It is a beautiful Sunday morning. I hope all my Benedictine friends have a great day celebrating the founding of their religious order in the Catholic Church.
My Secular Franciscan Order’s Fraternity is having our monthly meeting today. We have a new inquirer, and I excited to travel with her on our journey in the Franciscan Order. Anyone interested in the SFO, or even just have questions, please let me know. Can’t find a better group of fun and pious people; and being Franciscan’s, it seems there is always food present.
Today in Catholic History:
† Feast Day of Saint Olga (first Russian Saint)
† Feast Day of Saint Benedict (founder of the Benedictine Order)
Quote or Joke of the Day:
The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
Today’s reflection is about the story of the “Good Samaritan.”
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ (NRSV Luke 10:25-37)
In response to questioning from a Jewish “Lawyer” about inheriting eternal life, Jesus gets the “Lawyer” to respond that what is written in the law comes from Deuteronomy 6:5: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In this Old Testament bible verse, one of the most important prayers in Judaism and said twice a day in Jesus’ time, confirms that love of God and neighbor are what is required for eternal life. Jesus’ response to this official was just as pure and simple as this verse from Deuteronomy above; “Do this and you will live.”
When questioning continued, with an attempt to trap Jesus, He illustrated the superiority of love over legal rhetoric through the parable about the “good” Samaritan, found only in Luke’s Gospel. Samaria was the territory between Judea and Galilee west of the Jordan River. Samaritans were descendents of Jews from the northern part of the country, who had intermarried with Gentiles and did not worship in Jerusalem. For these cultural and religious reasons, the Samaritans and the Jews had a bitter hatred of each other.
This “lawyer” is obviously an expert in the Mosaic Law, and was probably a “Scribe.” Scribes were Jewish temple leaders that were extensively trained in oral interpretation of the written law, and were adversaries of Jesus because Jesus questioned their interpretations and judgments.
As an example, remember the story of Jesus asking for water from a Samaritan woman at the well. What a dangerous thing to carry out; and explicit statement to make, with this action. Jews used nothing in common with Samaritans. Samaritan women were regarded by Jews as ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled. For a Samaritan to touch a Jew was diabolical, for it made the Jewish person ritually unclean as well. Jesus, taking a cup of water from her was, in essence, a slap to Jewish Law.
Earlier in Luke’s gospel (the Sermon on the Plain found in 6:27-36), Jesus talked about the “law of love.” In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus proclaimed that the Samaritan, a person the temple lawyer would have considered ritually impure, actually exemplified the love we should offer to others much more than the Priest and Levite did. The Temple lawyer (or Scribe) had to bitterly admit that the identity of the “neighbor” was a Samaritan, a despised person to the Jewish faith and people. For the Jewish people, and especially the Temple officials, the Priest and Levite being religious representatives of Judaism, would have been the expected models of the “neighbor.”
Where does all this hatred in the Jewish people come from, and is it in Scripture? There is no actual Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy, but the “neighbor” of the love commandment was understood as only one’s fellow countryman. Hatred for others outside your group could be interpreted from Old Testament and Dead Sea Scroll Passages as being a correct attitude. Psalm 139:19-22 states (O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil! Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.). The Qumran 1QS 9:21 reads (And these are the norms of conduct for the man of understanding in these times, concerning what he must love and how he must hate: Everlasting hatred for all the men of the “Pit” [those who do not belong to the Essene community] because of their spirit of hoarding!).
Where does hatred come from today? It is all around us. With groups such as Al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other “Jihad” groups; the Ku Klux Klan; Neo-Nazi’s; and the Black Panther’s, hatred is spread in a separatist and destructive style.
Relations sometimes even erupt in every day religion. Issues involving Protestant, Catholic, and Judaic groups seem to be an everyday occurrence; with clear and specific beliefs by some that each other group may be doomed to eternal hell for not believing exactly the same way as they do. And we definitely cannot forget the Pro-Abortion, Pro-Capital Punishment, Pro- Euthanasia versus Pro-life conundrum.
How do I, [and we], get over all of our issues to live in harmony? How can I, [and we], make a difference in this world, in order to establish peace throughout the lands? Start small! I say the following prayer every day: “Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name.” The key is to keep God in your hearts, and on your lips.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is extending the “love commandment” to any enemy, and to the persecutor. Jesus demands that His disciples, being children of God, must imitate the example of His Father in heaven: God the Creator, who daily offers His gifts of sun and rain to both the good and the bad equally.
Jesus’ disciples (then and now) must not be content with merely displaying the “usual” standards of conduct for their status in society. What Jesus taught (though I am not even close to being worthy of summarizing anything Jesus taught), is that love for God and each other is basically genetic in origin, and natural in all of us. It is already in our hearts and consciousness. Love of God and each other is not a complex set of theological rhetoric or formulas.
We do not choose to do good for others. We actually have to choose to be malevolent, or even ignore the person, when we witness one in need of assistance. For whatever reason, (even if it is a realistic reason), we make a definite decision NOT to help when we see a need; and sometimes we choose to do the exact opposite of helping by encouraging further distress to an individual. Think about this the next time you see a person fall, hurt, or otherwise in need: and you do not act; be it for safety, lack of knowledge, time constraints, or for some other reason. Remember this also the next time you see someone threatening to jump from a high obstacle (even on television) and hear, “Go ahead, jump, jump, jump!”
Jesus, with this parable, utterly destroys the notion that social definitions such as class, religion, gender, or ethnicity determines who our neighbor will be. A neighbor, through Jesus, is now defined as a person who acts with compassion towards another. It is no longer “who” deserves to be loved as I love myself, but that I become a person who treats everyone with compassion, regardless of their social status.
The last sentence of this Gospel Reading threw me for a loop! Jesus is an extremely smart and cunning person; who would make a great lawyer today: He knew how to use His words to play with people. When He said “Go and do likewise,” He is explicitly saying that it is not enough to just understand loving God and each other; the “doing” is important as well. If He were to make this point today, He would probably have say something like, “If you are going to talk the talk, then you have to walk the walk!”
With the English Translation of the new “GIRM” (General Instructions of the Roman Mass) coming out within the next year, the dismissal at Mass is changing to the more accurate vernacular found in Scripture. The words presently are, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” The Priest, with the upcoming changes in the Mass, will have the option to say either, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” It is now time to walk that walk! Do as St. Francis of Assisi did; go up to the metaphoric “leper” to hug and feed him. In other words, try to find Jesus in everyone: family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies; and then ACT on that love.
“Act of Love”
“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.
I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)
Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.
Veronica was born in Mercatelli. It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus. Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.
At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins. Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun. In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary, sacristy and served as portress. At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years. When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.
Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation. She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days. Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.
Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death. Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart. She offered her sufferings for the missions. Veronica was canonized in 1839.
Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica? God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives. The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before. It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.
Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart. And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211).
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 #11:
Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.
Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.