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"Why are you afraid?" [Updated with 2 more images]

"And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, "Save, Lord! We are perishing!" And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?" (Mt 8:23-27)Here is another medieval representation, from the Hitda Gospels, ca. 1020.And this image of another sea-wonder may be the one that Claire was thinking of. It's from the medieval (late 12th-century) mosaics in the cathedral of Monreale, Sicily.

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Michael, FYI - there's a whole blog post about indulgences, along with 140 comments, at http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=2788

Thanks Fr K. I'm glad you like that criterion, although I'm afraid that in most situations few of us are anywhere close to meeting it.And now I will try to follow Jean's advice.

Be not afraid,I go before you always,Come follow Me,and I shall give you rest.If you pass through raging watersin the sea, you shall not drown.If you walk amidst the burning flames,you shall not be harmed.http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=snmwD6d9Xo4

Peace, It Is IFierce was the wild billow,Dark was the night;Oars laboured heavily,Foam glimmered white;Trembled the mariners,Peril was nigh;Then said the God of God,"Peace! It is I."Ridge of the mountain wave,Lower thy crest!Wall of Euroclydon,Be thou at rest!Sorrow can never be,Darkness must fly,Where saith the Light of Light,"Peace! It is I."Jesus, Deliverer,Come thou to me;Soothe thou my voyagingOver life's sea:Thou, when the storm of deathRoars, sweeping by,Whisper, O Truth of Truth,"Peace! It is I." (By Anatolius -- not the saint. The melody for "Peace It Is I" in the Pius X Hymnal is the best one, imho.)

JAK -- What a beautiful miniature. Is it medieval? It looks a bit modern to me.And, Gerelyn, what a beautiful hymn!

Ann: I found the image in a manila folder of mine, along with many others that struck me at one time or another over the decades. I've written on the back that it comes from an illuminated manuscript held in the Bavarian State Library in Munich, but a search there yesterday didn't find it, and so I have no other information. It's clearly medieval in date, part of a larger representation, it seems.I've always liked the story and its lesson, already apparent in Matthew's use of the tradition, that anyone who follows Jesus onto the boat is likely to encounter storms, that the Church may sometimes be in danger of being swamped, that it may at times seem that Christ is asleep. Augustine's take on it was that when it seems that Christ is sleeping, it's really we who are asleep, and that he awakens when we do, or, rather, that his awakening is ours.

Hi Joseph, Thank you for expanding the message of fear beyond our selves into that of the Church and Christ. I am a hospital chaplain-in-training and of course fear abounds in many guises. To patients it might seem that Christ is asleep. I like that you said the Church sometimes is in danger of being swamped. Right now, it is in danger but I think from within and not from without. By that I mean that the hierarchy is stuck again in pre-Vatican II culture. Surely this is middle ground to help us move forward, and new ground to be turned over for new growth. Can we please look at the new seeds of lay ministry, especially for people like me who are called to bring the Kingdom outside of the parish.Maybe it is the decision-makers who are afraid.Thank you.

JAK --Thanks for looking up the information. I wondered because the picture has some notes that aren't typical of the time. Maybe it's late medieval. Or maybe the German kind was different from the French and Belgian kinds that are so often reproduced. For example, the colors here are very subdued, and the details are highly regular, which is not typical of the antic stuff one finds in the work of the French and Belgians.

Ann: I wouldn't make too much of the muted colors in the reproduction I've sent out. The copy I have, on ordinary paper, is at least thirty years old, and the colors of the photo may well have faded.

Listening to friends who are facing death, divorce, suicide, illness, lie, betrayal, or threats, is enough to make me wonder if Christ is asleep indeed. Advent is a tough time for fragile people, couples, or families. Just hearing them is exhausting. I sure wish storms did not look so overwhelming.

Based on my clear (!) memories of a course in medieval art taken over 60 years ago, my guess is that this comes from the Ottonian renaissance (10th-11th centuries, occurring between the Carolingian and Twelfth Century renaissances. It was particularly strong in southern Europe, and Bavaria would make sense. Historians, of course, quarrel among themselves about those medieval renaissances. Take a look at the Golden Gospels of Echternachhttp://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_aureus_Epternacensisin German, unfortunately, but you can see the pictures.Whatever it is, it's lovely, and perfect for this Advent and all our various fears.

JAK wrote,"Ive always liked the story and its lesson, already apparent in Matthews use of the tradition, that anyone who follows Jesus onto the boat is likely to encounter storms, that the Church may sometimes be in danger of being swamped, that it may at times seem that Christ is asleep.Augustines take on it was that when it seems that Christ is sleeping, its really we who are asleep, and that he awakens when we do, or, rather, that his awakening is ours."What struck me about the above is the use and mixture of metaphor by the use of the words "church" and "Christ". In many ways, this follows what Jane Wagner said that the Church is asleep within. If I may have editorial discretion...Those (the People of God) who follow Jesus onto the boat (church) may encounter storms, that the Church (People of God) may sometimes be in danger of being swamped, that at times may seem that Christ (his Church) is asleep. And Augustine's take on it...that we (the People of God) are asleep, and that his (Christ's) awakening is really our (the people of God's awakening for His spirit awakens us). What is important here is that the Church is the People of God and that means the laity, clergy and theologians. What we have been experiencing is a hierarchy that is asleep. This does not mean that all the laity and theologians are fully awake, but that their is a profound disagreement within the Church over certain teachings (sexual ethics) the divide us. Vatican II recommended that the all the members of the Church (People of God) should have a voice, and that collegiality must be embraced. In the post-conciliar era this has not happened. The laity continues to have no voice, and the bishop's authority, as a body, has been cut in favor of a more centralized Roman Curia. We pray that the power of His Spirit awakens us all.

The script looks almost Irish. But those Irish monks did get around.

The design of the boat, with the double dragon heads, looks Germanic to me. What's interesting is the shape of the oars, which are usually oval or square. These seem to have notches, which might be a clue about the origin of the MS. Somebody might be able to look at the lettering and nail the date and origin that way. Sister Wendy Beckett would know.The detail in the sail, which is almost diaphanous, and rigging is very beautiful, as well as the way the water is superimposed over the bottom of the boat.

A different take on this reading: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=1703

Mr. Barberi: I could agree with your exegesis of my paragraph except at the point where you identify the sleeping Christ with "his Church." As for Augustine's take: Convinced that "he who watches over Israel neither sleeps not slumbers" (Ps 121:4), it must be his Body, the Church, that may confuse its slumber with Christ's. For him, of course, no category of Christian was exempt from the temptation to go to sleep, and so perhaps he could agree with you that at any given time there are some in each category who have fallen asleep, or even that at some times there may be more in one category asleep than in others.Whatever Augustine may have made of it, it remains that the main point of the story in Matthew's Gospel is that Christ will not allow the Church to be swamped and to sink, that he has the power to calm the wind and waves. The cry for help is very pertinent: "Lord, save! We are perishing!" And if Augustine is correct, then what we are praying for is that Christ awaken the sleeping, most particularly those who do not know that they are asleep.

JAK,Thanks for the correction. I agree that Christ never sleeps, but some members of His Church do. As for "Lord, save! We are perishing", IMO this speaks to two things albeit not directly: (1) Christ came to save us from damnation, for all those that seek Him shall find Him and those that knock the door will be open; and(2) Jesus never promised that a particular person or member of His Church, e.g., a pope, would be free from error or will never inadvertently mislead, for many teachings that were proclaimed by popes and bishops for centuries as truth were eventually reformed; rather, Jesus was speaking about His "Church" where the gates of hell will never prevail against it.We tend to use God, Jesus and Holy Spirit as though they don't mean the one and the same God. If Christ awakens us who are asleep and don't know it, or His Holy Spirit does, does it really matter?

Jean Follman --Those Irish monks did indeed get around, and among the places they got around to were the regions that today are Switzerland, Austria, southern Germany. The town of St. Gallen in Switzerland was, it's said, founded in the 7th century by the Irishman Gallus, and the famous abbey was founded about a century later. And speaking of waking, Christa Pongratz-Lippit, The Tablet's reporter on Austro-German affairs, ereports in the 24 November issue that Abbot Martin Werlen, OSB, of the Abbey of Ensiedeln in Switzerland, has issue a "potentially incendiary appeal for church reform with a string of proposals to empower the laity," and calling for church leaders to show more courage in examining the problems facing them. His "Discovering the Embers under the Ashes" apparently echoes much of what Cardinal Mario Martini said in the remarks that were published after his death. Abbot Werlen, however, is a mere 50 years old, and perhaps more to the point, he has the backing of Bishop Markus Bchel of St. Gallen, the incoming head of the Swiss Bishops' Conference.Here's the full story:http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/163498or on the Pray Tell blog:http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/11/13/swiss-benedictine-abbot... if your German is good enough (mine isn't) you can read an abridged version of his statement at:http://www.wir-sind-kirche.at/content/index.php?option=com_content&task=...

Mr. Barberi: I agree with all you say here. Christ's awakening us is by means of the Spirit poured forth into our hearts as love for God.

Ah, forward-thinking Abbey of St. Gall! A scholar and poet of that abbey, one Notker Labeo of St. Gall, is said to have been the person to dream up the idea of a logic machine (computer). That was back in the 10th century. I guess we just have to wait another thousand years or so for Rome to become self-critical. Sigh.

Oops == should be: the first person to dream up the idea...

That illustration, and particularly the translucent water and fish in the water, reminds me of a similar illustration of Peter coming to Jesus walking on the water, but I looked for it in vain in dotC's archives. Can anyone help?

I like the illustrations, too. Seeing Jesus and the apostles portrayed in Viking boats does my Orcadian heart good. (A furore normannorum, libera nos, Domine!)But the boats Jesus' fishing friends actually used were more like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sea_of_Galilee_Boat

Yes, the Irish monks did get around, but so did their books (and those books from English monasteries that Irish missionaries founded in Northumbria). The famous "Pangur Ban," a poem that a monk wrote about his little pet cat in the margin of an epistle, is in a German monastery. Would be interesting to know if the monk had gone to Germany or if the book was produced in Ireland and made it's way to the continent.

Jeanne, the script is really interesting. It's very clear without a lot of fancy serifs, and the "e" looks very modern, without the exaggerated top "hump" you sometimes see in other uncial scripts. The Beowulf MSS has the same kind of unadorned and clear lettering. But I hesitate to even hazard any comments, b/c I'm more enthusiastic than knowledgeable about paleography. The Hitda Gospel (which is German) shows another boat with a dragon head again and square sail. The oars are more realistic, and it looks like there's even a front rudder. I like the way the Hitda conveys movement. it looks as if the dragon is diving with the rolling sea, and this time the square sail is flapping in the wind. Everyone is looking worriedly upwards except the guy who's trying wake up Jesus. Interesting how his sleeve is training over the side of the boat.

Thank you Fr. K. I must say that I like the episode of Jesus walking on water much better than him sleeping during a storm. The fundamentalist in me is reluctant to go straight from "he [Christ] was asleep" to "Christ never sleeps".

Claire --Both expressions are ambiguous metaphors. You can find all sorts of truths in them.

Claire: I didn't cite Augustine as giving the literal meaning of the scene in the boat, but because there is something to his comment: that it's more likely that we are asleep than that God/Christ is. It's a bit like when we might complain that God is far from us, when it's we who are far from him.I like the boldness of Ps 35:23: "Wake up, rouse yourself for my cause, for my claim, O my God and my Lord!" And then, even more boldly, Ps 78:65: "The Lord awoke as if from sleep, like a warrior shaking off wine" (RSV: "like a strong man shouting because of wine"; DR: "like a mighty man that hath been surfeited with wine"; Latin: "tamquam potens crapulatus a vino"). St. Augustine comments: "No one but His Spirit would dare to say this of God. He said it because to wicked, insulting people, God seems to be sleeping long like a drunk when He doesn't come to their aid as quickly as they think he should."

Did you ever look at an expanse of water, and observe the ripples on the surface? Do you think that disturbance penetrates below it? Nay; you have seen or heard of fearful tempests on the sea; scenes of horror and distress, which are in no respect a fit type of an Apostle's tears or sighings about his flock. Yet even these violent commotions do not reach into the depths. The foundations of the ocean, the vast realms of water which girdle the earth, are as tranquil and as silent in the storm as in a calm. So is it with the souls of holy men. They have a well of peace springing up within them unfathomable; and though the accidents of the hour may make them seem agitated, yet in their hearts they are not so. Even Angels joy over sinners repentant, and, as we may therefore suppose, grieve over sinners impenitent,yet who shall say that they have not perfect peace? Even Almighty God Himself deigns to speak of His being grieved, and angry, and rejoicing,yet is He not the unchangeable? And in like manner, to compare human things with divine, St. Paul had perfect peace, as being stayed in soul on God, though the trials of life might vex him.For, as I have said, the Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not,like some well in a retired and shady place, difficult of access. Newman, from Plain and Parochial Sermons, vol V sermon 5

I must say that I like the episode of Jesus walking on water much better than him sleeping during a storm.Sleeping is human. Cooking breakfast on the beach for the apostles is another of my favorite gospel stories. Human.(They caught 153 fish. I wonder who counted and how. And by the time the gospel was written, who remembered the exact figure?)

Loved Fr. K's interpretations of the scene from Chapter 8 in Mt., and Augustine's. N.B. Can we hope for some more Augustine, say... by next Lent?

Perhaps Jesus could sleep because he trusted that his disciples would know enough to call him if they got into trouble. (Parents adjust the closeness of their supervision to their children's growing abilities. They stay close at hand, ready to intervene if real trouble arises, but are not suffocating them.) So, when God seems far couldn't it sometimes be growing pains?

The title of the article JAK wrote is "Why are you afraid?". The example used was the boat scene and its meaning that we should not fear anything if we have enough faith in Jesus. The issue for me is: Should we not be afraid in a house divided over moral truth? Do we put all of our fears aside because of a faith that says God will guide us to the truth in agreement and disagreement? Of do we affirm a faith that says God will not judge us by what is objectively right or wrong but on the sincerity in our hearts in doing what we believe is right, true and just, even if we make a mistake? Or is the faith Jesus spoke about in the boat scene the fundamental truths of our faith, and not necessarily the moral truth interpreted by the hierarchy based on natural law and symbolic speculation? If not all of the above, then what is this faith that should take away our fears?

If not all of the above, then what is this faith that should take away our fears?Instead of worrying about what he will judge us by, maybe just basic optimism, rooted in the unshakeable faith that God loves us? (Easier to internalize if we've had parents modeling that love, of course.)

Claire, but judge us he will, and it won't be easy to pass the test. Indications are that few of us will pass muster. Camel and needle, few are chosen, the narrow gate, etc. Most of us will be tossed around on the seas of our own sins unless we can wake up God's mercy.Or maybe I just didn't have that type of parenting ... :-)

Mr. Barberi: I have numbered your questions for ease of reference:

The issue for me is: (1) Should we not be afraid in a house divided over moral truth? (2) Do we put all of our fears aside because of a faith that says God will guide us to the truth in agreement and disagreement? (3) Of do we affirm a faith that says God will not judge us by what is objectively right or wrong but on the sincerity in our hearts in doing what we believe is right, true and just, even if we make a mistake? (4) Or is the faith Jesus spoke about in the boat scene the fundamental truths of our faith, and not necessarily the moral truth interpreted by the hierarchy based on natural law and symbolic speculation? (5) If not all of the above, then what is this faith that should take away our fears?

Ad 1m: If this means afraid because our house is divided over moral truth, I suppose we should be afraid, though Id probably say concerned rather than afraid.Ad 2m: Not necessarily all our fears, but certainly any fear that arises from forgetting Christs presence and his power. I do not know how to understand your clause: will guide us to the truth in agreement and disagreement. Where do the last four words fit in the sentence?Ad 3m: I think your initial Of should be Or? If so, youre presenting it as an alternative to (2). I dont think God disregards sincerity of heart, but that doesnt take us very far in deciding what is right, true and just, and mistakes on such matters can be very harmful, and not just to ourselves, something that appeals to sincerity often overlook.Ad 4m: I dont think that Jesus in the story meant by faith either doctrines or moral truths, but a trust in his presence and power. I myself think that the fundamental truths of our faith include both how things are in this world created and redeemed by God and how those created and redeemed by God ought to live. (I dont know what you mean by symbolic speculation.) Ad 5m: The faith that should take away our fear that we are perishing is, as Pope John liked to remind us, the faith that Christ has not abandoned the world for which he died. This certainly does not settle disputed questions in the Church, but it is a good antidote to despair, which is not much of a motivating force for the kind of hard thinking necessary.

Camel and needle, few are chosen, the narrow gate, etc. I don't know. Perhaps the camel and needle image just means that the rich will have to undergo extensive purification. Same for the narrow gate. What's the point of coming up with "purgatory" if not to give a name to that needed purification? As to "few are chosen", maybe there's a way to rearrange those words to make them mean the opposite of what they seem to mean. For example: maybe "few are chosen" doesn't take into account the full power of Christ's redemption. After all, when every Sunday we say "from age to age you gather a people to yourself" and "in mercy and love unite all your children wherever they may be", doesn't it suggest that Christ strives to unite all to him? Or are you saying that he failed?On the other hand, looking at the sculptures on the front doors of churches and cathedrals, a simple count seems to imply that, between heaven and hell, it's about 50-50.

correction: "we say" should be "we hear".

Christ might strive to gather us all in, but he can't force us. And I'd say he sets the bar as outlined in the CCC pretty high and makes the consequences pretty harsh for those who don't measure up. Advent is a time, I think, to take stock of those grim realities of the Eternal.

Thanks JAK for your kind comments and questions. Some very brief comments.1. Ad 1m: I agree that a better word is "concerned".2. Ad 2m: The sentence might be more clear as follows: "A faith that God guides us in agreement (to all church teachings) and in disagreement (on disputed questions that divide us). Based on history, the truth never changes but our understanding of truth does. By example, the teachings that were taught as truth but were changed such as slavery, usury, freedom of religion/torture of heretics, the right to silence, and most recently the teaching on capital punishment. Some traditionalist often use as a litmus test for our Catholicity, whether we accept all church teachings or not. Thus, I tried to separate those teachings that constitute the deposit of faith from some moral teachings, even in light of a questionable expanded definition of this deposit.3. Ad 3m: My short sentence does not do justice to the teaching on conscience and its proper formulation, as articulated by Richard Gula in "The Moral Conscience" in the book edited by Charles Curran entitled Conscience. Thus, this sentence should be viewed in its proper context as part of a much more thorough discussion on conscience. I also should have quoted it as I paraphrased it. However, JP II in Vertitatis Spendor asserted that the Magisterium teaches truth that the Catholic conscience ought to be able to grasp as truth. In other words, whatever the magisterium says is the truth, is the truth and a judgment that is in disagreement with it, is not a fully informed conscience. I find this contradictory, or at least profoundly perplexing to other teachings on conscience.4. Ad 4m: By symbolic speculation I was referring to JP II's Theology of the Body in defense of Humanae Vitae. These series of talks were based on his philosophical anthropology, personalism and use of symbolism. Below is something I wrote recently regarding his use of symbolism:For example, the one-flesh union in Genesis (mystery of creation) refers to the union of Christ and the Church (mystery of redemption). through their bodies, and to their call to one flesh, man and woman in some way participate in the divine exchange of Trinitarian life and love. The love between the Father and Christ, and between Christ and the Church is also a love of total self-giving and self-donation. By analogy, spousal love is a total self-giving love but concupiscence exchanges a self-seeking gratification for the sincere gift of self; it uses the other as an object made for my sake rather than loving the other as subject for his or her own sake. Contraception falsifies creative love. It speaks to the diabolic anti-Word. The issue here is whether it is a metaphoric leap that unless there is a total self-giving and openness to procreation under all circumstances, and in every act of coitus, spouses are expressing a false, evil and destructive love. Wojtyla had a creative moral imagination, but imagination enables theology to resist the constant temptation towards absolutizing. And if we are to accept the priority of symbol over intellect, then theology has an important role to play in ensuring that the image does not become the only word, or the last word. This means we must resist the temptation of proclaiming we know Gods procreative plan with moral certainty based on symbolic speculation. We also must balance assertions with existential reality when we find no evidence whatsoever that PC couples treat each other as loving subjects, while couples that use artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in concupiscence. 5. Ad 5m: I agree with what you wrote.

Jean: so you're saying that by and large, in spite of Christ's coming, God fails and evil wins?Why would you want to be in a sparsely populated heaven? For example, I'm not sure I'd want to be there if my children are not there. Can you imagine a family reunion where all are invited but only a few would come? No fun, if you ask me. It's primarily in other people that I see glimpses of Christ, and if they're not going to be there, it takes away much of the attraction of heaven. The challenge is to build a way of being that makes it possible. You know Sartre's quip, "Hell is other people": that's without God. With him, "Heaven is other people". We're all in this together like bricks bound by Christ's mortar, and if we don't quite "measure up", others will pray for us and help us fit into the construction. It's a joint collaborative project ("when two or three"), not an individual trip to an exclusive heaven. But that's a somewhat random fantasy. I don't suppose that anyone cares about such ramblings.Note that the church has a list of those who are thought to be in heaven - the saints - but not of those who are thought to be in hell. To remedy that gap in our knowledge, I asked my catechism kids last month to tell me who they thought was in hell. Their list of nominees: Hitler, Judas, bin Laden, and Kaddhafi.

Claire: To address your analogy of heaven as a family reunion: Can you force people to come? Would you want them there if they don't want to be there? It would be wonderful if all were there and all there happily, but you can't be there happily except willingly, so whether they'll all be there depends on everyone's willingness.It's true that there is no list of people in hell, and Balthasar said that we may hope that no one has been finally and irrevocably unwilling. Students used to smile when I said that this hope should not lead to laxity: one wouldn't want to be the first one in hell.Your last comment reminded me of an anecdote about two New York sports reporters who after more than a couple of drinks decided to write down the names of the three worst human beings ever to have existed. One put Hitler first, Stalin second; the other Stalin first, and Hitler second. For third place they both wrote, "Walter O'Malley." (He was the man who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team to Los Angeles.) Maybe you have to be a New Yorker, and a Dodger fan, to appreciate the humor.

Thanks to Father K. for identifying what I find faulty in Claire's analogy, though I think it says something about Claire's caritas that she can imagine the whole human family in heaven. That said, it's hard for me to fathom anyone inviting children to imagine who is in hell when the Church in its wisdom does not presume to do so. It strikes me as a good way to give children a kind of smug schadenfreude, i.e., I'm not as bad as Hitler (or WalterO'Malley), so I can't possibly go to hell.If the Church is right, tickets on the Brimstone Express can be had for far smaller infractions than genocide.

Here is the controversial talk in which Pope John Paul II described hell less as a place than as a condition: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1999/documents/...

Okay. I'm afraid I had not heard of Walter O'Malley before.No, I wasn't drunk when I asked the kids to imagine who might be in hell. Then I asked them to vote. On Judas the votes were split, because, his young defenders argued, his suicide demonstrated his guilt and bitter regret, therefore he must have been saved by his repentance.

Back in the Jurassic period, I took a New Testament course to fulfill my "theology" underclassman requirements. I still have the book, "Gospel Parallels" sitting on my bookshelf - sadly, I must admit, gathering dust.However, I distinctly remember the professor pointing out that in reading from the English translation of the gospel passage of Jesus sleeping while the boat rocked in a violent storm it was easy for the modern reader to miss the significance of this passage beyond the assertion that Jesus had control over the forces of nature. The professor told us to focus our attention specifically on the pleading words of the apostles to the resting, seemingly disinterested Jesus. Whereupon the professor picked up his NT, in the original Greek - of course, and read from Matthew's gospel saying, "Listen to the words of the pleading apostles in Greek and I'm sure you will get the significant interpretation of this passage":"Kyrie eleison ..." The plaintive, soulful prayer that begins each celebration of the Liturgy of the Word.The professor opined that like much of the Matthean gospel, it was written and arranged to assist an urban Jewish-Greek community, far from Palestine, in their community worship of the Eucharist. Embedding the words ["Lord, have mercy"] - taken from perhaps one of the most ancient of communal Christian prayers - in the actual text of Matthew's gospel was a very elegant way for the early Christians to link their liturgical practice with the life and teachings of Jesus.Every time I hear these words today - "Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy" - I feel a connection, a bond with some of the first disciples of Jesus struggling to make sense of the gospel in the mundane lives.

Thanks for the link to JP2's talk. Very good.

The possibility of going to hell or purgatory is real. However, for Catholics who strive to live an upright and moral life, as best they can, according to Jesus and his Gospel, can be reassured of a place in his Kingdom. We are all sinners and this is our nature Fallen condition. However, Christ gives us his Cross, reconciliation, and most importantly, the possibility of a reparation for our sins in this life. This is provided to us through Divine Mercy Sunday (e.g., by JP II through the life and works of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska) and Indulgences as amended and translated into English from the fourth edition (1999) on Enchiridion Indulgentiarum: Norme et Concessiones.We tend to focus on the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharistic reception, but often forget about the importance of the reparation of sins because this is rarely discussed from the weekly Pulpit. As JP II said "indulgences are the expression of the Church's full confidence of being heard by the Father when in view of Christ's merits, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints, she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering it medicinal aspect through other channels of grace" (Pope JP II, General Audience, September 19, 1999).Through His Divine Mercy, the sacrament of reconciliation and the reparation for our sins made available to us in this life, we should not despair over hell or purgatory. In this life and at the hour of our death, we should be both thankful and joyful.

Joe Komonchak recounts the famous anecdote about writers Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin, who,

. . . after more than a couple of drinks, decided to write down the names of the three worst human beings ever to have existed. One put Hitler first, Stalin second; the other Stalin first, and Hitler second. For third place they both wrote, Walter OMalley. (He was the man who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team to Los Angeles.) Maybe you have to be a New Yorker, and a Dodger fan, to appreciate the humor.

Some of us me, for example, born as I was a mile from Ebbets Field, where Gods favorite team played for all those wonderful, if also heartbreaking, seasons disagreed with Hamill and Breslin. We felt they had been much too generous with OMalley, and should have listed him first, not third. But in recent years, in the name of intellectual honesty and all those other highfalutin ideals, weve had to admit that maybe things werent as simple as wed thought they were. There are revisionists out there, Michael Shapiro among them; and they make an interesting, and possibly compelling, case that the true villain was not OMalley but Robert Moses, at the time an all-powerful figure in New York City government. Says Shapiro:

"As a child in Brooklyn I learned to hate Walter O'Malley. My hatred was dark and personal, for O'Malley had ruined my life...He had taken the Dodgers away to Los Angeles before I had ever gotten a chance to see them, and follow them, and love them. I was 4 when O'Malley abandoned Brooklyn, and I grew up believing that had he not done this terrible thing, Brooklyn would have been a better placeO'Malley was not just my villain. He was Brooklyn's. . . . But, as I began to learn more about O'Malley and about the circumstances of the Dodger's departure, I began to discover that perhaps . . . Brooklyn's hatred was misapplied. Could we have been hating the wrong man all these years?" http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/16/nyregion/new-york-observed-forgiving-t...

In the name of fairness, it should be noted that long-time N.Y. Times sports columnist Dave Anderson rejected the revisionist argument; for him, OMalley remains the bad guy.http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/sports/baseball/30anderson.html

"However, for Catholics who strive to live an upright and moral life, as best they can, according to Jesus and his Gospel, can be reassured of a place in his Kingdom."This is not my understanding of Catholic doctrine at all; none of us can say we are heaven-bound, we can only hope. Moreover, your statement that we are "reassured" a place in heave if we "strive to live an upright and moral life as best we can" underscores my understanding. How many of us can ever know if we're doing the best we can? Or if we're rationalizing what we want to do? What if we've committed a grave sin listed in the CCC and just can't comprehend how it's a sin in the first place?I have to say that becoming a Catholic has made me more thoughtful of my actions and how they affect others, more inclined to pray for others and offer practical help, more afraid of hell, less sure of my salvation, and less trusting in Christ's mercy, which is why I don't dare receive at His table any longer.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.