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The first thing we can do is listen to or read and meditate on the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the Word of God. There are still some so-called Christians who really donít accept it (cf. Verse 16). They somehow think they are going to grit their teeth and exercise their faith without opening the Bible. Their either refuse or neglect to read Godís love letter, Godís Word. They faithfully use their little prayer books and their little prayer rituals, but they think they donít need the Bible. Jesusí challenging question to the Sadducees He also addresses to these Christians: "Donít you ever read the Scriptures?" (Matthew 22:31). He asked the same question of the Pharisees (Luke 6:3).
The Bible itself tells us that "Scripture makes us wise to accept Godís salvation by believing (having trust and faith) in Christ Jesus. The whole Bible was given by inspiration of God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is Godís way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good" (II Timothy 3: 15-17).
Paul says in Philippians 1:25 that we should "grow and be happy and fulfilled in our faith"; and we should want to use every tool God has given us to make that happen. In Romans 10:17 we are told that a major tool for this purpose is openness to the Scripturesóhearing the Word of God. You may hear something of Godís Word in sermons, but of course sermons vary widely in their content. Many are "cotton candy" homiliesósermons with little or no scriptural substance. You take a big bite and suddenly after a moment of sweetness, there is very little left to nourish you. So you may have to look elsewhere for Godís word. It is always available in the Bible.
All of Psalm 119 is about the Word of God: "Cheer me, Lord, with your word, build me up with your word" (verse 20). "Your words are a torch to light the path ahead of me so I will not stumble and fall. Your words enlighten me" (verse 105). "My heart stands in awe of your word" (verse 161).
If you donít have a familiarity with the Word of God and truly love it (verse 16), your faith will not grow very much. You will hit a low plateau of faith and stay at that level the rest of your life. Devotional materials are beautiful, yet I never cease to be amazed at the shallowness of people who read all kinds of devotional literature exclusively. They are constantly receiving a "secondhand" word of Godóonly in the most remote and therefore, diluted way. Some spend hours reading about all kinds of apparitions, visions, etc., but they wonít spend five minutes a day reading the Bible. They practice upsidedown Christianity; their value system in warped. They remain way out on the far edges of the circle and they spend little time at the center of the circle, in the primary content of Christian experience. They donít meaningfully relate to God in His primary revelation, His Word. They may spend hours praying to overcome anxiety or illness while ignoring Psalm 119:165 "Great peace is had by those who love your word; and they shall have no sickness."
Next Installment: Vertical Growth:Our Cooperation - part two
Without losing a stroke, as if in a precision drill, the second torturer moves forward. His scourge appears to be of leather with heavy knots along its length. H is swing is powerful and the blows land on top of the raised welts from the whip.
Now skin and tissue separate. Blood vessels spew forth blood which stains the ground, the pillar, and even splatters the torturers who, unmindful, can only use their powerful muscles to cause our Dear Lord unimaginable pain. Because this scourge is longer our Lordís entire chest, abdomen, arms and legs front and back receive full blows.
The third torturer moves into position and like his fellow torturers his eyes are glassy, feverish in anticipation. The scourge is also long, of leather. But the end is divided into four or five strips. At the end of each strip there is tied a sharp piece of bone or stone, I do not know which because I feel as if I must faint or die from watching such cruelty given to such Love.
The demons are raging even amongst themselves now, tearing at one another as the third scourge sends pieces of flesh, tissue, muscle and, in some places a bone chip from our Lord flying around the pillar. The demons will not get near the divine flesh. They spit and utter curses and madly tear at each other in their frenzy of hate.
There is not one spot upon our Lord left unmarked by the terrible scourging. It cannot be possible that these men want to continue. They have already reduced our Lord to a piece of meat, mauled hideously by their own hands.
It is the captain of the guard who has stepped aside to hear the words of a senior officer. Then he shouts an order and the horrid whistling, slicing, thudding scourging ends. Yet it echoes in my ears, my mind, my heart and soul. O! I do not desire to see any more!
But our Lady comes and says to me: "You must watch and write as I direct, for from this my Little Ones shall love my Son as He loves them, and they shall grow strong in their faith."
The two Roman soldiers who led Jesus to the pillar now unloose the heavy chain and Jesus slumps lifeless to the ground. He appears not a human being, but one bleeding, oozing sore of mutilated flesh. Our Blessed mother tells me that many today will say it could not have been like this, so inhuman a scourging, for no man would have survived. But Jesus Christ is the Man and as His Father willed, so did He will to survive, that all of His Blood might be shed so that mankind might enter the way of perfection.
A soldier, barely out of his teens, comes running and throws a bucket of cold, dirty water over our Lord. The shock, which our Lady says was like an electric current of extreme heat and pain, brings Jesus back to consciousness. He puts both hands on the blood-spattered ground and tries to rise, but there is no strength.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Four of Lesson 10: THE SCOURGING AND THE CROWNING WITH THORNS
Because of insurrection against the Church, Spain orders all Jews and Sicilian Zionists to leave the country or comply with the Christian Church.
Pope Alexander VI aligns with the "Holy League" to counter the military advances of King Charles VIII of France.
Death of King Francis I of France
Death of King Philip III of Spain
Clinton, the first US president to visit South Africa, entered the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto township to a cheering congregation to which he responded with smiles, handshakes, and waves. But when Father Mohlomi Makobane read the Gospel for the day -- John 8:1-11 -- Clinton became visibly uncomfortable and rocked on his heels. The gospel reading tells the story of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus to be condemned to death, but He challenges her accusers and then tells her to go and sin no more. The Clinton administration has been rocked by recent scandals in which several women have come forward and claimed that Clinton either had sex with or propositioned them.
Clinton was on a six-nation tour of Africa, including South African where he paid tribute to the country for ending decades of apartheid. Regina Mundi Church served as a refuge to many blacks during the last years of uprising against white rule, which ended with 1994 elections.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila expressed concerns on Sunday that the leading contender in the Philippines' presidential elections is barely fit for the officer because of his questionable character.
The cardinal told Reuters News Service in an interview that former actor Joseph "Erap" Estrada is a dangerous role model for youth. Estrada was a hit in a series of 1960s films that have left him popular with the electorate, but business leaders fear he is economically incompetent and church leaders cite his well-known penchant for adulterous affairs and womanizing.
Recent opinion polls show Estrada with a wide margin over his closest opponent in the May 11 election with the ruling party's candidate, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, getting half as much support as Estrada. Cardinal Sin said that margin may also prompt the government to cheat to get de Venecia into power. "If there is an election today and there is no cheating, [Estrada] is going to win. Therefore the administration is going to do everything in order to win, so they will cheat," he said.
The Holy Father's request came during a visit to the parish of Jesus Adolescent, on the outskirts of Rome. That parish, founded in 1977, includes the site of a center for troubled young people which was founded at the close of World War II at the request of Pope Pius XII.
In words of encouragement for that effort, the Pope remarked on the duty to provide education for the young, who represent "the future of humanity." He added that the time and resources devoted to their education and their Christian formation should be regarded as "a valuable investment for the good of the Church and of society." Unfortunately, he continued, 50 years after this particular center was founded, "there is no lack of young people in difficulty: without work, without points of reference, involved in minor crimes, or left idle-- with all the risks that come with a disoriented existence."
After the Angelus prayer, the Pope repeated his message of concern for young people as he mentioned the preparations being made in Rome for the 18th World Youth Day, which will be observed around the world on Palm Sunday, April 5. He pointed out that the city of Rome is expecting to welcome thousands of youngsters from Italy and France for the ceremonies.
While speaking to the children of the parish, the Pope alluded to the approach of his own 80th birthday (which will occur May 18). "Youth is beautiful because it is a question of perspective," he said. "As I approach 80 years of age, is there another perspective? Yes: that of eternal life." He told them that this new perspective is also beautiful, because "By his Resurrection, Jesus Christ gave us the certainty that he has conquered death."
Rudolph Kos, 52, was found guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and one of indecency with a child. He was acquitted of one indecency count and had pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trial to one count of sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child. Kos was accused of sexually abusing the boys from 1981 to 1992 at churches in the Diocese of Dallas, after which he left his vocation and moved to San Diego.
In a civil trial last year, a jury found the diocese guilty of negligence for failing to take steps to stop Kos and awarded the victims $119 million in damages. The figure was subsequently reduced during negotiations between the diocese, the courts, and the victims.
On the same subject of child abuse, Ireland's leading child protection agency has welcomed an unprecedented apology from the Christian Brothers religious order for years of sexual and other abuse of children at their schools.
The Christian Brothers issued the apology in half-page advertisements in Sunday's Irish newspapers. The apology followed a number of sex-charge prosecutions of members of the order, which has been deeply involved with the Irish educational system for more than a century.
The order said in the statement, "We, the Christian Brothers in Ireland, wish to express our deep regret to anyone who suffered ill-treatment while in our care. And we say to you ... who complained of abuse and were not listened to, we are deeply sorry." A spokesman for the order added, "We are putting our hands up and saying this happened. It is painful for all of us." He said the advertisements marked "an acknowledgement of the pain and hurt inflicted on victims."
The development was described as "a timely watershed" by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The newspaper advertisements also listed telephone numbers in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland for abuse victims to obtain help and counseling. A number of members of the order - founded by Blessed Edmund Rice - are currently awaiting trial on charges of child abuse, some of which date back more than 20 years.
- Father Marcello Zago, OMI, the current superior general of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, will become the secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization, with the rank of Archbishop. A veteran of inter- religious dialogues, particularly among the missionary regions of Asia, he has worked in Laos and Taiwan, becoming an expert on relations with Buddhism. He was elected to head the Oblates-- a congregation of 5,000 men-- in 1986, and under his leadership the congregation established missions in 13 new countries. His second term as superior general will end this year. During his second term, he has taught at ecclesiastical faculties in Rome and Ottawa.
- Msgr. Karel Kasteel, the under-secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, has been promoted to Secretary of that Council, which manages the Pope's personal charities. Cor Unum has undertaken an ambitious project of setting up 100 new charitable enterprises all around the globe by the year 2000.
- Father Francisco Azcona San Martin, from Pamplona, Spain, has been nominated to replace Msgr. Kasteel as under-secretary of Cor Unum.