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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Witness of Mary

mary.mother.of.jesus.01It is quite natural at Christmas time to reflect upon the role and motherhood of Mary. Unlike certain critics, Catholics would likewise bring her to mind at the crucifixion, to which she and a few others were direct witnesses. While some exegetes would argue that an appreciable amount of time passed between the actual Nativity and the Epiphany, Mary was also a witness to that somewhat peculiar event. Wise men follow a star and come as witnesses for the Gentiles. Shepherds answer the hymn of angels and come to pay reverence as fellow Jews. In other words, the whole world will pay homage to this newborn king, because he will bring about a new kingdom and a new people. Mary is already a citizen of this new order. The one who would go out to the world has the world coming to him. Nothing is said about Mary’s response, even when the astrologers give her Son gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12). Having already received the greatest gift of all, her Son, she welcomes the visitors to encounter him and to be stirred by a new faith. She places no hindrance to their access and like John the Baptizer some thirty plus years hence, recedes to the background. She will always bring others to her Son. Mary never gets in the way but spiritually facilitates our access to Jesus and submits to his authority and power.

Given the holocaust of the holy innocents, the year Jesus was brought to the temple for the presentation probably saw a scarcity of male children. This is not to deny the supernatural agency behind the prophecy of Simeon, only to acknowledge the possible natural surprise. John the Baptizer, himself, was purportedly hidden in a well when the soldiers came seeking the lives of boy children up to two years of age. This legend is interesting because it creates a wonderful parallel with the next time we encounter John, again in water, not hidden to save his life but visible to foster repentance and the saving of souls. John would have caused a similar surprise as a child and many years later as the great voice crying out in the wilderness, some would mistake him for the coming Messiah. The prophet Simeon addresses himself to Mary, recognizing her role as the one who brought Jesus to the temple. Jewish children were dedicated to the Lord. However, in Jesus, the Lord is being dedicated to their redemption, as an expression of God’s will— and from the arms of Mary. He will draw them into a more wondrous intimacy and life in him.

Rest in Peace, Fr. Don Worch


Rev. Donald P. Worch, 75, a Catholic priest who worked at ten Washington area parishes over the course of his 49 years with the church, died August 27 at University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Beloved brother and spiritual leader of Rudolph Christian Worch (Vivian), Robert Dennis Worch (Mary) and Richard Reynolds Worch (Ann).  Also survived by 8 nieces and nephews and 22 grand nieces and nephews.

Friends may call at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 9200 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac, MD on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 from 3:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. where a Vigil Mass will be held at 7:30 P.M.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on Thursday September 1, 2016 at 10:30 A.M.

Interment will take place at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

We have lost a saintly priest. Earth’s loss is heaven’s gain. Fr. Donald P. Worch died on August 27, 2016. He was 75 years old. Every time I saw him he would ask about my mother “Lena.” He was our Associate Pastor at Mount Calvary in Forestville, MD from 1971-1977. He came back in 1978 to bury my grandmother. She was interred with his Rosary in her hands. He was the first priest I called when Mom died recently. There was no answer and so I left a message. Now we know why we did not see him. He suffered from a bad heart much of his life. When I was a boy all the ladies thought he was quite handsome, yes, literally a “father-what-a-waste.” He was a good and holy man. A true priest of God.

Rest in Peace.

In lieu of flowers contributions may be made in his name to Catholic Charities.  www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/

Mary, First Disciple of Her Son

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Mary is the first disciple of her Son. When Mary and the family are seeking him, Jesus tells the crowd and his many disciples that they are also his family (see Mark 3:31-35). When a woman shouts out a blessing for the womb that bore him and the breasts that nursed him, he adds that better still is the one who hears the Word of God and keeps it. There is nothing here of a slight against Mary. Indeed, he is raising her up. Mary not only received the Word but she would give it birth into the human family. She will always be the handmaid of the Lord.

Luke 2:19 claims Mary as a source and says that she “pondered all these things in her heart,” the events of salvation history revolving around Jesus and in which she had a part. Prophecy is fulfilled about the seed of the woman crushing the serpent. The Messiah redeems his people. A prophecy is also accomplished about Mary’s continuing role in the Church, even after her assumption. We invoke her maternal intercession and honor her as both the Mother of Christ and our Mother, those redeemed by her Son. Simeon told her at the temple when they came for the presentation, “Your own soul a sword shall pierce so that thoughts out of many hearts might be revealed” (Luke 2:35). Mary was obviously and necessarily present at the conception and birth of her Son, God come to live among us. Similarly, she is with the early Church and the apostles at Pentecost when the Church is born through the infusion of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:13-14). This Spirit makes it so that Christ will be present still through his living Word, the sacraments, and the mystical body or the Church. The Church becomes what Mary was before it, the Ark of the Covenant. Now the great divine mystery will not be hidden in her womb but shall come forth from the womb of the Church. We come to the baptismal font and receive our share of the Holy Spirit, being born again, made into new Christs.

While each of us should be conscious of our response to the great commission of Christ; Mary was the first to hear the summons and she goes out as a missionary to the house of Elizabeth and at the end of the Gospel narrative, having treasured the presence of our Lord in her own home, she testifies to the house of God or the Church. She models for us the posture of a disciple. She is also our special advocate and intercessor. Of course, she never eclipses the role of mediation that is unique to her Son (1 Timothy 2:5-65). If almighty God wanted to exclude the divinization of humanity by grace and disqualify any earthly participation in his mediation, then he could have saved us in another way. Instead, he is conceived and born of Mary, one of his creatures. It was part of divine providence from the very beginning that Mary would have a continuing role to play. Jesus is the saving name. Jesus is God come down from heaven. Jesus is the Savior of the world and makes infinite atonement through his Cross. All this is true. However, Mary’s participation in the saving work is also made possible by the power and intervention of God. God can do as he pleases and he desired to grant a special privilege to this Jewish maiden.

God’s Only Son, Mary’s Only Son

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Certain Protestant critics will point to Luke 2:7 as a proof that Mary had other children: “And Mary; brought forth her FIRST BORN Son.” However, this designation “first born son” is a peculiarity of translation. The expression in ancient times merely meant that this was the first child to open the womb or that was born. The expression was used even when no other children were born to a woman. There was also the Mosaic command that every first child had to be presented to the Lord after forty days. Many other women in the history of salvation had singular births. Here too, with Mary, God demonstrates his power and favor in the birth of Jesus. He is God’s only Son. He is also Mary’s only Son.

I am reminded of Moses who removed his sandals when he approached the burning bush. God was present and Moses trod upon holy ground. Mary is the living holy ground of God. Joseph most of all appreciated this reality. He was the faithful guardian and protector of both Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, and Jesus, who was God come among us. Would we have a picnic and use the chalice from Mass to hold our soda pop? Would we use the paten to serve cupcakes? No, of course we would not! They are reserved for the precious body and blood of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Mary was a vessel reserved for the presence of our Lord.

I have often preferred the use of the term “brethren” over that of brothers in the texts which speak about the kin to Christ: Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, 7:10 and Galatians 1:19. If not true brothers, who were James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude? The word for brother in Hebrew was inexact and meant all sorts of familial relations. Of course, today too we give a wide definition to brothers and sisters beyond a definition of siblings with the same parents. The liturgy uses the address of brothers and sisters in prayers. Secular society uses the terms for close friends or affiliated representatives of the African-American community. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark designate two of the brethren, James and Joseph, as sons of the “other” Mary, who accompanied Mary Magdalene. She is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40). This Mary was related to the Virgin Mary (John 19:25). James who was called the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19) was actually the son of the “other” Mary, the wife of Clopas (Luke 24:10). The apostle Jude Thaddaeus (Matthew 13:55) announces himself a brother of Jesus (Jude 1:1) but we know that he is the son of Mary, the wife of Clopas. There are also intimations that Jesus is an only child by how he is addressed. When he goes home, people are taken aback by his public ministry and new popularity. It is remarked, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” Notice, the speaker does NOT say, “Is this not ONE OF the carpenter’s sons?”

Mystical Spouse of the Holy Spirit

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Given that Mary is understood as a mystical spouse of the Holy Spirit, it is fitting that there is no physical consummation of the marriage between Joseph and Mary. While they will share love and a common life, in many ways their bond was more that of father and daughter than the usual husband and wife. We live in such an over-sexed world that this relationship seems absurd or impossible. This makes it all the more valuable. While physicality can be a legitimate and wonderful component to spousal love, too often it eclipses the chaste sacrificial love which should also exist between lovers. By stripping away the physical element, the Holy Family gives witness to the greater love which should be present in every nuptial union. Their celibate love is also a testimony to a discipline which is so sorely absent in many relationships, today. People want everything and they want it now. Pleasure is pursued and worshiped. People think that their lives are enriched by seeking as many experiences and relationships as possible. Our culture laments and feels sorry for the person who dies a virgin. Sexual activity is regarded as a rite of becoming an adult, even if as a pretense during the teen years. Couples use sex as a form of recreation. Later they cohabitate with the excuse that it makes financial sense; the truth is that it makes fornication easier. When they finally get married, there are often problems. Why? Their actions already demonstrate that they see no vital link between the marital act and marriage. They get married for the ceremony or to make parents happy, not because they repent from sin and want the graces of the sacrament. Where is sacrificial love in all this? Where is their high regard for purity and virginity? Where is the discipline and reverence that will sustain them? Ask such people about Joseph and Mary and they will laugh at you. They cannot believe that there was no sexual intimacy between the spouses of the Holy Family. Their mindset and values are very far removed from those of the Gospel.

Who is Mary’s Son?

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Jesus is God come down from heaven. His conception, itself, demonstrates collaboration between the divine and human; however, it is both initiated and empowered by God. Given his unique identity, it was logical that his earthly beginnings should reflect this great mystery. He would not be conceived like other men.

Many modern-day versions of Christianity attempt to jump-start the faith and ignore the 2,000 years of Catholic faith and tradition. Oftentimes, this means that they will struggle through the various heresies which the true Church long ago put to sleep: as with Arianism, Nestorianism and Gnosticism. The role of Mary has been a great safeguard for orthodoxy. Separated from the protective influence of the Holy Spirit over the Magisterium and discounting Mary’s place in faith and devotion, these new attempts at Christianity are almost certain to fail. Believers might be very sincere, but errors in doctrine are certain. Jesus is not almost God but God himself. He is not a creature (Arianism). He is the Word made flesh. Jesus is not a ghostly entity pretending to be human (Gnosticism). He was conceived, born, suffered and died. Jesus is not a human person, but is divine with human and divine natures (Nestorianism). Mary is the Mother of God, not merely the mother of the man. There are not two sons and Christ’s sonship is unique and eternal (against Adoptionism).

The Virgin Birth & Modern Skepticism

mary.mother.of.jesus.01The very notion of a virgin giving birth to a child seems preposterous. Certain scientists have speculated that it might be possible through the accidental fusion of two egg cells. At least with other creatures it is known that it can happen in nature, but as an extremely rare occurrence. However, should it happen, the offspring would always be female. Without the contribution of the male chromosome, the child can never be a boy. This forces us to acknowledge that Mary’s motherhood is of an entirely different quality than any before or after her. God makes the impossible possible.

Along with the resurrection and the many miracles of Jesus, Mary’s virginal motherhood is mocked by atheists and those who are unable to accept the possibility of supernatural intervention. Although they would insist that they are rationalists who will only believe what can be scientifically verified, many of these same critics subscribe to various theories or assumptions in science which currently defy observational and/or mathematical verification. Just look at all the competing string theories— they cannot all be right. They have created a new faith for themselves, and one which will not spare their lives. Our faith is based upon the testimony of ancient witnesses and a personal relationship with Jesus. We also know the maternal intercession of Mary.

Mary’s Virginity in the Jewish Understanding

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Catholic churchmen continue to reflect on the mystery of Mary’s virginity although there is unanimity that she only gave birth to Jesus. The other children may have been cousins or children of Joseph from a previous bond; some Church fathers spoke about Joseph as an older man and widower. While there is biblical reference to Jesus’ Mother and his brothers and sisters, note the texts never indicate that Mary is the mother of these brethren.

Virginity was associated with holiness and purity going back to Old Testament days. While it was insisted that it should be brought to the marriage bed undefiled, the emphasis was fruitfulness and progeny. The promiscuous woman was damaged goods and unclean. The barren woman was cursed. We see this latter sentiment with Abraham and Sarah and in the New Testament with Zachariah and Elizabeth. Sacred tradition indicates a similar situation with St. Ann. These women rejoiced because God gave them a child and took away their shame.

“Sons are a birthright from Yahweh, children are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).

“Your wife will be a fruitful vine within your house: your children will be like olive shoots around your table…may you see your children’s children” (Psalm 128: 3,6).

Definition of the Immaculate Conception

mary.mother.of.jesus.01All debate would be laid to rest when the consensus of the Church was confirmed with a papal declaration in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus:

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of Her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

Those born in sin must struggle with such truths, both about Jesus and Mary. Even if we repent and abide in the forgiveness of God, sin still has had its impact upon us. Both in terms of concupiscence and memory we must live with what we have done and struggle to avoid future sin. We can know God’s mercy but cannot escape the fact that our sins played a part in the murder of God’s Son. Believers may all the more become fatalistic and complacent about their sinfulness. How many times have we heard someone acclaim, “I am no saint!” The desire to be holy as Mary was holy is frequently absent. Although the apparition in Lourdes in 1854 is within the jurisdiction of private revelation, many judge the Virgin Mary’s message to Bernadette Soubirous as a heavenly confirmation of the dogmatic title. She says, “I am the immaculate conception!”

On the Battle Lines with Jesus & Mary

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Mary responds to God’s will in perfect harmony with her Son. Any stain of sin, no matter how minuscule would have disqualified her as the woman or new Eve who stands in opposition to Satan. The demonic dragon can have no part of her, even for a moment.

A damned spirit, human or angelic, has turned away from the one for whom he was made. If the angels of God always look upon God’s face, the damned avert their eyes. They have rejected LOVE itself. A devil might want to eat you, but he would never want to be your friend. He hates you. He hates God. And yes, he hates himself. The lines are clearly drawn.

We are told to put on Christ. As confirmed soldiers for Christ, he is our uniform. Our weapons are not guns, bombs, swords or arrows. Rather, we are shielded by divine grace and find the sacraments and the life of prayer in our arsenal. We bombard the enemy with prayer and supplications for reparation. Christ makes himself the first casualty but his Resurrection has changed all the rules to the game. God is on our side. We battle for souls while knowing that the war is won in Christ. The stakes are high. The enemy has placed traitors in our ranks so we must be ever vigilant. The price of silver tempted Judas and might sway some of us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!