Friday, April 5, 2019

(220) Living With Christ, the Master Teacher, Through Images of the Holy Land


Inside the Church of the Beatitudes is a painting of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, which includes the Beatitudes, to a multitude of people.

After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the gates of Heaven were closed.  However, God the Father in His great mercy promised a Redeemer.  After 4000 years He sent His only begotten son to become one of us to teach us how to live and save us from our sins by making reparation for all sins ever committed past, present and future.  Only God Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity could make such immense reparation, which He did by His tremendous suffering and death on the cross.
Only then were the gates of Heaven opened so that every one of us could enjoy everlasting happiness there if only we would follow the teaching of Jesus Christ through His Church.  Sadly millions reject Him.  Let us pray, make sacrifices, and offer up our personal crosses (redemptive suffering) as a very effective and dynamic prayer for the conversion of sinners as Our Lady of Fatima so fervently asked us to do.  In this way God gives us the privilege of participating in a small way in the Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of Calvary.

During Lent we intensify our spiritual preparation for eternity through repentance, personal conversion, spiritual growth, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, penance, spiritual reading, receiving the sacraments, and reflecting upon our Lord’s teaching and his redemptive passion, the greatest act of mercy ever.  We relive, so to speak, His 40 days in the desert, His Passion, and Resurrection.   
An aerial view of the 4th Century synagogue of Capharnaum used for prayer, teaching, and worship, but not sacrifices as in the temple.  Our Lord often preached in such synagogues.  An elevated modern church is next to it over the site of St. Peter’s home.  Christ used Capharnaum (Capernaum) as a base for his teaching and healing ministries.  

Our Lord also came to teach us how to live and establish the Church to help us on the journey to eternity and facilitate our salvation.  Let us examine some of His teachings, imagining that we are listening to Him as the people are doing in the painting above.  One behavioral science scholar once explained to me: “You know, all the modern principles of behavioral science can be summarized in four words: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”  That is the four Gospels which gives wisdom that is so relevant to our lives through the ages.

Looking south from the synagogue of Capharnaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.  The elevated modern church is built over the ruins of St. Peter’s home.  Inside the church of St. Peter the pilgrim can view the ruins of his home through a large window on the floor.

The Two Great Commandments summarize the Ten Commandments given to us through Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. A Pharisee asked Christ: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"  He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).  The key to all of moral theology and the virtue of charity revolves around love of God and neighbor.  If one closely follows the two great commandments, all the others fall into place.     

The Church of the Beatitudes on the Lake of Galilee.

The Sermon on the Mount – the Beatitudes.   He began to teach them, saying:  
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.  
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.  
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.  
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you"  (Matthew 5: 1-12).  The Mount is a school of virtue.

Prayer and the Golden Rule.    Our Lord taught us to pray with faith and trust in the will of God which is the best for us.  He answers every prayer according to His will which is for the best in the long run.  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”  Our Lord immediately adds the golden rule: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you(Matthew 7:12).  The Golden Rule is a simple and concrete guide for our interpersonal relations.  Following the Bible builds trust with others.

The cloister of the Church of the Pater Noster (Our Father) and Carmelite monastery on the Mount of Olives over the traditional site where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer.  It has numerous long ceramic tiles of the Lord’s Prayer in over 140 languages.  One can be seen in the background.    It is the perfect prayer when said with thought, a beautiful blend of praise of God and petitions for our most basic physical and spiritual needs.   For a video see

Reconciliation.  “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift(Matthew 5:23-24).

More ceramic tile slabs of the Our Father in different languages at the Church and Monastery of the Pater Noster.  Fr. Robert Głuchowski, a seminary professor, is explaining on the right to give us theological depth.  He would explain in Polish and I would often ask him questions in English. 

Works of Mercy.  “Then the king (Christ) will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'  Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'  And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” This is the motivational basis for charitable works by the Church and by us as individuals and the Corporal Works of Mercy.    

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'  Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?'  He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matthew 25:34-46).

Teaching Methods of the Master Teacher.  Our Lord often used metaphors and taught with parables (stories) for imagery that people could relate to and easily remember.  He would use vivid language and examples that painted word pictures.  On occasion He would use a bit of theater as when He apparently wrote the sins of a woman’s accusers in the sand.  Our Lord often taught by involving His listeners in dialogue and discussion to help them discover the truth.  He even used a coin as a teaching aid.
His intense prayer life in the morning and evening to seek His Father’s will and help was exemplary.   During the Agony in the Garden, Our Lord was so afraid of the coming crucifixion that he sweat blood and prayed:  "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done."  He wanted to avoid the cross, but accepted it because it was His Father’s will.  What an example for us all when adversity strikes in our lives.

He even taught us from the cross by example: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).  He showed his infinite mercy to the good thief who was sincerely sorry for his sins and repented.  

Teachers, use Jesus Christ as your model to be effective.  Parents, writers, clergymen,  supervisors, and managers are also teachers.

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