Our Lady of Guadalupe
lazar bar

Olive Leaf Logo     A lay Catholic perspective     Olive Leaf Logo

lazar bar

Reflections


Longing for Heaven

FT THE AGE OF 19, I was in a jam. There was this really nice/cute/sweet/devout girl, Elaine, who was a good friend... well, a very, very good friend... in short, I wanted to marry her. Unfortunately for me, it seemed that most of the single males I knew felt the same. It seemed like Elaine probably had more marriage proposals than anyone else I knew! Happily, in what many considered an, at least partial, lapse of judgement, Elaine felt the same way about me as I did about her. During our engagement I did not have many thoughts that were not somehow connected to her. These thoughts brought me great joy as I looked forward to our life together. Not much could make me feel unhappy, or even put a dent into the happiness I felt during that time.

How much more happiness can we receive from meditating on the prospect of spending eternity in the presence of God? Longing for Jesus is itself a joy. This is because our deep desire to be with God is simply our soul's dim reflection of God's great longing to have us with him.

God cares for us so much that he created us, revealed himself to us, became one of us, suffered and died for us and rose from the dead so that we could have the chance to live with him forever. These are the acts of One who cares for us more than anything we could imagine. There is no sacrifice we could make that could match the sacrifice God has made to open heaven to us.

Taking time out to meditate on how magnificent it will be to be with God in heaven can open us to a great joy and longing for God. This deep joy is based on something real, and so the joy itself is strong and lasting. Heaven is our home; we were created to live there. God's relentless love never ceases to call us to heaven where we will be with him forever.

Elaine and I celebrate our 45th anniversary this month.

- Mark Fetherston
May 2019


After Jesus Died

FATHER, into your hands I commend my Spirit."
Having said these words, Jesus breathed his last (Luke 23:46).

With these words, and with this act, Jesus forever gave answer to the question, Does God love me? Or, Does God care about this certain part of my life? By the Father's generous act of giving up his own, dear Son, and by Jesus freely embracing with his entire being the Father's mission to be our salvation, God's perfect love for us has been revealed beyond any possible doubt. And what God has done for all of us, he has also done for each one of us, personally.

We might think that after dying in this way for each one of us, Jesus had come, at last, to the end of his mission. But no. After Jesus died, he began the final phase of his ministry. This part was short in duration in our time, but it was crucial in its impact. Jesus descended into hell. What I think that means is that Jesus died, and as such his soul went into the place of the dead. We can call it hell because there was no light of God there, it was in darkness.

But Jesus human soul cannot be separated from his divine nature. So Jesus, man and God, went into that place of hell and preached the good news to all those who had died throughout the history of the world. Those who were condemned, remained condemned. But, there were also holy souls who were in the bosom of Abraham. These holy souls had been waiting and longing to hear the voice of the Messiah, that beautiful voice that would bring them from that place into the kingdom of heaven.

St Peter told us that, after Jesus died, "he went to preach to the spirits in prison," and later, "the gospel was preached even to the dead" (1 Pt. 3:19; 4:6). The Author of Life has completed the victory of the cross by going to all the holy souls who had lived before, and rescued them into Eternal Life. Absolutely nothing, not even death, is more powerful than the love that God has for each one of us.

- Mark Fetherston
April 2019


Jesus led into the Desert

ST LUKE is known as the 'Evangelist of the Holy Spirit'. In the two books of the Bible written by him, the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, one of his primary themes is the action of the Holy Spirit. Both in the life of Jesus and in the life of the early church, Luke makes us aware of the Spirit's work as he speaks to us and miraculously moves to bring salvation into our lives. In Luke 4:1-13, we get a good example of this as Luke mentions the Holy Spirit twice in the opening verse.

After Jesus has spent 40 days in the desert, fasting and being in communion with the Father, satan slithers in and attempts to pervert his ministry in this early stage. Jesus has not eaten for 40 days and is famished. The devil suggests that he change a rock into a loaf of bread so he can eat. On the surface, this temptation looks fairly innocent. It would be simple for Jesus to do this, and he is very hungry.

Jesus refuses. Quoting Deuteronomy, he says, "Man does not live by bread alone." Unwilling to take the easy way out of his ravishing hunger, Jesus embraces the suffering demanded by all who will follow him. The path of salvation must include the cross.

In this first temptation, Jesus rejects the easy way offered by the enemy. Instead he whole-heartedly accepts the suffering of the Father's way for him. Jesus refuses to turn the stone into bread. Instead, Jesus himself becomes the bread; the Bread of Life who takes away the sin of the world and Whom we receive each time we come to holy communion. This is the bread we need to nourish our lives with wisdom and love. This gift allows us to pass victoriously through the suffering of our own deserts, until we come to our true heavenly homeland, where there will be no more tears or sadness but only everlasting joy.

- Mark Fetherston
March 2019


Jesus really is Risen

I N TODAY'S second reading, St Paul lists some of the history that supports our faith in the risen Jesus. After he was crucified, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to Peter; then to the rest of the 11 apostles. (Paul fails to mention the women that Jesus appeared to, even before Peter – but no matter.) These appearances were frequent. The apostles actually touched Jesus and ate with him. Jesus's body was real, he wasn't like a ghost or a dream. All told, after he had risen from the dead, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people.

And finally, as St Paul puts it, Jesus appeared to him. Saul was determined to destroy this new cult called Christianity. He was furiously riding his horse on the road to Damascus, on a mission to bring men, women and children back to Rome to be slaughtered. Saul's life totally changed when Jesus knocked him off his horse and placed him on a new path. He became known as 'the apostle to the Gentiles', and he spread the good news of the risen Jesus to all the then known world.

Our Faith is based on historical fact. The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is attested to by reliable witnesses — a large number of them. The Romans and high priests tried desperately to cover up Jesus's resurrection, but they couldn't manage it. Their big problem was that too many people had seen Jesus alive after his death and experienced the transforming power of the gospel.

This beautiful problem never stopped happening. Even today, people all over are experiencing the power of God's love to transform our lives. It happens as we sincerely surrender our lives to Jesus, and invite him in with our hearts open to his love.

- Mark Fetherston
February 2019


Loving Obedience

T HE BAPTISM of John the Baptist was not the same as what we mean by the Sacrament of Baptism. In the sacrament we are freed from of all sin, including original sin, reborn as children of God and brought into the life of the Church. On the other hand, John's baptism was a baptism of repentance (Acts 19:4).

Jesus often did things that his apostles couldn't understand. Being baptised by John was confusing not only to them, but to John the Baptist and even to the gospel writers. The core of the problem was that Jesus had no sin, so why would he be baptised? Matthew tells us that John the Baptist argued, Jesus shouldn't be getting baptised, but that Jesus should be the one baptising John instead. The answer Jesus gives him is revealing. His reason is to fulfill all of God's demands (Mt 3:15).

Jesus's obedience to the will of the Father was his reason for everything he did. Obedience was something Jesus embraced in his love for the Father. Obedience led him to be baptised and it led him to the Cross. Jesus's loving obedience defined his character and his ministry. And the Father responded to this faithfulness, keeping Jesus safe through everything he would endure, even raising him up after he was crucified.

Jesus's obedient submission, although so often misunderstood by those around him, touched the Father's heart. To this particular act of love, God replied from the heavens, for all to hear, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11).

- Mark Fetherston
January 2019


Our Lady of Guadalupe – A Mother’s Love

THERE HAVE BEEN many recognized visitations of Mary in the life of the Church. Few have had the impact of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared roughly ten years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. The Aztecs and their clients were deeply spiritual people. That spirituality — and its foundation — was shattered by the Conquest, which was seen as the overturning and impotence of the Aztec gods and world order. Yet they could not bring themselves to trust the faith of the conquerors. They were a lost people and did not know where to go.

Our Lady of Guadeloupe changed that. With a few brief appearances to one poor illiterate peasant, one request for a church to be built, one miraculous healing and two relatively minor miracles, Mary made it possible for a lost people to trust her Son, Jesus. That in turn allowed them to believe in Him, and through Him approach the Father and trust in His Love. The methods and manner of her brief visitation were such that they communicated reassurance and hope to the indigenous peoples of South America on all levels. Literally millions turned to Our Father, and millions more have continued to do so to this day.

That is an astounding result for such a relatively small scale visitation.

She appeared in 1531, close to 500 years ago. Consider all that has changed in the following centuries. The Spanish Empire which was raised on the wealth of the New World? Gone to dust. The British Empire, on which ‘the sun never set’? Come and gone. The rise of North America, the present rise of South America and the decline of the European order. The incredible growth in technology and resulting overturning of society.

We live in a much different world from what even our grandparents could conceive. Earlier generations would be completely lost in most of today’s societies. Imagine a conquistador or Aztec noble trying to grapple with a cellular phone. There’s a good chance that they both would have the identical reaction: “It’s the devil’s work!”

Yet Our Lady of Guadalupe continues. Her message is, if anything, stronger.

Her message is just as needed today as it was in 1531.

Human societies and cultures change, technology changes. But basic human nature does not change. We all want to be loved, to be fulfilled and to have dignity. We experience a longing to belong, to be part of something that is larger than ourselves. We also experience a sense of being out of control, of things not being what they should be. Our Lady of Guadalupe has an answer for that:

“Trust My Son. He loves you. He will help you.”

- Colin Riley
June 2013