our fate on this earth, letting things continue as they are. Because our religious lives are so bankrupt, we think that God is also bankrupt and unable to accomplish his will on earth.

Tell me, which of the two are more central to the message of the Bible: our death and flight into heaven, or God’s future reign here on earth. From the first to the last chapter, the Bible deals with the coming of God into this world. There is so little about this business of dying. Every word in the Bible guarantees the deeds of God right here where I stand. Down here is where Jesus appeared, not above in the invisible world, not around the throne of God.

Here on earth is where he won the victory, and it is right here that we may find him. We should lay claim to our right on this earth – the right to victory over sin and death here on earth – not because of our faith, but because of God’s power to make things right…

Our task, therefore, is to demonstrate the power of the resurrection…This power is not so far away, because Christ is alive. He cares about the earth as much as for the heavens. Otherwise we would never know his reality. His resurrection would be history, but not a reality, and we could never conceive of anything becoming different. At best, we would think that his resurrected life was some spiritual thing that we human beings could not understand. That’s not what it is. His victory is within our reach…

Therefore we must not focus on the evils and imperfections of this world. Nor are we to try to figure out how this or that matter is going to turn out. If we try to pursue higher goals by the usual methods or even with extraordinary works of love, we will accomplish nothing for God’s kingdom. In every case where we want to help someone along, we must find our strength in Christ.

Those who think things have to be done by human ways and means are wrong (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). If that is the way we are supposed to approach our situation, we are beaten. God’s kingdom remains far off if it depends on what we do or what we may yet accomplish. Indeed, we can spoil the work that God does through us if we think it depends on our strength. If Christ is victorious, then our happiness depends upon God exercising his power, not we exercising ours (Psalm 92:4).

Our redemption, then, consists of deeds that we can do nothing to bring about. It is thus not so much a question of our wanting to be converted. The first and most important thing is that God gathers us in. On the day when we have breathed our last and stand before God, we shall be amazed at how much God has done for us and how he has used his power to save us, despite our will.

Whoever is truly in Christ experiences an abundant variety of divine powers, and is so filled with the sense of them that it is natural to live by them. Indeed, these powers of life can come to us, powers that other people would never think possible. That is what it means to be risen with Christ and to go forth in his victory.

by Christoph Blumhardt

Saint Lydwine of Schiedam

In 1380, Saint Lydwine was born in the small town of Schiedam in Holland. Her father was a wealthy noble named Peter, and her mother was from a poor family who worked their own farm. Her father’s family lost their fortune, and the whole family was reduced to poverty.

At that time, all of Christendom groaned under the weight and confusion of the Great Schism. At 15, while ice-skating with her friends, Lydwine broke a rib, forcing her into a bed she would never leave. She became paralyzed except for her left hand and that great pieces of her body fell off, and that blood poured from her mouth, ears, and nose.

Over the next 38 years, she would frightfully endure every known ailment of the time with the exception of leprosy. Swollen with liquids, her stomach would expand to such an extent that she appeared to be with child; intolerably sensitive, her eyes would shed blood whenever they were struck by light and transfixed by agony, she bore the side wound of Christ’s passion through the stigmata.

Although in the onset of her sickness, she was given to despair, and rejected this torrent of sufferings, she soon became inflamed with an intense love of God that no pain could extinguish. Then, crippled by the agony of her infirmities, she donned a hair shirt and took to an insufficiently thin mattress of straw strewn on the floor, to augment her already unspeakable pain.

Compensating her many sufferings, Saint Lydwine was graced with a heavily mystical spiritual life. She was often taken to the earthly paradise, and held colloquies with Our Lord, Our Lady, the angels and saints.

By the time of her death, her body bore all the repugnant signs of a lifetime of suffering. However, upon dying, she was miraculously restored to all the former youth and beauty she possessed before her illnesses. She also experienced mystical gifts, including supernatural visions of heaven, hell, purgatory, apparitions of Christ, and the stigmata. The authenticating document from Schiedam also attests that Lydwine shed skin, bones, parts of her intestines, which her parents kept in a vase and which gave off a sweet odor. These excited so much attention that Lidwina had her mother bury them.

Lydwine died at the age of 53. Her grave became a place of pilgrimage after her death and in 1434, a chapel was built over it. Thomas à Kempis’s publication caused an increase in veneration. In 1615 her relics were taken to Brussels, but in 1871 they were returned to Schiedam. On 14 March 1890, Pope Leo XIII officially canonized Lydwine. She is the patron saint of ice skaters and the chronically ill, as well as of the town of Schiedam. Her feast day occurs on 18 March, 14 April, or 14 June, depending on region and tradition.

#MoralStory: Under God’s Wing

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statues quely on the ground at the base of a tree.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise.

She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast.

Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” – Psalm 91:4 

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

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When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

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#ShortNews: Pakistan: Christian-Muslim campaign for peace

The Pakistani bishops’ conference and a Muslim organization have begun a joint campaign for peace that will last through the Easter season.

The campaign’s symbol is an olive branch, and olive trees are being planted at churches, mosques, schools, and madrasas, according to a Fides report.

“Muslim leaders are asking for olive trees to be planted in seminaries where young Muslims study and can learn to become lovers of peace,” said Father Francis Nadeem of the bishops’ National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism.

http://www.news.va/en/news/asiapakistan-christians-and-muslims-launch-joint-s

#ShortNews: Thousands entered Church in US at Easter

About one-third of the dioceses in the United States have reported the numbers of catechumens and candidates who were intending to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil.

The highest figures were supplied by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (2,694 catechumens and candidates—up from 1,638 in 2015), the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (2,375), the Diocese of Dallas (2,175), the Archdiocese of Atlanta (1,892), the Archdiocese of Newark (1,192), the Archdiocese of Washington (1,181), and the Archdiocese of Seattle (1,088).

39,721 catechumens were baptized in the United States in 2015, and an additional 71,809 candidates were received into full communion with the Church, for a total of 111,530 converts—down from 114,721 converts (44,544 catechumens and 70,117 candidates) in 2014, but up from 106,485 converts (39,654 catechumens and 66,831 candidates) in 2013.

http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-063.cfm

#ShortNews: Indonesia: Christian government defeated in bid for re-election

In Indonesia, a Christian regional governor who had been accused of blasphemy has apparently been defeated in his bid for re-election.

The incumbent governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as “Ahok”), a Protestant, angered some Muslims when, in a campaign appearance, he argued that Muslims should not follow a passage of the Qu’ran enjoining them to reject the leadership of non-Muslims. His invocation of the Qu’ran, and his suggestion that it might be ignored, enraged Islamic fundamentalists, and prompted massive public demonstrations against the governor.

In early vote tallies, Ahok was badly trailing a challenge, Anies Baswedan, the country’s former education minister.

The defeat of the Protestant governor could represent a setback for interfaith relations in a country that prides itself on religious tolerance. Ahok also was a target of disdain among many voters because of his Chinese ethnic background; prejudice against the Chinese is prevalent in Indonesia.

http://www.fides.org/en/news/62127-ASIA_INDONESIA_Elections_in_Jakarta_Christian_candidate_defeated#.WPrHhUWGNdh

How To Handle Conflicts Without Sinning

(John 2:1-11 ) Mary sees a need and wants Jesus to do something about it. She knows full well that only a miraculous intervention will solve the problem. She wants the divine in him to respond to her request, but the human nature of Jesus responds first: He doesn’t want to reveal his divinity with this kind of miracle. He’s eager to heal souls, not empty wine jars.

“Woman, how does your concern affect me?” he says. “My hour has not yet come.” This is like saying, “I respect your request, holy Daughter of Eve, but think about how a miracle in this situation would affect the ministry I’m about to start! People will come to me for party favors and other earthly pleasures, but I want to give them eternal salvation.”

We Catholics like to use this scripture as faith-building evidence of the Blessed Mother’s ability to help us. We see her in this story as a mother who can get for us whatever we want from Jesus, because she can make him change his mind. Jesus told her no, but the conflict was resolved her way. Mary won, Jesus lost.

Isn’t this how we view conflicts? It’s not resolved until someone’s a winner and someone else is a loser. Therefore, when we make requests of God and he doesn’t give us what we want, we feel like we’re the loser, so we pray harder, trying to make God become the loser. And when that doesn’t work, we ask the Blessed Mother to side with us and influence her Son against his will.

But God wants us to be the winner from the start! He always wants what’s best for us. Mary knew this when she told the wine stewards, “Do whatever my Son tells you.”

Conflicts are not inherently bad. Conflicts become sacred opportunities for wonderful solutions when we entrust them to God. Mary trusted that Jesus cared about the people at the party. Jesus trusted that the Father cared about both the people and his ministry. It was a win-win situation.

by Terry A. Modica

Blessed Eusebia Palomino Yenes

Eusebia Palomino Yenes was born on 15 December 1899 in Cantalpino, Spain, one of four children to Agustin Palomino and Juana Yenes. Her father worked as a seasonal farmhand, and during winter months when there was no work, he was forced to travel to nearby villages to beg for food, with the little Eusebia at his side. Overjoyed to be in her father’s company, she was too young to understand his humiliation in asking for “a loaf of bread, for the love of God”.

When Eusebia was 8 years old, she made her first “encounter” with Jesus in the Eucharist and felt called to belong forever and completely to him. A short time later, she was forced to leave school and work to help the family. When she was 12 she went to Salamanca with her older sister and worked as a nanny. Her love for God continued to grow and was expressed so well through the care she gave to the children.

Every Sunday afternoon, Eusebia went to the Oratory at the “Sancti Spiritus” School run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; here she got to know the Sisters. Noting her maturity and responsibility, they asked if she could volunteer her time to help them. She was immediately available to begin her “mission” and helped the Sisters in the kitchen, collecting firewood, cleaning the school, accompanying the students and running errands. She was always ready to “give a hand” and to transmit a joyful and simple spirit of service to those around her.

Although Eusebia’s secret desire was to become a “Daughter of Mary”, she did not ask to enter the Congregation because she was afraid she would be refused due to lack of money, resources and education. On 5 August 1922 Eusebia began her novitiate and made her religious profession two years later, when she was transferred to the house of Valverde del Camino in southwestern Spain.

In the beginning of the 1930s, tensions and persecutions against the Catholic Church began in Spain, and Eusebia made herself “available” to help. This time, she offered herself as a victim to God for the salvation of Spain.

Her offer was accepted and in August 1932 a mysterious illness struck her. Doctors were unable to diagnose this disease which was causing the limbs of her body to wind up, turning her into a “ball of yarn”. Her asthma, which had always been “mild”, had now worsened and added to her suffering. Two years later she had a pale complexion and told her sisters to beg God to save Catalonia and to keep it safe. Eusebia died on 10 February 1935 and had predicted not long prior that the anti-religious sentiment would transcend to conflict – this happened not long after as the Spanish Civil War.

The echo of voices of the townspeople of Valverde could be heard following her departure:  “A saint has died”.

The beatification process commenced on 15 December 1981 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued the official “nihil obstat” and titled her as a Servant of God; the diocesan process opened in the Diocese of Huelva and Bishop Rafael González Moralejo oversaw the diocesan process from 12 April 1982 until 15 September 1984. The C.C.S. validated this process in Rome on 20 December 1985 and received the Positio from postulation officials in 1990. Theologians approved the cause on 14 May 1996 as did the C.C.S. on 5 November 1996 which later allowed for Pope John Paul II to confirm her heroic virtue and name her as Venerable on 17 December 1996.