READINGS FOR EASTER SUNDAY with Thomas Merton on Easter (Seasons of Celebration)


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The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day

Reading 1 Acts 10:34, 37:43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

(  William Blake, Resurrected Christ)

Responsorial Psalm 118:1-2,16-17, 22-23

R. (24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
R. Alleluia.

(Virgin Mother with Child fresco, Priscilla catacombs, 2nd Century)


Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

(Christ fresco ceiling tile from Synagogue of Dura-Europos, 245 CE)

Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

(Black Christ fresco, 4th century, Nunziatella Catacombs)

Alleluia 1 COR 5:7-8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed;
let us feast with joy in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

(4th century icon of Christ, Cairo)

Gospel JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Easter Message from Justin: Commit yourself again to “Be Life & Share Life”

Easter affirmation – Love is ressurected; let you light shine!

(Christ as Good Shepherd mosaic, 3rd Century  S. Callisto catacomb ceiling)

Thomas Merton on Easter (Seasons of Celebration)

Lent has summoned us to change our hearts, to effect in ourselves the Christian metanoia. But at the same time Lent has reminded us perhaps all too clearly of our own powerlessness to change our lives in any way. Lent in the liturgical year plays the role of the Law, the pedagogue, who convinces us of sin and inflicts upon us the crushing evidence of our own nothingness. Hence it disquiets and sobers us, awakening in us perhaps some sense of that existential “dread” of the creature whose freedom suspends him over an abyss which may be an infinite meaninglessness, an unbounded despair. This is the fruit of that Law which judges our freedom together with its powerlessness to impose full meaning on our lives merely by conforming to a moral code. Is there nothing more than this?

But now the power of Easter has burst upon us with the resurrection of Christ. Now we find in ourselves a strength which is not our own, and which is freely given to us whenever we need it, raising us above the Law, giving us a new law which is hidden in Christ: the law of His merciful love for us. Now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please Him who has given all His love to us! Now our life is full of meaning!

(El Greco, Resurrection)

Easter is the hour of our own deliverance— from what? Precisely from Lent and from its hard Law which accuses and judges our infirmity. We are no longer under the Law. We are delivered from the harsh judgment! Here is all the greatness and all the unimaginable splendor of the Easter mystery— here is the “grace” of Easter which we fail to lay hands on because we are afraid to understand its full meaning. To understand Easter and live it, we must renounce our dread of newness and of freedom!

Death exercises a twofold power in our lives: it holds us by sin, and it holds us by the Law. To die to death and live a new life in Christ we must die not only to sin but also to the Law.

Every Christian knows that he must die to sin. But the great truth that St Paul exhausted himself to preach in season and out is a truth that we Christians have barely grasped, a truth that has got away from us, that constantly eludes us and has continued to do so for twenty centuries. We cannot get it into our heads what it means to be no longer slaves of the Law. And the reason is that we do not have the courage to face this truth which contains in itself the crucial challenge of our Christian faith, the great reality that makes Christianity different from every other religion.

In all other religions men seek justification, salvation, escape from “the wheel of birth and death” by ritual acts, or by religious observances, or by ascetic and contemplative techniques. These are means devised by men to enable them to liberate and justify themselves. All the other religions impose upon man rigid and complicated laws, subject him more or less completely to prescribed exterior forms, or to what St Paul calls “elementary notions.”

But Christianity is precisely a liberation from every rigid legal and religious system. This is asserted with such categorical force by St Paul, that we cease to be Christians the moment our religion becomes slavery to “the Law” rather than a free personal adherence by loving faith, to the risen and living Christ; “Do you seek justification by the Law . . . you are fallen from grace . . . In fact, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor its absence is of any avail. What counts is faith that expresses itself in love” (Gal. 5: 4,6).

. . . This gift, this mercy, this unbounded love of God for us has been lavished upon us as a result of Christ’s victory. To taste this love is to share in His victory. To realize our freedom, to exult in our liberation from death, from sin and from the Law, is to sing the Alleluia which truly glorifies God in this world and in the world to come.

This joy in God, this freedom which raises us in faith and in hope above the bitter struggle that is the lot of man caught between the flesh and the Law, this is the new canticle in which we join with the blessed angels and the saints in praising God.

God who is rich in mercy, was moved by the intense love with which he loved us, and when we were dead by reason of our transgressions, he made us live with the life of Christ . . . Together with Christ Jesus and in him he raised us up and enthroned us in the heavenly realm . . . It is by grace that you have been saved through faith; it is the gift of God, it is not the result of anything you did, so that no one has any grounds for boasting. (Eph. 2: 4– 9)

Let us not then darken the joy of Christ’s victory by remaining in captivity and in darkness, but let us declare His power, by living as free men who have been called by Him out of darkness into his admirable light.

(Christ and the Apostles fresco, Aarcosolium of the Crypt of Ampliatus, Catacombs of St. Domitilla, Rome. 3rd century)

READINGS FOR HOLY SATURDAY with Lenten affirmation and words from Mother Teresa


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Holy Saturday
At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

(Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel)

Reading 1 GN 1:1-2:2

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth, ”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

(Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel)

Responsorial Psalm 104: 1-2, 5-6, 10-12, 13-14, 24, 35

R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You water the mountains from your palace;
the earth is replete with the fruit of your works.
You raise grass for the cattle,
and vegetation for man’s use,
Producing bread from the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—the earth is full of your creatures.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

(William Blake, Abraham and Isaac)

Reading 2 GN 22:1-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust,
set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants:
“Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” Isaac said.
“Yes, son, ” he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the holocaust?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
Then the two continued going forward.

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.”

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing
all this because you obeyed my command.”

( Marc Chagall, David)

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READINGS FOR GOOD FRIDAY with Lenten affirmation & “The Seven Words From The Cross,” by Fulton Sheen


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Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

Reading 1 IS 52:13-53:12

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,
nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

(Fresco Christ as Good Shepherd, Catacomb of Priscilla, 4th century)

Responsorial Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-17, 25

R. (Lk 23:46) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
For all my foes I am an object of reproach,
a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends;
they who see me abroad flee from me.
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead;
I am like a dish that is broken.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.”
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted,
all you who hope in the LORD.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

(3rd Century mosaic of Christ as the unconquered Sun, Rome)

Reading 2 HEB 4:14-16 5: 7-9

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

In the days when Christ was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

(Christ with SS Peter & Paul, and four martyrs worshiping the Mystic Lamb, 4th century, dome of the Catacombs of SS Peter and Marcellinus, Rome)

Verse Before The Gospel PHIL 2:8-9

Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name.

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PALM SUNDAY READINGS APRIL 9, 2017 With Lenten Affirmation and World Peace Movement by Fr. Justin Belitz O.F.M.


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Gospel (At The Procession With Palms) MT 21:1-11

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply,
‘The master has need of them.’
Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them,
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Reading 1 At The Mass IS 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

Responsorial Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24

R. (2a) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Indeed, many dogs surround me,
a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
They divide my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me;
O my help, hasten to aid me.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Reading 2 PHIL 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Verse Before The Gospel PHIL 2:8-9

Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.

Gospel MT 26:14-27

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity
to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating,
Jesus took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and giving it to his disciples said,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you,
for this is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed on behalf of many
for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it with you new
in the kingdom of my Father.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them,
“This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken,
for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed;

but after I have been raised up,
I shall go before you to Galilee.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Though all may have their faith in you shaken,
mine will never be.”
Jesus said to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
this very night before the cock crows,
you will deny me three times.”
Peter said to him,
“Even though I should have to die with you,
I will not deny you.”
And all the disciples spoke likewise.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane,
and he said to his disciples,
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,
and began to feel sorrow and distress.
Then he said to them,
“My soul is sorrowful even to death.
Remain here and keep watch with me.”
He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying,
“My Father, if it is possible,
let this cup pass from me;
yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.
He said to Peter,
“So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again,
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass
without my drinking it, your will be done!”
Then he returned once more and found them asleep,
for they could not keep their eyes open.
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time,
saying the same thing again.
Then he returned to his disciples and said to them,
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?
Behold, the hour is at hand
when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
Get up, let us go.
Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

While he was still speaking,
Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived,
accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs,
who had come from the chief priests and the elders
of the people.
His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying,
“The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.”
Immediately he went over to Jesus and said,
“Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him.
Jesus answered him,
“Friend, do what you have come for.”
Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus
put his hand to his sword, drew it,
and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him,
“Put your sword back into its sheath,
for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father
and he will not provide me at this moment
with more than twelve legions of angels?
But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled
which say that it must come to pass in this way?”
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds,
“Have you come out as against a robber,
with swords and clubs to seize me?
Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area,
yet you did not arrest me.
But all this has come to pass
that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.”
Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus led him away
to Caiaphas the high priest,
where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
Peter was following him at a distance
as far as the high priest’s courtyard,
and going inside he sat down with the servants
to see the outcome.
The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin
kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus
in order to put him to death,
but they found none,
though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward who stated,
“This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God
and within three days rebuild it.'”
The high priest rose and addressed him,
“Have you no answer?
What are these men testifying against you?”
But Jesus was silent.
Then the high priest said to him,
“I order you to tell us under oath before the living God
whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“You have said so.
But I tell you:
From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power’
and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.'”
Then the high priest tore his robes and said,
“He has blasphemed!
What further need have we of witnesses?
You have now heard the blasphemy;
what is your opinion?”
They said in reply,
“He deserves to die!”
Then they spat in his face and struck him,
while some slapped him, saying,
“Prophesy for us, Christ: who is it that struck you?”

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.
One of the maids came over to him and said,
“You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
But he denied it in front of everyone, saying,
“I do not know what you are talking about!”
As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him
and said to those who were there,
“This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.”
Again he denied it with an oath,
“I do not know the man!”
A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter,
“Surely you too are one of them;
even your speech gives you away.”
At that he began to curse and to swear,
“I do not know the man.”
And immediately a cock crowed.
Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken:
“Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.”
He went out and began to weep bitterly.

When it was morning,
all the chief priests and the elders of the people
took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.
They bound him, led him away,
and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned,
deeply regretted what he had done.
He returned the thirty pieces of silver
to the chief priests and elders, saying,
“I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.”
They said,
“What is that to us?
Look to it yourself.”
Flinging the money into the temple,
he departed and went off and hanged himself.
The chief priests gathered up the money, but said,
“It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury,
for it is the price of blood.”
After consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field
as a burial place for foreigners.
That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah
the prophet,
And they took the thirty pieces of silver,
the value of a man with a price on his head,
a price set by some of the Israelites,
and they paid it out for the potter’s field
just as the Lord had commanded me.

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
“Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They answered, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”
They all said,
“Let him be crucified!”
But he said,
“Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder,
“Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,
but that a riot was breaking out instead,
he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.
Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply,
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them,
but after he had Jesus scourged,
he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium
and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him off to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha
—which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.
But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And they placed over his head the written charge against him:
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus
feared greatly when they saw the earthquake
and all that was happening, and they said,
“Truly, this was the Son of God!”
There were many women there, looking on from a distance,
who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.
Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph,
and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening,
there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph,
who was himself a disciple of Jesus.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus;
then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.
Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen
and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock.
Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb
and departed.
But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

The next day, the one following the day of preparation,
the chief priests and the Pharisees
gathered before Pilate and said,
“Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said,
‘After three days I will be raised up.’
Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day,
lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people,
‘He has been raised from the dead.’
This last imposture would be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them,
“The guard is yours;
go, secure it as best you can.”
So they went and secured the tomb
by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.

Lenten affirmation:  Small is beautiful, less is better!

World Peace Movement by Friar Justin Belitz, OFM

The World Day for Peace is celebrated every year on Jan. 1. This year Pope Francis wrote an eight-page document directed to the entire world. In it he asks that we do what we can to promote “fraternitas” (which can be translated in inclusive language as “family”).

We are, after all, a human family created by God who is Love in its perfect form. That is what St. John is pointing to when he says: “God is Love.”

Now in my 80 plus years on this planet, I realize more clearly than ever that the most important thing we have in life are relationships. Relationships give meaning to our lives and are the only realities that we take with us when we die.

It is in relationships that we experience Love (Divine Presence). It is when we generate love in relationships that we expose God’s Divine Presence in our own persons and project that same Presence into our world.

If you understand these simple truths then you will also realize that the World Day of Peace is not an isolated event. It is a sign for a movement that we make part of our daily lives.

Praying for peace is necessary and important but, in the spirituality of Jesus, we cannot stop there. God cannot do any more for us than what we allow God to do through us! In the same way that the Divine in Jesus shone through his words and deeds, so must it be with us. Jesus said: “Follow me!” That means that if we want peace on the planet, WE have to create the peace! WE have to allow the peace of God’s Divine Presence to shine through US!

I was very blessed with exceptional parents. My dad insisted that whenever we left the house, we had to tell both mom and dad where we were going and give them a hug and a kiss. When we came home, we had to seek out mom and dad again, let them know we were home and again give them a hug and a kiss. These expressions of love became a habit with us and created an atmosphere of peace that was tangible, even by guests who came to visit   – These expressions are still part of our lives today. I received a Christmas card from my younger brother and the closing simply said: “Love you always. Brother Joe.” Those few words brought joy and great peace into my heart and into my life.

These kinds of expressions are becoming more common since 9/11. Almost daily I hear people closing their phone conversations with the phrase, “I love you!” These expressions are the essence of creating peace in our lives and in our world.

But we can’t stop with close relations with family and friends. Pope Francis in his message quotes: “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters.” Because of this truth, we are also called to express that relationship to those beyond family and friends. For example, when I go for my daily trip to the gym, I make a point of greeting everyone I meet. A simple “Hi” or “How’s it going?” almost always produces a smile, or another similar greeting. I feel these expressions are letting individuals know that I care – but they also create an atmosphere of peace in me and those around me!

A few years ago, I was giving a workshop called: “You can make a difference.” In this program, a young man, about 22 years of age, got the idea of making visible, people who support peace. He created a little statement that read: “Wherever you’re going or whatever you are doing, you are invited to wear something white every Wednesday for world peace.” I have this quote on the back of my calling card and I do wear white on Wednesdays. Putting on white reminds me I am making a decision to spread love and generate peace. Of course, people who see me in white, knowing of this peace movement, are reminded also that it is Wednesday. Many any of them, too, are deciding to wear white ever Wednesday.

Greeting people, offering honest compliments, and smiling are all ways that we can radiate the God Presence within us as well as ways of moving verbal prayer for peace into active prayer for peace.

I believe that when all of us understand and practice this approach to peace, the World Day for Peace will become a movement, not just a day of prayer. Then will we be on our way to creating global peace.   When our youth are trained in these realities and they become leaders in organized religion or in government, then we will be able to solve problems by sitting at a table and use dialogue, rather than war, to solve problems and create peace.

These ideas are not new! The very presence of the United Nations is built on the belief that the human family is intelligent and can solve any problem by using our minds and our hearts, by understanding that we are all family, and that together we can live in peace supporting one another.

Universal Peace exists within every human being. Our task, in my opinion, is to know how to be consciously in touch with that Peace. Only then, can we allow Peace to flow through us, as it flowed through Jesus. Then truly will we be “instruments of Peace” and “Bearers of Good Tidings!”

(Friar Justin is the Founding Director of the Franciscan Hermitage, a life center dedicated to person growth and development. Its expertise is spirituality and meditation. Contact: 317-545-0742, or )

Reading For Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent with Lenten Affirmation & SFL VIDEO PT 2


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Reading 1 ez37:21-28

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I will take the children of Israel from among the nations
to which they have come,
and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land.
I will make them one nation upon the land,
in the mountains of Israel,
and there shall be one prince for them all.
Never again shall they be two nations,
and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.

No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols,
their abominations, and all their transgressions.
I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy,
and cleanse them so that they may be my people
and I may be their God.
My servant David shall be prince over them,
and there shall be one shepherd for them all;
they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.
They shall live on the land that I gave to my servant Jacob,
the land where their fathers lived;
they shall live on it forever,
they, and their children, and their children’s children,
with my servant David their prince forever.
I will make with them a covenant of peace;
it shall be an everlasting covenant with them,
and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.
My dwelling shall be with them;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD,
who make Israel holy,
when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.

Responsorial Psalm jer 31:10-13

R. (see 10d) The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd his flock.
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.
Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings:
The grain, the wine, and the oil,
the sheep and the oxen.
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
Then the virgins shall make merry and dance,
and young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

Verse Before The Gospel ez 18:31

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Gospel jn 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”

Lenten Affirmation (frorm John Henry Newman): “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Reading For Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent with Lenten Affirmation & SFL First hour Video


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Reading 1 Jer 20:10-13

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
“Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.”
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!

Responsorial Psalm 18: 2-7

R. (see 7) In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
The breakers of death surged round about me,
the destroying floods overwhelmed me;
The cords of the nether world enmeshed me,
the snares of death overtook me.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
In my distress I called upon the LORD
and cried out to my God;
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

Verse Before the Gospel JN 6:63,68

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Gospel JN 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.

Lenten affirmation- I am the light of the world.


READINGS FOR FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT, APRIL 2, 2017 With “Do You Relate To Others With Love?” By Fr. Justin Belitz O.F.M.


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Fifth Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 EZ 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm130:1-8

R. (7) With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2 ROM 8:8-11

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit dwelling in you.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 11:25-26

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die.

Gospel JN 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
hen Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.

And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Lenten affirmation:  I can change myself, I cannot change others!

DO YOU RELATE TO OTHERS WITH LOVE? FR. Justin Belitz article, Indianapolis Star  June 14, 2015

The word “spirituality” is used a great deal these days but do you know what it means? For me, spirituality is simply “the way that you relate.”

Every day, you are relating to yourself, to others, to things, to life experience, to God, etc. My question to you is, do you realize HOW you relating?

Let us use an example. Jesus wanted us to relate to one another as if we were ONE. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed: “Father, that they may be one as you and I are one.” When speaking to Apostles he said: “I am the vine you are the branches.” Jesus was telling us directly that we are all united and that love is the way we are meant to relate to one another.

Consider this comparison. Your body is made up of billions of cells. Each of these cells has intelligence and each is communicating with all the others constantly. The all work together to create the magnificent reality we call the “human body.”

Now think of the human race. We are over 7 billion individuals. Each has intelligence, all are connected by the same life principle, and like the cells in our bodies, we are all communicating with one another by the very fact of our existence. Here too, the ideal is that we are meant t relate with one another for the good of the whole.

The difference between cellular intelligence in our bodies and the human intelligence in every human being is “free will.” Bodily cells are very diverse. Skin cells know how to create skin. Blood cells know how to create blood, etc. The basic understanding is that cells create “Unity in diversity” to create a healthy body.

The same ideal holds for human beings. “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” “Live in Love.” When human beings relate to one another as equals for the good of the whole we experience joy and peace in each individual as well as in the human community.

Opposite the model of equal relationships working together is the model of inequality. This model was the one use by the Roman Empire 2 thousand years ago and which has influenced our world up to the present moment. In this model people at the top tell those down below what to do and how to act. It is a hierarchical model in which those at the top enjoy privilege and those down below do not. The implication is that those at the top know more than those at the bottom and therefore are entitled to carry more power and privilege. In this model, law and authority are the norm.

Now back to spirituality. How do you relate every day? Do you relate to yourself with love or are you always applying rules and regulations on yourself?

How do you relate to others? Do you extend yourself in love to everyone?

Or, do you consider yourself better than others and use judgement, and personal power to “put others down?”

How do you relate to things? Are you happy with what you need and share your abundance joyfully with those who are less fortunate than you? Are you in charge of the things you possess or are things in charge of you? Do you think that you will be happy when you have more, money, more things, more privileges, etc.?

Are you comfortable being with others who think differently than you? Are you comfortable with “Unity in diversity?”   Or do you feel obligated to “correct” others because you have the truth and they don’t? Are you comfortable only with “Unity in conformity?”

If you relate with love and see others as equals, you will find joy and peace.

But if you relate only with rules, expectations, power, and privilege you will never find true joy and peace.

How would you define your spirituality?

Lenten affirmation: I enjoy my work!

Reading for Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent with Lenten Affirmation & God and Spirit by Fr. Justin Belitz OFM


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Reading 1 Jer 11:18-20

I knew their plot because the LORD informed me;
at that time you, O LORD, showed me their doings.

Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter,
had not realized that they were hatching plots against me:
“Let us destroy the tree in its vigor;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will be spoken no more.”

But, you, O LORD of hosts, O just Judge,
searcher of mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause!

Responsorial Psalm 7: 2-3, 9-12

R. (2a) O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.
O LORD, my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and rescue me,
Lest I become like the lion’s prey,
to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.
R. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.
Do me justice, O LORD, because I am just,
and because of the innocence that is mine.
Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,
but sustain the just,
O searcher of heart and soul, O just God.
R. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.
A shield before me is God,
who saves the upright of heart;
A just judge is God,
a God who punishes day by day.
R. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.

Verse Before The Gospel lk 8: 15

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.

Gospel JN7:40-53

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Then each went to his own house.

Lenten affirmation

I give honest compliments freely

“God,” and “Spirit,” by Fr. Justin Belitz, OFM

All religions teach that God is present within every human being. Because the self and God are both spiritual, they are somehow one. God is the supreme reality with whom we are all united in one ultimate reality.

Jesus tried to explain this truth when he said: “I and the Father are one,” and “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He was trying to get us to understand our oneness with spirit by using an analogy.

Even Jesus had the problem of limited means (language) to describe unlimited reality (God, Spirit, Self, etc.). No human being can adequately express this reality. We try, of course, but it is impossible to use language to describe something that is limitless.

Some traditional approaches use language that implies a separation between God and all creation. God is seen as being in “in heaven” while all creation is “on earth.” Such expression is still common and for a good many people quite adequate.

Others use a completely different approach. Earlier cultures spoke of the “Sun God” or the “Earth Spirit.” These terms were not used to identify the sun or earth as a god. Rather, they were used to point to the Divine as expressed in the sun or the earth.

Please note that all of the above approaches are attempting to express spirit. Historically, one group criticized the others, calling their expressions “heresy,” because the words were not the same as their own. The fact of the matter is, no one statement is adequate, but each made sense in its own culture and expressed the reality from a different point of view.

No matter how we perceive God –the cause that is not caused, or the reality that is (always was and always will be), or the reality that sustains all reality-we will never be able to fully understand God (or Mind, or Self, or Spirit) ; nor will we be able to adequately express a reality that is simply one.

Making distinctions in the world of spirit is like distinguishing waves in the ocean. We talk as if each wave had a reality in and of itself, but a wave is nothing but an ocean bump. A wave cannot separate itself from the ocean, it is the ocean.

Notice the problem we have with the theological idea of “soul” or the scientific idea ‘life principle.” We know there is individual and separate life in every cell of the body, but when we speak of a multitude of cells that form an organ (skin, for example) we talk as if there is still another principal in the tissue made up of skin cells. Then, when we put the organs together and speak of the body, we speak as if there is another principal (i.e. soul) which animates the person. Because it is impossible for spirit to be in parts, we must understand the life in the cell is the same life in the organ, and the same life in the person. Being logical, we could continue the pattern and say that life in one human being is the same as life in the whole of the human race, and the same in all life forms of the universe. In other words, there is only one life principal, one soul, one God, one mind. But because we are human beings living in the limits of time and space, we cannot fully understand such utter simplicity or oneness.

Suppose, you understand that life is one and that all living things are merely an expression of the same life principle but each in its own time and space. With this understanding you can also realize that one life expression has an effect on every other life expression. The whole world of living beings can then be seen as one.

Let me use an illustration. Imagine a skin cell in your hand. It is born, lives, and multiplies in the same area; its personal experience is very limited even though it si connected to the one life principal. Now, picture this cell making a judgment from its limited experience and saying to another skin cell: “Someone was trying to tell me that we are a part of a larger entity called a body, and this body has organs called liver, heart, kidney, etc. Isn’t that stupid? Everyone here experiences that they are only skin cells. What foolishness!”

That kind of judgment, in my opinion, is as valid as an American saying that the American way of life is the only real and valid one; or a Roman Catholic saying that Roman Catholicism has all the truth; or a married couple saying their approach to a relationship is the only valid one, etc.

Spiritual reality is one, but it can have infinite expressions. What I believe we all must do is become aware of the reality of spirit, where we are all one. Only then can we hope to develop respect for one another and celebrate the unity of experience, which we call love.




Reading For Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent with Lenten Affirmation & except from Justification by Imagination: The Marian Art of Thomas Merton


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Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Reading 1 WIS 2:1 & 12-22

The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

Responsorial Psalm34:17-23

R. (19a) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
He watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Verse Before The Gospel MT 4:4

One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Gospel JN 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

Lenten Affirmation

Beauty is all around us.

 Except from Justification by Imagination: The Marian Art of Thomas Merton

The following talk, by Merton, to Trappist students in the mid 1960’s, emphasizes his approach to the Marian image as one that pushes an envelope that abides in the realm of an idiosyncratic theology of the imagination:

The reason we are downgrading the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is because of our approach. What is the first thing we ask? Did it happen? We start with dogmatic definition. The Easterns start from the theological truth that is involved, that Our Lady is consecrated to God and what the mystery of this means. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a historical fact. What matters so much is it’s an action: Our Lady entering the temple. What’s important is the manifestation of a higher truth and the historical truth is irrelevant because the higher truth is there with or without the historical fact. Whether Our Lady entered the temple or not, She is still consecrated to God. We start with a theological mystery, participate in the action, and God gives light to those who participate, through Mary. She is the urn in which the manna of Christ is kept. The temple is full of lamps. She goes into the temple. But, much more pure than the light of lamps comes the shining splendor of Our Lady. As She enters the temple, She fills it with the blaze of spiritual light. She comes into the temple as a blank book without any marks on any of the pages. The finger of God is going to trace his message of salvation on these pure pages of Mary.”[1]

As opposed to a cradle Catholicism nurturing a Marian spirituality from the time of baptism, Merton was an adult convert who came from a relatively inactive Protestant background. Merton’s own Marian spirituality was both belated and personal, perhaps making it even more pronounced in its idiosyncrasy. Kenneth Bragan writes about Merton’s growing Marian spirituality, which began to take form after his conversion: “The door was being opened to Mother of God. At the core of his self was the special connection he’d had with his mother in his earliest days, the time of bliss, which was followed by rejection. Also, there was the connection with father, but the former was much deeper and less accessible than the latter. The instatement of an idealized maternal presence is the culmination of, and final seal to, his journey to the monastery.”[1]

Within scriptural text, the enigma of Mary is cloaked in pronounced minimalism, which gave Merton room for a personal and theological imagination coupled with meaningful identification. The gospels compose an archetype of a young girl who becomes an increasingly otherworldly woman. The qualities found in the adolescent state of Our Lady are those of a humble peasant, versed in scripture (modeling her fiat after Hannah’s song). As events unfold, the adult woman of Mary becomes increasingly preoccupied with a celestial state.

Merton’s attraction to Our Lady might almost be described as surreal expression, taking the form of documented dreams, drawings, poems, and written reflections: “Hers is the most hidden of sanctities. And yet I find her if I too become hidden in God where she is hidden. To share her humility and hiddenness and poverty, her concealment and solitude is the best way to know her: but to know her thus is to find wisdom.” [2]

Merton’s Mariology, unfettered by realist preoccupations, traverses the bridge between human condition and the goal of inclusion in the divine family, inspiring him to write: “Unless Our Lady is recognized as the Mother of God, faith in God will remain incomplete.” [1] For Thomas Merton, the Marian image and presence can be embraced for what it is: the faith’s sublime, mysterious Tahitian pearl, a diaphanous adagio for contemplation and inspiration, a startlingly sensuous rose which can, quite astonishingly, burst through the practicality of the senses.

In place of a sea of rosaries amidst a parish of divinely inspired art, the post-modern American Church, more often than not, projects the unimaginative, masculine atmosphere of a basketball court, rather than a temple in which the presence of Our Lady is focal. Although her presence in liturgy has become subdued, Her image is accessible and picturesque through the expressive Merton.

Merton serves as an intimate guide to her and, as a guide, his genuineness is artistic in a pronounced way. Especially revealing in his Marian lecture is what Merton has to say about Mary’s status, as spiritual Mother in contrast to the status of one’s earthly mother. Of course, Merton could no longer depend on Ruth Jenkins. Additionally, Merton admits to finding the Marian image wholly preferable to the image of Christ, which was a provocative statement at the time and perhaps is even more so today:

Mary is our mother in a more real sense than our earthly mother. How many of us here can depend on our earthly mother? One has to become detached from his earthly mother. From our heavenly mother we never become detached. We become more attached and in a certain sense more dependent. We should have recourse to her. Supposing we have a choice: We can go to Our Lady or we can go to Our Lord. Which one is better? I would go to our Blessed Mother. That may sound heretical, but it’s good theology. It’s shocking. But, I think Our Lord prefers it. We are doing what he wants. The mystery of Our Lady shows to what extent God has placed his power in the humanly. To what extent he uses human instruments completely and gives them the highest amount of efficacy.[2]

Mary as human instrument of the divine is language Merton adopted from Kierkegaard, who pointed out that the angel was only sent to Mary, not to the entire world. [3]In his study on Merton, Kenneth Bragan describes Merton’s use of Marian language as having two levels of his experience of the feminine: “The conscious level, colored by feeling of rejection and slowly resolved through his relationships with women,” [4] and the archaic level: “The buried remembrance and image of his first years with his mother. It is when the latter was touched that he conjured up powerful images, such as the Queen of Heaven.” [5] Bragan goes onto say that it was at the Cistercian approach to Mary, the monastery known as the Court of the Queen of Heaven, that Merton was drawn to the Trappists.[6]

In his review of Bragan’s book, Thomas Patrick Hull, who lived with and studied under Merton, believes Bragan’s assertion is overstated: “The assertion is that Merton was attracted to the Trappists because of the elongated and genuine focus on the Mother of God. There is hardly any, if any, Roman Catholic order or congregation, which does not make her focal: The Franciscans are far more Marian than the Trappists.”[7]

Yet, if a pronounced Mariology was not preeminent in his initial attraction to the Trappists, Merton quickly made amends for what he considered to be Marian inattentiveness: “One of the big defects of my spiritual life in that first year was a lack of devotion to the Mother of God. People do not realize the tremendous power of the Blessed Virgin. They do not know who she is: that it is through her hands all graces come because God has willed that she thus participate in His work for the salvation of men.” [8]

And while Hull’s argument has validity, it should be remembered that Merton entered the monastic setting with minimal religious exposure. What exposure he did have was predominantly Protestant. Regardless of when Merton ratified his Marian theology, there is little doubt that this became an intensely personal approach for him: “When he got to Gethsemane he learned that the Mother of God had a special place in the Cistercian order. With the recognition of the feminine principal so strongly there, he wrote ‘Their houses are all yours showing for who you are Most High Queen of Heaven.’” [9]

It is relatively safe to argue that in wherever Catholic community Merton would have wound up, he would have been personally predisposed to be drawn to the attention given Our Lady. A good example here would be his late interest in Sufism. Through his correspondences with Marco Pallis and his studies of Frithjof Schuon, Merton discovered a veneration of the Virgin, within Islam, that paralleled his own. In December 1965, Pallis sent Merton an ikon of the Virgin, painted by Schuon. Merton gave the ikon a special place of honor at the Gethsemani hermitage and wrote Pallis a letter, which reveals much about Merton’s imaginative approach and the meaning of that approach to him: “The ikon of the Holy Mother came as a messenger at a precise moment when a message was needed, and her presence before me has been an incalculable aid. It is a perfect act of timeless worship. I never tire of gazing at it. There is a reality about it, a truly spiritual Thaboric light. It is unutterably splendid. And silent.” [10]

Merton’s Marian orientation possesses an extra-theological dimension, in that it fully indulges in a kind of frenzied mix of hallucinatory piety (as we have just seen) with his exuberant correspondences (as we are about to examine). The correspondences we are focusing on here constitute both interpersonal relations with women and aesthetic collaboration with women. Occasionally, the make-up of these extra theological dimensions is the result of Merton’s initial attempts at expression, which will eventually lead to an attractive meeting place for Merton’s theater of the imagination. As the polyvalent image of the Virgin is steeped into multifarious Catholic cultures, so too does her symbol manifest a polymorphous sheen in the women with whom Thomas Merton had unique relations.

[1] Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 175.

[2] Merton, Mary, Light and Temple.

[3] Merton, Run to the Mountain, 266.

[4] Bragan, The Making of a Saint, 8.

[5] Bragan, The Making of a Saint, 8.

[6] Bragan, The Making of a Saint, 8.

[7] Thomas P. Hull, “The Making of a Saint.” Thomas Merton and the Quest. (Feb 2012)

[8] Merton, Seven Storey Mountain, 251.

[9] Bragan, The Making of a Saint, 29.

[10] Rob Baker and Gray Henry, ed., Merton & Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999) 218

[1] Kenneth Bragan, The Making of A Saint: A Psychological Study of The Life of Thomas Merton, (Durham, CT: Strategic Book, 2011), 22-23.

[2] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1961), 168.

[1] Thomas Merton, Mary, Light and Temple. Credence Communications. AA2367 (CD), 1994.


Excerpt from Thord Chapter of Justification By Imagination: The Artistic Imagination Of Thomas Merton, Its Marian Sources And Implications.

Masters Of Theological Studies Thesis by Alfred Eaker. Approved by Drs. Frank Burch Brown, Marti Steussy, and Lorna Shoemaker.

©2012, Alfred Eaker

Reading For Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent with Lenten Affirmation & except from Justification by Imagination: The Marian Art of Thomas Merton


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Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Reading 1 Ex 32:7-14

The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”
The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.'”
So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Responsorial Psalm 106:19-23

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Verse Before the Gospel Jn 3: 16

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

Gospel jn 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

Lenten affirmation:

If you think you know, you don’t.

 If you think you don’t know, you do.


The following is an excerpt from Alfred Eaker’s Masters Thesis: Justification By Imagination: The Marian Art Of Thomas Merton. 

This thesis was approved by Drs. Frank Burch Brown, Marti Steussy, and Lorna Shoemaker.

Introduction: Opening Merton

It is, perhaps, apt that Thomas Merton’s Marian art is primarily concealed—much as the Marian figure is in the gospels. The bulk of Merton’s Marian drawings reside at the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Little of that art has been published. To approach it, one must first open Merton: “One hears from others that this is a Sacred Book, takes their word for it, and resolves not to get involved.”[1]Thomas Merton’s own words on the act of opening the Bible can be applied similarly to opening Merton. Over one hundred books and several documentary films have been produced about Thomas Merton since his death in 1968, indicating the extent of his art and influence. The magnitude and immensity of Merton is such that no single interpretation will have the final word on the famed Trappist, whose status as the preeminent Christian monk of the twentieth century, is readily acknowledged, even by his critics.

Investing in Merton’s prodigious output can inspire identification with his own reaction to the monumental Picasso exhibit of 1939: “Room after room of his paintings, and each room better and more exciting than the last. It was a terrific and tiring and bewildering experience.”[2] Like Picasso’s, Merton’s posthumous reputation has taken on a legendary sheen, so much so that finding a fresh approach to him is an elusive endeavor.

Merton was a relentless communicator over time. When he wrote the following about the Church and Christian tradition he was giving an observation that might serve as self-descriptive: “The biggest paradox about the Church is that she is at the same time essentially traditional and essentially revolutionary. But that is not as much of a paradox as it seems, because Christian tradition, unlike all others, is a living and perpetual revolution.”[3]

Fred Herron finds Merton himself at that paradoxical point: “It was the catholicizing of Catholicism, the retrieval of the richness of the Catholic imagination, that was the subject of the revolution in the church during the life of Thomas Merton.” [4]

Far from being an inconsequential relic of the 1960s, Merton’s voice resonates with the contemporary, possibly because his relationship with tradition is a dialectical one. Merton utilizes historical perspectives as a preparation to achieve a far-reaching, evolving theological and literary language that transcends his contradictions, making him a successful communicator of faith. As Rowan Williams says:

Merton’s genius was largely that he was massively unoriginal: he is extraordinary because he is so dramatically absorbed by every environment he finds himself in—America between the wars, classical pre-conciliar Catholicism and monasticism, the peace movement, Asia. In all these contexts he is utterly priestly because utterly attentive: he does not organize, dominate, or even interpret, much of the time, but responds. Merton is sure enough of his real place, his real roots, to let some very strange and strong winds blow over him, to let his understanding grow by constant re-creation in himself of other human possibilities. Being interested in Thomas Merton is not being interested in an original, a shaping mind, but being interested in God and human possibilities. [5]

Jonathan Montaldo expands on this:

Among Thomas Merton’s literary gifts was his ability to craft elements of his biography into literary metaphors that incite his readers not only to identify with his autobiographical art but also to undergo inner experiences of being transformed by reading him. Reading Merton threatens incidences of being changed, of wanting to lead a different, deeper kind of life. His art of confession and witness does not merely disclose itself for the reader’s review, but imposes itself powerfully upon the reader as a form of teaching by personal example that both seduces and constrains the reader to go and do likewise.[6]


The Autobiographical Nature of Merton’s Work

It is often said that all art, regardless of subject, medium, or genre, is self-portraiture. Fundamentally, Thomas Merton’s expressive oeuvre is entirely autobiography. Opening Merton through diverse facets of writer, monk, priest, revolutionary, social commentator, and theologian inevitably proves to be too rudimentary, too opaque and too incomplete an encounter. The influence of his own artistically grounded genetic roots vibrantly shaped Merton’s power of expression and separates him from his peers. Merton’s conversion and subsequent vocations were filtered through a pre-existing artistic palette: “Merton’s first real attraction to the Catholic Church was through art. He talks about the image of Christ that he met in the Byzantine mosaics. He says that while he went to see the art, without understanding what was happening, he found something else happening to him that went beyond the art.”[7]

Merton’s experience of a Christ of the ikons followed his immersion into the poetry of the Jesuit Gerald Manley Hopkins, who had, likewise, experienced a spontaneous conversion. Christine Bochon says of Merton: “Catholicism was intellectually exciting to him, but he was moved too. He comes to experience God through the things of this world.”[8] Sociologist Fr. Andrew Greeley writes of an additional aspect of Hopkins that may have deeply resonated with the young Merton: “Hopkins pointed at the essence of the Catholic sensibility about the mother of Jesus when he tied together the fertility of spring, the fertility of Mary, and the fertility of God.”[9]

Greeley’s descriptive comparison between the Catholic and Protestant imagination can be useful in identifying the aesthetic allure of Catholicism to Merton:

Catholic religious imagination differs from the Protestant religious imagination. Catholic writers stress the nearness of God to his creation, the Protestant writers the distance between God and His creation; the Protestants emphasize the risk of superstition and idolatry, the Catholics the dangers of a creation in which God is only marginally present. Or, to put the matter in different terms, Catholics tend to accentuate the immanence of God, Protestants the transcendence of God.”[10]

As we shall see in excerpts from his journals, Merton’s religious vocabulary is steeped in artistic imagination, so much so that an unprepared novice, expecting to find in Merton merely a guide to better living, may discover Merton to be a source of genuine surprise and initial consternation.

Merton’s impassioned ecumenicism, which pre-dates the promotion of it by Vatican II, mirrors his multifarious taste in the arts. While Merton wrote extensively on Buddhism, St. John of the Cross, and the contemplative life, his sporadic writings on Mary, the Mother of Christ, are among his most restless, enigmatic and vividly imagined works, expressed through written and audio reflections, poetry, and visual art. Kenneth Voiles writes:

What he has written, though sparse, tells us quite a lot about his view of Mary and also about her importance in the silence and solitude of his own spiritual development. Some of Merton’s most telling passages about Our Lady can rather easily lead readers to the conclusion that she was not only a major influence for him, but conceivably his primary influence.[11]


Merton and Marian Art

Working from the universal and autobiographical nature of Merton’s work, the specific focus of this thesis is on the Marian art of Merton, which has not received the attention of significant scholarship to date. Among the nine hundred plus existing drawings of Thomas Merton are approximately two hundred Marian-like images, a subject he drew with more frequency than he did any other representational image (his later abstractions and Zen calligraphy outnumber his earlier iconographic works). While Merton rarely dated or titled his visual art, the feminine image, although unnamed, is what we can safely refer to as Marian in expression. Sophia, Eve, Proverb, Wisdom and Our Lady are personas of the divine manifest in the feminine, which fired his theological imagination and devotion.

The symbol of Mary, perhaps in its ambiguity, gives substantial and challenging breathing room for artistic expression, as Greeley writes:

The image of Mary the mother of Jesus distinguishes the Catholic religious sensibility from all others. She pushes the envelope of the Catholic imagination as far as it can be pushed by hinting that there is a maternal dimension in God as well as a paternal one and thus absorbs and purifies and transforms all the female deities who came before (Nut, Astarte, Venus, Brigid).[12]

Greeley’s assessment aptly sets the tone of contemporary Marian imagery and devotion as provocative for most Protestants and some post-Vatican II Catholics: “When it links the fertility of nature and the fertility of a woman with the fertility of God, the Catholic imagination risks being profoundly offensive.” [13]

The origins of Mariology are quite the reverse. The devotion began as a popular tradition. Once the Church acknowledged that devotion, it was rapidly coated with orthodox sheen: “By the early second century, Christian writers were speaking of her as the new Eve; by the early third century, drawings of her appeared in the catacombs, and by the early fourth century, direct and explicit devotion to her was well under way.”[14]

Since the Reformation, Marian devotion, devotion to the divine manifestation in the maternal image has become scarcer in much of Christian worship practice. The feminine outcast label latently hovers over Marian theology and imagery: “Mary is the only feminine religious symbol who reveals a God passionately in love with his people. The structure and the function of the Mary myth are designed to reveal the femininity of God. The theologians may have missed the point or have been afraid to touch it; but the poets and painters have not.” [15]That may explain the appeal of the Marian symbol to artists as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Salvador Dali, and Thomas Merton.

Merton’s Marian piety seems to have stemmed first from his history of personal relationships with women (from his short-lived mother to M, the student nurse with whom Merton had a late-in-life romance): “Strange connections in my deepest heart-between M. and the Wisdom figure-and Mary-and the Feminine in the Bible-Eve etc.-Paradise-wisdom. Most mysterious, haunting, deep, lovely, moving, transforming!”[16] Merton’s yearning for the feminine was poignantly expressed in a 1966 journal entry after a Mass: “Thought deeply about Our Lady afterword, prayed much to her, saw her immense importance in my life, gave myself as completely as I could. I have a great need to belong to her.”[17]

His reverence to the image also adhered to Cistercian tradition. In 1941, two years after his baptism and one year before entering the Abbey of Gethsemani as a novice, Merton was emotionally moved during a visit to Our Lady of Gethsemani: “Here, suddenly, I am in the Court of the Queen of Heaven, where She sits throned, and receives at once the proper praise of men and angels. I tell you I cannot breathe.”[18]

In an article for the Merton quarterly, Sheila M. Hempstead-Milton addresses the Cistercian influences on Merton’s Mariology:

It seems to me that the feminine archetypes of the church, cloister and enclosed garden, with Mary as both garden and idealized woman, along with all the conflicts and resultant tensions of his life as a monk and writer in the Abbey, provided Merton with the right climate in which to develop a mature identity, and to recover and integrate the feminine. Merton writes in the dedication to Gethsemani Magnificat: The Most Blessed Virgin is the Queen of the Cistercian order, as she is also Queen and model of the Contemplative life.[19]

Merton’s Mariology is inexorably wedded to his artistic expression. To fully glean the artistic and theological complexities of his Marian drawings, a literary accompaniment and well-rounded perspective of Merton’s artistic temperament is beneficial.

[1] Thomas Merton, Opening the Bible (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1970), 14.

[2] Thomas Merton, Run to the Mountain: The Journals of Thomas Merton, ed. Patrick Hart, O.S.C.O. (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1995), 87.

[3] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1961), 142.

[4] Fred Herron, No Abiding Place (Lanham, MD: University Press, 2005), 14.

[5] Rowan William, A Silent Action. Engagements with Thomas Merton (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2011),19.

[6] Jonathan Montaldo, “A Gallery of Women’s Faces and Dreams of Women from the Drawings and Journals of Thomas Merton,” in Merton Annual 14, ed. Victor A. Kramer (Louisville, KY: International Thomas Merton Society, Bellermine University, 2001), 155.

[7] Elaine Malits, Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton, ed. Morgan C. Atkinson (Collegeville, PA: Liturgical Press, 2008), 26

[8] Christine Bochen, Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton, ed. Morgan C. Atkinson (Collegeville, PA: Liturgical Press, 2008), 28, 39.

[9] Andrew Greeley, The Catholic Imagination (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000), 92.

[10] Greeley, The Catholic Imagination, 5.

[11] Kenneth Voiles. “The Importance of Mary In the Spirituality of Thomas Merton. (paper presented at the Summer Seminar on Carmelite Spirituality, Notre Dame, IN,June 1991), 218.

[12] Greeley, The Catholic Imagination, 91.

[13] Greeley, The Catholic Imagination, 94.

[14] Andrew Greeley, The Mary Myth (New York: Seabury Press, 1977), 80.

[15] Greeley, The Mary Myth, 41, 20.

[16] Thomas Merton, Learning to Love: The Journals of Thomas Merton. ed. Christine M. Bochen.1966-1967. (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997), 131.

[17] Merton, Learning to Love, 16, 17.

[18] Merton, Run to the Mountain, 333.

[19] Sheila Hempstead-Milton, “Merton’s Search for Paradise and His Integration of Ruth Merton, Sophia and Mary,” The Merton Seasonal Spring (1996): 12-13.