The bishop’s agenda – Bishop de Korte’s homily

Bishop Gerard de Korte has the habit of not writing out his homilies. He usually makes somes notes, but for the most part he speaks from memory. His homily during his installation Mass as bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, yesterday, was no different. But, contrary to past occasions, the bishop’s notes were published, and they’re complete enough to reconstruct the lengthy homily that ended in a welcoming applausse from the full cathedral basilica.

08

The bishop begins by reflecting on the person whose feast it was yesterday: the Apostle who was chosen to replace Judas, St. Matthias. An important criterium in his election was his being a witness of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1: 21-22). And since a bishop is a successor of the Apostles, his first task is to be a witness of the resurrected Lord. The Church is a community around the living Christ, the bishop said, so let us live with Christ and His Gospel as our basis.

Of course, there was occasion to look back, first to Bishop Bekkers, who was buried from St. John’s basilica exactly fifty years before Bishop de Korte’s installation. He remains a symbol for many Catholics of a loving, mild and hospitable Church. But also to Bishop Antoon Hurkmans, the now retired bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Bishop de Korte thanked him for his work as parish priest, seminary rector, vicar general and bishop.

Then, a look to the future. Bishop de Korte’s takes up the call of Bishop Hurkmans to defeat all division in the diocese. Tolerance is a virtue, there is room for different emphases and spiritualities in the Catholic house, and, most importantly, if Christ has chosen us, who are we to not accept each other?

As ever, Bishop de Korte has a realistic eye for the Church in our times. Yes, there are few young people, yes, the Church is vulnerable, yes, in many ways these are the years of truth. Like he said in his letter with that title from January 2015, Catholics must take their responsibility. Priests, deacons, pastoral workers, religious and all the baptised.

The bishop extended a specific invitation to the religious in his new diocese, asking them to work with the diocese, to reinforce and support each other.

Ever with an eye for ecumenism, Bishop de Korte siad he wants to continue working for better ecumenical relations in his new diocese. To not only celebrate, but also learn and serve together and so bear witness together of the risen Lord.

Taking a page from Pope Francis’ book, the bishop desires a Church which is open to the needs of the world, that joins all spiritual forces to realise more global justice and the protection of Mother Earth.

In closing, the bishop directs the attention to Mary, to whom there is a strong devotion in the Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Mary continuously refers to Christ (Do what He tells you to). Mary is also the mother of the faithful, a source of comfort, an example of the love for God and the neighbour. Let’s follow her example.

Photo credit: Ramon Mangold

Actors for the Passion 2014 revealed

Today the principal actors for the 2014 edition of The Passion, which will take place in the city I live in, were revealed, and I must say it seems like a good line-up.

the passion actors singers

The role of Jesus will be portrayed by singer Jan Dulles. He is the lead singer of Dutch band De 3Js, which makes him as good a choice as any singer who is not in the business for the adoration. The only downside is that he has been very critical about the Catholic Church in the past, hurting the feelings of more than a few with an emotional outburst on Twitter. We can only hope that his feelings have abated a bit in the years since.

Mary will be played by musical veteran Simone Kleinsma, who is also starring in the Dutch version of Sister Act. I am very enthusiastic about her involvement, as she has a great singing voice, and the role of Mary will allow her to make use of her great emotional range.

Peter is played by Stanley Burleson, another musical veteran. He also stars in Sister Act, and has appeared in the majority of big musical titles in the Netherlands. The demands of acting and singing a major role in The Passion demands are in good hands with him.

The Narrator is portrayed by media socialite and show business expert Beau van Erven Dorens. He’s the only member of the cast I’m not enthusiastic about. He’ll probably be alright in his role, but I simply don’t appreciate his public persona.

Not in the picture above, but revealed just tonight, is the role of Judas. He will be played by yet another musical veteran: Jamai Loman. He started out as a finalist in one of those talent shows like Idols or something, but has since made a proper career for himself in the musical world.

It’s interesting to see a solid backup for the persona of Jesus, in the form of three experienced musical actors. Their contribution to the format, which is unchanged since the first edition in 2011, should be very interesting.

Morning reflection: the why of Spy Wednesday

“Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from then onwards he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He said, ‘Go to a certain man in the city and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.” The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.
When evening came he was at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating he said, ‘In truth I tell you, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not me, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me. The Son of man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn, ‘Not me, Rabbi, surely?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is you who say it.’

Matthew 26:14-25

So many questions that can be summed up in one word: why? Why did Judas choose to betray Jesus? Wasn’t he there for all the major events of the Lord’s ministry? Didn’t he hear what Jesus said and see what He did?

The answer is perhaps not simple, but we can find it in our own lives. We can ask these questions to ourselves as well. We do we choose to do things that Jesus told us we shouldn’t? Didn’t we hear and see all He said and did? Judas may have had the luxury of seeing and hearing everything as it happened, but it is not as if we can say that we simply did not know. Christ still speaks to us today, and we can still listen to Him.

To follow Jesus requires faith and trust (which often overlap). He promises us much, but what He promises is often in the future, and therefore not yet tangible or visible. And although the truth of His promises is visible in many people all around, in past and present, it is so hard for us to do as He asks us when there are easier and far more certain (and immediate) forms of gratification. The thirty silver pieces ae visible, tangible and can be spent immediately, and Judas can use it to build a better live for himself. At least for the near future. But just as it is immediate, it is also short-term.

The salvation that Jesus offers is not immediate, but it is forever. And even forever is a concept that we can’t grasp. But with faith and trust, enforced by the Lord and by the example of people around us, near and far, we are perfectly able to both believe and complete the journey. It won’t be easy, but it is worth it.

Art credit: “Judas before the Sanhedrin”, by Alexandre Bida

Jesus and His mates

Recently, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI would be penning a children’s book called ‘The friends of Jesus’. In it, he is said to focus on the relationship of fourteen men with Jesus. Yes, men. The fourteen are the twelve original Apostles, St. Matthias who went to replace Judas in the twelve, and St. Paul who, while never part of the twelve, is generally considered an apostle all the same.

Following the release of this little news item certain people have gotten into a huff about the fact that the book only deals with men. “Surely, they say, women were also Jesus’ friends? So why are they not in the book? It must because the pope doesn’t like or is afraid of women.” That is a basic summation of their logic.

In the first point they are correct. There is enough Scriptural evidence that Jesus’ followers included both men and women, and some women indeed had a notable relation to Christ. The Blessed Virgin in the first place, of course, but also St. Mary Magdelene, and the other women who were present at the Crucifixion. But the pope doesn’t write about them. Why not?

The answer seems straightforward when one considers the aforementioned list of men. They are the Apostles. The Apostles are a very clearly identified group of men. Like it or not, the fact remains that there was not a woman among them.

“But women were also Jesus’ friends”, the masses clamour. Yes, and here we have the core of the problem. The term ‘friend’. It’s somewhat simplistic term to refer to the actual relationship that Jesus had with the Apostles. For a children’s book it’s use is understandable, of course, and we shouldn’t read to much into that, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Back to the problem of the term ‘friend’. There seems to be something of a consensus that Jesus and the Apostles were friends, mates, who met up for meals and conversation, maybe a party here and there, and nothing more. That idea limits the person of Christ to the strictly human; he becomes nothing but a good and nice man, who had some clever things to say. He was good, he had smart things to say, of course, but He was much more than that. Christ, after all, is God. And the Apostles knew that, although it took them a while. Christ is God, He brings salvation to all, and that fact must have coloured the relationship between Christ and the Apostles. They were much more than friends. He was their Lord and Saviour, and they in their turn were tasked with very specific and special duties in the Church He established.

Of course, He was also the Lord and Saviour of the women He knew, like He is to everyone who ever lived and will live. But the aforementioned tasks given to the Apostles made their relationship, the ‘friendship’ unique.  Selecting them as the group to focus on a  book is quite understandable. That is not a matter of ignoring the women in the life of Jesus and the women in the Church of today, but the complete opposite: the acknowledgement of the ‘friendship’ of Christ with His apostles.

In writing any book, an author must make choices. The pope could have taken a random selection of people to describe in his book, but he didn’t. He chose a specific group, the people who were closest to Christ in His active ministry here on earth. And as I said, calling them friends is correct but incomplete. It is, however, understandable for a children’s book which deals chiefly with getting to know Christ as someone near to us, as a friend. That can be the basis for further development of our relationship with Him. Seems like a fairly good place to start for children.

Politics and gender issues are misplaced and misguided in this and many other cases.

The Stations of the Cross

Last night we commemorated the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas and His capture by Sanhedrin officials. All this following a night He spent in prayer in Gethsemane, with the Father and a couple of sleepy Apostles for company. In the night, He prayed for His people and also for Himself. His fear at what He know was to come made Him ask His Father to let the cup pass from His lips, but “not my will, but yours”.

Today we walk the Stations of the Cross, the fourteen stages of Christ’s death on the Cross, from His conviction by Pontius Pilate to His burial. These fourteen stations are illustrated below. The photos are details from the station in the St. Joseph cathedral in Groningen (originally taken for a different Good Friday project for which I lacked the time, and I hope you’ll excuse the bad lighting conditions in some) and the texts are snippets from prayer sand meditations written for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome, written by Camillo Cardinal Ruini, which you can read in full here.

FIRST STATION – Jesus is condemned to death

“Jesus died for our sins. And on an even deeper level, he died for us, he died because God loves us and he loves us even to giving us his only Son, that we might have life through him (cf. Jn 3:16-17)”.

SECOND STATION – Jesus carries His cross

“[I]n our conscience shines the light of goodness, a light which in many cases is bright and guides us, fortunately, in our decisions. But often the opposite occurs: this light becomes obscured by resentment, by unspeakable cravings, by the perversion of our heart. And then we become cruel, capable of the worst, even of things unbelievable”.

THIRD STATION – Jesus falls for the firs time

“Jesus did not refuse physical suffering and thus he entered into solidarity with the whole human family, especially all the many people whose lives, even today, are filled with this kind of pain. As we watch him fall beneath his cross, let us humbly ask him for the courage to break open, in a solidarity which goes beyond mere words, the narrowness of our hearts”.

FOURTH STATION – Jesus meets His Mother

“Mary becomes the Mother of us all, the Mother of every man and woman for whom Jesus shed his blood. Here motherhood is a living sign of God’s love and mercy for us. Because of this, the bonds of affection and trust uniting the Christian people to Mary are deep and strong. As a result, we have recourse to her spontaneously, especially at the most difficult times of our lives”.

FIFTH STATION – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

“[W]hat seemed at first to be merely a stroke of bad luck or a tragedy not infrequently is shown to be a door which opens in our lives, leading to a greater good. But it is not always like this: many times, in this world, tragedies remain simply painful failures. Here again Jesus has something to tell us: after the cross, he rose from the dead, and he rose as the firstborn among many brethren (cf. Rom 8:29; 1Cor 15:20). His cross can not be separated from his resurrection. Only by believing in the resurrection can we meaningfully advance along the way of the cross”.

SIXTH STATION – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

“In the suffering face of Jesus we […] see another accumulation: that of human suffering. And so Veronica’s gesture of pity becomes a challenge to us, an urgent summons. It becomes a gentle but insistent demand not to turn away but to look with our own eyes at those who suffer, whether close at hand or far away. And not merely to look, but also to help”.

SEVENTH STATION – Jesus falls for the second time

“[L]et us ask God, humbly yet confidently: Father, rich in mercy, help us not to add more weight to the cross of Jesus. In the words of Pope John Paul II, who died five years ago tonight: “the limit imposed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is ultimately Divine Mercy” (Memory and Identity, p. 60)”.

EIGHTH STATION – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

“It is Jesus who takes pity on the women of Jerusalem, and on all of us. Even as he carries the cross, Jesus remains the man who had compassion on the crowd (cf. Mk 8:2), who broke into tears before the tomb of Lazarus (cf. Jn 11:35), and who proclaimed blessed those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (cf. Mt 5:4)”.

NINTH STATION – Jesus falls for the third time

“In our efforts to identify ourselves completely with Jesus as he walks and falls beneath the cross, it is right for us to have feelings of repentance and sorrow. But stronger still should be the feeling of gratitude welling up in our hearts”.

TENTH STATION – Jesus is stripped of His garments

“As we look upon Jesus naked on the cross, we feel deep within us a compelling need to look upon our own nakedness, to stand spiritually naked before ourselves, but first of all before God and before our brothers and sisters in humanity. We need to be stripped of the pretence of appearing better than we are, and to seek to be sincere and transparent”.

ELEVENTH STATION – Jesus is nailed to the cross

“How many times, when we are tested, we think that we have been forgotten or abandoned by God. Or are even tempted to decide that God does not exist. The Son of God, who drank his bitter chalice to the dregs and then rose from the dead, tells us, instead, with his whole self, by his life and by his death, that we ought to trust in God. We can believe him”.

TWELFTH STATION – Jesus dies on the cross

“In truth, nothing is as dark and mysterious as the death of the Son of God, who with God the Father is the source and fullness of life. Yet at the same time, nothing shines so brightly, for here the glory of God shines forth, the glory of all-powerful and merciful Love”.

THIRTEENTH STATION – Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of His Mother

“As we remember that Mary, standing at the foot of the cross, also became the mother of each one of us, we ask her to put into our hearts the feelings that unite her to Jesus. To be authentic Christians, to follow Jesus truly, we need to be bound to him with all that is within us: our minds, our will, our hearts, our daily choices great and small”.

FOURTEENTH STATION – Jesus is placed in the tomb

“Let us halt in prayer before the tomb of Jesus, asking God for the eyes of faith so that we too can become witnesses of his resurrection. Thus may the way of the cross become for us too a wellspring of life”.

Maundy Thursday

Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.
They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garments and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
‘Never!’ said Peter. ‘You shall never wash my feet.’
Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said,
‘Well then, Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’
Jesus said, ‘No one who has had a bath needs washing, such a person is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are’.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am’.

– from the Gospel of John 13: 1-17

Now has the Son of man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.
Little children, I shall be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and, as I told the Jews, where I am going, you cannot come. I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.

– from the Gospel of John 13: 31b-35