Tag Archives: intercession

Deuteronomy 8-11:

God Humbles and Disciplines His Son:
God led the Israelites through the desert for forty years to humble them, test them, and discipline them. He was preparing them to keep His Commandments.  “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him.” (Deut. 8:5-6) God warns them that it is not because of their goodness that God is giving them the land but because of the Canaanites wickedness.  “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you..” (Deut. 9:5)  The Israelites have been “a stubborn people.”

Moses’ Intercession for his People:
“So I lay prostrate before the Lord for these forty days and forty nights, because the Lord had said he would destroy you. And I prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord God, destroy not thy people and thy heritage, whom thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, whom thou hast brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.   Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness, or their sin, lest the land from which thou didst bring us say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.” For they are thy people and thy heritage, whom thou didst bring out by thy great power and by thy outstretched arm.” (Deut. 9:25-29)  Because of Moses’ mediation, God relents of His punishment and destruction He wanted to inflict on the Israelites after they worshiped the golden calf.

The Ark of the Covenant and the Two New Tablets (10 Commandments):
“At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Hew two tables of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were on the first tables which you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and hewed two tables of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tables in my hand. And he wrote on the tables, as at the first writing, the ten commandmentswhich the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they are, as the Lord commanded me.” (Deut. 10:1-5)

Circumcise Your Hearts:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord..” (Deut. 10:12-13)  This is basically a restating of the Shema, the Greatest Commandment.  Here Moses reveals to the Israelites the true meaning of the Law: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” (Deut. 10:16) The Law is not about mechanical and rote rituals, but about loving God from your heart.  St. Paul spoke of this in his epistle to the Romans: “He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.” (Rom. 2:29) Thus, Baptism and the spiritual “circumcision of the heart” replaces physical circumcision of the foreskin as the entrance-ritual to the New Covenant.

Outstretched Arms:
One of the consistent and persistent themes, or images, in the Exodus is God and Moses leading the Israelites out of danger with wonders, miracles and signs with “outstretched arm.”  This gives an allusion and foreshadowing to Jesus’ outstretched arms on the Cross. In Jesus’ Cross, His outstretched arms, we conquer sin and death.  “..His greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, his signs and his deeds which he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land..” (Deut. 11:2)

A Blessing or a Curse:
This is the choice set before the Israelites and Israel throughout the Exodus and the Old Testament. It is their choice, the same as us, to choose the blessing or the curse.  ““Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which you have not known.” (Deut. 11:26-28)

Exodus 32-33:

The Golden Calf Incident:
Moses was delayed on the mountain. Jesus delayed in His 2nd Coming? So, the people gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will be our leader.” Getting the Egyptian idolatry out of the Israelites after 400 years in the pagan culture would take more time and effort, for the Israelites quickly revert to worshiping a calf deity. Aaron fashions a golden calf for them. Then, they cried out “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Aaron built an altar for the calf saying “tomorrow is a feast of the Lord.” The people then offered holocausts and brought peace offerings. In mockery and antithetical imitation of the Theophany of the Covenant, “Then they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.” (Ex. 32:6) In ratifying the Covenant “they ate and drank and beheld God,” but now, in this demonic mockery, they ate and drank and “rose up to revel.” Rose up to revel is probably a Semitic euphemism for sexual immorality and pagan ritualistic orgies. God immediately informs Moses to go down to the people “for they have become depraved.” Is this how the current culture is descending into depravity before the return of the Lord? God then wished to let His wrath blaze up and consume them. However, Moses acting as intercessor and mediator for his people saying “Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people.” (Ex. 32:12) Moses is the prefigurement of Jesus as Mediator of the Covenant and intercessor for his people before the Father, just as Jesus, the One true Mediator, would assume that role. “So the Lord relented in the punishment He had threatened to inflict on His people.” God heeded the intercession of Moses. When Moses and Joshua came down the mountain, they heard “cries of revelry.” As they drew near to the camp, they saw “the calf and the dancing.” With that, Moses angered flared up and he threw down the 10 Commandments, breaking them. Moses then threw the calf in the fire and ground it down to powder. He then scattered the powder into the water and “made the Israelites drink.” Moses then instructed the Levites to kill the idolaters. “Now go up and down the camp, from gate to gate, and slay your kinsmen, your friends and neighbors! The Levites carried out the command of Moses, and that day there fell about three thousand of the people.” (Ex. 32:27-28) Here, on Mt. Sinai, 3,000 people fell in the Old Covenant, but then, at Pentecost of the New Covenant, Acts says 3,000 were saved on the first day. 3,000 died under the Law, but then, 3,000 saved by grace and faith and the Spirit in the New. Moses told them you have committed a “grave sin.” “Perhaps I may be able to make atonement for your sin.” Moses continues his role as Mediator and priest to make atonement for the people. Moses asks the Lord “If you would only forgive their sin!” The Lord answers “Him only who has sinned against me will I strike out of My book,” that is, the Book of life where God writes down the names of those saved.

The Lord Distances Himself from the Israelites but Remains Close to Moses:
The Lord then informs Moses that He Himself will no longer be accompanying the Israelites directly, as “You are a stiff-necked people. Were I to go up in your company even for a moment, I would exterminate you.” (Ex. 33:5) The glory of God would destroy the sinfulness of the people along with the people themselves. “When the people heard this bad news, they went into mourning..” Instead, the Lord will “send an angel before you to the land flowing with milk and honey.” Moses used to pitch the “meeting tent” some distance away “outside of camp.” As Moses would go in the tent, “the column of cloud would come down and stand at its entrance while the Lord spoke to Moses.” (Ex. 33:9) The Lord and Moses spoke “face to face.”

The Lord shows Moses the glory of His back:
Moses requests to see the Lord’s glory, but God tells Moses “My face you cannot see, for no man sees Me and still lives.” But, there is a place in the hollow of the rock that Moses can stand, where as the glory of God passes by, “I will cover you with My hand.” After God passes by, “I will remove My hand, so that you may see My back; but My face is not to be seen.” (Ex. 33:23) Approximately 1,500 years later, God would indeed show His glorified face to Moses. At Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus speaks directly with Moses and Elijah: “And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli′jah, talking with Him.” (Mt. 17:2-3) Moses finally sees the face of God in Jesus Christ, and he appears finally in the Promised Land.

Purgatory and the Communion of Saints – November 11, 2017

“No man is an island,” so Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi (“Saved in Hope”). We are each bound to one another “through innumerable interactions” so that: “No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone.” Pope Benedict exhorts us to ask, “what can I do in order that others may be saved? . . . Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.” Salvation is a social reality. The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the community of believers coming together in a city. Heaven, as a city full of people, is a place of communal salvation. Sin, on the other hand, introduced the “destruction of the unity of the human race.” While man’s original unity was torn apart by sin, the work of redemption aims to heal that disintegration, as Benedict discerns, “redemption appears as the reestablishment of unity.”

Each believer is an interconnected cell in the Mystical Body of Christ. We are a band of brothers and sisters, bound together in hope and love, in a confraternal exchange of supernatural charity. Even now, the saints of Church Militant on earth, are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” – Church Penitent (or Church Suffering) in purgatory and Church Triumphant in heaven. The Communion of Saints live in a symbiotic relationship: the saints in heaven and purgatory interceding for those on the earth, while the believers on the earth ask for their heavenly intercession. And, in this month of November, dedicated to the souls in purgatory, we recall our special role in this symbiotic relationship while still alive: to pray, sacrifice and intercede for the dearly departed souls in purgatory.

Those in purgatory have died in God’s grace and friendship and are “assured of their eternal salvation,” however, they are “still imperfectly purified” and must necessarily “undergo purification” to enter into heaven (CCC 1030), for nothing unclean enters into it. (Rev. 21:27) Jesus spoke of purgatory, alluding to it as a “prison,” in which we pay for our sins down to “the very last penny”:

“Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Lk. 12:58-59)

St. Paul similarly tells the Corinthians that we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and are subject to a “purifying fire;” they “will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15) The encounter with Christ is one of grace and judgment. Benedict describes this eloquently:

“Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. . . . Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.” (Spe Salvi, 44) Even after Confession, we must still make penance.

The departed faithful souls in purgatory do have to make recompense for their sins to satisfy the perfect justice of God. We can, however, assist them in that. The Catechism (CCC 1032) quotes an example from Scripture saying, “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Macc. 12:45) And so, how do we as Christians make atonement for the dead? The Catechism clarifies this:

“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”

We are called to be intercessors, for both the living and the dead. We can offer up our prayers, sacrifices and sufferings on behalf of the poor souls in purgatory, for they can no longer merit for themselves. But, God has deigned through the Communion of the Saints that we can make up for others what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. For, we are “God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9), contributing to the salvation of souls. We can do this through our prayers, such as praying the rosary for those in purgatory. We can offer penances, and sacrifices. We can give alms, and do acts of charity on behalf of the deceased person.

Benedict also recommends a particular devotion for everyday life, that is, “offering up” all the minor daily hardships of the day. We can “insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great ‘com-passion’ so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race.” We can offer up those petty annoyances throughout the day whatever they might be, slow traffic, the heat, the pestering co-worker, etc. “In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning.” (Spe Salvi, 40) We can be assured that our efforts, prayers and sacrifices are efficacious and capable of mitigating the suffering of those in purgatory. (CCC 958)

Most importantly, we can offer the sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences granted by the Church, for souls in purgatory. You can contact your Church and have a mass offered for your beloved deceased. Another beautiful gift is the tradition going back to Pope Gregory the Great of offering “Gregorian Masses” for deceased persons on thirty consecutive days. These are generally not done now in parishes, but in monasteries, seminaries, and other religious institutions.

The efficaciousness of intercession for those in purgatory has received mystical confirmation too. One such mystic was St. Faustina. She wrote in her Divine Mercy diary about a soul, a recently deceased nun, who visited her from purgatory requesting her prayers. Upon first visiting her, the sister was in “terrible condition,” but after some undisclosed amount of time of praying for her, the nun eventually returned and “her face was radiant, her eyes beaming with joy.” She would soon be released from purgatory and conveyed to her that many souls had “profited from my prayers.” Similarly, in the Divine Mercy Novena, dictated to St. Faustina by Jesus, He asks us to offer the eighth day for the souls in purgatory. He told St. Faustina, “It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.” (Diary, 1226) Memorializing a person is nice, but prayer for the deceased may be what they truly need.

Thus, it is within our power as members of the Communion of Saints to assist the poor souls in purgatory in the process of their purification and sanctification. Our prayers and sacrifices can help pay off their debts. In turn, in gratefulness for the merit we win for them, they will surely pray and intercede for us, until, at last, in heaven we will meet all those who we have helped, undoubtedly to our surprise. Also, lest we put our earthly time limits upon God, we should remember to pray even for those who have died long ago. God, who exists outside of time in eternity, receives all of our prayers and sacrifices in the eternal present, and can merit a soul whether long since dead or in purgatory. So, out of love for our family and friends, let us do our part in supernatural charity for the souls in purgatory, who may be most in need of our help.

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God’s Presence in Confession – January 24, 2017

A number of years ago I approached the confessional booth in the crypt church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. It was there that something somewhat miraculous happened, or at least that is how it struck me.

I was a regular visitor at the crypt church for Confession and to attend Mass. On this particular day, however, I was also there to pray for my friend. At the time, a close childhood friend of mine had recently and unexpectedly passed away. He had become an avid mountain climber, and had gone on an adventure to climb one of the tallest mountains in the world in Pakistan. Then, one fateful day I received a phone call that he had gone missing after an avalanche. Soon after, our worst fears were confirmed. Obviously shocked and saddened I turned towards prayer and the Church.

After praying before the Blessed Sacrament, I went to Confession. Once I had confessed my sins, I spoke to the priest about concerns for my friend. I never once mentioned to him who he was or what had happened. I told him only that he had died outside the Church, and I asked if I should pray for him? His answer amazed me.

In part, he said, “sometimes I will pick up the paper and read, for example, about people who died while mountain climbing in Pakistan, and yes, I would pray for them.” I took this as a miraculous intervention of Christ in the sacrament, and as a direct response regarding my friend. The unknown priest, I am sure, had no idea of the prophetic words he had just spoken to me. Yet, his words resonated loudly in my soul.

As believers, we know that God always hears our prayers, even if sometimes it may not feel like it. As Catholics, we also know that God is present to us in a special way in the sacraments. The priest works in persona Christi Capitis, in the person of Christ the head, or as the Church teaches, “it is Christ Himself who is present.” (CCC 1548). This is of great consolation in Confession – the sacrament of divine mercy – when we are blessed to hear those most comforting of Jesus’ words, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” (CCC 1484)

The priest’s words that day had a number of effects on me. First and foremost, it powerfully reconfirmed the efficaciousness of the sacrament. Christ is truly present and truly forgives. It also affirmed to me that we are called to be intercessors, for our family and our friends, and in fact, for all those entrusted to us. This is our privilege and important responsibility as Christians. Lastly, we should not judge, but rather, entrust everyone by prayer and sacrifice to the divine mercy of God. Even today, years later, I pray for my friend’s eternal rest.

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