A few years ago, many of us stood at the box office of movie theaters to see a film that received a lot of attention from film critics; after all, it was awarded five Oscars, the highest honors. This film has been praised for its content and timeliness, yet, even after seeing it, many have chosen the other path: divorce!
The Pharisees came to Jesus and ended his answer by saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. And so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mt. 19:5-6).
Divorce has been, is, and will be a social and legal problem in every age, among all peoples, and thus among the Jews at the time of Christ.
The Pharisees came to Jesus to tempt Him. They thought they would provoke him to make unpopular statements about the cause of divorce. Those who oppose marital divorce invariably win many opponents and detractors by their stance. Christ, however, does not look at the hearers and speaks clearly and distinctly:
“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to put away your wives; but from the beginning of creation, it was not so… God ordained marriage. It is not good for a man to be alone. Therefore, I will give him a help meet like unto him” (Mt. 19:8).
Christ here declares man and woman to be equal. To remarry a divorced woman, or to marry a divorced man, is to commit adultery. Christ is defending before the Pharisees the God-originally minded order of marital cohabitation. The most profound mystery of marriage lies in the Savior, elevating it to a sacrament.
St. Paul warns the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself up for her….” (Eph. 5:25).
The love between spouses is the foundation of marriage and the family.
The conciliar document Joy and Hope say that marriage and conjugal love are directed toward procreation and the education of offspring. Children are precious gifts! But the role of parents is not only to give children physical life. Above all, parents must contribute to the healthy development of the spiritual life that begins with the child’s baptism. True love and offspring, however, require the indissolubility of marriage. The indissolubility of marriage is the primary mark of Christian marriage: what God has joined together, let not man put asunder!
This is how we must look at marriage, and this is how we must think about it. Today, however, we observe something else. There are many mistakes and misconceptions about marriage. Among them are those that claim that marriage is a private affair where anything goes. A child is considered a burden; therefore, every possible means is promoted against conception. It goes so far as to regard marriage as a shackle and therefore seeks to escape in free love, idolizing unchaste sex and nudity.
Our society is sick with frivolity in sexual life, the accumulation of divorce, and a general decline in morals. Selfishness, self-indulgence, and promiscuity are the enemies of marriage.
The ideal begins with. The young tell themselves that they have fallen in love at first sight. All it takes is an opportunity, a meeting, some fun, a little service / and they are already dreaming of each other, they are in love… Marital and family duties seem like a fairy tale to them, and woe betides anyone who would want to challenge this dream. Then marriage becomes a tragedy. The causes are many. Those concerning everything around them: housing, eating, concern for family traditions, maladjustment, lack of respect for the other, egoism…. are often severe cases, but usually petty ones, and not least there is a third.
Let’s let the survivors of this talk about it: I got married at 17. Today I am 47 years old and have had many sad experiences. I suffer terribly because I was deceived. I lost faith in people. I see in every man a slob, an alcoholic, a thief…
Life brings worse cases: in January 1973, in Preston on the road, a married couple and their 12-year-old son met for the last time. Both were doctors. After the divorce, the child was awarded to the mother. By the time of the conversation, the end of the misunderstanding had taken place. It ended with the shooting of the woman. The mother is in the grave, the father is in jail, and the drama has remained in the little boy’s heart forever.
There are many similar dramas and tragedies. They do not arise suddenly but gradually. It starts with dancing and conversations. He is unhappy, she is disappointed, and behold – they have found each other! Outwardly, as if nothing has changed. And innocently, the tragedy of a woman and children slowly rises. The children often sue and have the right to sue! Society, the Church, and God have a right to sue too.
Marriage is not a toy. It is a sacrament and a social institution. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:6).
Indeed, none of us is perfect. There will be crises in married life, so it is necessary to be aware of the pillars that can protect marriage. Someone has likened marriage to a sanctuary. Every temple is built on a foundation, a foundation. Marriage must be a unity of two persons, not of bodies. A person is not only a body and senses but also a mind and a will. This unity must be based on patience, benevolence, and kind love. “Love is … … does not turn off … is not selfish … does not rejoice in iniquity…” (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
The second pillar is mutual service. All true love becomes service. Service to the Father is true patriotism. Service to God is true religion.
Service is the love of a mother in the upbringing of a child. Christ Himself came to earth to serve and not to be served. When two egoisms meet, that is when it is wrong. That is why I both urge and encourage you to divorce, but not one that destroys the smile of the children, the spouse, and the one we have loved, but divorce with illusions and aspirations for a third person! There is no ideal person! It is only in our vision, but it can be approached by accepting the other person as they are!
A scholar said: “If you can’t build a palace, at least build a house. But remember, you won’t be comfortable in it if you don’t let go of your palace dreams!”
The writer Štefan Králik wrote a play called T r a s o v I s k o, which we have also seen on television: The Childless Marriage. Both parents long to have children. The husband, however, often asks his wife: “What have we done, how have we sinned, that God has not given us a child of our own?” The wife, almost in despair, experienced anxiety; she knew the actual cause, which she eventually told her husband. As an unmarried woman, she was expecting a child, but it could not be born. They forcibly stopped his life at that time. And the aftermath? She couldn’t have any more children!
Do you think this is just a fictional invention? No! Life writes many such tragedies. And do you think that those physically and mentally disabled children in institutions are a testimony and proof of a restrained life? No! Parents should examine their consciences. Some, for pleasure and vitality, convenience, and free love for life, have stolen and impoverished their children!
The world must understand, and those who want to marry must understand, and those who live in marriage must also understand that marriage is a great grace, a sacrament! Marriage is not an animal fusion that is already over when it no longer suits one. Marriage only acquires beauty and value when sacrifices must be made for its sake when they see each other more than themselves.
“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to put away your wives…” (Mt. 19:8) Jesus said to the Pharisees as He reproached them for their meanness, falsehood, and pretense.
Harshness in our families must be replaced by first love, zeal, and tenderness, and not by hatred, calculation, and malice.
Let us all see a film about our family today. Would it deserve an award, an Oscar? Could it say something good to the world?
According to the ancient definition, prayer – but also religion – is the ascent (anabasis in Greek) of the soul to God.
One spirit with the Lord. To ascend is to strain and work. And if this effort should come to naught? Who climbs a mountain peak and approaches the light, but the sun remains as far away as you for those who stay in the valley? We are not surprised, then, at the skepticism of many Christians towards the human endeavor. Our works do not save us but by faith, which is a gift, not our merit. This is a famous saying from the Reformation. We humans do not ascend to heaven, but God comes to save us, as we have seen in biblical examples. In ascetic theology, this problem is often presented as a question: what is the value of human powers when it comes to obtaining divine life and grace? If we call human abilities “asceticism” and union with God “mysticism,” the authors ask what the relationship is between the two. History teaches us that the monastic movement has always been important to the history of the Church. But at the same time, historians, Catholics, and non-Catholics alike realize that one of the foundations of monastic life is the belief that there is unity between asceticism and mysticism. The spiritual progress of the spiritual life corresponds to how well one can cooperate with grace. This cooperation of human powers with the Holy Spirit is typically defined in Greek Synergism.” Then grace is no longer grace; it is a gift of God,” some argue.
Do you know the Holy Spirit?
As early as the fourth century, Pseudo-Macarius replies with a simple
but a beautiful example. Human labors are like the labor of a farmer. We know it is not enough to plow and sow. The harvest depends on the sun, the rain on the temperature. Some summers, there is little to harvest, despite great effort. And yet, the “normal” rule remains valid: the more the fields are cultivated, the better the harvest. Thus, we can also speak of a “normal law of grace.” Also, “Do your best, and God will help you!” St. Ignatius of Loyola expressed this principle: “We must work as if everything depended on us, but we must, but we must pray as if everything depended on God.” It is not a contradiction in terms, as it would seem. Grace is undoubtedly a gift of God. But what God gives us is life and action; the Spirit animates the whole man, his heart, mind, and strength. God’s love must meet with active love on man’s part.
We can say that human nature, human nature, is already such that we are more likely to overlook other people’s faults than our faults glaringly. We hear or read of severe transgressions against God’s laws; we read of theft, murder, wars, or marital infidelity. In addition to these severe faults that we see in other people, our responsibilities seem small and insignificant, and our guilt against God appears unimportant.
Such a view of men seems to give us the right to be angry with those far below us in our own eyes, to condemn their actions, to despise them.
Jesus Christ, however, put an end to such a worldview. With the parable of the two servants, He said that we are all debtors to God, unable to pay our debt. But God, at our simple request, forgives us all. But He asks that we also do so and forgive our neighbor even 77 times.
To better understand Jesus’ parable, we are asked to quote an incident from the Bible. It preserves a song sung by the wicked and proud Lamech, a descendant of Cain. He sang it to his two wives:
Adah and Leta,
listen to my speech,
hear my voice, wives of Lamech.
I will slay the man who wounds, the young man who strikes me and me.
Seven times shall Cain be avenged.
Lamech, however, 77 times.
The number seven in the Bible means completeness. To forgive seven times means a constant willingness to forgive. In the Old Testament, God reserved sevenfold vengeance for the one who killed Cain. Lamech reserved 77-fold vengeance. We see how, in the first sin, evil and iniquity multiplied wonderfully. It grew exponentially. Against this avalanche, only an equally great dam of good could be built. To forgive 77 times means an unlimited willingness to forgive. Only in this way can the avalanche of evil be stopped.
However, the nature within us sometimes resists when we have something to forgive our neighbor: To whom I shall forgive? For that would not even be fair! I cannot forget what he has done, and I will reckon it to him one day! This is also how Christians speak! They do not even realize what terrible blasphemy they are committing.
The first servant’s debt to the master is so great that no servant can pay it. 10,000 talents. That is about 24 million (marks) by today’s standards. But Jesus demandingly used such a staggering sum.
And every man is such a debtor to God. How is this possible? Perhaps you will think: I don’t recall any severe wrongdoing against God. And yet – even the most minor sin is so great an offense against God that man cannot repay it.
The greatness of the offense is calculated not only by what we do but also by whom we offend. Whether we offend a friend, our parents or a head of state makes a difference. The magnitude of the insult rises according to the rank of the person.
God is infinite; therefore, any insult to God, even relatively small, is endless.
Similarly, whether an unknown salesgirl or our mother says a bad word to us makes a difference. Thus the offense is also dependent on the relationship with each other. It depends on the love the person has for us. God loves us infinitely. It is so terrible to offend God because He loves us immeasurably. And God will forgive us of any such offense at a simple request. This greatness of God’s love should cause a person to be willing to forgive others as well continually. But if a man refuses to act according to the pattern God has given, God will use His measure for him. God’s measurements mean infinite mercy. If a man does not forgive, then even God cannot forgive him. In Jesus’ words about punishment, we can feel the foreshadowing of eternal damnation.
And now, let us pause for a moment and transport ourselves to everyday life. Do we have true Christian love? Or do we still think like pagans who know nothing of the greatness of God’s love?
Gilbert Chesterton beautifully explains the difference between pagan and Christian love in his seminal work, O r t o d o x I a.
A reasonable pagan would say that there are people who can be forgiven and people who cannot be ignored. An enslaved person who stole some wine could be laughed at, but an enslaved person who betrayed his benefactor could also be killed and cursed even after death. As long as it was possible to forgive the act, it was also possible to ignore the man. And it was pretty reasonable.
Christianity here struck sharply, as if by the stroke of a sword, and separated one thing from another. It divided the transgression into the transgressor. We are to forgive the transgressor 77 times. We must not forgive the trespasser at all. We must be angrier than before at theft, yet we must be kinder to the thief. Anger and love have been entirely loosened. In other words: We must hate the sin but love the sinner.
This is how the Lord God treats us. There is no sinner that God is not willing to forgive. To believe in this greatness of God’s love is the first requirement of conversion and holiness. Let us beware, therefore, that our repentance, our confession, is not merely a desire to “be right.” Going to confession means going closer to God and loving Him and being told again that God loves us, and we begin to believe it.
As the narrative suggests, an active life requires struggle on our part and a persistent exercise of free will.” The gate and the narrow way that leads to life… Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7, 14. 21 ) We are forced to balance each other in complementary truths: without the grace of God, we cannot do anything, but without our voluntary cooperation, nothing can God.
“Human will is the basic condition without which we God cannot do without.” (Homily of St. Macarius) Our salvation depends on the concurrence of two factors, unequal in importance but equally necessary: the divine initiative and God’s actions are incomparably more important, but human participation is similarly essential. In a world of sin, the human response to God’s love is spontaneous and full of joy. In a fallen world, the element of spontaneity and joy remains. Still, as a primary, there is also the need to fight resolutely against deeply ingrained deep-seated habits and inclinations arising from sin.
One of the most necessary qualities is godly perseverance. The perseverance required of those who aspire to the highest physical achievements is also needed for those who ascend to the heights of God. Man must inflict violence upon himself – his fallen self – for the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and “the violent after he reaches out” (Mt 11:12). This is repeatedly stressed by our guides on the road and is said to Christians living in marriage and religious men and women. “God he asks of man and all – his mind, reason and all..his deeds… Do you want to be saved when you die? Go and deliver yourself, go and work, go and seek and find, wake up and knock, and it shall be opened unto thee.” (From Stories of the Desert Fathers )
“This present age is not a time of rest and sleep; it is a time of struggle, marketplaces, schools, and wandering. For thou must give yourself up and not be discouraged and lazy; devote yourself to the saints to holy works.” (Elder Nazarius of Valam) “Nothing comes from
effort. God’s help is always ready, but it is given only to those who seek and work and those who, after giving all their strength in trials, cry out from the bottom of their hearts: Lord, help us. “Where there is no pain, there is no salvation.” (St. Seraphim of Sarov). “To rest is the same as to flee.” (Tito Colliander) However, so that this severity may not so dishearten us, we also say, “The fullness of life is opened every day to those who work hard.” (From the Stories of the Fathers of the Desert )
And what do all these words mean about effort and suffering in practice? They suggest that our relationship with God is renewed daily through living prayer, and prayer, as Agathon’s father reminds us, is the most challenging task. Suppose I do not find prayer difficult, perhaps because we have not yet begun to pray earnestly. It also means I must renew my relationship with others through compassion, sharing suffering, and refusing arbitrariness. It means taking up the cross of Christ, and not just one in some grand gesture, but all the time, every day: “If you want to come with me, deny yourself, not with your cross every day and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 )
And if this daily carrying of the cross is also a daily sharing of the Lord’s transfiguration and resurrection, then “We are unknown, and yet everyone knows about us; they know we are alive; we are abused, and yet we are not, and yet we are not given over to death; we have something to be sorry for, and yet we are still we rejoice; we are poor, and yet we enrich much, nothing we have nothing, and yet we have everything.” (2 K 6, 9-10 ).
It often happens that we underestimate the mindset of a child, thinking that when he is small, he does not understand things, that he is inexperienced, and so on. And often, this is true. And yet, even children can be learned from those who think they are wise.
The Lord Jesus also says to us: “Most assuredly, I say to you: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven…” (Mt. 18:3).
The Gospel passage begins to deal with the church hierarchy. Matthew collects more sayings of the Lord Jesus on this subject. We know that the apostles were arguing over which one came first. When the Lord Jesus made Peter the head of the apostles, they were arguing. Therefore, the Lord Jesus condemns this kind of thinking, because here it is a selfish assertion. And this is what the Lord Jesus wants to deliver them from. In doing so, He uses the simile of a child standing next to Him. He thus made it clear to the apostles that whoever wants to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like a child.
A child is aware of its smallness. The most typical characteristic of a child is that he needs the help of another and is dependent on it.
But how do I become a child when I am already an adult? Jesus pointed to the child. Everyone should notice something valuable in a child: a pure and sincere relationship with another. There is no greatness in the kingdom of heaven that one can work one’s way up to in one’s own strength, but only from humbly accepting unmerited grace and prioritizing God’s love.
We all know well that self-exaltation and jealousy have already hindered much in the work of the kingdom of God! The saints have always been the humblest because they knew what grace is. For us it means so much to realize that a true disciple must not push himself to the forefront but must also see his role as one of chivalrously taking up the little ones, not only children, but all the weak whom the world so often so cruelly overlooks. The sight of the Lord Jesus is the sight of the little one who comes into the world as a child. And not only that. Even the sight of the cross speaks of a “little Christ.”
The text says clearly and thoughtfully that whoever does not become a child again, whoever does not radically begin to live a new life, will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
What is the new life? It is the gift of God. One must accept it as truth and love from the Lord God. If he acknowledges his dependence on God and fills it with faith and love, that is a new life. He becomes like a child dependent on God, dependent on His help. And in so doing, he also becomes the greatest in God’s kingdom. That is because there are different laws there than in this world. He who is small in the world is great before God. Conversely, he who thinks he is great in the world is small before God.
Therefore, even the leaders of the Church must realize that they have to be small before the world if they want to be great before God. Consequently, he who governs must be governed by God Himself. And so the foremost place in the Church is played by obedience.
Let us not only learn to have a right relationship with children but learn from them to have a right relationship with God.
Not always, and not all of us are sympathetic to the other person. When we do not know the situation, the circumstances, or the reasons, we can be offended or suspicious of the other person’s behavior. That is why it is necessary to behave correctly at the moment and not be hasty.
In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus announces to the apostles that the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but He will rise from the dead on the third day. The Lord Jesus also preaches to Peter to pay the temple tax for himself and him.
Today’s prediction by the Lord Jesus that He will suffer is the second in the series. In the first one, Peter was offended at the Lord Jesus’ action and said to Him: “May God be gracious to you, Lord! This shall not happen to you!” (Mt. 16:22). Then the Lord Jesus rebuked him openly: “Get out of my way, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you have no sense of the things of God, only of the things of men!” (Mt. 16:23).
Peter is no longer silent. He has learned that if he wants to take a stand on something serious, he must know the matter. Even though the Lord Jesus predicts His Passion for the second time, the apostles are greatly grieved. They did not understand why their Master should suffer and rise from the dead. Perhaps these words caused the apostles to think that their mission would also be destroyed if what the Lord Jesus taught was damaged. Indeed, it will not be until a little later, when the Lord Jesus rises from the dead and they remember His words, that they will understand their meaning and significance. The Lord Jesus wanted to protect them from the indignity of seeing Him die a shameful death, so they would remain firm and not be offended.
The second part of the Gospel talks about paying the temple tax. From his twentieth year onwards, every Jewish community member in the time of the Lord Jesus was required to pay an annual tax for the Temple in Jerusalem and the services of half a shekel and two drachmas.
According to the words of the Lord Jesus, Peter finds a state in the fish, which means four drachmas; thus, with one condition, he pays for both. This fee was collected at the Passover. Some circles refused to pay the price. Therefore, the question addressed to Peter by the temple tax collectors is justified. This attitude of the tax collector also tells us about Peter’s perspective in the circle of Jesus’ disciples. Indeed, this man also considered Peter, the head of the group of disciples. Because he doesn’t want to let anything happen to his Lord, he responds without much thought that he pays his taxes. He meant well; it just turned out badly. Peter will experience something similar even later when he, in good faith, defends the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and cuts off Malchus’ ear with a sword. Peter acts out of inner love for the Savior, but without deliberation and not really in the spirit of his Master.
Therefore, the reports of the Apostle Matthew should move us to rejoice that he did not overlook the Apostle Peter’s faults but marked them. It is more accessible to us, too, when we are aware that from time to time, we make mistakes and errors out of love for the Lord Jesus and that when we act out of love, we often work quickly, without much thought or reflection.
Not only Peter but also Jesus calls us to think when He asks us directly through our conscience, the Holy Scriptures, and other persons, questions similar to the ones Peter received. The mighty ones of this world demand tax only from their subjects, not from their own. Thus, as Lord of the temple, the King of Heaven will also not require a temple tax from His only-begotten Son. Let us realize how beautifully the Lord Jesus exalts His filial portion to the Father. And the Lord’s disciples also share in this, having been made God’s subjects by redemption and His free sons. That is why the Lord Jesus speaks of sons free from taxes.
The Lord Jesus wanted to help Peter, so He advised him to take the fish and thus avoid possible offense with the tax collector. The Lord Jesus uses His power, and a miracle happens. This miracle proves the power of the Lord Jesus and His worthiness.
Let us always trust God! But we are also to use our reason, abilities, and talents. Do not give offense to anyone, nor be afraid of him. We must seek to know the circumstances to have a clearer idea and make a righteous judgment.
Let us always be careful in our every word and thinking about others. Let us also be mindful of our conduct.
The transfiguration of the Lord is one of the most critical events in the life of Jesus Christ here on earth. St. Matthew writes: Six days later (six days after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah and after the first prediction of the Passion), Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up a high mountain into solitude. There he was transfigured before them: his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And Moses and Elijah appeared to them, and they talked with him. Then Peter said to Jesus: “Lord, we are well here. If you are willing, I will make three tabernacles here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were very afraid. But Jesus came to them and touched them and said to them: “Arise, and do not be afraid.” And when they lifted their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them: “Tell no one about this vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:1-8)
Where this event happened, we do not know. Tradition says it was on Mount Tabor, which rises right in the heart of Galilee in the middle of the lowland countryside. It happened in the second year of the Lord’s ministry (c. 29) between the Jewish feasts of the Passover (or Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Jn. 5-7). Mount Tabor was very suitable for undisturbed meditation to connect with God. Just as Daniel was once overwhelmed by the appearance of God’s glory (Dan. 10:6), so the apostles were in the rapture, Peter expressed his desire to remain in such treasure as he unknowingly speaks: “Let us set up three tabernacles here.” Along with Jesus, two of the most significant figures of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appeared at his transfiguration. They symbolize the whole of God’s revelation in the Old Testament, which is now fulfilled and culminates in Jesus himself. God the Father Himself confirms these things with a voice from heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son…’ Then the three apostles fall to the ground, full of fear and awe, before God. But Jesus says: “Do not be afraid!” He forbids them to speak of this vision until after His resurrection. The three apostles thus became witnesses of his glory that awaited him after the work of redemption. But he did not want to outrage his enemies even more in advance, nor did he want the three apostles to exalt themselves above the others. Only after the resurrection could they tell others about these events.
The Feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated various times, with Pope Calixtus III ordering it to be celebrated on August 6, 1456. The Mohammedan Turks were destroying Christian lands, and the Pope wanted to use this feast to lift the people’s hearts to God and ask for help. For all, it is a reminder of the glory of Jesus Christ and an encouragement to look forward to the heavenly glory He has prepared for us in heaven. In addition to August 6, the liturgy commemorates the Transfiguration of the Lord on the Second Sunday of Lent, when the Gospel of the Transfiguration is read.
Santa Maria Maggiore – the Greater Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Rome has a feast day today. It is a joyful event, especially for all Slovaks. In this basilica, in the spring of 868, the Holy Father Hadrian II had a Mass celebrated in Slav. This was thanks to Saints Cyril and Methodius, who came to Rome and obtained permission from the Pope to use the old Slovak language in the Divine Liturgy as the fourth liturgical language in history, alongside Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.
The temple is built to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin Mary to two husbands. She appeared to the two separately in Rome in the 4th century on August 4-5, 352. Patricius John and his wife were very wealthy, but had no children. For many years, they prayed and begged the Mother of God for help. They begged her to let them know how to dispose of their possessions when they had no children. And Our Lady appeared to both of them separately. But She told them the same thing:
“Build me a temple in Rome on that hill, which tomorrow will be covered with snow.”
The next day, August 5, the Romans could not stop wondering. It was the summer heat of August in that city. In the morning, Esquiline Hill was under the snow. This was in the year that St. Tiberius was consecrated Pope. The two husbands went to the Holy Father and told him about the apparition. St. Liberius had the same shade. So it was decided.
The Pope went with the priests to Esquiline to give thanks to God. The palace of Livia originally stood there. She was once the mother of Emperor Tiberius. Many Christians were martyred in her house. Now the snow has overtaken the site of the temple. It is also called the Temple of Our Lady of the Snows. It also has another name, Mary ad Praesepe, which means Mary at the manager. The man manager brought it to the temple from Bethlehem and displayed it in a chapel underground on a silver altar. Now they are behind a metal plate in a silver cabinet.
Within a year, St. Liberius consecrated the finished temple. The present high altar is a coffin. It contains the remains of the evangelist St. Matthew. It also has the relics of other saints.
The temple has the highest bell tower in Rome, which is in Romanesque style and is seventy-five meters high. Other popes have also paid special homage to the temple. In the 5th century, the Church was under the delusion of the priest Nestorius, who denied that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God. Pope Sixtus III had the temple rebuilt to commemorate his victory over Nestorius’ error at the Council of Ephesus in 431. And in Pope Paul V’s 17th-century chapel, there is a miraculous image of the Virgin and Child called Salus Populi Romani, or Salvation of the Roman People, which dates from the 6th century.
In 590, a plague raged in Rome. Pope Gregory had the image carried through the city’s streets, with the epidemic disappearing and people being healed. In doing so, Holy Father Gregory and the people heard angels singing from heaven:
Rejoice, Queen of Heaven, alleluia!
Gregor fell to his knees and prayed these words:
“Pray that He may receive us to Himself, alleluia!”
Ever since then, this song has been sung through the Easter season. The plague ceased throughout Italy; Romans prayed for centuries before the image with answered petitions. That is why the Virgin Mary is venerated in the image as the protector of the Roman people.
Before the image was blinded, the murderer was sent to kill Pope St. Martin I in the 7th century. The Pope to whom the chapel with the idea is dedicated, Paul V, had a Corinthian column from the Roman Forum transferred from the Basilica of Constantine in front of the Greater Basilica of the Virgin Mary in the 17th century. He placed a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary on it and had the words engraved at the base of the column:
“He dedicated it to the Virgin, the fountain of peace.”
Jesus tells us clearly and forcefully: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).
Jesus encourages guides, directs, and cares for his “little flock,” the Church. This is why Jesus came into the world as the God-man, why he suffered and died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and sent out disciples, “… for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32). Jesus is concerned that the Church takes the correct attitude towards the world. The actual thing until the end of the world is for the Church to have an accurate and proper self-concept. At every age, the Church must have the right way of life, mold itself, and have a duty to develop itself. In other words, the Church must guard her doctrine entrusted to her by God; that is, the Church must be vigilant and always ready to do God’s will. Jesus gave the Church the words of encouragement, “Keep your loins girded and your lamps burning” (Lk 12:35). We know that the Lord Jesus always does the will of the heavenly Father. He rightly requires His own to keep watch: “If the householder knew at what hour the thief comet… Be ye also ready, for the Son of man cometh at an hour which ye know not” (Lk. 12:39-40). We are being taught the responsibility of knowing God’s will. Live in the presence of God.
The Church has several spiritual families, such as the Camaldolese or Carthusians, the Poor Clares, and various contemplative religious orders, who are a remembrance of life for the wholeremembrancein their strict renunciation. The same greeting with which the members of these communities greet each other says it all: “Memento mori.” – “Remember death.” They are a call or an address to us to live in God’s constant presence. Today’s Gospel is a call for us to know how to listen. To listen to our God who has prepared a kingdom where entrance cannot be bought, but where the door is secured by purses that will not be worn, where the thief does not enter, and where the moth does not destroy.
In today’s society, in the economic, cultural, political, and sporting spheres, the principle is more valid: to be vigilant, to be alert, and to be on the lookout if we want to prove something, achieve something, or gain something. It is, therefore, a challenge to us in spiritual matters that the Lord, that is, Jesus, should find us watchful at his coming. The words, blessed are they whom he shall find ready, speak of the reward, that Jesus will gird himself, sit down, and minister to them. This is the reward for the wise steward who faithfully performs his duties.
Our time is more and more spoken of as apocalyptic. We have signs that call us to watch. Man’s life is indeed waiting for our Lord. Waiting must not become idleness, doing anything, or dead stillness. Christ, our Judge, has the right to come at any time; during our lives through prayer, encounters with people, events, and signs. We must have a kindled heart. In natural life, we can discern the steps expected. In the spiritual life, shouldn’t this be true? How often are the words of the preacher, confessor, or exorbitant such actions for us? We know that this is not scaremongering.
The book Preach the Gospels describes the story of a man who was considered both rich and a great sinner. He decided he was going to change. He made plans to go to Rome and confess to the Pope himself. And so he did. He had the opportunity to meet the Holy Father, whom he then asked for Holy Confession. He was granted it. He received instruction, repented of his sins, and received absolution. As a parting gift, he was given a ring with the Latin inscription, “Memento mori” – “Remember death.” This man initially thought like this. It didn’t even cost me that much effort or wasted time, and I still received a lovely gift from the Pope himself. He became more and more aware of the words on the ring. Remember that you are going to die, that death awaits you, that you will leave everything you possess today, that before God, different values apply, that death is the gateway to another life… More and more began to live in the presence of God. The words from the ring led him to re-evaluate his relationship with things, events, and people. What had previously had first place and value began to recede, and in that place came matters he had not thought of before. His change in life was not only felt by him, but those around him felt it very soon. What was the biggest surprise for him? He began to feel calmer, happier, and more aware of the love of the people around him.
To live in the presence of God, we don’t have to receive absolution from the Pope, nor do we have to be given a ring. It is enough that we reread today’s Gospel or remember the words of the ring. Most importantly, we begin to live with God on our weekdays and holidays, our duties and our relaxation, and realize the beauty of living in union with God. God’s mercy is our strength. For Jesus has won the most significant victory for us. Our struggles have a pattern. We are not alone in our efforts. We realize that the day turns into eternity and our longing to see God into reality. And for this, it is worth giving up everything that means nothing before God. It pays to take up our cross and follow the Crucified One. Indeed, only He can give us the very thing we need. He cannot disappoint, lead astray, promise what He cannot fulfill… He is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Fortune smiled at Jana. She got to study in the USA. She got into a crisis from the environment, the different lifestyle, the lack of friends, or the problematic beginnings. Young people on the street approached her. She didn’t know anything about the mooners. First, for a weekend, then for a whole week, she was talked into staying among them. “It was beautiful,” she recalls. “They noticed me, they showed me attention, they helped me… It was only after a while that I began to realize that I was completely dependent on them. I began to lose the ability to act independently. I was fortunate that I still realized that they were emotionally blackmailing me. It was when the leader Sun Myung Moon determined who I should marry. I went through three weeks of hell. Today, I know that others were caught up in it for months or years. Today I know this movement leads to the disintegration of human identity, beliefs, behavior, and ways of thinking. They can bring a person with beautiful words about the perfect family to the brink of human happiness. Today, I know men’s psychological manipulation techniques are more effective than the brainwashing practiced in our prisons and educational establishments in the fifties. Covert hypnosis techniques can make a person into a lamb who lives for others. He is not ashamed to beg, sell, lie, cheat, and be noticed by the leaders to get into the movement’s higher spheres. That is how one learns to exploit others for one’s benefit. One loses the consciousness of morality, honor means nothing, and character is not to be spoken of. Until one does not realize it. One is even unhappy that others do not follow his way and reject such a style of life… So family ties are broken, marriages are destroyed, family members and friends condemn, and one does not realize that one is a modern enslaved person at the end of the second millennium. All this in the name of the teachings of the sick man and his ilk, which can often sanitize weak and naive people, people who are in misfortune, in crisis, who have had someone die and feel alone.”
We say they are false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, bloodthirsty hyenas, trained frauds, murderers of human happiness…
We need to live in the presence of God and help others not to be seduced and deceived by those above.
I want to begin today by asking: “What does the word assurance mean to you?” Are you sure about yourself, your life partner, your life?…. We can safely say that this question is a crucial one for many. Few things on this earth are as important to us, consciously or subconsciously, as feeling secure. It is very uncomfortable for humans if we are not confident in anyone or anything. Today’s Gospel provokes us with the words of the Jews in the Temple Column, “If you are the Messiah….” (Jn 10:24).
Is Jesus the Messiah for us? Are his works a sufficient witness for us? Do we believe? Our days are filled with images of this type – a group of journalists hastily following a certain personage and asking him probing, provocative, and all sorts of other questions. Also, Jesus in the Gospel comes to the Temple entrance about mid-December – it is the Feast of the Cleansing of the Temple, and he is surrounded by a group of Jews who ask him a fundamental question.
A question that is all too personal and provocative: “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” Too bad there was too much provocation and so little truth-seeking in this question, in this seeming search for certainty.
He whom a nation of centuries has been waiting for, who has manifested Himself by much deeds-in speech and power-is thus provoked in the temple of His Father. Jesus, however, calmly replies, “I have told you, and you do not believe… For you are not of my sheep” (Jn 10:25). So the gentlemen of the Gospel were not looking for certainty about Jesus; they were looking for themselves. They did not hear the voice of the shepherd…
But indeed, this question from the temple has already crossed our minds in our personal lives. Doubt is perhaps as close to the man as the desire for certainty. “Does God love me at all? Can he save me? Does He even know that I exist?”
It would be no good if we did not have these questions, if we did not ponder them more deeply. They are part of the equipment of our hearts, and we must not ignore them. For it is only when our hearts – when we understand and personally experience the reality of Jesus’ Messiah ship, that we begin to find the proper assurance of life – Jesus Himself.
It would be worse if the words were applied to us: “But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep” (Jn 10:25). If by our freedom and will, we would like to place ourselves outside of God’s game. Anyone in love knows what it is to be in the arms of a loved one for even a moment. To leave that embrace is difficult, even painful. A mother cannot let go of a child from her heart just like that. A father knows how to hold his son with all his strength. And Jesus says with all firmness and certainty: “They shall never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Yes, the Father has given us into the hands of His Son. He has placed us in the hands of the most excellent expert on man and the human heart. None of us would entrust our most precious human being into hands he did not trust. Jesus and the Father are one. We have the assurance that God does not toss us around in His hand like an uncomfortable hot potato, but holds us with love. This is the point at which we can hang our lives in peace and have the assurance that it will never end.
Only to do that, we have to tame our false self-assurance – we have to find the humility in our lives to say: “My Lord and my God.”
I wish for you and myself in this life the certainty of faith in Jesus that will carry us into the eternal security of communion with him.