February 1, 2023

The Mysteries of the Rosary

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It is called the "Rosary" because the 150 (now 200) Hail Marys, intertwined in groups of 10 with the Our Father, the Glory Be and the meditations on the mysteries of the life of Jesus and our redemption, form a "crown of roses" that is offered to Mary, Mother of the Lord and our mother. The twenty mysteries of the Lord's life are divided into four series of five mysteries each. In each Rosary, we pray only the five mysteries of one of these series:

The Joyful Mysteries
In the Joyful Mysteries, we meditate on the beginning of the redemption of humanity, from the annunciation to Mary and the incarnation of the Son of God in her womb until the end of Jesus’ childhood.

FIRST – In the first Joyful Mystery we contemplate the Annunciation of the angel to the Blessed Virgin Mary – Through Archangel Gabriel, the messenger of the Good News, God decides to intervene in the history of humanity, as he has done so many times throughout the history of Israel.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…  Hebrews 1:1-10

The communications of the prophets of ancient times were always imprecise, imperfect, and incomplete. Through His Son, God decides to come Himself, to show us step by step, as in a video, how human life should be lived.

SECOND – In the second Joyful Mystery we contemplate the Visitation of Mary Most Holy to her cousin Saint Elizabeth – If at the Annunciation Mary is in prayer, then in the Visitation Mary is in action; if at the Annunciation Mary is listening to the word of God, then in the Visitation Mary is putting that same word into practice, as her son so often exhorts; if at the Annunciation Mary is loving God above all things, then in the Visitation she is loving her neighbor as herself. If at the Annunciation Mary has an experience of God as a disciple, then at the Visitation by singing her Magnificat, bearing witness to her experience of God, Mary is being a missionary by witnessing to her cousin to that same experience and of all that God has worked in her.

In these two Joyful Mysteries, the whole Christian life unfolds; for this reason, Mary is for us a model of discipleship, of missionary and Christian life; all the virtues that a Christian must cultivate in his life are concentrated in her. Mary is therefore for us not only the mother of Jesus and Our Mother, but she is also our model for following Christ.

THIRD – In the third Joyful Mystery we contemplate the Birth of Jesus – “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” John 1:14 – God the Creator incarnated in a creature. For many religions it seems impossible that God would incarnate in a human being, that the sea could enter into a puddle of water. If we only think of God’s transcendence then yes, it will seem impossible, illogical, improbable, even though nothing is impossible to God.

But God is not only transcendent, he is also immanent, he already exists in the here and now, in the heart of everything and every person. Deus intimior intimo meo applies to all things; God is the heart of matter of material entities and of spiritual beings. Therefore, God is already here, and thinking of his immanence, it becomes easier to understand the fact that He acquired a human form.

God encamped among us, set up his tent among us as he once did when he journeyed for 40 years in the desert with the people he delivered from slavery. This tent, where Moses, representing God's people, met God in dialogue, was called the tent of meeting. Jesus of Nazareth, the Emmanuel, God with us, is the new Tent of Meeting, for in Him God meets Man and Man meets God. Through Jesus, God comes to man, and also through Jesus, man goes to God.

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him (Jesus).  Matthew 20:29
God became man so that man might become God. Saint Irenaeus

Jericho is both the oldest city, with 8,000 years of existence, and the lowest city on our planet, at about 500 meters below sea level. Jericho in the Bible signifies sin; in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jerusalem represents grace while Jericho represents sin.

The man who fell into the hands of robbers fell into disgrace because he was going down from Jerusalem, 800 meters above sea level, to Jericho. He journeyed from grace to sin; as the people say, he who does not remember God lacks all good. To save Man from sin, Jesus also goes down to Jericho, but he does not stay there; he leaves Jericho and a great crowd follows him, going up from the sin of Jericho to the grace of Jerusalem.

FOURTH – In the fourth Joyful Mystery we contemplate the Presentation of the child Jesus in the temple and the ritual purification of Our Lady – Jesus does not break with the traditions of the past but submits himself to the laws of the land where he lived and of the people where he incarnated as man.  However, in obeying or satisfying these laws, he makes them pass through his moral conscience, because the law was made for man and not man for the law.

Mary, being after Jesus the purest among all living beings, also submits herself to the tradition, of the ritual purification. Those who refer to this second part of the mystery must include the word "ritual", because Mary was always pure: before, during and after childbirth.

FIFTH – In the fifth Joyful Mystery we contemplate the loss and the encounter of the child Jesus in the temple among the doctors of the law – Many exegetes consider it an exaggeration that Jesus was in dialogue with the doctors of the law, as an equal. I don't understand why this couldn’t have happened; Jesus was probably a child prodigy like so many that have existed and exist in all times and places. If Mozart, Beethoven and others were child prodigies, why couldn't Jesus have been one?

The Luminous Mysteries
In the Luminous Mysteries, we meditate on the most important moments of Jesus' public life, from his baptismal investiture to the institution of the Eucharist as a memorial of his passion. It is in the years of his public life that Jesus truly reveals himself as the Light of the World (Jn 8:12), by his attitudes in the most diverse life situations in which he found himself, by the doctrine he taught and by his actions.

FIRST – In the first Luminous Mystery we contemplate the Baptism of Jesus – “Libris ex libris fiunt" or books come from books. Jesus consecrated himself to a movement that probably began with the monks of Qumran, located very close to the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, a monk who offered forgiveness of sins, as was done in Qumran through an ablution of water. Jesus continues this movement and takes the forgiveness of sins beyond the Jordan River and beyond the symbol of water.

SECOND – In the second Luminous Mystery we contemplate the Wedding at Cana – In Cana of Galilee, Mary sees a need and tries to solve the problem by pushing Jesus into his public life, when He had not yet planned to begin. Jesus, obedient to the Father in Heaven, also obeys his Mother, even as an adult. This obedience is important to us because it institutionalizes Mary, his mother, as the intercessor of all graces.

THIRD – In the third Luminous Mystery we contemplate the miracles worked by Jesus as proof of the presence of the Kingdom of God among us – This is how I write this mystery dedicated to the thaumaturgical activity of Jesus, as proof that the Kingdom is already among us, although not yet in its fullness.

FOURTH – In the fourth Luminous Mystery we contemplate the Sermon on the Mount as the magna carta of the Kingdom of God – If in the previous mystery I mentioned the works of the Kingdom, in this one I mention the doctrine that inspires them, the Sermon on the Mount, as the fine print of all that Jesus told us and taught us. I think this is more important than the Transfiguration.

FIFTH – In the fifth Luminous Mystery we contemplate the Institution of the Eucharist – Without the Eucharist there is no Church, without the Church there is no Eucharist. The Eucharist is first and foremost the gathering of Christians or this association founded by Jesus and called the Church, as members of the Body of Christ to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Christ, just as he has commanded us.

The Sorrowful Mysteries
In the Sorrowful Mysteries, we meditate on the process, the passion and the death of Jesus, from his agony in the Garden of Olives to his last breath on top of the cross. When we say that Jesus died for our sins, it means that he paid in full the debt we were unable to pay; but it also means that the sins of those who intervened in his death are still being committed today, so we can conclude that it was the sin of all humanity that killed Jesus.

FIRST – In the first Sorrowful Mystery we contemplate the Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives – Jesus was tempted all his life, not only at the beginning; one of the last temptations took place here, when he considered the possibility of not drinking from the chalice that was in front of him, his passion and death. All he had to do was to climb a short way up the hill and go down into the Judean desert, hide in one of the deep valleys and no one would ever find him again. But Jesus chose to pay the price for his ideals against a corrupt and degenerate world. If he had saved his own skin, he would have been lost as the savior of the whole world.

SECOND – In the second Sorrowful Mystery we contemplate the Scourging of Jesus tied to a pillar – If Pilate had condemned Jesus to death directly, Jesus would not have been scourged. Flogging was the punishment given to those whose lives were spared. Pilate thought that after seeing Jesus badly scourged, the people would pity him and let him go, but this did not happen; the hatred of the scribes, the elders, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees for Jesus was so great that they were not stricken with compassion even after seeing Him so terribly scourged.

THIRD – In the third Sorrowful Mystery we contemplate the Coronation of Jesus with a crown of thorns – It was when he was already in a very difficult situation that Jesus recognized and accepted the title of King, though not of this world, for the kings of this world do not ride on donkeys as he did nor are crucified as he was, and wear a crown of gold and not one of thorns as he did.

FOURTH – In the fourth Sorrowful Mystery we contemplate the Condemnation of Jesus to death and the walk to Calvary with the cross on his back – By consenting to put Jesus to death, Pilate also cancelled his previous transgressions. There already had been so many in the past that now, despite being convinced that Jesus was innocent and seeking a ploy to save Him, Pilate failed to save him: the charges against him were already many in Rome, that he could not afford one more added to the list.

FIFTH – In the fifth Sorrowful Mystery we contemplate the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus – Abandoned by his people in general, by his fellow disciples and apostles, crucified in the midst of two criminals, he felt in the end that even God had abandoned him, perhaps because the sin of humanity weighed so heavily on his shoulders. Even so, he hoped in God and did not despair, since to the same God who had abandoned him, he surrendered his spirit.

The Glorious Mysteries
In the Glorious Mysteries, we meditate on Jesus' triumph over death with his Resurrection. Death has been conquered, as has the sin that caused it. After Jesus’ Resurrection, death is no longer the final destiny of mankind, but a passage to eternal life. The life of Jesus, which begins with Mary's "Yes" to God's plan, now ends with the glorification of the One who is, for us all, a model of Christian life.

FIRST – In the first Glorious Mystery we contemplate the Resurrection of Jesus – The Resurrection of Jesus is God having the last laugh, the Resurrection of Jesus proves that evil does not have the last word, as seen in almost every movie in which good ultimately wins over evil. Not even death has eternal power over life. After the Resurrection of Jesus, death is no longer the end of life, but a passage to a life in God for those who lived with God and for God.

SECOND – In the second Glorious Mystery we contemplate Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven – Jesus in his glorious body did not ascend immediately to his Father, as he himself told Mary Magdalene, but stayed for some time with his disciples, appearing to comfort them from the scandal of the cross and to give them the final instructions before ascending definitively to the Father.

THIRD – In the third Glorious Mystery we contemplate the Coming of the Holy Spirit – As he had promised, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit soon after he went to heaven, so that we would not be left orphans, to be the Soul of the Church and the center of our being, to be with us, to be God within us who inspires, comforts, guides and gives us strength and courage to face an adverse world.

FOURTH - In the fourth Glorious Mystery we contemplate the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven – In the Dormition or Assumption, Mary goes to heaven to be by her son’s side just as she has always been by his side on earth. We too like her will be received into heaven, where Jesus, her son, has gone to prepare a place for us.

FIFTH – In the fifth Glorious Mystery we contemplate the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth – Mary's earthly life as Mother of the Saviour began before Jesus and ended after Jesus. After becoming the mother of the Church because she was the mother of the Church’s founder, she now reigns in heaven and on earth as the Queen Mother alongside her son who is the King of the Universe.

Conclusion:
The mysteries of the Rosary are about the salvific acts of Christ on earth, the path he walked with us, as he did with the disciples at Emmaus, to explain the scriptures to us, and to plant in the world the seeds of the Kingdom of God.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC



January 15, 2023

The Rosary, a Contemplative prayer

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The Rosary is at the same time a Marian prayer and a prayer centered on Christ – Christ-Centric – because we repeatedly invoke Mary as Mother of God and our mother and ask her to join us in our prayer to the Father as we recite the Our Father, and to the Most Holy Trinity as we recite the Glory Be. We ask her to help us to meditate and contemplate the mysteries of the life of her Son, our older brother and Savior, of which she is also a part.

In Fatima, as in the other Marian apparitions, Mary does not draw attention to herself, but exclusively to her Son. Her contentment comes not from us praising her, but from us praising her Son. As the proverb says, "Whoever my son kisses, my mouth sweetens."

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’  Luke 11:27

You can’t love the son without loving the mother, so all the love directed to the child is indirectly directed to the mother. Just as all the praises given to the mother is directed to the son, as happened to that woman who, among the crowd, raised her voice to say to Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!"

The Rosary is not a prayer of thanksgiving, nor a prayer of petition, it is not even a prayer of lamentation like some psalms in the Bible. The Rosary is basically a prayer of meditation and contemplation. In fact, we proclaim and enunciate each Mystery by saying "in this Mystery, we contemplate..."

The story goes that one day someone confessed to Pope John XXIII his difficulty in praying the Rosary because he often gets distracted by the mechanical and repetitive recitation of the Hail Marys, to which the Pope replied, "What good is the Rosary if it is not to distract us?" (Distraction in neo-Latin languages has also the meaning as amusement).

Being a contemplative prayer, the repetitive recitation of the Hail Marys in the Rosary has the same purpose as the mantras in Buddhist spirituality: they occupy the mind, preventing it from jumping from one thought to another, thus allowing and facilitating contemplation of the Mysteries of the Lord's life. 


Hail Mary as a mantra
Contemplative prayers were fashionable in the sixties, just as Lectio Divina is today. Well-known figures of monastic life, such as Thomas Merton, traveled to the Far East, while others, like the Indian Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello, tried to bridge the gap between Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, and Christianity.

To attain contemplation at the technical level, we can certainly learn from Buddhism. However, contemplation has always existed in the Church from the desert fathers, the Benedictine monks, the Carmelites, Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, and even at the level of diocesan clergy at all times, like the Holy Curé of Ars exemplifies so well.

After exchanging beautiful words and poetry with each other, the lovers remain silent for hours on end, holding each other, saying nothing, doing nothing. In silence, contemplating a beautiful ecstatic landscape, both are examples of contemplation.

In a contemplative prayer there are no words and no thoughts. There is a feeling of emptiness of mind, a realization of self, a heightened sense of being present in oneself, centered in one's own body, without ramblings of the mind. This mind, which St. Teresa of Avila calls the madwoman of the house, is like a monkey that jumps from branch to branch.

To prayer through silence, to silence through prayer. It takes time and a lot of practice to be able to silence the mind. It is achieved by not consenting to thoughts the moment we are aware of them; in this way, little by little, we reach the emptiness of mind that reaches a high degree of self-awareness. It is at this moment that we open ourselves to the divine and experience His presence. Deus intimior intimo meo. God is nearer to me than my innermost being. In fact, in contemplation we seek union with God, the beatific vision, Heaven on Earth.

In the initial states of contemplation, to silence the discursive, imaginative and fanciful mind, the mantras are used, which are short phrases that are repeated continuously to entertain the mind with something and prevent it from wandering from thought to thought. The Russian pilgrim even repeated his mantra hundreds of times a day to achieve continuous prayer, the dream of all hermits.

In the Most Holy Rosary, the Hail Mary prayer repeated 50 times, 10 times for each mystery, is intended to keep the mind from being distracted from contemplation of the mystery. The purpose, therefore, is not to put our attention on each Hail Mary and Our Father that we pray, but to occupy the mind with these prayers as if they were mantras and thus jump into the contemplation of the divine.

How to pray the Rosary
Because it is a contemplative prayer, we must enunciate each mystery by inviting the faithful who pray it with us to contemplate that Mystery; for example, in the first Joyful Mystery we contemplate the Annunciation of the angel to the Blessed Virgin. The phrase "we contemplate" in the proclamation of each Mystery is important and should always be said, never omitted or implied precisely because the Rosary is a contemplative prayer; it is the contemplation on the mysteries of our salvation from the hands of Mary, praying with Mary as her son's disciples prayed with her on the night before Pentecost. (Acts 1:12-14)

For each day of the week, we meditate on different mysteries. Thus, on Mondays and Saturdays we meditate on the Joyful Mysteries, on Tuesdays and Fridays the Sorrowful Mysteries, on Wednesdays and Sundays the Glorious Mysteries, reserving the Luminous Mysteries for Thursdays.

There are several ways of praying the Rosary, but most people begin with the sign of the cross, followed by the Creed, one Our Father, three Hail Marys and one Glory Be. After these introductory prayers, the first mystery is announced accompanied or not with a short meditation, and followed by one Our Father and one decade of Hail Marys.

After the tenth Hail Mary of each decade, the Glory Be is prayed, followed by several interjectory prayers, depending on the place and the people praying, ending with the prayer that Our Lady of Fatima recommended to the little shepherds to pray after each mystery: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need (of Thy mercy).”

In the original Fatima prayer, this final statement (of Thy mercy) is missing, therefore grammatically it is understood that all souls need heaven. All countries have added this final expression in the sense that those who are furthest from God are the ones who are in most need of his mercy.

Hell is eternal death not eternal fire, which means eternal torture. God created us out of nothing so that we could do something with the life He gave us; those who do nothing with it, those who do not use the talents received from God for the benefit of their brothers and sisters for the greater glory of God, return to nothingness from which they were taken, for their lives were nothing and many, in fact, do actually believe that they came from nothing and will return to nothing.

Why does hell appear in the Bible as eternal torture? Because we are naturally more afraid of suffering than of death itself. The one who dies no longer suffers, we say, and the one who is being tortured begs for death as mercy. So often the badly injured friend asks the other friend for death as mercy. The fear of God does not mean to be afraid of God, and we should not choose God for fear of hell. This was a childish pedagogy in which children were educated. But today not even children should be educated in this way; reason should be the basis of all education, not irrational fear.

It is for the simple reason that the little shepherds could not imagine hell in any other way that this prayer of Fatima and the vision of hell did indeed involve fire. Our Lady showed them see hell as they understood it, as they conceived it, not least because nothingness has no graphic representation.

Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur
– This maxim from scholastic philosophy can explain this point: whatever is received, is received in the manner of the receiver. The sea has plenty of water to give, but my bucket is limited in its capacity to receive; the same goes for our mind. The little shepherds saw hell as the Bible represents it and according to their capacity to understand it.

Finally, three Hail Marys are prayed for the intentions of the Holy Father, so that we may be united to all Christendom represented by him, and it ends with the Salve Regina preceded or not, according to the time available, by the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Our Father — The Our Father, which intersperses each Mystery, is much more than a simple prayer the Lord has taught us to recite occasionally. It contains what is the most important of the Gospel in a summarized form; it is, in this sense, a complete pocket Gospel because it contains what we should know and practice.

Since it is made up of several statements, unrelated to each other, it can be viewed as a list, like the shopping lists we make so not to forget the most important things. This list concerns the protocol of our relationship with God, that is, how our prayer should be structured; how we should address God, how to praise Him, what we should ask for, in what order, when and how. Therefore, more than a prayer, it is fundamentally a practical guide to prayer and life.

The Hail Mary – It is divided into two parts: the first is biblical and is composed of the greetings from the Angel Gabriel and Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, and the second originates from the faith of the Church, it is not known how or when or where it began to be used. Consequently, the Hail Mary prayer represents the perfect union between the Bible as the Word of God and the Church as a community of believers.

In an ascending movement, the first part, taken from the Bible, consists of 5 stairs that go up to Jesus. In a descending movement, the second part also consists of 5 stairs but this time going down to human reality, our death.

It cannot be understood by the advocates of the "sola fide sola scriptura solus christus", because there is a harmonious union between the Scripture, the Word of God, described in the first part, and the Tradition, that is, the history of the faith of the Christian community down through the ages, shaped in the second part. Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and the center of history, is the core that unites the two parts.

The Glory Be – This is the invocation of God as One and Triune. One divinity in three different persons united in a triangle of love. It is the solution in the light of the dialectic of Greek philosophy between the one and the multiple. This prayer also reminds us that, made in the image and likeness of God, the human person is also one and triune: he does not exist or subsist outside the family.

Conclusion: As the apostles prayed with Mary before Pentecost, the Rosary today, reunites us with Her in prayer and contemplation of the Mysteries of her Son's life.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC


January 1, 2023

Rosary, the Prayer of the People

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Rosary or “terço”?
What is called Rosary in other countries, in Portugal it is called “terço”, or third. What we are used to praying is in fact a third of the Rosary, which when complete is made up of three thirds, totaling 150 Hail Marys.  The number 150 is also the number of psalms in the book of the same name that is part of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament.

Hence it has been said that a complete Rosary was the breviary of the people or the laity who could not, like clerics and religious, pray the psalmody or read the bible because they did not have the time and often did not know how to read.

The complete Rosary was therefore made up of three thirds which were prayed by meditating: in the first third, the Joyful Mysteries, which corresponded to the Birth and Childhood of Jesus, in the second third, the Sorrowful Mysteries, which corresponded to His Passion and Death, and in the last third, the Glorious Mysteries, which corresponded to his Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. The term "Terço" or third means, in Portuguese, at the same time the prayer and the object with its 50 beads with which to pray. There are even rosaries made up of 150 beads, that is, a complete rosary.

The Church was slow in discovering that the Rosary was incomplete with only the meditation on the mysteries of the incarnation, birth, passion and death, and resurrection of the Lord. It lacked the public life in which Jesus of Nazareth by his preaching, attitude and way of living and acting, models for us the new man, the one who is, in himself, the way, the truth and the life to which every human being is called to emulate.

With the creation and integration of the Luminous Mysteries by Pope John Paul II in an apostolic letter titled Rosarium Virginis Mariae, written in 2002, the logic behind the three thirds being a complete Rosary fell apart. The complete Rosary is now four "thirds" of 50 Hail Marys each, totaling 200 and not 150 as before.

Origin and history of the rosary
As instruments of prayer, the rosary beads have their origin in India, in the third century before Christ. In Christianity, it was the desert fathers of the third and fourth centuries who began to use an instrument for counting prayers, especially the Our Father.

On the other hand, in ancient times the Greeks and the Romans used to crown statues of their gods with a crown of roses as a token of their love and gratitude. Perhaps it is based on this tradition that the Christian women led to martyrdom marched to their death dressed in their best clothes, wearing a crown of roses on their head, as a symbol of joy and surrender, to meet their spouse, Christ Our Lord. After their martyrdom, the Christians gathered these crowns and said a prayer for each rose for the souls of the martyrs.

 Lucia and Jacinta of Fatima liked to wear flowers in their hair. On the days of the apparitions, the three little shepherds dressed in their Sunday best, as if they were going to the Sunday Mass; the two girls put flowers in their hair, especially Jacinta, who was photographed wearing a crown of roses on her head on the occasion of the apparitions.

The praying of the Rosary appeared in the year 800 within the shadows of the monasteries, as a psaltery of the laity. It was not until the year 1214, however, that the Church received the Rosary in its present form. Tradition has it that it was given to the Church by St. Dominic of Guzmán who, in turn, received it from the Virgin Mary as a powerful weapon against the enemies of the faith.

The Rosary gained great momentum after the naval battle of Lepanto, in which Christians defeated the Turks, eliminating forever the danger of the Muslims subjugating Christian Europe. Just before the battle, Pope Pius V asked Christians to pray the Rosary to support the Christian fleet, so after the victory, the feast of Our Lady of Victory was instituted on the day of the battle, October 7, 1571, later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. Today, the entire month of October is called the month of the Rosary.

The rosary as a religious object

The rosary beads were made purely as a counting object because it is difficult to mentally keep track of 50 Hail Marys or even 10 Hail Marys of each mystery. Over time, what was purely an object for counting became a religious object and many Christians, as they do with other religious objects, have it blessed by a priest.  

Religious objects must be icons, that is, they must transport our hearts and minds beyond the objects themselves; that is, it is more important what a religious object means or represents than what it truly is, in itself, and what material it is made of.

In practical life, however, many Christians do not distinguish between an icon and an idol, which is an object that has value in itself, such as a horn, a key, a horseshoe or other amulets, objects to which the superstitious confer a certain power.

This superstition is reminiscent of animism, the first stage in the evolution of religious sentiments and thoughts, during which primitive human beings believed that all realities and objects had a soul. Today we know that a material object cannot have psychic or spiritual power because it is material, it is dead and has no life in it. Thus, there are no objects that can bring good luck or bad luck, a black cat is simply a black cat and there are no haunted houses, but only haunted people.  

It has been said that the rosary is a weapon. Yes, the praying of the Rosary is a weapon and the object of counting is thus considered only as long as it represents this prayer; but it is not a weapon in itself. It could probably be considered idolatrous those who hang their rosary on the rear view mirror of their cars without ever praying the Rosary.

Personally, the vast majority of the time when I pray the Rosary, I do so without the counting object because I do it while walking through the park or even running or just wandering around. On these occasions, my counting object is the 10 natural ‘beads’ that God gave us on the fingers of our hands.

Visits of Our Lady and the exhortation to recite the Rosary
The Marian apparitions, especially those in Fatima, in their insistent call to pray the Rosary every day, have made this practice distinctive of Catholics as opposed to the rest of Christendom, such as the Orthodox and the Protestants.

The Rosary and Fatima
In the apparitions of Fatima, Our Lady asked the little shepherds to pray the Rosary daily, not just in one or two apparitions, but in all those that took place in 1917, and also in the ones that occurred in Tuy and Pontevedra to Sister Lucia. When Sister Lucia was asked why Our Lady insistently requested that the Rosary be prayed every day and not any other prayer, Lucia replied, "To pray the Rosary is something everybody can do, rich and poor, wise and ignorant, great and small."

In that region, and to some degree a bit throughout Portugal, the recitation of the Rosary was an integral part of the evening routine of families, before or after supper, basking in the warmth of the fireplace, the father or mother would lead the recitation and no children would ask for their parents’ blessings and go to bed before it was finished, even if they were already starting to nod off to sleep.

A family that prays together stays together. The television, like a Trojan horse, has disrupted the candour and the harmony of the home, and the Rosary has been displaced by the soap operas. Families no longer pray together as a family; prayer now belongs only to the individual and private sphere, just like any other religious practice that has left the social sphere to be relegated to the private and individual. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Portugal is one of the countries with one of the highest divorce rates at 70%. Television catches people at night tired, without energy not even to think, and in this time sitting on the couch is when they are most vulnerable and easily manipulated.

With a newspaper, on the other hand, we have the option of choosing the news that catches our attention; with news on the television, we don’t have this choice, we receive whatever they give us and what they give us is not the news of the facts, but an interpretation of the facts to fit the current political narrative. The mass media create a single narrative, making everyone think the same way about the same thing.

Before the apparitions of Our Lady, the little shepherds already prayed the Rosary, but soon after they began to pray it as Our Lady wanted. Especially Francisco, to whom the Lady said that he needed to pray many Rosaries to go to Heaven.

Indeed, the Rosary identified Francisco in his life, for there were days when he prayed ten Rosaries, and the rosary also identified him in death when his body was exhumed. Among so many bones buried in a common grave, Ti Marto, Francisco’s father, was able to identify his son's bones, because clinging to them was the still intact rosary that Francisco used in life.

Mary asked in Fatima for penance and prayer, both for ourselves and for others. The Rosary catapults us into contemplation on the Mystery of God, especially the Word incarnate. Therefore, meditating or not meditating, distracted or not, those who deeply love the Rosary and never let a day go by without reciting it, are, "ipso facto", truly people of prayer.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC



December 15, 2022

The Hidden Face of Christmas

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Every reality has a reverse side just like a coin. The moon always presents us with the same face, but there is another face that is veiled to us. In Christmas time, there are nativity scenes of all kinds: big ones, tiny ones, but they all have a part that cannot be seen. Underneath the green moss is the whole structure, stones, wood, water pipes, electric wires, small mechanisms, etc.

The first Christmas, the real Christmas, also had a hidden face that not many people are aware of. We read the Christmas story in the light of the many Christmases we have already lived through, as well as the concept that today’s Western society has of Christmas. We therefore neglect details that we even know are there, at least theoretically, but we hide them so as not to ruin the spirit of Christmas and the Christmas joy that we are supposed to feel at this time.  In the north central mountains of Portugal, called “Serra da Estrela”, where I was born, they like to say, “Well milked sorrow is the cream of joy". Underneath the Christmas joy there is a well milked sorrow; that is, a sorrow that was so well processed and managed that it turned into joy.

Maria appeared pregnant
On her return from a visit to her cousin Elizabeth that lasted several months, Mary appeared pregnant. What could she say? How could she explain what has happened? Becoming pregnant by the work and grace of the Holy Spirit was unprecedented, it was a unique event in human history; it had never happened before and was never going to happen again. It was expected that the Messiah, whom the people of Israel awaited and still awaits, would appear in a natural way from the house of David.

Jesus’ Christmas was Mary’s Easter or passion. The Lord’s Passion was also Mary's passion. Still today, even in a society that is neither puritanical nor sexist, a sex scandal delights the mouths of many people. It seems that our own self-esteem grows when we see others’ sinking. There is nothing more degrading and stigmatizing than a sex scandal: everyone points the finger at you, you live without honour and with a name that is forever ruined, it is like dying while still alive.

"Calumnia, que algo queda" says a Spanish proverb, that is, “Slander that something will remain forever” or “Throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick”; in other words, cast doubt on someone in areas of sexual behaviour and that person's bad reputation will follow him to the grave. It may even turn out to be a lie, no matter, people will always remain in doubt, they will cling to the first report as being true and the denial as being a lie. These scandals open the television news and make the front page of the newspapers while the denials appear in a lost column inside the newspaper that no one reads.

Physical death by stoning was also very close... Mary was considered an adulteress because she was betrothed to Joseph, and although they were not yet living together, for the purposes of the law she was already married to him. Such a relationship can no longer be broken, unless there was a divorce. We well know what was the punishment for adulterous women ... (John 8:1-11) they were stoned to death.

What used to happen in Israel on a regular basis is still happening today in some Muslim countries where Sharia law applies; there are videos on certain websites that document these sad facts in the 21st century.

Already many, thirsting for blood, had stones ready in their hands, waiting for Joseph, the injured party, to cast the first stone. Casting the first stone was a right that belonged to the one offended. Casting the first stone was, at the same time, a declaration of the verdict by the offended and the first act of execution of the sentence, which the bloodthirsty hypocrites were gladly waiting to carry out.

For Jesus, in the episode of the adulterous woman (John 8: 1-11), the right to cast the first stone, that is, to judge and pass a death sentence, is not the right of the injured party, nor of the one who has authority by delegation or election, but of the one who has the moral authority, that is, the one who is without sin.

Jesus does not believe in retributive justice because it is nothing more than legalized revenge, it is the old decree of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. On the contrary, Jesus believes in restorative justice, the one that God practices, because he does not want the death of the sinner, but that he repents, converts and lives (Ezekiel 18:23-32).

Joseph's dream
Joseph was a righteous man and he was certainly not going to stone Mary; but the reason he was not going to stone her was not so much that he was indeed righteous and good, but because he loved Mary unconditionally; love goes beyond what is purely and coldly legal, unconditional love forgives. There are no crimes of passion in unconditional love.

One day, a married man with five children said to me, "If I knew my wife was unfaithful to me, I would divorce her right away.” “Great is the love you have for your wife,” I said in a sarcastic way, “you don't love your wife, you love yourself. Her infidelity does nothing to an unconditional love, it only disturbs a self-love.” He who truly loves is sad, but does no harm to the object of his love; because love, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, is to will the good of the other.

The second Joseph in the Bible, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after his ancestor Joseph of Egypt, was also a dreamer who let himself be guided by his dreams. Dreams are in fact a star in our lives; they are messages from the subconscious to the conscious or even from God Himself. They are phantasmagoric and highly exaggerated so to make them more difficult to forget during the day; if they were not, they would be easily forgotten and upon waking, we would remember nothing.

Dreams are always subjective; they are ours, even when we dream about other people or places. We are always the subject of our dream, never a place or another person; what appears in our dreams are not objectively the places or the people, but its deep psychological significance to us; that is, what these places and people mean to us.

After his dream, Joseph had the same knowledge as Mary; and so, he was going to share with her the same pain and undergo the same passion, suffering all this with resilience and in silence as Mary was proficient in doing (Luke 2:19) because there was no reasonable way, they could explain the situation to anyone and excuse Mary... Mary was destined to bear the stain and the shame for the rest of her life.

As for Joseph, our patriarchal society considered a man that accepts such a woman as being dispossessed of his manhood. And since I want to depict the pain of Mary and Joseph in a very graphic and real way, I dare to write here the slang used for such men, that is, a “sweet cuckold”.

Jesus, the son of Mary
Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19), and suffered in silence, not being able to defend herself against the slanders... The suffering lasted her whole life, as is natural in cases like this.

Here and elsewhere in the gospel, this stigma resurfaces, for example in one of the confrontations that Jesus had with the Pharisees, in John’s Gospel at one point they said, “We are not illegitimate children” (John 8:41), so as to say… “as you are…”

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Mark 6:3

In a patriarchal society, no one is known as the son of his mother, that is, no one is known by reference to his mother, but by reference to his father. Let us remember that Jesus when addressing Peter in a personal way, to ask him if he loves Him, calls him by his family name in reference to Peter's father and not his mother: "Simon, son of John...” (John 21:15-19).

The evangelist Mark, despite being a Hebrew from Jerusalem, writes his Gospel in Rome for the Romans and not in half measures: he relates the truth as it is. Jesus is called by reference to his mother and not by  his father. Even if the father had died, a Hebrew would never be called by reference to his mother; if they did, it was because Jesus was, to the people of his time, the son of an unknown father; to the shame of his mother and Himself.

Matthew, the Gospel written for the Jews, corrects and says, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55-56). Luke, in his Gospel, also records the episode of the Lord's visit back to his hometown; however, as a respect for Jesus he does not copy Mark, but he does not tell a lie either like Matthew, so he chooses not to reveal what his countrymen called him.

Conclusion: The birth of Jesus was experienced by Mary and Joseph as a lifelong passion and death. Unable to explain her pregnancy, she the one that for us had been conceived and conceived without sin, in her social environment, had to live the rest of her life stained with the most defamatory sin of all times.

Fr.  Jorge Amaro, IMC




 

November 29, 2022

A Reason Hijacked by Irrationality

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Like sheep, they are led to the grave, where death will be their shepherd. In the morning the godly will rule over them. Their bodies will rot in the grave, far from their grand estates. Psalm 49:14

After 5 million years of evolution, since our ancestors in Africa started to shed most of their body hair and to gain intelligence, I believe that to this day, animal instinct still rules over human intelligence.

As it is with all the living beings on this planet, our behaviour and most of our actions are motivated by instinct, both at the individual as well as at the social level. The only difference compared to other living beings is that we are smarter. We would be superior if intelligence were motivated by and at the service of good. But since it is smartness motivated and put at the service of lower instincts, we end up being worse than animals. Animality directs, dictates, inspires and motivates our intelligence, and not as it should be, intelligence directing our animality.

Science tells us that human life begins the moment a male half-cell called spermatozoid unites with a female half-cell called ovum, forming a human cell with a unique genetic code. This zygote immediately subdivides and multiplies over the course of nine months to form a complete human being, it only needs to be left alone for this to happen. Despite knowing this, we are the only animals that kill our own offspring while it is still in the mother’s womb and we do it by the millions every year. The same people who claim that science is the truth and should have the last word in everything, go against science to justify this abominable act.

Animals do not kill their own kinds; they may fight among themselves to prove dominance of some sort, but they do not kill their own species for the sake of killing. We humans, since Cain and Abel, have been killing our own brothers and sisters, and even those who gave birth to us. If our behaviour were dominated by reason, conflicts like the Arab-Israeli and others that have been going on for many years would have been resolved long ago.

The Germans who regard themselves as homeland of philosophers and very rational people, have Hitler, the ultimate exponent of reason at the service of irrationality. By murdering 5 million Jews, he took human intelligence at the service of anger to uncharted territory. And the irony is that he thought he was freeing and purifying humanity from an evil race. Contrary to this antisemitic ideology, Jews have won more Nobel prizes than any other people including the Germans. Hitler is joined by Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and all the dictators and tyrants throughout human history.

Not long ago, the self-proclaimed Islamic State raped women and children with immunity, even cutting the heads off the citizens of our countries in front of television cameras with a hair-raising coldness. They do so with complete immunity because, although they hurt our sensibility, they do not hurt our economic interests, so… why should we bother?

Individual anachronism
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Romans 7:15

St. Paul was already aware that we are anachronistic beings: we do what we know beforehand to be wrong. And since it is irrationality that directs our lives, to justify to ourselves and to others that we are rational beings, we use what in psychology is called rationalization mechanisms. We justify the evil that we do in order to hurt ourselves less or to silence our conscience which accuses us. We do what the fox in the fable did with the grapes: instead of accepting its inability to reach them hanging on the vines, the fox declared them unripe and thus not worth getting.

We know that certain foods are bad for our health, and yet we consume them anyway. As we see ourselves naked, like Adam and Eve after they ate the apple, we defend our gluttony by saying, "Forgive the evil it does for the good it tastes", or "Live life to the fullest, for the future is uncertain" or even "we have to die from something so why not this". If an animal had self-awareness and could speak, it would say this very thing.

Social anachronism
Somebody said once: “Stop asking “what type of world will we leave our children?” and start asking instead “what type of children will we leave this world?”

As a society, we confront our irrationalities by adding them up, instead of confronting them individually. Since it is the lower instinct that inspires our intelligence, most of the inventions that have made our lives more comfortable were not born out of peace, but out of war.

First the atomic bomb was born and only later was its peaceful application of producing electricity found. The microwave we use to heat our dinner was born of the radar system used in World War II to detect enemies; GPS was not born to guide us on the roads, but to guide missiles to their destination.

History has proven again and again that we are much more creative in doing evil than in doing good. In the budget of almost every country there is more money allocated to promote war than to promote peace.

The so bright country of the United States of America is hostage to a second amendment that gives its people the right to own any types of weapons, even those that are used by soldiers. This “bloody” second amendment has already killed thousands of students and teachers in schools, and yet it seems like the amendment cannot be changed as if it was a kind of gospel that cannot be rewritten. All other countries can change their constitutions and update them to modern times, but not so the United States.

We know that meat raised with growth hormones in half the time, and vegetables and fruits treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides are a major cause of cancer increase in Western societies. Yet we do nothing rational to solve the problem. We create a parallel organic farming, not with the intention to watch over public health, but as another way to make money.

The funny thing is that the word “amendment” comes from the Latin word “emendation” that means a correction, an edition or something added. So, the second amendment is something that was already edited and corrected but it can’t be corrected anymore. Very strange…

Car models using alternative energy source to petroleum appeared but were immediately removed from the market, because they were hurting the interests of big oil companies. It is said that there are cures for various diseases and that they are not made public because the pharmaceutical companies are making tons of money from these diseases and, for these companies, health is of little interest.

We do not yet know the ecological and human health impact of GMOs, but we already use them on a large scale because they are so profitable. At the forefront of transgenics is the seed company Monsanto, which to create dependency in the poor of the third world, has modified the seeds so that they produce only one harvest, forcing the poor to buy seeds from them the following year. Over time, the seeds that God created disappear, that is, those that result from the previous harvest and germinate for a new harvest.

Unsustainability of our development model
Mr. Adam Smith, in his book The Wealth of Nations, said that everyone should seek their own interest since an invisible hand would seek the common good and interest. He must have been very happy with his cleverness when he discovered this theory, but if we think about it, it is nothing but the intellectual version of the law of the jungle.

Capitalism has never sought nor wanted the common good. In fact, if Mr. Smith were alive today, he would know that already in 2016, the 1% of humanity owned more wealth than the remaining 99%, that a handful of people owned exactly 54%, that is, more than half of the world's wealth, he would be ashamed of his theory. Where then is this “bloody” invisible hand that would bring equality?

From a political, economic and even ecological point of view, our development model is unsustainable and unviable. Our planet will die long before we have the ability to transport ourselves to another planet. There are those who live in denial and argue that climate change is due to normal cycles of our planet. They deny that the rampant air and sea pollution has any effect on the health of our planet.

There are precedents and these should make us think. The Mayan civilization is an example of a development model that was unsustainable and, as such, came to an end. The pyramids, palaces and monuments that the Mayans were able to build had already been swallowed up by the jungle by the time the Spaniards arrived there. The Mayans, dispersed, had returned to subsistence agriculture.

In the face of this tragedy that is about to befall us once again, we still behave like animals. Some think like the donkey that said: “No more grass should grow after I die, I won't be needing it anymore”, let those who come after take care of themselves; others prefer not to see, like the ostrich that hides its head under the sand so as not to see the danger: What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over, and there are occasions when the truth is just too bitter to swallow. So just don’t swallow it and stupidly or irrationally trust your luck.

I didn't want this panorama to seem so bleak, there are people here and there throughout human history who have subjugated instinct to the service of intelligence and have been capable of great deeds. But these are only a few swallows, not enough to make a summer.

Only Christ can save us from ourselves
In our sheepishness, like a flock of sheep, we move inexorably towards death and death itself is our shepherd, says the psalm mentioned above. We are suicidal and we don't even realize it. Only God can save us from ourselves.

It is by obeying God's will and not our own that we can free us from ourselves. God likes us more than we like ourselves, He defends our interests better than we can; it is love for God that saves us from ourselves. The unhealthy love we have for ourselves leads us to our own annihilation just as it did for Narcissus.

In its entirety, humanity has not yet reached adulthood; it continues to behave like a frivolous, irresponsible child, doing whatever gives him the greatest pleasure, completely oblivious to the consequences in the future from the present orgies.

For Freud, human maturity is the passage from the pleasure principle to the reality principle; that is, abandoning behaviours that produce immediate pleasure (pleasure principle) for the knowledge that we have of the harmful effects that these behaviours will cause on the long term (reality principle). Fundamentally, Jesus had already said this when he stated: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

Conclusion – If, knowing what suits us, we do whatever we feel like, reason is at the service of instinct. Only when we manage to postpone the immediate gratification of our impulses and do what suits us then we can put our instincts at the service of reason and we can be genuinely human.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC


November 15, 2022

The Kingdom of God

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Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Because there are few monarchies left and to try to update the anthropomorphisms of the Gospel, someone suggested that, in keeping with today's world, we should give Jesus the title of President instead of King. "The cure is worse than the disease" – while the President is usually voted in by the people, Christ, like all kings, was born into the kingship.

The President rules a republic which in Latin means public affair; Christ reigns over the universe because it belongs to Him. Everything, including us, is God's property, for He created it all. We are merely stewards, not owners, of creation, and for that matter, not owners even of our own lives.  

A king without blue blood
‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’  Matthew 20:25-28

Christ is therefore the sovereign King of everything and everyone but he is a King without blue blood because he came into the world to serve and not to be served, (Mark 10.45; Luke 22:27). Since Christ is not a King like other worldly kings, neither is his kingdom like that of other worldly kingdoms, (John 18:36).

On the day Jesus was acclaimed as King, he entered the capital city, Jerusalem, mounted not on a majestic white horse, like the kings of this world, but on a ridiculous donkey; while a horse is used for war, a donkey is used for work and trade, for peace, and Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Mounted on a donkey and acclaimed as King at the gates of Jerusalem, Jesus laughs at those enamoured with power who use it to subjugate others. On the contrary, Jesus came not to be served like the powerful men of this world, but to serve.

"I am among you as one who serve", (Luke 22:27). The kings of this world, through taxes, suck the blood out of their subjects. Jesus, on the other hand, gives his life, gives his blood for his friends and all humanity. His throne was not of pleasure, pride and ostentation, but of Cross of ignominy and torture; his crown was not of gold encrusted with precious stones, but of thorns driven into his skull.

In saying, "Whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave”, (Matthew 20:27), Jesus substitutes love for power for the power of love. Who are the most important people in our lives? Aren't they the ones who served us the most, starting with our parents? And who are the most important figures for mankind? Not likely those who had the most power and dominated the most but rather those who have loved and served humanity selflessly the most.

Church and Kingdom in the preaching of Jesus
In stark contrast to the word CHURCH, which appears 112 times and almost all in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters, the word KINGDOM appears 162 times and, of these, only 35 times appears in the book of Acts and the Letters; the remaining 127 times are found in the Gospels. This demonstrates how important the Kingdom of God was for Jesus and how unimportant this same Kingdom was for the nascent Church founded by Christ.

                                       KINGDOM                       CHURCH
NEW TESTAMENT            162                                    112
GOSPELS                            127                                        2
ACTS / LETTERS                 35                                    110

After the Second Vatican Council, the Church stopped looking at her navel and began to look at the world like Jesus did, and to see in it the Kingdom that is already in our midst since Jesus came into the world, but not yet in its fullness. The Mission began with God sending his firstborn Son into the world. The goal of this mission has always been to transform the world into the Kingdom of God; before this moment and since our forefathers, the world belonged to sin.

The Church, as the mystical body of Christ, can have no other objective but to continue the work of Christ. Therefore, the purpose of her existence is not to implant herself in every corner of this earth, but to bring the Good News of the Kingdom to every corner of the world.

The main objective is not to produce Christians, to increase their numbers, but rather to unite all people of good will, of other religions, atheists or agnostics and together with them, to aid in building a better world, a more just and fraternal society, where justice, peace and harmony, and love reign among peoples. If this had been the objective of the Church from the beginning, as it was of her founder, there would have been no fundamentalism such as the Inquisition, nor holy wars such as the ones driven by the Crusades.

The Church does not exist for herself nor should she preach herself, because her Master and founder did not preach himself: the Church exists for the Mission, that is, to continue the work of her founder and the purpose of the Mission which is the Kingdom. Church is what we are, it is our identity, the Kingdom is our mission, it is what we do.

Kingdom of justice, peace and the integrity of creation
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.  Romans 14:17-18

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom where economic progress is not the only factor of development, for man does not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4). In the Kingdom of God, the economy is a healthy economy because it grows hand in hand with social justice, peace and the good of entire creation.

Sustainable development starts from the principle that it is possible to have a supportable and viable economic development without destroying the environment or compromising the habitability of the planet for future generations, or threatening justice and world peace.

Sustainable development is one that harmonizes economic growth with the reality of the biosphere or the protection of the environment with the individual and social needs of all peoples who inhabit the planet, that is, with the social inclusion of all.

Development viewed solely as economic growth has destroyed the environment and caused deep social inequalities. For development to be sustainable, it must be three-dimensional, that is, the aspects of social justice and environmental protection must be as important as economic growth.

It is a Kingdom of inclusion not exclusion
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

The Kingdom of God is a city without walls, without borders, because it is a city open to all; it is a round table like the world, it is the bread for the multitudes. There are no differences between people because we are all children of the same Father.

All humans are God’s creatures and through Jesus Christ, redeemed at the price of his blood, are made adopted children of God. United by the same human nature; dignity is due to all human beings without distinction of ethnicity.

In clear contrast and opposition to St. Paul, who in 1Corinthians 11: 7-9 alludes to chapter 2 of the book of Genesis to say that man is superior to woman because she was formed from a rib of the man, Jesus when speaking of divorce quoted Genesis 1, where it says, "man and woman He created them", thus affirming his conviction of gender equality.

Jesus is the only founder of religion who never made a derogatory statement about women, not even the prostitutes did he ever criticize. Unlike the rabbis of his time, he never warned anyone against the danger of dealing with women in general for their seductive tricks. On the contrary, he warned men against their own lust and urged them to take responsibility for their impulses and instincts, (Matthew 5:28-29).

There is no accusation or criticism of the other
In the Kingdom of God no one accuses or exposes anyone. The real reason to bring accusation against others is that when we point at others and expose their sin, we are humiliating them, which is an indirect way of exalting ourselves. Since bragging about how good we are is too conspicuous and frowned upon socially, we criticize and denigrate others to make ourselves shine.

As Jesus noted in the case of the sinful woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), those who abound in criticizing others are deficient in self-criticism. It is not by criticizing others that we progress spiritually and humanly, but by criticizing our very selves.

In this same episode of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-10), Jesus turns the table on the accusers by saying that only those without sin have the moral authority to judge who is in sin. He then exhorts us to be self-critical, to pay more attention to the log that is in our own eye than to the speck in someone else's eye, (Matthew 7:3-5).

Nonviolence replaces violence
This Kingdom does not conquer land or people by violence. Violence subdues the body, but it does not subdue the heart or the mind. Violence is not a means to a good end because it only creates more violence that keeps growing. The only peace that can be obtained by violence is the peace of the cemetery.

It is not with hatred that we win over our enemies; our hatred only makes them stronger against us. Only love conquers them and manages to turn them into our friends; only love disarms them. The entrance to the citizenship of the Kingdom of God is not through conquest or subjugation, but by conversion, by metanoia; that is why the entrance is free.

The end of religion
The Gospel of St. Matthew, the Gospel of the Kingdom, reminds us in chapter 25 that, in the end, we will not be judged by who we are, by our identity, for being Christians, atheists or Muslims, but by what we have done or failed to do, whether or not we have assisted the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the pilgrims, the imprisoned, the foreigners, and the sick. Because helping them was the goal of Jesus' life and his coming into the world, this very goal must be our goal too.

On the individual level – Jesus replaces religion with psychology by saying that the only commandment is the commandment of love; whatever may be our religion or ideology or lack thereof, without love there is no human life. Also at the individual level, he presented himself as the only Way, Truth and Life, that is, as the reference of humanity and how to live as an authentic human person.

On the social level – The Kingdom of God is also not of a religious nature, but a question of justice and peace; it is therefore a civil issue that can very well be dealt with in sociology.

Finally, at the last judgment, according to Gospel of Matthew chapter 25, there is no religious question, all questions are of civil nature. Since there is no personal self-realization or happiness without love and since there is no social justice without love of neighbour, at the end of our lives we will be judged only and exclusively by how little or how much we have loved.

When Jesus appeared to St. Paul on the road to Damascus, he did not ask him why are you persecuting my brothers and sisters, my disciples, but why are you persecuting Me, (Acts 22, 1-16). In Matthew 25, we learn that both good and evil and the absence of both have a price, and that since Jesus took on human nature, no human being lives helpless with no one to defend him, because he has Jesus as his elder brother. For this reason, we will have to answer before the King for everything we have done or failed to do to anyone who has crossed our path in life.

Conclusion – The Constitution or Magna Carta that governs the Kingdom of God is summed up by one word: LOVE. Therefore, a citizen of this Kingdom is one who loves God above everything and everyone including himself, who loves himself as God loves him, and who loves others as he loves himself.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC



November 1, 2022

The End of the World

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For centuries the Church and the Bible have been ridiculed for claiming that the world will end.

The idea that the world has always existed has ensnared even Catholics who have yet to realize that if the world did not have a beginning and does not have an end, then the existence of God lacks meaning. The truth is that the world, as we know it, can end by many ways.

Pathogens, biological weapons, a virus
Men have used poison with the intention to kill since the beginning of civilization, not only against individual enemies, but also occasionally against armies. Since Emperor Barbarossa poisoned water wells with human bodies in Tortona, Italy, in 1155, until World War I and II, through its use in China by the Japanese, and more recently in Iraq, biological weapons have become "the poor man’s atomic bomb," as Block, an American scientist, wrote.  

With our increasing knowledge of the biology of disease-causing agents -- viruses such as AIDS, Ebola and SARS-CoV-2, pathogens such as typhus and smallpox, and toxins such as anthrax and numerous types of bacteria -- it is legitimate to fear the possibility of a large-scale biological war. Biological weapons offer terrorist groups and "rogue states" an affordable way to counter the overwhelming military superiority of the United States and other nuclear powers.

The current crisis of COVID-19 has included accusations of biological warfare. The existence of a high-security virology laboratory in Wuhan has fuelled some theories and accusations that China had deliberately unleashed an attack. The hypothesis that the virulence of a virus like the one of 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide and the current one that is already in excess of 5 million, was necessarily man-made is further proof of anthropocentric arrogance and irrational faith in science.

For millions of years nature has been producing viruses and pathogens, such as the Black Death virus that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, without any help of man’s science. Man's meagre ability to create viruses is no more than 10 years old, and so far, laboratories have yet to create any as destructive as what mother nature has done in the past.

On the other hand, there is a war raging between pathogens created by nature and the antibiotics created by men to fight them. So far, antibiotics have worked, but there are already pathogens resistant to the strongest antibiotics so that we don't know what is in store for us, as my mother used to say.

Impact of a meteorite
The moon with its large craters is a testimony of the constant bombardment by these rocks or metals of great proportions, pieces of stars and planets, that populate the universe and move without regular orbits, like some comets.

We ourselves are witnesses to the fall of these celestial bodies on Earth when at night we see them as shooting stars. The Earth's atmosphere protects us from these bodies. When they collide with our atmosphere, most of them incinerate and pulverize, falling over our planet as tiny particles.

But this does not always happen and there are footage of these meteorites larger than a soccer ball falling on Earth. And there are still larger ones at the NASA museum in Washington.

All of Earth's nuclear charges might not be enough to break up a meteorite like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs if by an unfortunate chance, it is on a collision course with Earth. On the other hand, the impact of comets or meteorites, depending on their size, disturbs the initial inertia of a planet and can slow it down or even project it out of orbit, which would be fatal to life on our planet. The danger is real, it has already happened once that we know of and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and it could happen again, causing the end of life on planet Earth.

Nuclear conflict
At the end of the Cold War, the planet's nuclear arsenal was enough to destroy it not once, but 10 times. After treaties were signed, especially between the United States and Russia, it is likely that today there are far fewer atomic weapons.

However, these two countries are not the only ones that have them. The world wars started with few countries but gradually more and more got involved. The nature of violence is to increase exponentially. North Korea, for example, could start a nuclear war that would gradually involve atomic powers and this will certainly be unstoppable. There is also the danger that nuclear bombs can fall into the hands of terrorists.

Ecological suicide
We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair.  Not when we have the means -- the technological innovation and the scientific imagination -- to begin the work of repairing it right now. As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.  Barack Obama’s Speech at U.N. Climate Change Summit September 23, 2014

The soil – is depleted of elements essential to our health, because of mono-cropping; it is also contaminated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers that have altered its chemical composition and are poisoning the groundwater from which we get our drinking water.

The oceans – are full of plastic microfibers discharged from our washing machines, since plastic has replaced natural fibres such as wool, cotton, linen and silk, along with heavy metals such as mercury are absorbed by the fish that we consume.

The air – is polluted by over emission of carbon dioxide gas that causes the greenhouse effect. This is responsible for the global warming that is melting the glaciers and polar ice caps; it is also causing sea levels to rise, changing wind patterns, changing the rhythm of seasons, and causing hurricanes, floods and droughts of unprecedented intensity.

The social environment – is also plagued by the fact that today the 1% of humanity has more wealth (54%) than the remaining 99% (46%). The gap between the rich and the poor never stops widening. Some die of hunger, and others die of abundance; if there was sharing, neither one nor the other would die.

Biodiversity – is another area of paramount importance. In addition to the fact that biodiversity protects humans from the effects of agricultural disasters, such as the Irish potato famine, the loss of one species results in significant changes in natural habitats that can seriously harm us in the short, medium or long run.

Death of the sun
Contrary to logic, the sun apparently is not producing less and less energy as it dies bit by bit. The more hydrogen is converted into helium, the more the sun's core shrinks, causing the outer layers to move closer to the centre under a stronger gravitational force. This causes more pressure on the core, accelerating hydrogen fusion and increasing energy production, leading to a 1% increase in luminosity every 100 million years. In the last 4.5 billion years, corresponding to the age of the sun, this energy has already grown by about 30%.

In one billion years, the sun will be 10% brighter than it is now. This increase in luminosity will lead to an increase in the heat and energy that Earth and its atmosphere will have to absorb, causing, in turn, an increase in the intensification of the greenhouse effect. This will gradually turn our planet into what Venus is presently: the hottest planet in the solar system with a temperature of around 500 degrees Celsius.

Within 3.5 billion years, the sun will be 40% brighter than it is today. Under this condition, seawater will boil and steam will be lost into space, turning our planet into a hot, dry planet like Venus. It will not have higher temperatures than Venus for the simple reason that Earth is farther from the sun.

When the sun's hydrogen is about to run out, the inert helium ash, the result of its combustion, will eventually collapse. This will cause the sun's core to become denser and hotter, increasing in size and entering the red giant phase.

In this phase, the orbits of Mercury and Venus will be absorbed by the growing sun, two thirds of our sky will be occupied by the sun which will gradually end up absorbing our planet. When this phase is reached, the sun will still have 120 million years of active life left. Finally, the accumulated helium will ignite violently, and in the next few hundred million years, it will burn the helium that resulted from the combustion of hydrogen.

The size of the sun will continue to increase until it turns into a white dwarf. In this state, it can still survive for trillions of years until it finally turns into a black hole.

The end of the universe
In 1927, the Belgian Catholic priest Georges Lamaître (pictured in the image illustrating this text), upon observing that the universe is expanding, intuited that it began when a very small and extremely dense point of matter exploded (the Big Bang). Atheists responded by claiming that after reaching its maximum expansion, Earth would initiate the reverse movement of contraction, ending in a great crunch and giving rise to the initial extremely dense point, which would then explode again and so on.

The observations and studies done so far have corroborated the Big Bang theory, but not the Big Crunch theory. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that the transformation of matter into energy is not possible without the irreversible breakdown of the first; there are no perfect machines that feed themselves, that is, that produce all the energy necessary for their own functioning.

The efficiency of a gasoline engine is about 25% and about 40% for a diesel engine; that is, we get more kilometers with one liter of diesel than one liter of gasoline; the efficiency of the steam machine is 12% and that of the human body is 1%. The universe is extremely inefficient and wastes its energy; in fact, it will expand until it dies, when it has used up all its nuclear energy.

The Bible is then correct in saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Revelation 22:13). Science therefore will never prove that our faith is wrong; on the contrary, the more man knows, the closer faith gets to reason and reason to faith.

Conclusion: Science, at last, discovers what faith has always known, that the universe had a beginning and will have an end. However, long before the universe, or the sun, runs out of energy, life on our planet can end in many other ways, some of those man-made.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC



October 15, 2022

Profile of the 21st Century Missionary - Part 2

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Rooted in tradition
A missionary is not a free entrepreneur; he belongs to a life community with which he is confronted, in the same way he confronts the Word of God that he strives to embody.

For a tree to be healthy, it must grow in two directions: both upwards and downwards. In this sense, the missionary is also confronted with a community formed by all those who, from the beginning and throughout the 2000 years, have lived in the apostolic faith, as for instance: the Church Fathers like Jerome, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Teresa of Avila..., and in literature like Dante's Divine Comedy, masterpieces like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, music by Beethoven, Mozart, etc.

Today's missionary loves the tradition in which he is well planted, and sees himself as its continuator, like a runner in here and now of a relay race that began when Christ passed on his testimony to Peter and the apostles. This faith, which is essentially apostolic, is passed on from generation to generation, until the end of times, by the apostles of today, the missionaries.

We detach ourselves from the "sola fide sola gratia sola scriptura solus Christus" of Luther and his followers. First, because the Scripture or Word of God, as the written word, is subsequent to the Church, that is, to tradition. It is obvious that St. Paul's letters to the communities of Thessalonica, Ephesus, Corinth and Rome are subsequent to the constitution of these very communities: in other words, the address exists before the letter and not the other way around.

The gospels came after many of these letters and they are supposed to be the reflection of these same communities. Without the Church there would be no New Testament, just as without the people of Israel there would be no Old Testament.

Second, the dogmas such as Christ is truly man and truly God and the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity, accepted by all Protestants, are extra-biblical, they are the product of the Church’s reflection, that is, they belong to tradition. It makes no sense, to accept tradition up to a certain point in time and then to reject it on principle.

Lover of liturgy
(...) I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.  Isaiah 6:1-4

The liturgy and the sacraments celebrate the faith and they are means to grow in faith. Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the people of God would not be a people because they would not gather. Without the Eucharist there is no Church, without the Church there is no Eucharist; only the mystical body of Christ which is the Church can celebrate the sacramental body of Christ.

In addition to celebrating and growing in faith, and forming the community, the liturgy and the sacraments are virtual encounters with God. The great prophet Isaiah found his vocation in a well celebrated liturgy where he felt God’s presence. It is the beauty of the temple where it is celebrated, the beauty of the ministers' vestments, the prayers, the singing, the music, the incense, the silence, the recollection as they all contribute to make our hearts vibrate and feel the presence of God like Isaiah had felt.

Chant your Magnificat
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name... Luke 1:46-55

Being a missionary is, like Mary, to chant the Magnificat of the wonders that the Lord has worked in our lives, of how he has reprogrammed it, reoriented it, and given it a purpose. The Magnificat of Mary, like that of anyone who has experienced the presence of God active in his life, is a burst of joy; it is a "non plus ultra", the realization that God fills us to the brim, that "in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

The missionary, therefore, is not primarily the one who proclaims the gospel, nor the one who catechizes, or the one who speaks "objectively" of Jesus, of his history, life and miracles; that would be more proselytism than mission. The missionary does not speak "objectively" of Christ, but subjectively, because it is from his experiences and living in Christ that he proclaims the "evangelion", that is, the gospel.

Itinerant
For many evangelists nowadays, the norm is to live withdrawn from social life, confined to a narrow circle of Rectory-Church-Rectory, waiting for the people to hear the bell ringing and calling on the "sparrows to come to the nest", that is to the Church, and feeling frustrated when very few come.

For Jesus, the norm was to go out and experience the life of the people where this was taking place. Only once in a while, especially at night when the people were resting, would He also withdraw to enter into intimacy with His Father. Jesus was like a letter carrier who delivered to each person a personalized Good News and everyone found in Jesus the health-salvation they sought with faith.

Oftentimes the very same evangelist confines himself; at other times, it is the very same people of God that confines him, because they do not look kindly on his presence in certain settings. It is necessary to remind both sides that Jesus entered the houses of sinners, ate with them and lived with women, both reputable and otherwise, and he was not infected by their sins or way of life: on the contrary, all who came in contact with Him were positively influenced by his words, his deeds and way of life.

"Omnia munda mundis", to the pure, all things are pure. Just as for Jesus, for the present-day evangelist there must be no out of bound places. "Where the sun does not enter, the doctor does" – since the evangelist is, at the same time, the Sun and the doctor, if he does not enter as the sun, he enters as a doctor.

Jesus was itinerant, so were Paul, Francis of Assisi, Francis of Xavier, etc. The evangelists of today must also be itinerants. If Jehovah's Witnesses can manage to get proselytes with such a poor and deficient message, how much more could we achieve if we had their daring and zeal.

Jesus chose fishermen for his disciples, not shepherds. Fishermen have no sheep to take care of, they have nothing, they can have fish if they go out with their boats and catch them, as Peter and his brother Andrew did. To catch them, they need to mend their nets, like the sons of Zebedee did with their father, which is to say that today's missionary must be a person of prayer and ongoing formation.

Prayer is not time wasted that could have been spent on evangelization; on the contrary, through it and in it, the missionary purifies the word of God from the impurities that he himself places in it with his character, personality, prejudices, convictions and other beliefs.

In addition to prayer that puts the missionary in contact with the Lord of the Vineyard and the message that the evangelist proclaims, the missionary must also be a man of reflection. You can’t catch flies with vinegar, for each type of fish there is a type of net or hook or bait. The preacher does not preach in the same manner to children, young people and adults, in one culture or another; he must adapt the Word to those who hear it.

Lover of the new Media
The Internet is the sixth continentPope Francis

With social media, the internet is no longer just the new encyclopedia of knowledge where everyone goes to do their research, but it is also a virtual meeting place in real time between peoples of different latitudes and longitudes, cultures, ethnicity and religions. From this virtual pulpit, the Word of God reaches more people and particular groups of people who, for one reason or another, do not attend the Church in person.

It is true that in this domain the Word of God contends with many other words; but, since there is no Good News that is more beautiful, more reasonable and more human than the gospel, one does not even need to be a great speaker to make it yield 100 fold when it is sown. (Cf. the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13: 1–9, 18–23)

Today's evangelist who neglects this new areopagus is not being faithful to the words of Jesus to "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).

Conclusion – Rooted in tradition, supported by a community, today's evangelist preaches in season and out of season, along the way and out of the way, in all the areopaguses, that is, in all the places where people gather.

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC








October 1, 2022

Profile of the 21st Century Missionary - Part-1

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Having an intimate and personal relationship with Christ - We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- (…) -- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1,3

Theologian Karl Rahner said that the Christians of the future are either mystics or they are not Christians. To be a Christian is fundamentally to have an affective and effective relationship with Christ like the first Christians, his disciples; in fact, He chose them not primarily to be continuators of his work, but to live with him (Mark 3:14).

Christianity is therefore not a doctrine or philosophy of life; it is an affective relationship with Christ that leads to an affective relationship with all those around us. For today's Christian, as always, the affective must be effective, that is, it must change one’s life and give a sense of self fulfillment and joy to today’s Christian.

The main role of a missionary is to evangelize, not to catechize or do charity work, but to testify to the personal and intimate relationship of love that he has with the Lord and to offer that same experience to others. No one gives what he does not have; if we do not have this relationship, we cannot and should not be missionaries.

The evangelizer who announces the One with whom he does not have an intimate relationship is like a parrot; he talks about what he has learned and, instead of putting himself at the service of the Word, he puts the Word at his service, that is, he subliminally uses it to parade and promote himself.

Gift of the Word
The missionary must be what is known as a motivational speaker -- exciting, full of ardour and enthusiasm. A good communicator can sell even snake oil. Our product, the Word of God, has already proved its excellence and worth for more than two thousand years.

A Word of Life communicated without life disavows itself. We, more than anyone, have reasons to be joyful because we possess a faith that gives meaning to our existence here and now and launches us into the future, full of Hope, with nothing to fear.

Know the Bible
‘Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ Matthew 13:52

 
The evangelizer of our time must be a good connoisseur of the Sacred Scripture. He must also be able to bring reality to the Scripture in order to find enlightenment, answers and solutions in it or bring Scripture to reality so that the Word of God is embodied in attitudes, behaviours and concrete actions.

Many Christian sects and the Copts in Ethiopia place the New alongside the Old, giving equal importance to one and the other. This is wrong because the New Testament, the New Covenant, cannot have the same value as the Old; if that were the case, we would not need the New. The New Covenant came to replace and fulfill the old one. The Old Testament must be read from the perspective of the New and to the extent that it agrees with the New Testament.

The Old Testament contextualizes the New, so one cannot understand the New Testament without understanding the Old; just as one cannot understand the Old Testament without knowing and understanding the history of the people of Israel.

Knowing our culture
Christianity begins with Christmas; the missionary is the one who brings birth to Christ, that is, he embodies the Word of God in every moment and in every place. To this end, he needs to possess a deep knowledge of the culture, the historical moment and the existential situation in which the people is living. He must have "the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other" as the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth used to say.

To embody the Word is to know how to find salvation in it for the "here and now" of a people; that is, the answer to the questions and the solution to the problems of the present moment. In this sense, the missionary is called to be a prophet, the man who knows how to read the signs of the times; "the man of the year", the natural leader, a Moses who can guide the people along the path of salvation, that is, of full spiritual, physical, mental and moral health.

Conclusion – As the bishop says at the ordination of a deacon as he hands him the Gospel, so should a missionary be today: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, which you have a mission to proclaim. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and live what you teach".

Fr. Jorge Amaro, IMC