Jesus urges his disciples to pray for those who persecute us. The Roman Missal provides multiple options from the Scriptures–not only from Jesus–to help us do this in a Mass dedicated to the task. Buried so deep in the Missal, I’m not sure this Mass would get used at all. So many people, Christians included, are inclined to fight and resist their oppressors–not pray for them. But let’s have a look, starting with the Lectionary offerings.
- 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 (David and Saul at war)
- Isaiah 50:4-9a (Palm Sunday’s third Suffering Servant song)
- Acts 7:55-60 (the martyrdom of Stephen and his citation of forgiveness)
- Colossians 3:12-15 (love is the perfection of many virtues)
Gospels (passages on forgiveness from Jesus’ sermons on the Mount and Plain respectively):
- Matthew 5:38-48
- Luke 6:27-38
- Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 14, 17 (Listen, O Lord, to my pleading)
- Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 11-12 (The Lord is kind and merciful)
The propers are from the Gospels. Entrance is Luke 6:27-28
Love your enemies, says the Lord. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Communion from the Beatitudes, not uncommonly found in Ordinary Sundays, Matthew 5:9-10
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Loving one’s enemies is more a hallmark of the New Testament. That’s not to say Christians have struggled mightily with it–sometimes against it. Psalm 86 is a lament against unjust persecutors. The prayer includes tossing adversaries into confusion–maybe that’s not such a bad prayer if it excludes bashing them on the head. The canticle 1 Peter 2:21-25 seems a good fit for these propers. Maybe one of the psalms from the Lectionary that go unused.
Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.
It may be a bit fitting to commence the season of Easter with a discussion on the Reign of God. This Kingdom, Reign, Rule, Heaven, seems to be a paradox for us. We want it and we work for it, yet our sins betray and sabotage it even in our most virtuous accomplishments on its behalf. This sad mystery: how do we comprehend it?
The Reign of God is today, and it is also not-yet. Where we stumble may be the location of not-yet. The Aparecida bishops give a list of where we might experience it in the here and now:
383. Evident signs of the presence of the Kingdom are:
- living the beatitudes personally and in community;
- the evangelization of the poor;
- knowing and doing the will of the Father;
- martyrdom for the faith;
- access of all to the goods of creation;
- sincere, fraternal, mutual forgiveness;
- accepting and respecting the richness of pluralism;
- and the struggle not to succumb to temptation and to not be slaves of evil.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.
The God who made the world and everything in it,
he who is Lord of heaven and earth,
does not live in shrines made by human hands,
nor is he served by human hands,
as though he needed anything,
since he himself gives to all mortals
life and breath and all things.
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth,
and he allotted the times of their existence
and the boundaries of the places where they would live,
so that they would search for God
and perhaps grope for him and find him—
though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
For “In him we live and move and have our being”;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring,
we ought not to think that the deity
is like gold, or silver, or stone,
an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.
While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance,
now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
because he has fixed a day
on which he will have the world judged in righteousness
by a man whom he has appointed,
and of this he has given assurance to all
by raising him from the dead.
Confidence: not a word one might first associate with Good Friday. But in today’s reading from Hebrews the word stood out for me, and seemed worthy of reflection:
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Confidence is not the first thought that comes to mind on Good Friday. The first sense of encountering Jesus might be sadness and mourning. The sense of ourselves might be guilt, sorrow, and contrition. As a community, we latch onto traditions and the group sense of liturgy and piety.
One oft-cited meme among Catholics concerns a possible meeting with Jesus: wouldn’t you fall to your knees? Some people would. The author of the letter to the Hebrews would seem to counsel we stand talk and walk to the experience of grace.
Holy Week has become “helly” week.
A few of my Catholic Right facebook friends and their contacts are in Aha! We-Told-You-So ecstasy with reports that Pope Francis has denied the existence of hell. First, I’m not sure the power of the keys extends to supernatural realms. Second the “interviewing journalist” is in his tenth decade of life. Third, the Vatican was pretty quick in a busy week to refute the story. Make of all that what you will.
My sense is that this is what various players hope he said. An atheist simply wants to disappear into the void when he dies. Orthosplainers want Easter egg on the guy they dislike. This looks like an easy one to diagnose.
All that said, what lies beyond mortal death is a mystery. It is a personal mystery in the sense of how individuals might be judged and where they will move beyond that. It’s a meta-mystery in that we don’t know place, time, conditions, activities, and such.
One priest friend of mine imagines each soul being given a significant chunk of the universe to enjoy and steward–a galaxy or such. He’s kind of an introvert, so I think billions of cubic light years for a dwelling place might well be a heaven.
Pop culture remains fascinated about the final things. I don’t think hell is going to get killed off anytime soon. Billy Joel, in singing about Virginia, mused:
They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun
Human attitudes about the afterlife are far more intriguing as to what sorts of paths lead to heaven. Catholics who are obsessed about what other Catholics may or may not think aren’t really on the path that leads anywhere but in circles. Nothing that attends to the various mandates we’ve been given for action: take and eat and drink, serve as I have served, proclaim the Gospel everywhere, attend to the least persons.
in the fullness of time you revealed your love
in Jesus the Lord.
On the eve of his death,
as a sign of your covenant,
he washed the feet of his disciples
and gave himself as food and drink.
Give us life at this sacred banquet
and joy in humble service,
that, bound to Christ in all things,
we may pass over from this world to your kingdom,
where he lives with you now and always in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.