Preaching

Saint Helena, Empress

Saint Helena's statue in the Vatican
St. Helena in St. Peter's

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Helena, an important saint in the church and in the iconography of our own parish.

St. Helena, whose son battled his way to imperial power ultimately under the banner of the Christian cross, was brought to the imperial court by her son and deputed to search for sites important to Christians in the Holy Land. Well into her senior years, she directed the demolition of pagan shrines often built over these sites and undertook excavations in Jerusalem which ultimately uncovered the True Cross, the tomb of Jesus and other precious relics.

Her pilgrimage and building opened the way for countless other pilgrims through the centuries to make the difficult journey to the holy sites in and around Jerusalem.

Travel pilgrimages survive today as a form of devotion, though usually not as perilous as those of yesteryear. The journey theme itself, however, is still an important metaphor for the life of Christian discipleship: we begin our challenging journey in this life in the footsteps of Jesus and follow His Way to the heavenly Kingdom. 

St. Helena's energy and enthusiasm for new projects in her senior years, her resilience of spirit following her divorce by her husband and her hope to search for the unseen can be inspirations for us today. We too, should revere Jesus' memory and the places he trod during His earthly life.

Let us ask her protection on life's journey as we follow Jesus on The Way.

 

 


Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us


The Balance ScalesWhat interesting Scripture readings for mass this morning. The first reading recounts Joshua's passage through the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant and the entire people of Israel, mirroring Moses' passage through the Red Sea - both leading the people to the Promised Land.

The gospel is from Matthew, whose gospel is carefully constructed around Mosaic themes, depicting Jesus as the "New Moses," who fulfills the Old Covenant and forms a new Covenant with his people. Like Moses and Joshua, but surpassing them both, Jesus leads them into the Kingdom of God.

The parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that old rules no longer apply in the New Kingdom. The "lex talionis" or eye-for-an-eye is an overly rigorous expression of justice. Instead, we should show the same freely given forgiveness Jesus issues to us to our brothers and sisters in return.

Today, some grudge, resentment or unpaid debt will surely come to mind before Communion. Let us ask Jesus to help us release it, for in doing so we not only release our debtor, but our own spirit too. If we can't find the forgiveness in our own heart yet, we can surely find it in the Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 


St. King Stephen and Secular Power

St. Stephen of Hungary was crowned king by Pope Sylvester II in 1000 A.D. after Stephen consolidated his rule over competing tribal chieftains and allied with Christianity as a unifying dimension of his kingdom. He later founded many monasteries and built churches emphasizing liturgical and faithful unity with the papacy. 

Since the early days of the church,  the question of the use of force by Christian leaders has been a thorny one. St. Augustine's City of God famously dealt with the issue and much later, Martin Luther had more to say on the subject. The days of papal armies are long gone, the pope wielding moral authority more than worldly power. What are the legitimate uses of force, including lethal force, against evil? This question still prompts vigorous discussion. 

St. Stephen of Hungary from wikimedia
Bronze statue of St. Stephen in Aachen

 

Holy Crown of Stephen from Wiki
Crown of St. Stephen

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity

Saints in Heavenly CloudsWhile canon lawyers are still discussing the technical requirements of the Catholic church for being declared a martyr, we should not miss Maximilian Kolbe's heroic life of virtue long before he volunteered to take the place of a condemned man in a Nazi concentration camp. His self-sacrifice and service to others continued even in the bleak starvation bunker with his fellow prisoners.

Pope Francis' recent motu proprio, "Greater Love Than This" defined a new category of sainthood -an offering of life. Traditionally, the death of a martyr for the faith had to occur as a direct and immediate hatred for the Catholic faith on the part of the oppressor toward the victim. 

 “They are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

Pope Francis, Majorem hac dilectionem.

 

 


Stormy Seas and Seawalking

bicycle riding, learning, parents, training wheels

I laughed when St. Peter's sinking

into the stormy waves

reminded me of learning

To ride a bike.

For my first brief solo flights

without training wheels, 

I was fine until I realized

Dad wasn’t holding on anymore.

And then...crash...right into the hedges!

 

 

This gospel is wonderful encouragement

as we strive to follow Jesus.

First, encouragement not to lose faith

For it is then we begin to sink.

       There’s a point at which

       All the books about prayer

       Can’t teach us to pray

       If we don’t begin to pray

       And then stop worrying

       If we’re doing it right.

Second, reassurance

That if we’re heading

In the right direction...toward Jesus

And following his commands

He won’t let us sink.

 

St. Augustine preached

A wonderful homily

On this gospel

On which we can reflect

After we realize that

Augustine asks us

To make, “Lord, I’m sinking.”

Is not always easy to admit.

But we need not keep

Up a bravado with God - 

A false front of security

And calm, even if done

For the sake of others.

God doesn’t require it.

You are not walking on the lake like Peter
but on another sea, for this world is a sea;
Trials its waves, temptations its storms,
and men devouring each other as fishes do.
Don't be afraid, step out stoutly lest you sink.
When the gale blows and the waves rise,
and your weakness makes you fear you will be lost,
cry out, 'Lord, I am sinking,'
and he who bade you walk will not let you perish.

St. Augustine via At The Edge of the Enclosure a wonderful resource for prayerful reflection on Scripture each Sunday.


Leaving The World For Church

Alexander_SchmemannThe journey begins when Christians leave their homes and beds . They leave , indeed , their life in this present and concrete world , and whether they have to drive fifteen miles or walk a few blocks , a sacramental act is already taking place , an act which is the very condition of everything else that is to happen . For they are now on their way to constitute the Church , or to be more exact , to be transformed into the Church of God... And now they have been called to " come together in one place , " to bring their lives , their very " world " with them and to be more than what they were : a new community with a new life .

We are already far beyond the categories of common worship and prayer . The purpose of this " coming together " is not simply to add a religious dimension to the natural community , to make it " better " - more responsible , more Christian . The purpose is to fulfill the Church , and that means to make present the One in whom all things are at their end , and all things are at their beginning . The liturgy begins then as a real separation from the world . 

...In church today, we so often find we meet only the same old world, not Christ and His Kingdom. We do not realize that we never get anywhere because we never leave any place behind us.

Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Kindle Locations 298-300). Kindle Edition.

 


St. Therese of Lisieux, The "Little Flower"

Nothing is little about everyday holiness, but it is simple and that is the message of the "little" way of holiness. Revolutionary for its time, St. Therese championed the idea that a call to holiness was not simply the province of priests or religious. Consonant with Pope Francis' Year of Mercy, she petitioned to be allowed to dedicate herself to the merciful suffering of Jesus.

It's not easy to keep track of Therese since her name itself has been spelled many ways and can also be properly appended with "Child of Jesus" and "Jesus of the Holy Face." 

St Therese of Lisieux at Holy Cross Church
The "Little Flower"


Our stained glass window shows her youthful beauty, her contemplation of cross with Jesus crucified and garlands of roses falling from her arms and Carmelite habit. Each is a clue about her life, which is certainly worth study. As a Doctor of the Church, her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, a good biography or writings about her spirituality are accessible and fruitful for spiritual seekers of all ages. 

 


The President, The Inquisition and The Crusades

Sunday homilies are constrained by length and by the understanding there are children of all ages present at most liturgies. They are never “speeches” or “talks” and even those that convey new information are not to be lessons or lectures. One of my pastor mentors in seminary used to say that a homily should always end with something we can do.  With that understanding, here is last Sunday’s homily.

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:29-39

Jesus heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law

 

Any week the President of the United States

Uses Christ’s name twice in one speech

In the same context with the

Inquisition and Crusades

Serious Catholics have some

Praying to do

 

My responsibility isn’t to criticize

The president

But his speech has left some sickened

 

My responsibility is to lift us up

With the gospel truth

Of Jesus Christ

Just as Christ raised up

Peter’s mother-in-law

From her sickbed

To full health

 

Don’t let anyone keep you

In a sickbed about your faith!

Read, study, know the truth

A few moments on the two issues

The president raised in his prayer breakfast speech:

 

In 1998 John Paul II made these concluding remarks in a speech about the Inquisition

       Yet the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness. From these painful moments of the past a lesson can be drawn for the future, leading all Christians to adhere fully to the sublime principle stated by the Council: The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.

 

The modern synthesis of the Crusades in many academic and political institutions is that the soldiers of the First Crusade appeared without any warning to pillage and plunder the Holy Land and slaughter non-Christians.

  In truth, well before 1095 the year of the first Crusade which came to the aid of the Byzantine emperor in the West who feared Constantinople would fall to the Muslims, wars of Islamic aggression had already seized control of the formerly Christian territories of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor and Southern France. Italy was under assault, Sicily was eventually taken. Muslim invasions would be led into Europe.

3 of 5 Christianity’s primatial sees had already been captured: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria. Constantinople would eventually fall. Only Rome escaped…narrowly.

Any war, primitive or modern, is gruesome and brutal.

 Here is John Paul II’s prayer during a celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000:

 Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbour, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.

 

The silence of Islamic religious leaders

       Asking forgiveness for wars of aggression

       or disavowal of the acts committed by some

       in the name of their prophet

       is deafening

 

Our Christian baptism

does not put us on a “high horse" as the president said...

Far from it

We are touched by Christ

For service and to be his disciples

 

After today’s gospel miracle

       He set out on a preaching mission

       Throughout the whole region

 

We are empowered to

       Preach about Christ’s church

       His gospel message

And to condemn

       The abuse of human rights

       And religious freedom

       Wherever they occur

 Not because the church

       Can claim its members

       Are sinless saints

       But because

       Christ and his church

       Are the world’s best hope

       Not its greatest threat

       As some media pundits

       And militant atheists

       Would have us believe.

 

 We must be careful

       Not to let criticism of religious extremism

       turn to religious indifferentism

       Or hostility to

       Persons of any religious faith

 

But this is not a time for Christianity

       To be in bed with the flu

       Or to be weakened

       By medicinal doses of guilt

       Whether served up to us

       By the media or our president

 

Out of an abudance

       Of political correctness

 

Should our voices for an end to

       Senseless violence against civilians

              Men, women and children

              And graphic, public executions

              Be silenced?

 

Can we at least agree to condemn

       Beheadings, crucifixions

And slave markets

       Of Christians?

  

Can we condemn

Cowardly acts of terrorism

       Defend against them

       And try to make the world

       A safer place?

 

We must.

 

Lent is almost upon us.

A perfect opportunity

       To express our grief in ashes

       And our hope in Jesus Christ

       To pray, fast and do penance

       And work

       For peace.

 


Masses for Peace and Justice This Weekend

Prayforpeace4cl
In solidarity with Pope Francis, Bishop O'Connell has given Trenton parishes permission to substitute the Mass of Peace and Justice in lieu of the mass for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Special intentions for world peace will be offered at all the masses which will unite Catholics throughout the world in prayer for a conversion of minds and hearts and aversion of further bloodshed and more serious calamaties. We will also pray for the many dead and for those who are persecuted, especially Christians in the Middle East, Africa and in fact, all around the globe.

Please join us for a prayerful and holy Eucharist and raise your mind and heart to God together with your fellow parishioners in praise, lament and petition. 

 


Survey on Catechetical Preaching

Catholic_priestDuring the Year of Faith, at Bishop O'Connell's request, we have dedicated the second Sunday of each month to catechetical preaching. As you know, catechetical preaching explains or illustrates a teaching of the Faith rather than concentrating on the Scriptures read during the Mass. 

It's time to decide whether we continue the practice on a routine basis at Holy Cross.

What do you think?    Take our one-question survey and let us know!

 

Click here for Preaching Survey

 



Thought Provoking Article by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas - "The End of American Protestantism"

"The End of American Protestantism" by Stanley Hauerwas

Preacher_10
This article via Bioedge Newsletter was originally published on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) by Professor Stanely Hauerwas, now of Duke University.

Entitled "The End of American Protestantism," it decries the dissolution of faith in God, or at least in the American god Protestantism had created from "a synthesis of evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning." Hauerwas' analysis of the peculiar secularism in which we now find ourselves comes from the unravelling of the moral consensus we previously held on the importance of faith in republican democracy and the common sense of the average American. 

Hauerwas begins his article by exempting American Catholicism from his analysis, but I'm not so sure we have escaped the melting pot of America's new god - freedom of choice. Look at the first two paragraphs of his essay and see if they would intrigue you, as they did me, to read the entire piece:

Catholics in America know they do not belong, which is why they are so determined to demonstrate that they are more American than the Americans.

All you need to know to understand America is that the FBI is made up of Catholics and Southerners. This is because Catholics and Southerners have to try to show they are more loyal than most Americans, since Southerners have a history of disloyalty and Americans fear that Catholics may owe their allegiance to some guy in Rome. That is why the FBI is given the task of examining graduates of Harvard and Yale - that is, high-culture Protestants who, of course, no longer believe in God - to see if they are loyal enough to be operatives for the CIA.

The related phenomenon is what I call "the New York Times Catholics." These are Catholics, usually clergy, a New York Times journalist has learned to call after the Pope has issued an encyclical or given a speech that seems offensive to American sensibilities. They call a Catholic, whom they have previously identified as a critic of the church, to have confirmed that whatever the Pope has said, Catholics in America are not required to obey, or even if they are so required, Catholics will not take what the Pope has said seriously. From the perspective of the New York Times, therefore, a good Catholic is one that would be regarded by the Vatican as a bad Catholic.

 

To emphasize the point even more strongly, it seems that several of the most well published writers critical of the Catholic church and its teachings identify themselves as Catholics. 

In a fascinating analysis of why American divorce and abortion have become widespread, Hauerwas asks if the "person on the street" would agree that someone should be held responsible for something they promised when they didn't know what they were doing. Of course not, would be the likely reply. So how could you possibly make an unconditional promise of marriage, or be held to deliver an unwanted child to put the child up for adoption? The dysfunctional marriage or the unplanned pregnancy are circumstantial evidence that at least two persons didn't know what they were doing. Either the marriage or the child can be dismissed.

Don't look for Catholics to save the day warns Hauerwas, for Catholicism in America has become another variety of Protestant Christianity. The laughable assertion that " I believe in Jesus as Lord, but that's just my personal opinion," is likely to be the sentiment of the average politically correct American Catholic. Similarly, a chorus of Catholic elected officials will carefully explain the dinstinction betweeen their "public" and "private" morality in an effort to reassure the electorate they will ignore Catholic doctrine at the office. Should we call this their belief in the Kennedy-Cuomo Doctrine?

The article is thought provoking commentary on modernity, pluralism and religious freedom. It makes interesting companion reading with Pope Francis' Encyclical "The Light of Faith."

Maybe the proverb many of us learned in our youth (perhaps taught by a nun) "better to light one candle than curse the darkness" needs a modern day Catholic revision - important to curse the darkness but keep lighting candles anyway.


The Light of Faith - "Lumen Fidei"

Insigne_Francisci.svg
The Light of Faith

The papal encyclical of Francis with the collaboration of Benedict highlights once again, the difficulties a disciple of Jesus faces in the modern world.

The encyclical, though brief, is not a breezy read. I won't even try to summarize the whole letter, but point out two of the many passages which invited me to pray:

Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. 

 And, of course, the prayer which closes the encyclical itself:

 Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith. 
Mother, help our faith! 
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call. 
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise. 
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith. 
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature. 
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One. 
Remind us that those who believe are never alone. 
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!



Prayer Service for Religious Liberty

2f26f341f4caea7a5809ab9751f2fef7Thank you to all who stayed to pray today after the 10:30 AM mass for religious liberty in our country and in the world. We prayed the litany suggested by and composed by the American bishops which was quite beautiful and very appropriate.

Our campaign to collect signatures for letters to our elected representatives is ongoing and there were letters available for signing after all the masses this weekend. To date, almost 1000 signatures have been collected and letters mailed.

Sunday's Homily

"Do not be afraid, just have faith." I hope these words of Jesus go straight to our minds and hearts this weekend; how sorely we need to hear them. 

In the face of sin, illness, even death, Jesus reassures us. How much more should we be reassured in the face of disorder in our relationships, finance, politics, family?  Increase our faith, O Lord!

There is a surely a crisis of faith, both secular and religious. All human institutions and promises are undergoing a trial: do we mean what we say, can we trust anyone's promise? Can we rely on each other? These questions are serious enough, but the crisis of religious faith tempts us to believe we cannot or better not rely on God. Or equally perilous, we might come to believe that our faith is simply an inner assertion of belief which carries no obligations to live a faith-filled life.

Our faith is a precious gift and it must be nurtured and protected. How many times, if we're honest, have we chosen fun over faith? Our amusement and leisure time is important, but so is preserving some of it to nurture and practice our faith. 

Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith beginning in October 2012. In calling for a year of prayer and action to nurture our faith, he reminds us that Mary's "yes", her life of discipleship from Bethelehem to Golgotha, her taste of the fruits of Jesus' resurrection and participation in the formation and life of the early Church at Pentecost - all were acts of faith. The first apostles left everything in fatih and preached everywhere. This very faith which has been handed down to us by countless men and women so that we can recognize Jesus in the Eucharist and in each other, in our church and in our history.

Faith has both an intellectual and spiritual component. We hope our faith resides down deep in our hearts, but it is also fed by our mind and our reason. To nurture our faith, we need acts of prayer and charity, the Eucharist, the sacraments, but we also need to read, study, appropriate the faith for each stage of our journey. There is a rich content to the faith, even called "the deposit of faith," a rich tradition and beautifully clear Church teachings for us to know and understand. In conjunction with the Year of Faith, Bishop O'Connell has proclaimed that the preaching on the second Sunday of each month be reserved for teaching an important aspect of our faith, church tradition or church teaching.

We must appreciate how threatened our faith can become by simple everyday events, if we don't take precautions to strengthen and protect it. The books we read, the news we hear, the movies we see, the conversations we have and the jokes we laugh at; the friends we keep, the things we buy, the ad campaigns we respond to, the way we permit our children to dress, the song lyrics they carry around in their heads, the trends we become part of...all these can be a slow and relentless drip, drip, drip eroding the foundations of our faith. Without reparative and preventive measures, we should not be surprised to discover at a funeral, or a wedding, or the doctor's office, that when we turn to rely on our faith...it has collapsed.

This weekend, especially, we remind ourselves that our civic freedom also needs protection. If we fail to nurture and protect our liberties, pay little heed to world events, our nation's history, or political discourse, our freedoms will wither or be clipped and trimmed into a shape our forbearers wouldn't even recognize.

Today we join in prayer for the preservation of faith and freedom in our nation and in the world. This will become more important as specific articles of our faith bring us into conflict with the political and moral climate of our country, but also with a militant secularism which strives to sanitize God from any American public discussion. Some seek to regulate our Catholic charities and our Catholic teaching institutions no differently than MacDonalds or Walmart. We are different! What we do and how we do it springs directly from our faith, which we must be free to practice in private and in public.

Faith and our freedom to practice it is a God given liberty, which today we acknolwedge, has required heroic human sacrifice to preserve. Let us resolve today to reinforce both faith and freedom by prayer, reading and study, by witness and whenever necessary by willing sacrifice.



Catechetical Preaching Sundays

PreachBeginning in October of 2013 for the Year of the Faith, Bishop O'Connell has designated the Second Sunday of each month as "Catechetical Sunday."

The topic for each Sunday will be published well in advance so that homilies at every Mass celebrated in the Diocese on that particular weekend will be on the same topic of Church doctrine/faith using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a primary reference.

 

Catholic preaching in the last decades has moved away from sermons -  topics chosen by the priest or preacher without any correlation to the lectionary readings. Priests were taught to preach homilies, which are specifically written to illustrate or complement one or more of the lectionary readings at the mass, frequently the gospel.

What exactly does catechetical preaching mean?  Don't worry, it does not mean that homilies will become lectures. But a catechetical homily should teach or inform us about a particular aspect of the Catholic faith. Illustrative stories can still be helpful, but the gospel or the 1st reading may not specifically relate to the topic of the sermon.  At daily mass, for example, if the priest preaches about the life of a saint, it could be a catechetical homily; we learn about the life of the saint, sometimes the controversies when the saint lived or the doctrines the saint might have taught or exemplified by his or her life.

The topics for these homilies are still being selected. Some of them might be grace, or original sin, or topics of belief in the Nicene Creed, etc. It's a noble experiment which I think will be well received. 

 

 


Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Happy Saint John's Day

Isolated_fire_on_white_background

  • The tradition of St. John's Eve bonfires survives in many parts of the world. A bonfire was blessed, old sacramentals were burned, torches lit from the bonfire were carried to fields, flocks and herds to bless their fruitfulness. Light a candle at home or in church to pray for someone; burn old missals, prayer cards; write a resentment down on a piece of paper and burn it. Bury the ash. Give someone hope or pray that God grant you more.
  •  This date traditionally marked the end of a quarter, the books were balanced, debts were settled, rents were due. Donate to charity, settle a dispute, mend a relationship.
  • Collect some flowers for drying or give them to someone.
  • Children who went strawberry picking this day were traditionally accompanied by Mary. The strawberry, a plant which has pure white flowers and mature fruit at the same time, has been a symbol for Mary, who is virgin and mother. Eat some strawberries or pick some.
  • St. John's Wort is in bloom at this time of year. It was gathered to ward off evil spirits and can be used in a tincture to treat depression or enjoyed in a tea. Pray for someone who is depressed or help brighten someone's day.
  • Ashes from the bonfire were saved and mixed with water to bless the sick. Pray for the sick and dying today. 

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist Was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Don't Anger the Queen

2xdw
2 Kgs 11:1-4,9-18,20 Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Did you know there was a Queen of Judah? Queen Athaliah had been married to King Jehoram (from the House of David) and had persuaded him to allow the worship of Baal in Judah along with other pagan practices. When Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah became king but it was not long before he was assassinated by faithful followers of Yahweh. The Queen Mother Athaliah sought revenge by killing all potential successors to the throne, including her own grandchildren. In her rage, she exterminated all but one – Joash, an infant who was protected from the Queen’s murderous rampage and sequestered in the Temple where he was raised by the high priest. Queen Athaliah enjoyed an illegitimate reign of seven years, until a coup was arranged by the priest Jehoiada, who brought the young Joash out of hiding, crowned him rightful king and renewed the Davidic covenant. They slew Queen Athaliah and purged the kingdom of pagan worship. Quite a saga and quite a bloodbath.

Murderous anger is not confined to the pages of the Bible, and its consequences are no less deadly today than centuries ago. We might be tempted to cloak our own anger in righteousness, but righteous anger defends the powerless and right-wises injustice, it never deliberately harms others, defames or detracts from them. It is distinct from vindictiveness, resentment and rage. Righteous anger is a weapon best wielded by God; murderous rage is an armament of bullies.