Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
- Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- Today in Catholic History
- Quote of the Day
- Today’s Gospel Reading
- Reflection on Today’s Gospel
- New Translation of the Mass
- A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
- Franciscan Formation Reflection
- Reflection on part of the SFO Rule
Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:
This weekend is Palm Sunday. We are approaching the climax of the preparatory Lenten Season. Please remember to take your “old” palms back to your Church; they will be used to make ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday.
Isn’t it remarkable that a simple item such as a leaf (palm) not only signifies the climax of Jesus power and authority over death for us, but is also used to signify the beginning of next year’s preparations leading up to eternal life. How awesome.
Today in Catholic History:
† 799 – Death of Paul the Deacon, Italian monk and chronicler
† 1055 – Bishop Gebhard van Eichstattt named Pope Victor II
† 1111 – Pope Paschalis II crowns Roman catholic-German King Hendrik II
† 1204 – The Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople.
† 1250 – The Seventh Crusade is defeated in Egypt, Louis IX of France is captured.
† 1256 – The Grand Union of the Augustinian order formed when Pope Alexander IV issues a papal bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae.
† 1346 – Pope Clemens VI declares German emperor Louis of Bavaria, envoy
† 1506 – Birth of Peter Faber, French Jesuit theologian (d. 1546)
† 1556 – Portuguese Marranos who revert back to Judaism burned by order of Pope
† 1570 – Birth of Guy Fawkes, English Catholic conspirator during the “Eighty Years War” (d. 1606)
† 1742 – George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah makes its world-premiere in Dublin, Ireland.
† 1829 – The British Parliament grants freedom of religion to Roman
† 1943 – Catholic University Nijegen closes
† 1986 – Pope John Paul II met Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff at Rome synagogue
† Feasts/Memorials: The Feast Day of St. Martin the Confessor in the Greek Orthodox Church; Saint Martinus I; Saint Hermenegild; Caradoc; Carpus; Maximus; Blessed Ida of Boulogne
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote of the Day:
“The cause of Freedom is the cause of God!” ~ William Lisle Bowles, Edmund Burke
Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ teaching on freedom as found in John’s Gospel.
(NAB John 8:31-42) 31 Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. 36 So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. 38 I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.” 39 They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. 40 But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. 41 You are doing the works of your father!” (So) they said to him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
When the word “freedom” is thrown about in conversations nowadays it appears to be meant as a “freedom to do as I please regardless of others wants, needs, or feelings”!! This concept [and misrepresentation] of “freedom” is simply a pretense, a sham, for being a slave to one’s desires, passions, unruly behaviors, and inappropriate words. It demonstrates, encourages, and strengthens the true power of sin in this world.
Jesus offers His disciples a “true” freedom – - a freedom from the slavery of fear emitting from oneself and others, the slavery of selfishness in one’s own actions, and the freedom from hurtful and immoral desires, passions, and behaviors coming through the power of sin.
The Jewish people’s genealogical and religious origin, which includes Jesus’, is nearly always stated as beginning “before Abraham“. As their destiny developed over many millennia in both religious and societal aspects, God the Father’s “truth”, coming through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, will free them from sin and death.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.’” (John 8:34);
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (John 8:51)
A glaring and potent editorial-type sermon was offered for those who truly followed and recognized Jesus as the “Messiah”, standing there among the vast number of Temple leaders and other Jews who did not recognize His divinity, as He talked to the “Jews who believed in Him”. Evidence of this split in beliefs and identity in Jerusalem-based Judaic society can be found a few verses later, when non-believing Jews are described as plotting to kill Jesus.
“I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.” John 8:37
Jesus Christ is asking much more from His followers than a “shallow” faith. His disciples needed (and still need) a “true” faith, trust, and love in God’s word and promises. God the Father’s words and actions ought to permeate one’s whole life and lifestyle. Only this type of strong faith can bring one to know the “truth” and to become truly free.
The knowledge of truth is not just an “intellectual” knowledge of an academic and scholarly approach. Knowledge of truth is more accurately defined as maturing in one’s soul; of one’s original mustard-seed size faith and trust found in “divine revelation”. Revelation’s climax is found in Jesus Christ’s teachings; it constitutes an authentic, legitimate, and indisputable communication of supernatural life. Earlier in John’s Gospel, the Evangelist writes:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).
Knowing His “truth” truly knows Jesus Christ, Himself, in an intimate and personal way. God became man solely to save us!! “Revelation” is simply realizing that the “inaccessible” God the Father became man; became our Friend; and became our Life in and through Him. (That’s pretty heavy and deep!)
God’s “truth” is the only knowledge which really sets us free. Knowledge of His truth, – - His word, – - removes us from a position of separation, estrangement, and isolation from the Holy Trinity. His truth removes us from a state of sin, a state of slavery to Satan, and a state of attachment to a fallen nature. His truth puts us on the path of friendship, companionship, and intimacy with God and His graces.
In regards to today’s reading, truth is liberating. Liberation is a true grace, empowering us to keep on the path despite our individual and sin-prone limitations and obstructions. Liberation, for the purpose of today’s reading, means one’s “inner” transformation, – - conversion – - which is a consequence of knowing God’s truth. This transformation, this conversion, is a spiritual process in which one matures “in true righteousness and holiness”:
“Put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:24).
As a Secular Franciscan, I have come to realize that we need to seek this “conversion”, this liberation, this freedom in the “truth” on a daily basis.
I believe Jesus greets all people, – - friend and foe, – - with the same words as He spoke in verse 33:
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:33)
These words contain both an essential requirement of faith and a stern warning. It requires an honest relationship, in and of, truth, as a condition for authentic and genuine freedom. We need to also avoid every type of false, deceptive, and misleading freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, and every freedom that fails to enter into the whole “truth” about man and the world.
A verse from Today’s reading was made popular in the 1960’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“The truth will set you free.” (John 8:33)
St. Josemaria Escriva wrote on this particular verse and concept of Christianity:
“How great a truth is this, which opens the way to freedom and gives it meaning throughout our lives. I will sum it up for you, with the joy and certainty which flow from knowing there is a close relationship between God and his creatures. It is the knowledge that we have come from the hands of God, that the Blessed Trinity looks upon us with predilection, that we are children of so wonderful a Father. I ask my Lord to help us decide to take this truth to heart, to dwell upon it day by day; only then will we be acting as free men. Do not forget: anyone who does not realise that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love Our Lord above all else.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 26)
I see an ironic humor in the Jewish peoples answer to Jesus when they said:
We “have never been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33)
Historically, the Jewish people were enslaved almost continuously! First, they were taken into captive by the Egyptians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians, and ending with the Romans in this story’s era of first century AD Palestine. I wonder if John is purposely posing a comparison about slavery to sin and freedom in this particular encounter and event. (I believe he is.)
The Jewish people present near Jesus Christ during this teaching think He is referring to a political bondage and/or “outside” rule when mentioning being “set free.” In fact, we know that historically they had experienced loss of “freedom” many times, yet they never accepted defeat. As God’s “chosen people”, they regarded themselves as automatically free of the moral errors and aberrations believed to be ingrained into the “Gentile” peoples and nations.
Jesus answers the question posed to Him:
“How can you say, ‘You will become free?” (John 8:34),
by telling them:
“A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains” (John 8:35)
I believe Jesus is hinting [quite overtly] to the stories about Abraham’s two sons: Ishmael and Isaac (cf., Genesis 16; 21). Ishmael is born of a slave woman, and given no part in Abraham’s inheritance. Isaac, a son of a free woman, would be the heir to God’s promises. Jesus’ answer also referred to the Mosaic Law requiring release of one’s slave after six years, described in the Torah (Old Testament):
“When you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall be given his freedom without cost.” (Exodus 21:2);
“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, sells himself to you, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year you shall dismiss him from your service, a free man.” (Deuteronomy 15:12).
The Jewish people thought true freedom came with simply belonging to the “chosen” people of God Almighty. Jesus Christ retorted that it is not enough to simply belong to the genealogical line of Abraham. True freedom actually consists in not being slaves of sin. Sadly, most of the Jews present in today’s reading did not understand the redemptive work Jesus Christ was (and is) doing, and which will reach its climax in His death on that Holy Tree of Redemption and His Resurrection.
A human and physical descent from Abraham is NOT enough for inheriting God the Father’s promises and for attaining salvation. To inherit Gods promises, to attain salvation with and from God the Father, one must identify with Jesus Christ, the “true” and “Only Begotten Son of God the Father”; the only “One” who can make us sons and daughters of God, and thereby bring us to “true” freedom and paradise. To inherit God the Father’s promises and to attain salvation, one must identify with Jesus Christ through one’s faith and character.
“Freedom finds its true meaning when it is put to the service of the truth which redeems, when it is spent in seeking God’s infinite Love which liberates us from all forms of slavery. Each passing day increases my yearning to proclaim to the four winds this inexhaustible treasure that belongs to Christianity: ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God!’
Where does our freedom come from? It comes from Christ Our Lord. This is the freedom with which he has ransomed us. That is why he teaches, ‘if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’. We Christians do not have to ask anyone to tell us the true meaning of this gift, because the only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 27, 35)
Jesus Christ’s inquisitors in this story are spiritually very far away from being “true” children of Abraham. They did not rejoice in Jesus’ presence. Abraham rejoiced to see the “Messiah”:
“Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56).
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3).
And, Abraham’s faith led him to act without any doubt whatsoever, attaining the “joy” of eternal blessedness:
“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11);
“And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’” (Luke 16:24);
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:21-24).
In verse 38, Jesus refers to “the Father” twice. We know that He is talking about God the Father (and not the “God Father”). However, I believe the second part of the same verse, “do what you have heard from the Father” is an ironic, cynical, and sarcastic reference to a heredity of the Jews from the devil. Another way of saying this particular verse can be more easily understood as, “You do what you have heard from [your] father.” Jesus’ words are made clear two verses further, verse 44:
“You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).
Those who live by faith are the “true” sons and daughters of Abraham. Like him, they will be blessed by God the Father:
“Realize then that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham. Scripture, which saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, ‘Through you shall all the nations be blessed.’ Consequently, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith.” (Galatians 3:7-9)
In fact, the very people who are arguing with Jesus Christ have not only rejected His – - God’s – - teachings, their very actions indicate they have a radically different relationship to “God” than that of Abraham. These people, who are arguing and plotting against Jesus Christ, have a false relationship which is instead actually to Satan.
Here is some “food for thought”: the false security and twisted belief in Mosaic Law which these Jewish people believed in being descended from Abraham as an “automatic” inclusion in God’s kingdom has a parallel. The Christian who is comfortable, content, and satisfied with being baptized and then observing very few religious observances (“C&E” Catholics – meaning Christmas and Easter). Christians not being observant to Church requirements are not living up to a faith, love, and trust God wants from all His followers.
(I realize I am probably preaching to the “choir” in talking about my frustrations in the lack of observances from many “Catholics” within the Catholic Church. However, I felt a need to write this. So please send this reflection blog to all your friends, and enemies, especially those not in communion with the Catholic Church.)
What are the “works” Jesus attaches to Abraham in verse 39? We [should] know Abraham was declared by God to be the father of all the “chosen” people in the Old Covenant kingdom. Paul says that in this New Covenant, with the coming of Jesus Christ, Abraham’s fatherhood – - his family lineage – - has now extended to those who believe, yet are not “circumcised”, the Gentile Christian Catholics who follow the same path of faith as Abraham. An excellent resource for this explanation can be found in Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome (Book of Romans) written sometime between the years 56-58 AD, and the Book of James written by an unknown person between the years 90-100 AD:
“And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal on the righteousness received through faith while he was uncircumcised. Thus he was to be the father of all the uncircumcised who believe, so that to them (also) righteousness might be credited, as well as the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised, but also follow the path of faith that our father Abraham walked while still uncircumcised. It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. For if those who adhere to the law are the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist.” (Romans 4:11-17);
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’” (James 2:21-23).
The attitude of these Jewish questioners of Jesus Christ was in direct opposition and contradiction of their claim to be children of God. Otherwise, they would have accepted Jesus Christ as the “One” sent by God the Father. In rejecting the Only-begotten Son, they became supporters, sons and daughters of God’s enemy: Satan.
We must be careful, and we must always remember that Satan opposes our Lord Jesus Christ in all ways, and for all time. Satan is the “father of lies” who seduced our first parents, Adam and Eve. He is hungry for your soul solely so God can be deprived. He is still, to this day, continuing to deceive any and all those who yield – - even in the slightest degree – - to his temptations.
Jesus Christ set us free from the power of sin with His Coming, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. Through, with, and in the power of His Holy Spirit, indwelling within us, we can walk in His path of trust, love, and sweet holiness. If we would only listen to the words of Jesus with a humble, contrite, and teachable inner attitude, heart, and soul, He will give us the grace and the power to follow in His example on our personal and unique path to holiness – - to paradise. Ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to open your ears to His word that you may be attentive to the Holy Trinities influence and divine power.
Jesus Christ came to proclaim, and to accomplish the “will of His Father”, God. Jesus was not spared from the Holy Tree of Redemption (and Salvation) which He lovingly embraced with a pure love and willing attitude, solely for OUR benefit! His absolute surrender and obedience to His Father is in response, and as a payment, solely to release all of us from Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
God the Father crowned Jesus with the crown of victory over sin, death, and Satan’s power. With a crown of thorns as His symbol of kingship, Jesus shows us the way to a true freedom in openly surrendering our heart, mind, soul, and free-will to a magnificent, all-powerful, merciful, and loving God. What God the Father offers us is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, in this world and the next. Holy Scripture promises such an offering:
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17).
Why do some “believers” NOT want to delight in the warmth and pure love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? The Holy Trinity experiences a profound “joy” when seeing OUR pleasure and delight in doing God’s will with obedience, a proper spirit, and out of pure love for God and for others of His creation. Offer yourself to Him daily in what you do and say. The reward is too great, even for the greatest among us.
“A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA”
“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.
Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son. Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.
Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people. Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.
Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life. Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
New Translation of the Mass
In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass. It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist. The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades. It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.
The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text. At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning. At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand. Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole. It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.
In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.
The “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely. More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal. It will now say, “I have greatly sinned” and later adds “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Martin I (d. 655)
When Martin I became pope in 649, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influential Church leader in the eastern Christian world. The struggles that existed within the Church at that time were magnified by the close cooperation of emperor and patriarch.
A teaching, strongly supported in the East, held that Christ had no human will. Twice emperors had officially favored this position, Heraclius by publishing a formula of faith and Constans II by silencing the issue of one or two wills in Christ.
Shortly after assuming the office of the papacy (which he did without first being confirmed by the emperor), Martin held a council at the Lateran in which the imperial documents were censured, and in which the patriarch of Constantinople and two of his predecessors were condemned. Constans II, in response, tried first to turn bishops and people against the pope.
Failing in this and in an attempt to kill the pope, the emperor sent troops to Rome to seize Martin and to bring him back to Constantinople. Martin, already in poor health, offered no resistance, returned with the exarch Calliopas and was then submitted to various imprisonments, tortures and hardships. Although condemned to death and with some of the torture imposed already carried out, Martin was saved from execution by the pleas of a repentant Paul, patriarch of Constantinople, who was himself gravely ill.
Martin died shortly thereafter, tortures and cruel treatment having taken their toll. He is the last of the early popes to be venerated as a martyr.
The real significance of the word martyr comes not from the dying but from the witnessing, which the word means in its derivation. People who are willing to give up everything, their most precious possessions, their very lives, put a supreme value on the cause or belief for which they sacrifice. Martyrdom, dying for the faith, is an incidental extreme to which some have had to go to manifest their belief in Christ. A living faith, a life that exemplifies Christ’s teaching throughout, and that in spite of difficulties, is required of all Christians. Martin might have cut corners as a way of easing his lot, to make some accommodations with the civil rulers.
The breviary of the Orthodox Church pays tribute to Martin: “Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith…sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error…true reprover of heresy…foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion…. Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
How does the Mass (and Baptism?) prepare us for death, & for resurrection?
In facing the trials of pain, cancer, and other diseases, it is a natural question that arises in serious illness: “Why me?” How would (or do) you answer this question?
Ending of the Creed is, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body”. Do you really believe this, and prepare for it?
13. As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.
14. Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.