Monthly Archives: June 2010

“There is Room Up On This Cross With Me. Come On Up, Be Rejected, and Suffer With Me Awhile!” – (NAB Lk 9:18-24)†


Good Morning!  Carpe Diem!  And Especially – HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!!!

I would like to share the following blessing from Magnificat Magazine for this special day:

“God our Father, in your wisdom and love you made all things.  Bless these men, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers.  Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.  Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
  

Due to family commitments, I will not be posting a blog entry for a week or two.  I will be praying for all of you while I spend time with my entire family here in the St. Louis Area, and around the area.

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

“We are not spared dark nights. They are clearly necessary, so that we can learn through suffering, so that we can acquire freedom and maturity and above all else a capacity for sympathy with others.” — Pope Benedict XVI from “Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI, Magnificat”
   

Today’s reflection is about what the “Messiah” truly is!
    

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.'”  Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Messiah of God.”  He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.  He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  (NAB Lk 9:18-24)

 

The incident in today’s Gospel reading is also found in Mark 8:27-33, but without Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ suffering.  According to Mark’s Gospel, this occurred in Caesarea Philippi.   However, Luke places it in the framework of Jesus’ praying.  This is probably because of the importance he wished to assign to prayer in his Gospel.  

This time in His life is a turning point in Jesus’ public ministry.  It seems that the popular opinion among His followers is that He is a prophet.  The Apostles, by contrast, believe Jesus to be the true “Messiah.”  Jesus prohibits His followers from making His messianic status known in order to avoid confusing His reality of being the Messiah with the ambiguous notions of the people’s nature of this role. Or was it simply a reverse-psychology exercise, similar to what most parents do, when we tell our children “don’t did this,” knowing they will do it because we said the word “don’t?!”

I believe Jesus told all with Him to be quiet about His “title,” NOT to keep it a secret from His people; but instead, because they could not truly understand what being the “Messiah” meant at this time.   Jesus ultimately explains His identity as THE one who MUST suffer, die, and be raised on the third day!  Jesus continues, telling all present that “true” discipleship is following on the same path as Him, by suffering and dying; and that true “life” is found only by giving up their lives to God.

Besides Jesus’ praying in this Gospel reading, Luke showed Jesus at prayer seven other times; always during important times in His earthly ministry.  Jesus is found at prayer at his baptism; at the choosing of the Twelve “Apostles;” at the transfiguration; when he teaches his disciples to pray the “Lord’s Prayer;” at the Last Supper; on the Mount of Olives after the “Last Meal;” and on the cross.

The title “Christos” or “Christ,” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “masiah” for “Messiah,” meaning “anointed one.”  Among certain, if not most groups among first-century Palestinian Jews, the title “Messiah” or “Christ” was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel.  Some of the disciples saw Jesus as Elijah coming back to establish a world where the Jewish people, the poor, and those oppressed, lived in peace and liberation from subjugation.  Others saw Jesus as another John the Baptist, teaching us repentance and forgiveness in order to get to heaven.  Yet others saw Jesus a tad overwhelming on the forgiveness concept: and as a prophet of justice and peace in Judeo-Palestinian society of the time.  How would YOU see Jesus if He came today instead of at that time period?

“Lord” is the most frequently used title for Jesus in both Luke’s Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles.  When this word is used for Jesus, it points to his transcendence and supreme authority over all humanity.  Jesus is completely outside of, and far beyond the world; contrasted with the notion that He is also totally manifested IN the world, at the same time!  Jesus is our “King” on earth (the Militant Church), our “King” in heaven (the Triumphant Church), and even in our “King” for those souls in purgatory (the Expectant or Suffering Church).

The political and military connotations of this title are totally removed by Jesus’ words and actions in His ministry.  Instead, Jesus the “Messiah,” the “Christ,” the “Lord,” is one who now brings salvation to all humanity; both Jew and Gentile alike.  He shows love, but wasn’t troubled in dealing with the state of affairs that existed at this time in history.  He now reigns eternally in magnificent glory, and wants all of us to share in His ever-lasting grandeur.  The only way we can do this though, is to totally and unconditionally surrender ourselves to Him.

The Apostle Peter is the spokesman for the other disciples in today’s Gospel reading.  He proclaims that Jesus is both the “Messiah” and “Son of our living God.”  Jesus’ response attributes this proclamation as a “divine revelation” granted only to Peter.  Could this be an early sign that Peter will be the “rock” on which Jesus will build His worldly Church?  Could this be an early confirmation by God that Peter will be the authority for the Church on earth after Jesus’ death and ascension to Heaven?

Self-sacrifice is a significant part of being a member of a family.  Family members are all called at times to change or forego their own plans or desires to accommodate someone else.  How often does a parent bend to a child’s whim or want, solely out of love?  In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples that this self-sacrifice will be no different for those in His Church “family” by saying, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

Please, think about this reflection today.  At dinner tonight, or at another time soon, when all the family is together try discussing ways that each of you makes sacrifices for one another.  Some of the answers may be surprising to you.

“Jesus, show me your glory.  Come into my life and help form me into an instrument of you choosing.  Allow me to do your work, and show your love in this world.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Paulinus of Nola (354?-431)
       

Anyone who is praised in the letters of six or seven saints undoubtedly must be of extraordinary character. Such a person was Paulinus of Nola, correspondent and friend of Augustine, Jerome, Melania, Martin, Gregory and Ambrose.

Born near Bordeaux, he was the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul, who had extensive property in both Gaul and Italy. Paulinus became a distinguished lawyer, holding several public offices in the Roman Empire. With his Spanish wife, Therasia, he retired at an early age to a life of cultured leisure.

The two were baptized by the saintly bishop of Bordeaux and moved to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After many childless years, they had a son who died a week after birth. This occasioned their beginning a life of great austerity and charity, giving away most of their Spanish property. Possibly as a result of this great example, Paulinus was rather unexpectedly ordained a priest at Christmas by the bishop of Barcelona.

He and his wife then moved to Nola, near Naples. He had a great love for St. Felix of Nola, and spent much effort in promoting devotion to this saint. Paulinus gave away most of his remaining property (to the consternation of his relatives) and continued his work for the poor. Supporting a host of debtors, the homeless and other needy people, he lived a monastic life in another part of his home. By popular demand he was made bishop of Nola and guided that diocese for 21 years.

His last years were saddened by the invasion of the Huns. Among his few writings is the earliest extant Christian wedding song.

Comment:

Many of us are tempted to “retire” early in life, after an initial burst of energy. Devotion to Christ and his work is waiting to be done all around us. Paulinus’s life had scarcely begun when he thought it was over, as he took his ease on that estate in Spain. “Man proposes, but God disposes.”

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)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #20:
      

The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

 

 

“Oh, Oh, Look At Me, I Am Doing This for God! Nani-Nani Boo-Boo! ” – Mt 6:1-6, 16-18†


 Today in Catholic History:

† 1161 – Birth of Pope Innocent III (d. 1216)
† 1216 – Death of Pope Innocent III (on his 55th birthday)
† 1846 – The Papal conclave of 1846 concludes. Pope Pius IX is elected pope, beginning the longest reign in the history of the papacy (not counting St. Peter).
† 1955 – Pope Pius XII excommunicates Juan Perón.
† Liturgical Feasts: Saint Benno; Saint John Regis, patron of medical social workers; Saints Julitta and Quiricus; Saint Lutgart of Tongeren (died 1246, patron saint of the Flemish National Movement)

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you fruit and chewed it up for you before giving it to you?” – Anonymous
   

Today’s reflection is a warning against doing good in order to be seen.

 

Jesus said to His Disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.  (NAB Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)

 

Listen to the “nuance” of Jesus’ words when He says “Don’t do this.”  He is warning against doing good in order to be seen, and then gives three examples: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is contrasted with what Jesus demands from His followers.  All three of these spiritual acts (per Jesus) are suppose to be part of a personal relationship we have with God, and should not be made public with the sin of pride.  There are many aspects of our family life that are not made public, and the same should be true of some of our “spiritual life” practices as well.

The hypocrites that Jesus is talking about in this Gospel reading are the Scribes and Pharisees.  The designation “hypocrite” reflects an attitude towards some discontents of Jesus resulting from the many controversies during the time of His ministry.  The Scribes and Pharisees have received their reward in that they desired praise, and thus received what they were looking for by drawing attention to themselves.  Jesus just gave them what they wanted; a short time (relatively) of fame and possibly even fortune, in exchange for eternity separated from God.  Are we Scribes and Pharisees in how we treat are prayer lives, and in how we contribute to our parishes and dioceses?

Our faith has to be one of humility and reverence.  This is ESSENTIAL.  We are giving a gift to God, and thus it is for Him alone.  Who goes to a party and yells out “I gave that to Him, I gave that to Him; Nani-Nani Boo-Boo!”  Only a brat does!  We should have the innocence of a child, but not necessarily the behaviors.

Our gift to God is done as a tribute to the love and mercy He has given to us.  His bouquet of graces has endowed us with many fortunes and gifts in life.  Jesus does not boast about His actions.  As a matter of fact, I have found that Jesus usually works in small and mysterious ways; behind the scenes.  If Jesus is working stealthily, and we are to follow in His footsteps, then it should be obvious that boasting about deeds and bringing attention to our activities is certainly not what He wants of us.

Though we are not required to give 10% of our income to the church, as other church groups call tithing; we are required to support the church “as our status in life” allows.  Yes, this is one of six chief requirements for being a Catholic in full union with the church.  (The others are to attend and possibly even assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; fasting and abstaining on required days; confessing our sins at least once a year; receiving Holy Communion during the Easter time; and observing the laws of the Church concerning marriage.)

The almsgiving Jesus is talking about does not necessarily mean MONEY.  Yes, the rent and utilities have to be paid, so please give as you are able.  Supporting your church certainly entails placing money into the collection basket, but it is much more than that.  Do your children go to the parish school, if available?  If not, do they attend the parish school of religion?  Do you volunteer to help out at the school/parish picnic?  Do you attend church functions: i.e., sports, socials, men’s club, Vincent DePaul Society, etc.?  Do you assist at the weekly Masses as a server, Scripture reader, Greeter, Usher, or Eucharistic Minister?  This list continues: as you can see, there is a lot of potential for involvement in church and parish life. 

The problem I see in our church family today is a mentality of “If I don’t do it, someone else will!”  It is the rare person or family in the parish that volunteers in the parish family today.  The problem this creates is one of a burn-out factor for the person or family.  One person doing everything, wears them out!

 In today’s society, we are permeated by a “me first” behavior and attitude.  Because it is not a priority, a large percentage of Catholics do not go to Mass on a weekly basis; and when they do go (usually only at Easter and Christmas time), mass cannot go fast enough for them.  These same people more than likely will receive the Eucharist without receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior; not realizing (or just not caring) that they are committing another grave sin in doing so.   Not surprisingly, I have truly seen more than half the people attending Mass leave during “communion” time.  I wonder if they realize that the only person to leave the “last meal” early was Judas Iscariot!  It seems like a lot of Catholics want to keep the “Jude Man” company for eternity, in a very warm environment

I have taught 6th grade PSR (parish school of religion for public school children) for the past two years.  I am amazed at the attitude of parents in regards to the importance of a good Catholic basic education, and in their own faith practices. 

I once had a student (6th grade mind you) that whispered to me proudly, while sitting in the pew awaiting for our first mass of the school year to start, “I think I have been here twice before!”  I felt so sorry for the injustice this child had been dealt by his parents.  Another time, two students were brought to my PSR class three weeks into the semester.  The parent said she had not been notified about the start date.  After reminding her that it had been in the bulletin every week of the summer, she responded, “Well that would require me going to mass to get a bulletin!”  Do you believe these parents are doing everything they can to support the parish: financially, or even though their talents and prayers?  Let me answer for you: NO!!

I love to hear people say they are fasting or abstaining by not eating meat on Friday’s during lent, when you know they are VEGETARIANS all year round!  Fasting and abstinence is important practice in our faith, and should not be taken lightly.  Fasting and abstaining is a way to show God (and ourselves) that we are serious about our relationship with Him, and of our wanting to develop a deeper fellowship with Him.  By voluntarily avoiding something, we are taking our eyes off the things of this world, so that we can focus far better on Christ.

The current rules for Catholics require fasting only on Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday; and abstaining on each Friday of Lent as well.  Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 should eat only one full meal on fast days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.  All adult Catholics are required to refrain from something on the “abstinence” days.  You don’t have to stop there: the Catholic Church continues to encourage the faithful to observe a stricter fasting and abstinence habit (preferably year-round), as long as it is not to an extreme point that can be physically, spiritually, or mentally harmful to the individual.

Trivia time:  The English word “breakfast,” means a meal that breaks the fast.  Interestingly, I did not realize the only fast prescribed in the Mosaic law was that for the “Day of Atonement,” known today by a more popular term: “Yom Kippur” (see Lev 16:31), but the practice of regular fasting (according to the Didache) was common in later Judaism.

It would have been fun to be a “fly on the wall” when Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees that “they have received their reward!”  I wonder if He could hold back that coy little smile that says, “You guys are idiots.  Get off your high-horses.”

The statements about a reward found in this Gospel reading illustrate an authentic component of Christian moral teaching for the early Church, and continuing for Catholics today as well.  Possibly to underline the difference between the Christian idea of “reward,” and that of the hypocrites; Jesus used two different Greek verbs (unknown to me: Hey, I’m not a theologian) to express the rewarding of His disciples, versus that of the hypocrites.

So, what DO we do now?  Pray in quiet: and be open to God talking to you.  How often do you talk to God as you would talk to your biological father? We have two ears and one tongue; and God gave them to us in this ratio on purpose.  Give Him time to talk to you.  Another possibility, if you never tried it; go to Eucharistic Adoration.  Realistically, you probably won’t last an entire hour at first, so start with 10 – 15 minutes, and build up to it over some time.  It will become a treasured and wonderful experience if you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.

When you look in a mirror, do you see Jesus looking back at you?  To see Jesus in others, I believe you need to see Jesus in yourself.  When in the light of Christ, which means doing what Catholics are suppose to do, “be happy.”  If uncertain if you are in the light of Christ, reread this reflection.  After all, doing what you are supposed to do will necessitate seeing Jesus in everyone; regardless of their social-economic status.  How can anyone, other than Satan, be gloomy doing what God wants us to do for others, for His Church on Earth, and for Him?

We no longer wear sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance for our sins.  Fasting is a form of prayer, and should be done without any fanfare, and with a smile on your face.  Look at the “hunger pains” you may have as a prayer of gratitude for being closer to our Lord.

Let me add another pet peeve that I witness every year: ashes on forehead, which are typically received on “Ash Wednesday.”  Ashes remind us of our mortality and are an outward sign of our sinfulness on the first day of Lent.  It is not supposed to be a smudge, but instead a cross drawn on the forehead.  However, some of the clergy (like Deacon Dave and Father Syd) at my parish must have failed liturgical art in the seminary.

These three disciplines (prayer, almsgiving, and fasting) go together as “spiritual gadgets” in our “Catholic tool chest.”  The Church calls us to practice all three together, often!  I think of these three practices of Catholic spirituality as blades on the “Papal Swiss Army Knife” of the Church.

“O Lord, In my prayers, make me a hungry child
that I may know solidarity with the poor.

In my fasting, make me an empty bowl
that you may fill the hollow space in me with love.

In my almsgiving, make me a grain of rice
that in the company of others,
my gifts may feed a starving world.

We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Bl. Guy (Guido) Vignotelli

Born 1185 in Cortona, Italy.  He was known for his charities and recieved the Franciscan habit from Francis at Cortona in 1211.  Guy built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, was ordained, became famed for his holiness and miracles and died in the Cortona convent of the Franciscans.

Blessed Guy (Guido) Vignotelli, OFM Tert was born in Cortona, Italy, circa 1185, and died circa 1245.  After hearing a sermon by Saint Francis, the wealthy Guy invited Francis home for a meal.  At the end of the meal he asked to become a disciple.  He liquidated his goods and with Francis distributed the money among the poor.  Guy received the Franciscan habit of a tertiary from the order’s founder, was ordained a priest, built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, and lived there.  He became well known for his holiness and for his miracles, which were said to include resuscitating a girl who had drowned and multiplying food during a famine.  At age 60, Saint Francis appeared to him in a dream and foretold his death–the exact hour at which Guy died.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:

Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

 

“Simon, You Didn’t Kiss My Feet, and the Food Sucked Too!” – Luke 7:36-50†


What a week has it been for me.  It started last Saturday with our Secular Franciscan Regional Chapter.  Though the St. Clare Region is the smallest of the SFO Fraternities in the United States, all 11 Fraternities were represented, and a good time was had by all.  The day ended with Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish: a dynamic church group where you will see a person in a pin-stripe suit and $500 shoes sitting next to a person with a purple Mohawk and 20 pierces on the head hugging each other during the sign of peace.  The adult male server had a pony-tail down to his waist.  I truly enjoyed the love present at this Mass.

Sunday was my Fraternities (Our Lady of Angels) meeting, and we had a new member come for her first time.  I believe she is going to request admission, along with another from last month.  This is exciting for our fraternity had been stagnating for quite some time.

Friday was the “Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus” and Yesterday (Saturday) was the “Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  I literally take to heart (excuse the pun) these two days of remembering the love, mercy, and forgiveness present in our Savior Jesus, and in His (and ours) loving Mother, Mary.

Yesterday (Saturday) was my weekly meeting of our parish fellowship group.  It always starts with a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament,” Mass, and then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass; again before the Blessed Sacrament.  Afterwards we go to our groups “corporate office” (most others know of it as McDonalds) for a couple hours of small talk, religious and parish discussion; and some cholesterol enhancement.

To some this week up in a sentence or two:  It has been a peaceful, thought-provoking, and spiritual week for me.  God is truly great and magnificent with me; I love Him so!

   

Today in Catholic History:

† 1525 – Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy doctrine decreed by the Roman Catholic Church on priests and nuns.
† 1798 – Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is founded.
† 2000 – Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill
† Pope John Paul II in 1981.  He has since converted to Catholicism.
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Anthony of Padua, priest, confessor, Doctor of the Church; Saint Agricius, bishop of Sens, confessor; Saint Leo III, pope; Saint Onuphrius, hermit, confessor; Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, martyr

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give it anyway ~ Bl. Mother Teresa
    

Today’s reflection is about the sinful woman washing and kissing Jesus’ feet.
            

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.  “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.  Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”  Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (NAB Luke 7:36-50)

    

Similar scenes to this Gospel reading can be found in the three other books of the Gospels.  In those versions the anointing takes place in the town of Bethany, near Jerusalem, and just before Passover.  In the other three Gospels, this anointing is related to Jesus being proclaimed “king” by the crowds when he entered Jerusalem; and is related to his being anointed as a preparation for his burial.  In today’s Gospel reading, the anointing takes place in the north, in the town of Galilee, and early in his ministry instead.

In this story of the pardoning of a “sinful” woman responding to God’s gift of forgiveness, we are presented with two different reactions to the “ministry” of Jesus.  A Pharisee named Simon, suspecting Jesus to be a prophet, invites Him to a festive banquet at his house; but the Pharisee’s self-righteousness leads to little forgiveness by God and little love shown towards Jesus.  

The sinful woman, on the other hand, displays a faith in God that led her to search for forgiveness of her sins.  Because so much was forgiven, she now overwhelms Jesus with her display of love.  What a powerful lesson on the relation between forgiveness and love!

The normal posture while eating at a banquet was to recline at the table, on the left side.  The most honored guest was immediately to the right (front) of the host, with his back near or against the host’s chest.  The least honored guest was at the end of the table.  Other oriental banquet customs alluded to in this story include the reception by the host with a kiss (Luke 7:45), washing the feet of the guests (Luke 7:44), and the anointing of the guests’ heads (Luke 7:46).

In learning that Jesus was at the house of the Pharisee Simon, she literally “crashed” the party. Though she was “sinful,” there is no evidence of her being a prostitute but possibly guilty of some other sin.  What can be alluded to, is that she was “unclean” according to first century Palestine societal norms.  In allowing someone deemed unclean by society, Jesus showed that His norms for clean and unclean conflicted with those of the Pharisees.

She brought with her a alabaster flask of ointment.  Ointments were typically very expensive, even for the wealthy of that time. 

She stood behind him, and at his feet.  This position obviously is a position of humility and a sign of submissiveness towards Jesus.  Her weeping was a sign of great love for Him, and of her sorrow for her sins that separated Her from Jesus’ grace.

She began to bathe Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed His feet, and finally anointed the feet with the ointment she had brought with her.  The feet were the dirtiest part of any person of that day.  Most people walked either bare foot or with a rudimentary type of sandal.  With no sewage system, dirt floors in most homes, and all the animals present, one can imagine what people had to tread through in their everyday lives. 

To wash one’s feet was the job of the lowliest slave.  To fall to her knees and wash Jesus’ feet, and then dry them with her hair, as well as to kiss and anoint them showed an adoration, reverence, and love for Jesus that was beyond reproach.  Her actions towards Jesus was, to say the least, generous.

Simon witnessed this event, and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  Simon did not realize that Jesus was greater than a prophet!  Jesus responded by telling him the parable about two people owing money, forgiveness, and love.  As is typical of Jesus’ style, He doesn’t answer Simon’s question Himself, but draws the correct answer out of Simon; allowing him to learn a moral lesson.  Simon is forced to admit that the one who had the bigger debt canceled probably loves the creditor more, when he said, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” 

Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Though Simon followed all societal rules of hospitality towards Jesus, he had not shown any special acts of hospitality either.  In a sense, the generosity of the sinner is contrasted with that of the stingiest of Jesus’ host: Simon.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.”  Jesus rebuked and challenges Simon for his self-righteousness and inadequate love towards Him.  Jesus then commends the woman for her great and unconditional love and self-sacrifice to Him.

This “sinner” performed such acts of love towards Jesus that her sins were forgiveness.  What is intriguing for me is that I believe she received the gift of forgiveness before her encounter with Jesus at Simon’s home.  The woman’s sins were forgiven by the great love she showed toward Jesus, which had to be immense and strongly evident prior to her physically meeting Jesus.  Her humility was only surpassed by her love for the “Messiah.”

Jesus tells the woman, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus in saying this is doing more than healing physical problems as some of the prophets had done. He is forgiving sins!  We hear these exact, or very similar, words at the end of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation.”  The priest, in “Persona Christi,” forgives our sins in the same way that Christ instituted on this day.  To me, this shows a proof that Jesus loves all, the woman of this first century, and the people of this day, with the same intensity.  When we show our love, reverence, and humility towards God’s creation; we are showing our love, reverence, and humility towards Jesus.  Our “tears,” our “hair,” and our “kissing and anointing” are our actions as a citizen of this earth, and our duties as a Catholic.  Do we love Jesus as much as this “sinful” woman?!

The others at table said to themselves, ’Who is this who even forgives sins?’”  The answer is quite simple: a person greater than a prophet did: Jesus, the “Christ” (meaning anointed one), and the “Messiah” (referring to the leader anointed by God.  A future King of Israel physically descended from Davidic lineage who will rule the people of a united tribes of Israel and herald in the Messianic Age of global peace), and the second person of the “Trinity” (meaning GOD)!!

Prayer of Wisdom from St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi

“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree.  It does require something from me: I must follow your commands. 

Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead.  Lead me through the narrow gates.  Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.

Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.”

      

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony of Padua 1195-1231
           

Anthony was born in the year 1195 at Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years the youth had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was devoting himself with great earnestness to study and to the practice of piety in the monastery at Coimbra, when a significant event, which occurred in the year 1220, changed his entire career.

The relics of St. Berard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, were being brought from Africa to Coimbra. At the sight of them, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom as a Franciscan missionary in Africa. In response to his repeated and humble petitions, the permission of his superiors to transfer to the Franciscan Order was reluctantly given. At his departure, one of the canons said to him ironically, “Go, then, perhaps you will become a saint in the new order.” Anthony replied, “Brother, when you hear that I have become a saint, you will praise God for it.”

In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the very same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. But a storm drove the ship to the coast of Sicily, and Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter of the order was held in May, 1221.

As he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, provincial of Romagna, had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli. There Anthony remained nine months occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent, and to his heart’s content he practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.

But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its brilliance. Anthony was sent to Forli with some other brethren, to attend the ceremony of ordination. At the convent there the superior wanted somebody to give an address for the occasion. Everybody excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until Anthony was finally asked to give it. When he, too, excused himself most humbly, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence, learning, and unction that everybody was fairly amazed.

When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave Anthony the mission to preach all over Italy. At the request of the brethren, Anthony was later commissioned also to teach theology, “but in such a manner, St. Francis distinctly wrote, “that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren.”

St. Anthony himself placed greater value on the salvation of souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to exercise his office as preacher along with the work of teaching. The concourse of hearers was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate the audiences and he had to preach in the open air. He wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled with each other. Thieves and usurers made restitution of their ill gotten goods. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics re-entered the pale of the Church, so that Pope Gregory IX called him “the ark of the covenant.”

Once he was preaching at Rimini on the seacoast. He noticed that a group of heretics turned their backs to him and started to leave. Promptly the preacher turned to the sea and called out to the fishes: “Since the heretics do not wish to listen to me, do you come and listen to me!” And marvelous to say, shoals of fish came swimming and thrust their heads out of the water as if to hear the preacher. At this the heretics fell at Anthony’s feet and begged to be instructed in the truth.

The blessings of St. Anthony’s preaching were not confined to Italy. St. Francis sent him to France, where for about three years (1225-1227) he labored with blessed results in the convents of his order as well as o]in the pulpit. In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his spiritual Father, that the spirit of prayer must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching, and heard the confessions of sinners till late in the evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate union with God.

Once a man, at whose home Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms a child of unspeakable beauty surrounded with heavenly light. It was the Child Jesus.

In 1227, Anthony was elected minister provincial of upper Italy; and then he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere practice of penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered, “I see my Lord.” Then he breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231, being only 36 years old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying, “The saint is dead. Anthony is dead.”

Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony’s intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 he was also declared a Doctor of the Church.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed.
by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

        

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“I Told You So Before, & I’ll Tell You Now; Don’t Break the Law! Now, Go Teach All Those Fools” – Mt 5:17-19†


I want to congratulate five friends and brothers/sister in Christ that are celebrating a Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order tonight.  These good Catholic men and women have studied hard, and had a large amount of reflection, meditation, and prayer to get to this point.  They are already great Franciscans, and are ready to travel this much further on their journey of faith, peace, love, and desire to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as St. Francis of Assisi demonstrated.

        

Today in Catholic History:

        
† 373 – Death of Ephrem the Syrian, Christian hymnodist
† 597 – Death of St. Columba, Christian missionary (b. 521)
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Alexander, martyr; Saint Columba; Blessed Columba, abbot, confessor; Saint Diomedes; Saint Edmund, bishop of Canterbury, confessor (Translation day); Saint Efrem (Saint Ephraim), deacon, Doctor of the Church; Saint Liborius, bishop (of LeMans), confessor; Saint Primus and Felicianus, martyrs; Blessed Richard, bishop of Andria, Apulia; Saint Vincent, deacon, martyr; Saint Pelagia, virgin, martyr; Blessed Diana d’Andalo

Quote or Joke of the Day:
       

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. –  St. Augustine

            

Today’s reflection is about the need to follow the laws of old, still present with Jesus.      
     

Jesus said to His Disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (NAB Matthew 5:17-19)

Jesus did not come to change, tinker with, amend, or even abolish the Mosaic laws; nor the words and prophesies of the prophets that came before Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill the all the laws and ALL prophesy spoken about the “Messiah” and a new kingdom to come!  I know (there may be more) of about sixty (60) prophesies from the Old Testament, which was written between 400 and 1500 years before the birth of Jesus.  To fulfill ALL prophesy is a statistic improbability, except for the true “Messiah!”

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the “new kingdom” is a direct “child or offspring” of the old.  Catholics, in my opinion are a “second” generation or cousin of the Judaic religion.  Jesus extols this when He said that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity.  Jesus requires us to follow the laws and “the commandments,” which Moses received from God. 

Maybe this is the key to what Jesus is wanting understood: the Laws were given to us by God via Moses, on Mt. Sinai; and since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the laws He gave us are indeed perfect in nature; and of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted.

Those who break any of the commandments, even in the smallest of ways; or teaches others to do so, are guilty of a moral evil (sin) that affects the entire body of Christ; the human Church (us), along with the divine Holy Trinity.  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church, and separates that individual with sin from God. 

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  The greatest gift one can give another is “of themselves!”  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-28); and do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Mt 7:12).  Peace, love, and humility were the gifts God gave to us, and a must for us to share with all people we come into contact.  A talent or gift not shared is a talent or gift wasted!

To fulfill the Mosaic Law appeared at first, for me, to mean literally following each of the laws according to the slightest detail, until the end of time.  After a time of reflection, I believe that maybe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most one would think, but the dissolution of our understanding and knowledge of the existing universe for a more divinely inspired understanding.  Maybe, we are living in the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  In Isaiah 65:17; 66:22, He declares, “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.)

Jesus’ ministry on earth was the cusp of this “new kingdom,” and His mission did not deviate from previous Old Testament prophesy, and remained within the framework of Mosaic Law; BUT with a significant anticipation of a new age and kingdom to come.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  We are all responsible to help others gain knowledge, and to help “shape” the souls of others, as well as our own. 

We remember more through our eyes than we ever will by what we read or hear.  We need to show all others how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle, by demonstrating a proper Catholic lifestyle at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Just For Today

“Oh, God, give me grace for this day.  Not for a lifetime. Not for this week. Not for tomorrow, but just for this day.

Direct and bless everything I think and speak and do for just this one day, so that I have the gift of grace that comes from Your presence.

Oh God, for today, just for this day, let me live generously & kindly, in a state of grace and goodness that denies my many imperfections, and makes me more like You.  Amen.” – unknown

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Ephrem (circa 306-373)
      

Poet, teacher, orator and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.

Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem, along with many Christians, fled as a refugee to Edessa. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest (and was said to have avoided episcopal consecration by feigning madness!).

He had a prolific pen and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.

It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and, using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”

He preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here he died around 373.

Comment:

Many Catholics still find singing in church a problem, probably because of the rather individualistic piety that they inherited. Yet singing has been a tradition of both the Old and the New Testament. It is an excellent way of expressing and creating a community spirit of unity as well as joy. Ephrem’s hymns, an ancient historian testifies, “lent luster to the Christian assemblies.” We need some modern Ephrems—and cooperating singers—to do the same for our Christian assemblies today.

Quote:

Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.

(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

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)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #9:
     

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

 

“Everyone, Take a Plate of ME, and Some Food Also, Home with You!” – Luke 9:11b-17†


Sunday is the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.”

Sunday’s solemnity is also known as the “Solemnity of Corpus Christi,” meaning “Body of Christ” in Latin.  This feast originated in France in the mid 1200’s, and was transferred to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in the year 1264. This feast is always celebrated on the Thursday following the Trinity Sunday (or in the USA, on the Sunday following.)

We are called to ponder on the Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and on the Body of Christ in the Church.  The Feast of Corpus Christi is commonly used as an opportunity for public Eucharistic processions, serving as a sign of faith and adoration.  

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“By habitually thinking of the presence of God, we succeed in praying twenty-four hours a day” ~ St. Paul of the Cross†
   

This reflection is about feeding the masses and it representing the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.  

Jesus received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured.  As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”  He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”  Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of (about) fifty.”  They did so and made them all sit down.  Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.  They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.   (NAB Luke 9:11b-17)

       

This miracle of feeding the 5000 is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that appears in all four of the Gospels.  It should also remind us of the two feedings found in the Old Testament: the feeding of the Israelites in the desert; and Elisha’s feeding of 100 people with 20 loaves (2 Kings 4:42-44).

Jesus has been out in the open for a while, with His ministry on earth well known in His homeland.  He had become a magnet for people wanting to see, hear and touch Him.  Many of the individuals present this day were there because they were moved by Jesus’ sincerity, hope, love, and faith.  Some were there just out of curiosity; and I am sure some were spying on Him, looking for any “evidence” that could be used against Him to take back to Temple and/or Civic leaders.

Obviously, His enemies were of no concern to Jesus, as He had to “be about His Father’s work (Luke 2:49).”  Jesus healed and cured an unknown amount of believers by, and during, the time of this event.  At minimum, Jesus is already known throughout the region as a prophet, a healer, a teacher; and by a large and growing group, as the “Messiah.”

After a full day of teaching and preaching, Jesus knew the people were tired and hungry (Catholics now have a conniption with one hour masses; picture 10-12 hours).  He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass in groups of 50.  With 5000 men (plus the women and children present with the men that were not counted), there were 100 groups of people of various stages in life sitting all over the nearby countryside.

Taking five simple and small loaves of barley bread and two fish, Jesus looked up holding the food towards heaven, said a blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the Apostles.  They, in turn gave them to the crowds.

The actions of Jesus put into practice that day, recalls the Institution of the Eucharist found in Luke 22:19, when on Holy Thursday, “he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’”

Afterwards, 12 baskets of food were collected.  I wonder if the extra food was thrown away or given to the needy.  Was there a concept of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” back then?

So, what does this all mean?  There is a large amount of symbolism in this gospel reading.  Some of this symbolism is conceptual, historical, social, and even numerological.

Can you picture keeping a crowd of 5000 men, plus women and children interested in what you are saying for a “full day?”  Jesus taught to, healed, and cured the massive crowd in such a way as to keep everyone enthralled.

These crowds were people from all walks of life: prostitutes, farmers, shepherds, merchants, Temple officials, and possibly even Roman soldiers.   This was unheard of at this time and era.  The different classes of people did not mingle with other classes of people.  Shepherds would never socialize with merchants, and no one would be seen in public with a prostitute.  Matter of fact, it was illegal for different social classes to mingle in a lot of cases.  To have these various individuals in such a large number in one place, was such a significant break in societal protocols that it could place Jesus and His disciples in danger of being called renegades to the Roman Empire or the Jewish Temple leadership.

People sat in groups of “50,”comprising “100” groups. In Biblical Numerology (Biblical numerology is the study of numbers in the Bible), fifty is a number possibly meaning “jubilee or deliverance.”  One Hundred is a multiple of 10 (x10).  Ten represents “perfection of a divine order” in biblical numerology.  Put together, these people, to me, are involved in a jubilee or celebration of biblical proportions, resulting in an event that was perfect in divinity!

Barley bread was the most common type of bread made.  It was considered the “ordinary” bread used throughout the year.  Five is a number that could represent divine grace.  The number two, to the Christians of the first century, was a symbol of the second person of the Trinity, the Incarnation of God the Son in the perfection of His humanity and divinity: Jesus Christ.  Presently, “two” also indicates “duality.”

So, “5” loaves of barley bread, and “2” fish could be an indication that through Jesus, the “ordinary,” gains divine grace and can achieve the exceptional: life in eternal happiness, praising and glorifying God in heaven.

Jesus broke the bread.”  What kind of symbolism is involved here?  Perhaps the breaking of the bread represents the end (or breaking) of the “old covenant, and institution of a “new” covenant through Jesus.  Legal contracts during this time in history, and in this area of the world, always involved meals or banquets.  The “breaking of the bread” finalized the agreement reached by the two people. 

“… gave them[the food] to the disciples to set before the crowd”  may be reflective of Jesus’ intention of passing on His duties, on earth, to His disciples.  He freely gave of Himself, and freely passed on His ministry to others so that it could spread and never be without end.  As Jesus passed on the bread (of this new covenant) into the hands of His disciples, His disciples were to continue passing on “Jesus” till He returns again.

The last sentence of this gospel reading is significant to me.  Five loaves of bread, and two fish, through the grace of God, was able to feed 5000+ people to the point of being satiated; and then “they filled twelve wicker baskets” with the leftovers.  From such a small gift to Jesus, a much greater return was made possible.  Twelve, in biblical numerology indicates perfection of government; and is the number of the Church. 

For giving a small amount to the Church and God, we will be rewarded with huge amounts of graces.  Matthew 16:27 states, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct;” and in Luke 6:23 it is written, “… Behold, your reward will be great in heaven …; and in Luke 6:25, “… love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

In receiving communion, one has Christ within them, united by faith and charity, and thus transforming the receivers of the Eucharist into Christ.  Jesus’ divine and pure life intertwines and intermingles with our impure and sinful human lives through the Eucharist.  Our impurities cannot match the perfection of Jesus: He has the capabilities to overpower all our impurities, making us clean, and thus converting us into Christ. The consecrated Eucharist is capable of making any of us divine, since it fills us with His divinity.

There is a great, easy to read book titled, “The Seven Secrets of the Eucharist” written by Vinny Flynn.  It is available at www.mercysong.com.  I HIGHLY recommend this book for all that receive communion, and especially for those that have stopped going to mass.  In it, you will discover “amazing” truths you perhaps never knew about the Eucharist.  This book is full of surprises, and reveals hidden treasures which will DEFINITELY change your life, bringing you closer to Jesus through Holy Communion.

The reason I bring this book up in this reflection, is because of what it did for me.  It placed a new priority in my heart in regards to the Eucharist.  I have a much deeper reverence and need for it now.  Communion has such a rich meaning; much more than standing in a line during mass, and “slapping” that host onto my tongue.  The one big thing I now know is that at every Eucharistic Celebration we are not receiving only Jesus!  At every Eucharist, the entire celestial court and all of heaven are also present to worship and praise our Lord.  When we receive the Eucharist, we are experiencing a little bit of heaven on earth.  My late mother and father, and every deceased person that I have loved, are potentially there with me as I receive Jesus.  How awesome is that!!

The Catholic Bible, and Mr. Flynn’s book, has so many hidden “prizes”!  Please try reading and meditating on a small part of Scripture each and every day. 

Come, Lord, in the fullness of your risen presence, and make yourself known to your people again through the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.  Amen.” –  Lord Robert Runcie
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Sts. Marian and James (d. 259)
     

Often, it’s hard to find much detail from the lives of saints of the early Church. What we know about the third-century martyrs we honor today is likewise minimal. But we do know that they lived and died for the faith. Almost 2,000 years later, that is enough reason to honor them.

Born in North Africa, Marian was a lector or reader; James was a deacon. For their devotion to the faith they suffered during the persecution of Valerian.

Prior to their persecution Marian and James were visited by two bishops who encouraged them in the faith not long before they themselves were martyred. A short time later, Marian and James were arrested and interrogated. The two readily confessed their faith and, for that, were tortured. While in prison they are said to have experienced visions, including one of the two bishops who had visited them earlier.

On the last day of their lives, Marian and James joined other Christians facing martyrdom. They were blindfolded and then put to death. Their bodies were thrown into the water. The year was 259.

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

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #6:
    

They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

 

     

“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.”  They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”  So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

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.  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

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

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 

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:
   

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.