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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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Children of the World vs. Children of the Light

The kingdom of Christ breaks into the world, first through the person of Jesus and now through his Church.  He put aside his glory and embraced our poverty.  Indeed, the Alleluia verse says that “By his poverty you might become rich.”  We are all the poor man in Christ.

The Gospel presents us with the parable of the dishonest steward.  Jesus knew what type of crowd he was addressing.  They were indeed sinners and even the poor among them had the rich man’s dreams.

Our Lord is not commending the steward. The steward neither repents nor converts. Indeed, he stole from his master first and he steals again from him at the end.  In order to ingratiate himself to the various debtors, he remits what they owe, thus stealing what (by rights) belongs to his master.  His master commends him, not because he is happy about being robbed but because he can appreciate worldly prudence.  Indeed, if the steward is a thief, his master is probably the biggest thief of all.  Such men are labeled by Christ as “children of this world” and the ultimate master of this world is the devil.

Our Lord would not have “the children of light” possess such values or to imitate their tactics; rather Jesus wants us to have a comparable passion and wisdom for justice and truth.  Making friends with “dishonest wealth” does not mean that we should seek out stolen money and goods.  It is an expression for worldly riches.  We are urged to employ the things of the world for the purposes of the kingdom.  Worldly power and wealth should be exerted to care for the poor, the oppressed and the hurting.  The things that are passing can serve a transitory purpose in that which is lasting and more important, the building up of a compassionate society and the Church which preaches mercy.

His listeners are left with a profound choice.  Are they children of the world (the devil) or children of the light (God).  Ours is a jealous God.  “No servant can serve two masters.  He will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”  Where is your heart?  To whom do you belong?

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

[112] Sunday, August 3, 2014
1 Isaiah 55:1-3 / Psalm 145 / 2 Romans 8:35, 37-39 / Matthew 14:13-21

These words in the first reading were written toward the end of the Babylonian exile. God’s people looked forward to a restoration and the coming of the Messiah. Much in these oracles will find fulfillment in Christ. We read, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!” Jesus invites the Samaritan woman at the well to receive his water and never to thirst again. When facing the prospect of arrest from the Pharisees, he tells his listeners, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him’” (John 7: 37-38). The first reading emphasizes the gratuity of God— toward the poor, the hungry, and to a people lost in the desert. They are now invited home. Jerusalem shall be rebuilt. God will keep his promises. Basic longings will be satisfied. Of course, God has something planned for them way beyond any political restoration or earthly riches. More than a new temple in Jerusalem, we would have in Christ a King who ushers in a heavenly kingdom. The prophet told them not to waste their time and energies on that which does not satisfy. The emphasis is upon the Giver, and our coming to the Lord “heedfully” or freely. It is God, himself, who satisfies our basic longings. Prophesy is fulfilled. Jesus proclaims the truth to which the crowds “listen” with hope. At the Last Supper, Jesus speaks of his oblation and Eucharist as a new and “everlasting covenant.” Second Isaiah spoke about how the Messiah would come that they “may have life.” Jesus, of the line of David, conquers the grave and gives us a share in his life.

The responsorial reaffirms the how God provides for the needs of his people. He gives “them their food in due season.” Jesus uses references to water to speak about new life in him. He also institutes the Eucharist to feed his people the bread of life. We were made for God. Our drink and food is literally the Lord, himself. Just as we are told that nothing compares to the gift of God, who satisfies every need; the second reading stresses that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of Christ. People might give up on God but the Lord never gives up on us.

Jesus is the living compassion of God. The Gospel says that “his heart was moved with pity” for the crowd and he responds by healing their sick. The people of old wandered the desert seeking a promised land; here the Lord enters the desert to abide with his people and to feed them. There is a two-fold movement. We approach the Lord and he comes to meet us. He feeds their bodies. But this feeding points to the more profound food of the Eucharist. Here he multiplies fish and bread. In the sacrament he extends his very self. All receive the same, the fullness of Christ. Notice that God’s bounty is overflowing. Similarly, we reserve the Blessed Sacrament in out tabernacles. God continues to abide with us.

People want so many things and are often satisfied with that which has little or no real value. During the days of the Confederacy, there were a number of wealthy men in the south. But what would a million dollars mean to them after the Civil War? Their bills would have no monetary value. Many became bankrupt. Today a person might want a fancy car or an 80 inch SMART television screen. But what value would these things have if there should be no gasoline or if a solar flare should destroy our electrical plants? A horse and a book might then have more immediate value. And yet, these too could be stripped from us. Today we have brothers and sisters who face persecution and the prospect of death for the “crime” of being a Christian. Many become martyrs because they trust that God will not abandon them. The treasure of Christ is the one prize that time, misfortune, death or evil men cannot take away from us.

No More Lay Preachers in Rochester

The march toward great orthodoxy and unity in the Church continues. After some 40 years of violating Church law, the diocese of Rochester will no longer allow the laity to usurp priests and deacons in preaching homilies at Mass. The thanks goes out to Bishop Salvatore Matano for insisting that canon and liturgical law be followed. He stated, “It is not a policy shift as regards to the universal law of the church. I am trying to help the faithful understand what is the universal law of the Church and how important it is that in the celebration of Mass, we do what the Church asks of us.”

I well remember Bishop Matthew Clark who started the deviation. He was regularly invited to give talks by the progressive or liberal staff at CUA when I was a student many years ago. He even gave us a retreat where he speculated about women priests and about how a priestly calling might be a temporary vocation and that God might later call some men to other things. I was young but shocked by the statement.

In any case, it looks like the compass in Rochester is returning to the proper settings of the universal Church. Now comes the hard work, not just of correcting abuses, but reforming hearts and minds. People will be hurt and disappointed, especially the women who made up the majority of the lay homilists. But where one door closes, others are opened. Hopefully these women will not feel discarded or alienated. Inclusion and empowerment was never dependent upon the clericalization of the laity. I have confidence that the bishop will find a way to involve these women, with their theology degrees and gifts, in the building up of the Church. God forbid that they should walk away from the Church that has always been their home.

Question 4 – Extraordinary Synod on the Family

4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations

a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

Not only is it a reality, the practice is reaching beyond “ad experimentum” in becoming a state of life all its own. Sure, there are couples who “shack up” to see if they are meant to live together, but many cohabitate for years without getting married or even intending to get married. Society, itself, is unsure how to deal with the phenomena. For instance, laws for common law marriages are falling by the wayside. It created situations where couples were regarded as legally married while they, themselves, thought they were not. I suspect that some of these couples suffer from ambivalence about marriage or a fear of the lasting commitment. Of course, the epidemic of divorce may also be a catalyst. I have heard couples say that they want to be sure and that they do not become another negative statistic. Ironically, those who cohabitate before marriage do not seem to fare as well as those couples who are virginal and/or chaste; why is this? I would submit that cohabitation grants none of the spiritual safeguards for marriage and thus is not analogous. There are no graces from the sacrament; indeed, the couple are most probably living in a state of mortal sin. Such cohabitation presumes that the couple are engaged in sexual activity or fornication. Indeed, some couples live together because it makes sexual congress easier. Others live together because they take refuge in each other within an increasingly cold and disconnected world. Men and women are lonely and afraid. Even though they are not married, they cling to each other for support and companionship. Unfortunately, mortal sin is no adequate preparation for a grace-filled marriage. Couples say they love each other… but not enough to wait and not enough to preserve the holiness of the beloved. This selfishness and mind-set is a terminal kernel.

I should add that when these couples come to the priest and ask for marriage, they are frequently treated the same as chaste couples trying to do right by God, the Church and themselves.  A girl can be pregnant but she wants to wear white.  But if she is living with her boyfriend and having sex, it becomes a broken sign.  We can recommend separation but sometimes the length of the relationships and the logistics (including finances) of cohabitation would make this difficult.  I have them stay apart the night before the wedding and require them to go to Confession.  I would recommend that we marry such couples but do so in a way that minimizes the scandal.  They could offer their vows in a chapel of the rectory or in a small service with less than a dozen friends.  We could let couples know that cohabitation would cost them the marriage ceremony of their dreams.  These are precisely the people who need to ponder more the inner realities of marriage and less the external trappings.

b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?

Is this question for real? Of course, they exist. Indeed, this year for the first time in the United States there are more couples cohabitating than married.

“About a quarter of women move in with a romantic partner before the age of 20, and more women than ever live with a partner before they get married, according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly half of women (48 percent) between the ages of 15 and 44 lived with a partner before getting married between the years of 2006 and 2010, an 11 percent jump since 2002 and a 41 percent jump since 1995. Less than a quarter of so-called “first unions”—meaning a first marriage or first cohabitation—were marriages during that span. In 2002, 30 percent of “first unions” were marriages. According to the report, 1-in-5 women became pregnant during their first year of premarital cohabitation, 40 percent of first marital cohabitations transitioned to marriage within three years, and 27 percent dissolved within five years. People are also prolonging marriage for longer after moving in together, according to the report. In 1995, the average length of a cohabitation that transitioned into marriage was 14 months—between 2006 and 2010, it was 21 months.”

c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programs?

Again, of course this is a reality here in the U.S. and the Archdiocese of Washington. It was hoped that the six-month waiting period before marriage, and the accompanying preparation, might help. But the divorce issue still plagues us. The problem’s answer is shared Catholic faith and values. If couples worship and pray together, a Gallup poll shows that all but 2% stay together. And even that 2% might be an aberration from false responses. Couples that do not pray face a 50% plus divorce rate. This truth speaks for itself. If a couple practices sacrificial love and places their marriage into God’s hands, then his grace will sustain them. If they ignore his help, they are more liable to fail. As for percentages in the parish, I cannot say. Many no longer even tell the priest. This includes those who have remarried outside the Church. This complicates matters and makes for embarrassing situations among volunteers for parish service or for membership in fraternal organizations like the Knights of St. John and the Knights of Columbus. Like most priests, I have no specific parish program to deal with this issue. The priest will offer counselling if they come forward and assist in an annulment and/or subsequent convalidation. The issue is delicate and sometimes frightfully complicated. I had a situation of a couple that wanted to get married in the Church. They were both Catholic but the man was previously married outside the Church in a civil court. The Church would not recognize that bond but it lasted some years and they had children. The man procured a Declaration of Nullity Because of Lack of Canonical Form. There was nothing really stopping the second (true) marriage. However, as the priest I felt corrupted by the situation. He had abandoned his prior spouse and the girl he wanted to marry was “the other woman” who bragged about stealing him from his civilly married spouse. Married or not, it was a sickening situation!

I know that there are programs in the Archdiocese to assist troubled marriages, like Retrouvaille. There is also Marriage Encounter.

d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?

Some drop out regarding religious practice. Others act as if it is no big deal. Those who take Church teaching seriously feel guilt but there is resentment that they cannot receive absolution and the Eucharist. They frequently want to be treated as regularized when they are not. Some priests have told them that it is up to their conscience as to receive Holy Communion or not. They might even shop around for priests tolerant on this point. Of course, guidelines in the Archdiocese of Washington are currently rather permissive and priests are generally not allowed to withhold the sacrament. (Although many of us regularly substitute a quick blessing gesture, something in itself which is not proper to the communion line but which helps to avoid a negative confrontation.) I have encountered a few over the years who were unaware of Catholic marriage law, but only a few. There has also been the wrinkle of renegade rent-a-priests who posture as clergy in good standing and witness marriages without faculties. I have encountered two cases of this in the last two years.

e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?

They all pretty much ask for the sacraments or are upset when they discover that they should refrain. That is why they see the priest. The majority drop out and probably do not care. They will not make the effort to talk to a priest. Unfortunately, everyone who goes to Mass these days takes the sacrament. Ushers have to be careful not to intimidate such people to come up so as to avoid shame.

f) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

There has already been criticism of the many annulments granted in the United States. I suspect simplification would make the problem worse. Annulments must always be in conformity to the truth. There are some situations that cannot be fixed.

g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programs exist on the national and diocesan levels? How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?

I think we need to do more to emphasize the value of the person who is not married or who through no fault of his or her own must now live as a single person after a failed marriage. Couples are not made up of two halfs that are made whole. We are complete unto ourselves. Not all stories in this world end happily. It is then we seek solidarity and consolation in Christ’s saving Cross.

Although not always conveniently located, there are also groups for Divorced and Separated Catholics. However, I am not certain that these always constitute the proper pastoral response. I have known divorced people becoming romantically inclined with people who share their hurts and disappointments. Instead of encouraging separated Catholics to mend fences, it makes the breaks permanent. Couples start dating when in the eyes of the Church they still belong to their lawful spouse. The Church, after all, does not recognize divorce and the person or persons who precipitate the break commit sin. This last point is either glossed over or denied, even by some assisting clergy. Are we encouraging fornication, cohabitation and adultery with our support groups for separated and divorced Catholics? Why is it that we do not encourage them to be chaste and content on their own?  Do we really want a breeding ground for romance for this group?

Ordinary 23, Wednesday

[439] 1 Col 3:1-11 / PS 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13ab / Lk 6:20-26

Those without faith claim that believers are just “pie in the sky” fools, accepting earthly hardship in the hope of heavenly reward. Everything hinges upon the truthfulness of the Christian kerygma: Jesus is in his heaven and he prepares a place for you and me. We do not live just for earthly bread but for that which is everlasting. Paul loves lists and the first reading today is no exception. We are challenged by the apostle to look beyond this world, avoiding “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry, anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths.” There is objective right and wrong. We are called to live in conformity with the truth, not to distort it with deception. All are summoned to chaste lives and for those whom it is given, the gift of celibate discipleship. The reference to passion is in regard to “out of control” emotion or drives. Warning against anger, he then mentions several sins of the tongue. Words can tear down and harm others. The sins of commission start with the intentions of the heart. If we fail to think and love with Christ, then we are liable to stumble and offer a negative or counter witness to the Gospel. If we really believe, the fruits of our life should demonstrate this reality. Paul exhorts our unity in Christ and our liberation from the bondage of sin. By living a virtuous life we demonstrate that we belong to him.

Ordinary 23, Tuesday

[438] 1 Col 2:6-15 / PS 145:1b-2, 8-9, 10-11 / Lk 6:12-19

We as Catholics speak of Peter as the ROCK of the Church established by Jesus; and yet, such is only possible because Jesus is the foundation stone upon which our faith is built. We are to trust in the revelation of Christ, not in the follies of men which are accounted as wisdom. Similarly, we are reminded that ours is a jealous God and that we are privileged to know him and the genuine worship of the Eucharist. Too many are swayed by a world that does not know God and by New Age sorceries which replace truth with error. Our faith is neither a law book nor a philosophy of life; it is based upon the person of Jesus Christ. God has come to save his people. Only he has the power to save us. The Cross of Christ has vanquished powers and principalities. It redeems us and makes possible the forgiveness of sins. We are no longer the property of the devil but sons and daughters of the Father. We are called to walk with the Lord, and sometimes even to be carried by him.

Ordinary 23, Monday

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest

[437] Col 1:24–2:3 / PS 62:6-7, 9 / Lk 6:6-11

Paul speaks of “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ,” an admission that is embarrassing to those denominations which contend that our Lord has done everything and that all which remains for us is to have faith in him. We have been redeemed, but salvation is not automatic. Our Lord tells us to take up our crosses and to follow him. What was missing from the passion and crucifixion? The answer is simple, our union and participation with him. He died for us but now he would have us die with him so that we might live with him, in this world and forever in the next. Paul pours himself out as a witness to the Lord and his Gospel. Salvation history does not end with Christ, even as it reaches the climax of God’s intervention; rather, it continues in the lives of believers in the Church. Like Paul, and for the sake of our brothers and sisters, we are commissioned to proclaim the Good News as a “completion” of “the word of God.” Our Bibles are translated and the books compiled. We are taught our faith. No one comes to the baptismal font alone. Our encounter with Christ is not just a mystical experience, but one that is mediated through the sacraments and human vessels.

Sunday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time

SUNDAY, Week 19 – Homily Notes

“For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.”

God sees the whole picture. We do not. What we understand is limited to the current mess where we find ourselves. The past is fleeting and memory fails us. The future has yet to be realized and we know all too well how human plans often do not work out. But it is a tenet of faith that nothing can circumvent divine providence. Our first reading from Wisdom shows an early insight into this truth. Despite the faithlessness of men and women, God kept his promises. Of course, while they saw a family become a tribe become a great nation and then a spiritual people of faith; it is doubtful that they fully appreciated where God’s plans would take them. It was enough in ancient days to know that God was good and that he had called them to be his children. They offered sacrifices to the one true God and rejoiced in the covenant they shared. As the people of the promise, one day the Messiah would come and as the great high priest he would offer the true oblation of atonement. The covenant would be ratified and made brand new with the new and everlasting covenant in Christ’s blood.

“Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”

The psalm response brings this point home. We especially, as the Church, are the blessed People of God. Do we really concentrate upon this blessing? We have so very much. We have the Bible, the sacraments, the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins, the catechism, the Pope, the testimony of the ancient fathers and the legacy of the saints, we have the various forms of Christian prayer, especially the Rosary, and the list goes on and on. Blessings upon blessings are ours.

It all began with Abraham but it comes to fulfillment in Christ. This is the theme from our second reading, Hebrews. God would spare Isaac, but not his own Son. The prophets and patriarchs died in faith. But now we can embrace a faith, not simply of promise, but of realization. Christ conquers sin and death. We are no longer the devil’s property. We are truly God’s children in truth.

The Gospel speaks to our posture in the Church. Placing our treasure in Christ, we must be committed to his service and alert stewards ready for the Lord’s return. We are not the master of our lives. There might be much that we do not understand. Often, our efforts might seem pointless and we find ourselves counted as failures. None of this matters, because when we see the Lord, he will simply say, as he did to Peter, “Do you love me?” And then as he did for Peter, he will make reference to our mission or stewardship. Flowing from the first question, may come a second, “Have you been faithful?” If the answer is YES then he will tell us as he did in a parable of a faithful servant, “Come, share your Master’s joy!”

[90] Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 17:17-24 / Psalm 30 / 2 Gal 1:11-19 / Lk 7:11-17

The response to our psalm is “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” When we look at the Latin, what we are actually saying is that we “exult” or “raise up” the Lord for excising us, extracting us, literally getting us out of the fix we were in, rescuing us. Jesus will literally be raised up on the Cross so that we might know mercy and life. God keeps his promise to save us.

Elijah as has a hard time of it. When things go wrong, people blame the messenger. Elijah enters the house of a widow with a sick child. Her son dies and she immediately blames the prophet for killing him. “Why have you done this to me, O man of God?” She feels that his presence attracted god’s attention to her sins or unworthiness. It is like a spot or stain; it shows up most against a white or immaculate backdrop. The Jews felt that physical maladies or death signified a curse from God. This woman feels that the prophet’s presence forced God’s hand in allowing her son to die. Elijah takes the boy to an upper room and implores God to spare the child’s life. He does something physically that we might view as odd. He stretches himself three times over the child as he prays for the breath of life to be returned. While the Old Testament author would not have seen the connection, Christians often associate the number three with the Trinity or the three points of the upper Cross. What is the prophet doing? He is literally placing his life on the line. He is begging God who is looking down to see him in place of the boy. If someone has to die, he is pleading let it be him. The boy is healed and he takes him to his mother. Now, instead of condemning the prophet, she joyfully announces, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God. The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.”

We see a parallel with the Gospel reading where our Lord restores a young man to life and gives him to his widowed mother. Luke gives us various details to pull the heartstrings of readers. Throughout we know the Lord was about more than physical healing, but also the healing of the soul. While God spares the son in both these readings, to do so he surrenders his own Son on the Cross. The prophet who stretched himself over the dead boy did not have his life taken, but Jesus stretches himself on the Cross, not just over this one son or the other, but over the whole world. He dies that we might live. The widowed mother in the Gospel had lost everything. It was a man’s world. She had neither a husband nor a son to care for her. She had lost the love of her life and her heart was broken. Jesus stops the funeral procession and tells her not to weep. This is not dissimilar from when he appears to the apostles after his resurrection and tells them not to be afraid. Sorrow will become joy. Despair will be replaced by hope. Jesus saves two lives, the mother and the son. My DRE has suggested that Jesus pitied her because he saw something of his Mother in her situation. Mary was also a widowed mother and soon she would lose her Son. “A great prophet has arisen in our midst! God has visited his people!”

While not strictly connected to the other readings, Paul’s epistle to the Galatians acknowledges that God has given him special insight. While he prided himself as the Jew’s Jew; he has undergone a conversion to Christ and submitted to three years of religious formation in the Church. Last week we had his second epistle to the Corinthians where he gave us the narrative of the Lord’s Supper. But such was more than history or Christ’s words; these were also his words— the ritual he had received in Antioch and the manner by which as a bishop-priest (apostle) he offered the Eucharist. He took what he had received and he offered it to others. He went to Jerusalem and conferred with Kephas (ROCK or PETER) and James, the bishop of Jerusalem. Paul was part of the Church established by Christ, the Catholic Church.

[527] Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Zep 3:14-18 / Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6 / Lk 1:39-56

Mary is viewed by believers as a figure for the Church, particularly as the New Jerusalem. What God did for her we hope to see realized in us: filled with grace and holiness, handmaid of the Lord, and raised or restored body-and-soul to life in heaven. Israel of old wandered through the desert and was given stewardship of the Ark of the Covenant. Mary, as also a daughter Zion would travel the desert to visit her cousin Elizabeth. There she would fulfill the command found in Zephaniah, “Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exalt with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” Indeed, her canticle wonderfully parallels the prophetic words of restitution and mercy from God. Indeed, the prophetic words are realized in a way that the prophet could never have imagined, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” The encounter between these women was not between two persons but four. Hidden but present was John the Baptizer in the womb and, more importantly, the unborn Christ. The responsorial uses Isaiah’s words which point even more directly to the feast we celebrate today: “Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD.”

Speaking for myself, a personal connection is made with the words, “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.” I visited the site of the Visitation on two occasions, and there is a well at the bottom of the hill from where the encounter took place. There is now a Catholic church that marks the site. There is a quaint legend about the hell. Supposedly, during the time when the elder Herod had his soldiers out search to kill the Christ Child, Elizabeth and Zechariah placed the baby John in a bucket and lowered him into the well so as to hide him. Otherwise, his death would have been added to the many Holy Innocents who died. When we next encounter John, note that he would again be in the water, albeit baptizing for repentance sake in the Jordan.

The Visitation scene is remarkable on many levels. When Mary entered the house we are told that John leaped in the womb. Even here he is the prophet of the Lord, announcing the presence of the Christ. I recall an artist’s modern “symbolic” depiction which showed a cut-away of Christ shining with brilliant Light in the womb and with John smiling and jumping. Today, especially, there is a powerful pro-life message to this event. Jesus was Lord even in the womb and John was his prophet. Such celebrations make the proponents of abortion very uncomfortable. Every child, inside or outside the womb, is a living person distinct from his or her parents. Every person is precious and irreplaceable. Every child is a reflection of the Christ Child. The mystery of the Incarnation brings home the fact that there is no such thing as a pro-abortion Christianity. This makes abortion and all those who permit or enable it to happen into accomplices to murder, indeed, more than this, a form of attempted deicide. Having already received the greeting associated with the Hail Mary prayer from the angel, we now hear the Spirit-moved addition from Elizabeth, a daughter of Israel: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” The Church will add the rest. Mary responds with her Magnificat that is used every day in the Liturgy of the Hours: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” Mary here becomes a prophetess. Note that she says that God is her Savior, not that he “will be,” an indication toward the mystery of her holiness as the Immaculate Conception. She also foretells her continuing role and the devotion of the Church toward her. God has remembered his promise and has sent the Savior or Messiah. The damage caused by sin will be healed. Nothing will ever be the same again.