“Happy Birth Day To Jesus Christ!” – John 1:1-18†


The Nativity of the Lord
(CHRISTinMASS)—
Mass During the Day

 Today’s Content:

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • Catholic Apologetics
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

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Today in Catholic History:    

†  1 AD – First Christmas, according to calendar maker Dionysus Exigus.
†  795 – Death of Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95)
†  800 – Pope Leo III crowns Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Roman emperor
†  1046 – Pope Clemens VI crowns Henry III Roman Catholic-German emperor
†  1048 – Parliament of Worms: Emperor Henry III names his cousin count Bruno van Egisheim/Dagsburg as Pope Leo IX
†  1130 – Anti-pope Anacletus II crowns Roger II the Norman, king of Sicily
†  1156 – Peter the Venerable, Benedictine abbot of Cluny (b. c. 1092)
†  1223 – St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene.
†  1717 – Birth of Pius VI, [Giovanni A Braschi], Italy, Pope (1775-99)
†  1775 – Pope Pius VI publishes encyclical on the problems of the pontificate
†  1916 -  Death of St. Albert Chmielowski, Polish Catholic saint (b. 1845)
†  1955 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical on sacred music & popular music

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”

http://www.historyorb.com)

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about John’s announcement that, in and through Jesus Christ, the “Word” became flesh and dwelt (dwells) among us.

 

(NAB John 1:1-18) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning with God.  3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 5 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  6 A man named John was sent from God.  7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  11 He came to what was his own, but his own peopledid not accept him.  12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  15John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Christmas Feast Day, four Masses are celebrated; they are the vigil Mass, the Midnight Mass, the morning Mass and the Mass during the day.  Each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate aspects of Christ’s birth.  The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.  The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Luke’s Gospel.  The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth through the shepherds’ visit to the infant Jesus.  The Mass during the day is from John.  However, in each of these Gospel readings, we hear different portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel reading for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John’s Gospel.  This reading is not an infancy narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Instead, John’s Gospel begins at “the beginning”, and presents the “Creation story” as the basis for announcing Jesus’ Incarnation.  This is the subject matter of my reflection today.

 

John’s prologue (introduction) states the main themes of his Gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate “Logos” (the “Word” of God) who reveals and brings to light God the Father.  The essence of John’s Gospel today (John 1:15, 1011, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by a “stair step parallelism,” in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next.  Here’s an example:

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

This single verse, in its “stair step” design, the Holy Spirit invites us to view Jesus’ birth from God the Father’s perspective.  Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ birth was the result of God the Father’s initiative.  However, John’s Gospel also highlights that His incarnate birth was His own divine intention from the very beginning as well – - from the very first moment of Creation.  Notice that from this single verse, in this stair step form, theologians have discovered a great very deal of theology, philosophy, and poetic form.  Also notice that John begins his testimony with the very first words of the Old Testament:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … (Genesis 1:1).

Genesis 1:1 AND John 1:1 are intentional parallels in content, chapter, and verse.  SO COOL!!

 

I find the verb, “was”, following the phrase “In the beginning”, in today’s reading, extremely interesting and deeply theological.  This verb (“was”) is used three times with three different meanings in just this one verse:

First, existence (subsistence, being, life, reality, way of life);
Second, relationship (association, connection, and affiliation);
and,
Third, predication (something affirmed, rather than identification or recognition).

 

The “Word” (the meaning of the Greek word, “logos”) is a term combining three specific aspects:

1) God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis);
2) Personified preexistent “wisdom” as the instrument of God’s creative practical counsel (such as is found in Proverbs);
And,
3) The ultimate intelligibility (meaningfulness) of reality (from Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The term “Logos” (“Word”) is borrowed from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought.  “With God” is a prepositional phrase connoting both a relationship and a communication with an other: OUR Father expressing Himself (His “Word”) in heaven, on Earth, and within each of us.  In Greek (Hellenistic) thought, the “logos” was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity.   In Jewish thought, this phrase also describes God the Father taking “action”, such as in the Creation story.  John, and others in the early Church, adopted this active language to describe God’s incarnation in Jesus (his “Word” becoming flesh).  The term (logos) was then used to express the mystery of a Trinitarian faith as one God in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  The “Word” – - “Logos” – - was to be equated with the Second Person, Jesus Christ Himself.  John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving “Word” which has come to earth in human form.  Jesus is the wisdom and power of God the Father, who created the world and sustains it; and who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in, with, and through Himself.  

Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God:

What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed.” (from an early church antiphon used during Morning Prayer). 

The “’Word’ of God” was a common expression among the Jewish people.  God’s “Word” in the Old Testament is truly an active, creative, and dynamic “Word”.  Many Old Testament examples extol His presence WORKING in, with, and through His creations:

By the LORD’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6);

He sends forth his commands to the earth; His word runs swiftly(Psalm 147:15);

“God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy, you who have made all things by your word” (Wisdom 9:1);

 “Is not my word like fire — oracle of the LORD — like a hammer shattering rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

Finally, God’s word is also equated with His wisdom:

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding.” (Proverbs 3:19).

In addition, the Book of Wisdom describes “wisdom” as God’s eternal, creative, and illuminating power.  Both “Word” and “wisdom” are seen as one and the same:

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne leapt into the doomed land, fierce warrior bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree, and alighted, and filled every place with death,** and touched heaven, while standing upon the earth.” (Wisdom 18:14-16).

** I believe this really refers to Jesus’ life-producing death, and His Resurrection enabling Him to “touch heaven, while standing upon the earth.”  

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Verse six of John’s reading today is:

“ A man named John was sent from God.  ” (John 1:6).

John talks about John the Baptist, who was sent – - just as Jesus was “sent” – for a divine mission.  After this reading, other references to John the Baptist in John’s Gospel will go on to emphasize the differences between John the Baptist and Jesus, as well as John the Baptist’s subordinate role to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist “came for testimony”.  John the evangelist’s testimony portrays Jesus Christ as if on trial throughout His entire ministry.  John’s theme is Jesus, in His entire ministry, testifying to the acting out in the actions of John the Baptist, the freeing of Samaritan woman, His acting out the Jewish Scriptures and the works of the “Messiah”, the desire of the crowds following Him, the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and even upon us.

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Let’s go on to another verse: 

He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11).

What do we think is meant by this verse?  “What was his own, but his own people” literally means “His own property/possession” (meaning ALL Israel), “His own people” (the Israelites).  So, reading it this way, it says.”He came to Israel, but the Israelites did not accept Him.”

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Verse 14 is another inspired sequence of ideas expressing a great deal of theology, philosophy, and poetry:

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The ‘Word’ became flesh” indicates the “whole person”.  John used this phrase in today’s reading to refute a “docetic” tendency which was a first century heresy asserting that Jesus was not fully human.  The Apostles’ complete belief is expressed in the following verses:

This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God” (1 John 4:2),

And,

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7).

So, the phrase “come in the flesh, coming in the flesh” meant for John that Jesus of Nazareth was truly and fully human.

 

The second idea expressed by John, “made His dwelling among us”, literally means to “pitch His tent or tabernacle” in the very midst of us.  God’s presence was the tabernacle or tent of meeting in the desert described in the Old Testament; the place of God’s personal presence among His people:

They are to make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst.  According to all that I show you regarding the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of its furnishings, so you are to make it.” (Exodus 25:89).

Today, the “Incarnate Word” – - JESUS CHRIST – - is the NEW mode of God’s personal presence within, and among His people.  

 

John’s third idea is expressed in the single “Word”, “Glory”.  Glory” is God the Father’s visible manifestation of magnificence and splendor in power.  His “Glory” filled the tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34).

And, His Glory also filled the temple at another time:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:1011).

God’s “glory” is now centered in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  The phrase, “the Father’s only Son” not only means “Only One” but also includes a filial (child to parent) relationship with God the Father. 

If we are going to behold the “glory” of God we will do it through Jesus Christ:

 “Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of His divinity” (2 Peter 1:4).

The “Logos” (the “Word”) is thus “only SonAND God, but NOT Father/God.

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Verse 15:

John testified to him and cried out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, “The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me”’” (John 1:15)

is interposed between John 1:14 and John 1:16 in order to link His incarnation and ministry to “His Grace”, surpassing the grace given to the Israelites. Thus, through Jesus Christ, His grace (and His Father’s) becomes visible and available for ALL peoples, ALL nations.  John the Baptist thought so highly of the human/divine Jesus that He even said in today’s reading:

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” (John 1:30)

Jesus’ coming initiates “grace in place of grace”.  What verse 16 signifies is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant (cf., Jeremiah 31:31-34, in which God promises a new covenant.)  John recognizes that Jesus Christ brought truth and grace of God’s promises to Jeremiah in His very own person:

“While the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).

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In this “prologue” (beginning introduction) of John’s Gospel, the main themes of his Gospel are introduced and presented in dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief.  

We also see in John’s prologue a unique aspect of his Gospel; the theme of “testimony”.  John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light.  Others in John’s Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus.  We are invited to accept and believe this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God.  But even more directly, Jesus’ own actions and words will themselves testify to His identity with God the Father as God’s “Incarnate Word”.

Thinking about Jesus’ birth in these dual theological and worldly terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the “darkness” of winter.  At this time, nature itself seems to be suggestive to us of our darkness through sin.  Into this darkness – - in the midst of our sinfulness – - God comes to dwell among us in the human AND divine Son, Jesus Christ.  John’s Gospel reminds us that, through Jesus’ Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us His special, chosen children.

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To summarize, every Christmas we celebrate the greatest of “mysteries”: God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  We call this mystery the “Incarnation” (the word means “to take on flesh”), and it changes everything and every one of us.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we can also look upon the Nativity from God the Father’s perspective, better appreciating the significance of His Incarnation.  The mystery we proclaim at Christmas is one of God – - the very God who created all things from nothing and who is light Himself – - taking on OUR humanity in order to transform and save us from the darkness of sin.  Through His birth among us, we see the face of God and become His own children.  This awesome mystery is one we surely should adore, and not just at the end of the year, but each and every day.

As you look at your Nativity set, think about how familiar you are with this beautiful scene.  Recall the details of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Realize and understand that the Gospel of John invites us to consider Jesus’ birth from a different perspective, God the Father’s.

Today’s reading reminds me (and hopefully you) that the image we see in our Nativity set is a remarkable sight, event, and experience.  God the Father made Himself at home with us by sending His “Word”, taking on flesh and becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ.  Reflect on some of the events from today’s Gospel reading which happened – - for our sake – - because Jesus came to dwell among us: Light overcame darkness; truth revealed falsehood; life conquered death; and belief replaced unbelief.  We can see God’s “glory” in Jesus; and believing, we become as children of God because, through our faith in Him, we have become like Him, children of His Father.  

Please thank God for this mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation that we received, solely because Jesus was born among us.

MERRY CHRISTinMASS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Glory Be to the Father

(Doxology)

“Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Faith and Works, Part 1

 “‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew. 7:21) RSV.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew. 7:21) KJV.

 

“Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) RSV.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46) KJV.

 

 “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans. 2:6-8) RSV

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans. 2:6-8) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord

On this day the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek.  We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-Son, help round out the scene.

But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill.  A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.

On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “un-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith.  And, like Mary and the shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.

Comment: The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism.  If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point.  It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David.  It climaxes with the birth of Jesus.  From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people.  Praise God!

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)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues and Poverty

(Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

Why did Saint Francis call poverty a royal virtue?

In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where is poverty described or listed as a virtue?  And, what does this tell us?

Which virtues were the special gifts given to you at your Confirmation? … At your Baptism?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

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