Monthly Archives: August 2010

“Jesus was Caught by a Red-Light Camera, But Who Is Going to Give HIM the Ticket?!” – Luke 14:1, 7-14†


  

 

Today is going to be a beautiful day in the St. Louis area.  I hope all have a spiritual day as well.  On Facebook yesterday, I was drawn into a “debate” over abstinence education versus prophylactic education.  Someone I consider a long-term friend, and already known as ultra-“progressive,” felt strongly that abstinence education is not only wrong, but also considered abstinence a joke in today’s society. 

When given information from LDI (Life Decisions International) that abstinence education was proven effective, and that the US Government tried to cover up its own study, he still persisted that abstinence will not work.  He wrote: “so ignore the facts, cloak sexuality in some divine gifting scenario, and hope such a priority will resonate with teens.  Good luck with that.  My children understand that sexual activity leads to parenthood, so if they are willing to accept that… consequence, then they are ready to understand contraception and why that is a good idea.  Marriage is not about sex.  Marriage is about money, assets, property and security. I think your values are awesome to attain and to maintain.  If they work for your family then good for you. But abstinence programs don’t work unless condoms are readily available…” 

My concern is that he left out the most important aspect of marriage: LOVE!!  And, sexuality IS a divinely magnificent gift, a grace, from God!  With love, anything is possible.  Please keep this person in your prayers and LOVE today.

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1799 – Death of Pope Pius VI (b. 1717)
†   1844 – Death of Edmund Ignatius Rice, Irish founder of the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers (b. 1762)
†   Liturgical Feast Day: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Church commemorate the beheading of John the Baptist with a feast day.

 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

   

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Q:     What brand of car does Jesus drive?
A:     A “Christ-ler!”

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ parable on humility; instructing us that when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

 

1 On a Sabbath he [Jesus] went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.  7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.  8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.  10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  12 Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.  13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (NAB Luke 14:1, 7-14)

 

Was there such a thing as “red-light” cameras during the days of Jesus’ time on earth in human form?  Probably not, BUT he still had many “video cameras” trained on Him continuously during His adult ministry.  People observed Him incessantly, carefully, and with an eye (excuse the pun) to find any error, as well as any revelation that He uttered.  With many eyes trained on Him, many tongues followed; and these tongues wagged continuously, especially at lunch and dinner time. 

Meals played an important role in the society in which Jesus lived. More than just a time for sharing nourishment, meals were a time to share ideas and to develop and shape different aspects of social relationships.  A great deal of societal life — business, politics, romance, and religion — was discussed, argued, and debated over meals.  “Banquets” such as a wedding feast, could last for seven days.  That’s a lot of food and discussion!  In my home, I live by the “fresh fish” philosophy for guests:  Guests, like fresh fish, are always welcome, but after three days they both start to smell!

Jesus sets a banquet and invites us to this actual place of honor every day of the week; and it is here on earth right now!  It is the EUCHARIST, and Jesus is our host!  Imagine this: When you’re at Mass, let the image of Jesus hosting a banquet fill your imagination, letting it seep into your being.  In the presence of the Eucharist — JESUS, we are sitting next to the Lord, the angels, and all our loved ones that have preceded us to His heavenly glory.  How will the image of a heavenly banquet here on earth at this moment change the effect of the liturgy on you now, and in the future? (For a preview please read Hebrews 12:22-24.)

In Luke’s Gospel, the places where a person ate, such as at the home of a tax collector as in Luke 5:29; the people with whom a person ate, like the sinners in Luke 5:30; whether a person washed before eating such as in Luke 11:38; and, as in the case here, the place where a person reclines while eating, are all important.  Luke discloses that Jesus tells a parable; but this “story” is in reality prudent advice to both guests and hosts about finding true happiness at the heavenly banquet.

This banquet scene, this parable, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Luke provides an opportunity for Jesus to teach on humility and presents a setting to display his interest in Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor of society.  The poor in Luke’s gospel are associated with the downtrodden, the oppressed, the afflicted, the forgotten, and the neglected; it is they who accept Jesus’ message of salvation.  Hmm, “the meek will inherit the inherit earth!” (Matthew 5:5)

Jesus’ ministry to the poor and downtrodden is evident in other writings of Luke.  In Luke 4: 18-19, Luke describes Jesus reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Jesus, in reading that “the Lord is upon Him” is declaring Himself as a prophet whose ministry is similar to the great prophets Elijah and Elisha and all the prophets recognized as the one’s anointed to speak and reveal God’s law.  Jesus did so when He said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

In another of his chapters, Luke 6: 20-26, Jesus — during His “Sermon on the Mount” (the “Beatitudes”) and the parable of the “two houses” — described blessings and woes as relevant today as then, with the current economic and social conditions of humanity.  Today there are still the poor and the rich, the hungry and the satisfied, those grieving and those laughing, the outcast and the socially acceptable.  In the sermon, the word “blessed” extols the fortunate condition of persons who are favored with the blessings of God.  The “woes,” addressed as they are presented to the disciples of Jesus, reveals God’s profound displeasure on those so blinded by their present “fortunate” situation that they do not recognize and appreciate the real values of God’s kingdom: the willingness on the part of the poor to believe God’s faithfulness in the words of Jesus.  In both the blessings and woes of people in the present condition of success on one hand, and those being poor, disposed, and outcast on the other, faith tells us the presentation of all these people addressed will be reversed in the future.

Also, in Luke 12:13-34, the parable of the “landowner with the bountiful harvest,” Jesus joined together two specific moral sayings, contrasting individuals whose focus and trust in life were on material possessions as symbolized by the rich landowner of the parable, with those who recognize their complete dependence on God, those whose radical detachment from material possessions symbolized their heavenly treasure (The real values of God’s Kingdom).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His guests to choose the humble place at the table.  In this way they can avoid the fear of embarrassment that Jesus observed. This parable is more than just a lesson about earthly dinner etiquette.  It is sage advice on how to find your “true place” in the Kingdom of God, and relationships with others.  Jesus advises His hosts not to invite people who would be expected to repay them with an invitation to another greater and more elaborate dinner (the normal process at that time in history).  Jesus encourages them to invite those who could not repay: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  This is where real blessings can be found and given!

We are all poor, lame, or blind (either physically or spiritually).  No matter how tough we are, we all want peace, healing, and love.  Jesus wants to shower us with these gifts every time we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist of Communion.  We need to receive His presence in Communion with an admonition and humility, and by reflecting on and saying, “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” (Mt 8:8)

In these four parables I have reflected on today, we are given not only advice on how to approach the future, but also on how to live according to Jesus’ vision of a good, Catholic-Christian society.  Luke’s Gospel also advises us how the Catholic Church must be part of bringing about Jesus’ vision for us.

Trivia time: I purposely said “Catholic-Christian society.”  When you break the words down, it translates into “a ‘universal’ (Catholic) society of ‘little Christ’s’ (Christian)!”

To summarize, we often “negotiate” over various issues in our lives.  Children try to squeeze as much allowance out of their parents as possible at certain times throughout their youth.  Teens vie for the use of the family car, extended curfews, and even permission to go to certain concerts and events.  As adults, we typically negotiate for various monetary and non-monetary compensations in bidding work requirements and expectations.  And, with today’s economic situation, sometimes we even negotiate FOR a job!

Typically, when someone seeks an increase in their income, it is usually attached to an increase in job requirements and/or responsibilities.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus talked about doing good deeds for others and expecting nothing in return.  

How would you feel if you were told to take on responsibilities or a work-load without ever expecting another raise in income or benefits?  Jesus teaches us that it is our duty as his followers, His disciples, to take care of the needs of others and to do so without any financial or compensatory expectations.  

We sometimes fall into the trap of wanting too many things, especially from others.  In the great prayer taught to us by Jesus, the “Our Father,” we pray for “our daily bread.”  This means that we pray for only what we really need in life.

 

“The Our Father”

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Martyrdom of John the Baptist

     

 

The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom.  The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth.  But why?  What possesses a man that he would give up his very life?

This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah.  His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh.  “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).  Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power.  John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory.  He knew his calling was one of preparation.  When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37).  It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ.  John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people.  His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions.  His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart.  Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.

 

Comment:

Each of us has a calling to which we must listen.  No one will ever repeat the mission of John, and yet all of us are called to that very mission.  It is the role of the Christian to witness to Jesus.  Whatever our position in this world, we are called to be disciples of Christ.  By our words and deeds others should realize that we live in the joy of knowing that Jesus is Lord.  We do not have to depend upon our own limited resources, but can draw strength from the vastness of Christ’s saving grace.

Quote:

“So they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.’  John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease’” (John 3:26–30).

 

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)

 

    

Prologue to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO):

 

Chapter 1: Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and Holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.

Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:

“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).

Advertisements

“Was Jesus a Republican or Democrat!?” – Mt 23:27-32†


 

Exactly four months till CHRISTmas day!  That is 122 days, or 17 weekends, 107 weekdays, and about 100 or so school days.  Isn’t everybody excited NOW!!

 

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1282 – Death of Thomas Cantilupe, English saint
†   1624 – Birth of François de la Chaise, French confessor of Louis XIV of France (d. 1709)
†   Liturgical Feasts: Genesius of Arles; Saint Louis IX of France; Saint Joseph Calasanz.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. — Francis of Assisi

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ “calling-out the Scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites!”

  

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.  29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’  31 Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; 32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!  (NAB Mt 23:27-32)

 

The gospel today is a diatribe of criticism and censure by Jesus to the Scribes and the Pharisees in Jerusalem.  Jesus is definitely driving home a point by literally calling the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites!”  While a deep antagonism and conflict existed between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees, and is well founded in the various clashes between them, this tongue-lashing reflects a deep disagreement that probably goes beyond that of Jesus’ ministry.  This disparity needs to be seen as expressing the bitter conflict that still existed between the Jewish Pharisees and the early Jewish-Catholic Church of Matthew’s time later in the first century A.D., long after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven body, soul, blood, and divinity.

Jesus’ speech is not purely anti-Pharisaic though.  Matthew observes in “his” Jewish-Catholic Church, many of the same faults that Jesus found prevalent in the Pharisaic Jewish temples of Jesus’ time on earth.  Matthew is warning his fellow Christians, through this Gospel reading and Jesus’ words, to look at their own conduct and attitudes: to not fall into the same trap the Scribes and Pharisees fell into.   

The sixth “woe” —  about bright and gleaming tombs with rotting flesh and bones inside, just as  the preceding “woe” (not in this reading) about cleansing the outside of the cup, but not the inside, —  deals with a concern for externals, and the neglect of what is inside oneself.  Jesus is telling the temple officials that although they appear “whitewashed” on the outside, they are full of dead bones and filth on the inside.  I can picture Him being visibly upset, and nearly yelling at those church officials present, while stretching out his arm with a finger pointed at each of them.

Do you know anyone who always has to have the newest fashion, yet snub their nose at others they feel live “beneath” them?  Have you ever done this, and don’t answer to quickly!?  Let me throw a few sentences at you, and see if any come even close to something you may have said:

  • How do you like my new haircut?
  • See my new cell phone.  It has all the best gadgets on it.
  • My family ALWAYS vacations in Florida.
  • My children can’t go anywhere but _______! Fill in the elite and very expensive ivy-league type high school in the area.  (I purposely left out a few very specific names of schools in my area, as to not grossly offend someone.  There were several I could use, including a couple of [sadly] Catholic High Schools in the area, which gives the impression they are TOO GOOD for the average person.)
  • Let me pay the bill with my “platinum” credit card.

All of these sentences carry the sins of pride, greed, and envy; plus, depending on the circumstance, also the sins of gluttony and sloth.  Besides these 3-5 “capitol or cardinal” sins, the person saying anything similar to this is extremely close to breaking the 8th and 10th Commandments (Thou shall not bear a false witness, and Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property, respectfully). 

Contact with dead bodies during Jesus’ time on earth, even if the person was unaware, caused ritual impurity for that person.  Ritual uncleanness was, for all essence, contagious and the individual was separated from the temple and society.  This is why people with a skin disease such as leprosy were not allowed in the cities, much less the temples.  Any impropriety with cleanliness, religious or personal was scrutinized, and the person treated severely.    For this reason, tombs were white-washed so that one would not contract any impurity inadvertently.

The final “woe,” is the most serious of the seven mentioned in this Gospel chapter.  It is nothing less than that of an indictment from Jesus.   It portrays the temple Scribes and Pharisees position and status in society, as being in the same relationship of their ancestors “who murdered the prophets and the righteous.”

The Scribes and Pharisees honored the murdered prophets of old, by building tombs, and then decorating their memorials with trinkets and gems.  Plus, the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time asserted that they would have not participated in their ancestors’ crimes of murdering the prophets if they had lived during their ancestor’s period of time.  Jesus made a very clear and profound statement in declaring the Scribes and Pharisees as being most definitely the “true” children of their ancestors.  The Scribes and Pharisees were boldly ordered by Jesus to “fill up what those ancestors measured out!”  This order manifests the Jewish belief that there was a specific allotment, a measure, of suffering that had to be completed prior to God’s final judgment taking place.

What do you think the crowd listening to Jesus this day were thinking and doing?  Some in the crowd were probably nodding their heads in total agreement, while others (especially the Scribes and Pharisees) were visibly upset or confused at what Jesus was saying to them in a very public way.  Do you think the majority of the crowd was happy and elated that Jesus “called out” the “quasi-politicians” of the Jewish religion?  Or, do you believe the majority present was upset that He was attacking the temple officials that took care of their specific spiritual needs. 

Was Jesus looked upon as the “outsider” attacking the “incumbent,” similar to how present day politics work?  Rhetorically, was Jesus a Republican or Democrat?  My answer is WHO CARES: but I believe the correct answer is neither.  Jesus’ political party was that of “Messiah and Savior from God!”

All communities have its portion of trouble-makers, but I prefer to call them “Sh!t-disturbers” because they enjoy the ability to “stir the cr@p!”  These people have a tendency to abuse the generosity of others, similar to the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time that is preached about in today’s Gospel reading.

For us reading and reflecting on this Gospel today, Jesus is simply giving us another example of how important our example is to others, for as St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!”

 

“Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament”

 

“We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You, because,
by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  Amen.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Louis IX, King of France 1215-1270

 

Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order

 

King St. Louis was born in the castle at Poissy near Paris on April 25, 1215. His devout mother, Blanche, was determined that he should be educated not only for the earthly kingdom he was to govern, but still more for the kingdom of heaven. She accustomed him to look upon all things in the light of faith, and thus laid the foundation for that humility in good fortune and endurance in misfortune which characterized the holy king.

Louis was crowned king when he was only 12 years old. His mother, however, was entrusted with the actual government of the kingdom during his minority. Meanwhile, Louis was being educated in all the duties of a Christian prince. Among his instructors there were several Franciscan friars, and later on the young king himself joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Louis had governed his kingdom for several years in his own name, when he vowed, in the course of a serious illness, that if he would recover, he would make a crusade to the Holy Land, to wrest the holy places from the hands of the infidels. Upon regaining his health he at once carried out his vow. He took the fortress of Damietta from the Saracens, but was taken captive after his army had been weakened by an epidemic.

After he had borne the sufferings of a prisoner of the infidels for several months with holy serenity, the terms for his release were submitted to him; but there was attached to these terms an oath, that if he did not fulfill them, he would deny Christ and the Christian religion. The holy king replied: “Such blasphemous words shall never cross my lips.” They threatened him with death. “Very well,” he said, “you may kill my body, but you will never kill my soul.” Filled with admiration at his steadfast courage, the finally released him without objectionable condition. After securing many other terms favorable to the Christians, he was obliged to return to France, since his mother had died in the meantime.

In the government of his kingdom, Louis proved how profitable piety is in every respect. He promoted the welfare of the country and his people in a remarkable manner. His life as a Christian and as a Christian father was so exemplary that he has been found worthy to be chosen as the patron and model of Tertiaries. The most important principal of his life was the observance of the laws of God under all circumstances. His biographer assures us that he never lost his baptismal innocence by mortal sin. He himself set such store by the grace of baptism that, in confidential letters, he took pleasure in signing himself “Louis of Poissy,” because it was in the parish church there that he had been baptized.

Louis never tolerated cursing or sinful conversation either among the servants or among the courtiers; and never was he heard to utter an unkind or impatient word. he wished to avoid all unnecessary pomp and luxury at court, so that more help could be rendered to the poor, of whom he personally fed and served several hundred. His wardrobe was as simple as it could fittingly be, and at all times he wore the insignia of the Third Order under his outer garments. On special occasions he publicly wore the habit of the Tertiaries.

In order to curb sensuality he not only observed all the fasts of the Church with unusual severity, but denied himself certain food for which he had a special craving. He was a most solicitous father to the 11 children with which God blessed his marriage. He himself prayed with them daily, examined them in the lessons they had learned, guided them in the performance of the works of Christian charity, and in his will bequeathed to them the most beautiful instructions.

He fostered special devotion to the sufferings of Christ; and it was a great consolation for him when he gained possession of the Crown of Thorns, for the preservation of which he had the magnificent Holy Chapel built in Paris. When serious complaints concerning the oppression of the Christians in the Holy Land reached his ears, he undertook a second crusade in 1270, but on the way he died of the plague, contracted while visiting his sick soldiers.

Amid exclamations of holy joy because he was going into the house of the Lord, he surrendered his soul to God on August 25. St. Louis was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.

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 #25 of 26:

 

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.

“What Exactly Does a ‘Mustard Seed’ Look Like Anyway, & Who Grows Them; the Jews or the Gentiles. There is No Produce in Our Creeds?!” – Luke 13: 22-30†


The retreat I just attended the past three days was, for lack of a better word, AWESOME!!!  Spending three days with seventy-two Secular Franciscans and Friars (OFM) was very spiritually uplifting.  We prayed together, laughed together, played together, and experienced Gods presence in a very unique way.

Fr. Albert Haase, OFM was our retreat speaker.  He gave four presentations, with an additional Q&A session.  Everyone attending the retreat believed he was actually talking about THEIR respective lives, in his talks on the “Spiritual Journey.”  With his unique combination of childhood rearing in New Orleans, and spending many years on the upper east coast, he has a very distinguished Arcadian-New Jersey accent. 

I want to thank him again.  He is a very dynamic, funny, spiritual, and captivating speaker.  If you ever get a chance to attend a presentation of his, DO IT!!

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

   
†  1241 – Death of Gregory IX, Italian religious leader, 178th Pope (b. c. 1143)
†  1280 – Death of Nicholas III, Italian religious leader, 188th Pope (b. c. 1216)
†  1679 – Birth of Pierre †  Guérin de Tencin, French cardinal (d. 1758)
†  1760 – Birth of Pope Leo XII (d. 1829)
†  1914 – Death of Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi bishop of Bergamo
†  Roman Catholic Feast – Mary Queen of angels, Immaculate Heart

 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Here is a little known fact about the Mustard Seed:

 

If you plant tomatoes close to jalapenos, you will get hot tomatoes.  Many other plants & vegetables cannot grow around certain types of other plants or vegetables because they take on the characteristics of what they are around. However, a mustard tree can be grown around anything, as it is not affected by its surroundings!  You could plant a mustard seed right on top of a jalapeno seed & it will grow completely unaffected by the jalapeno.

  

Reading scripture again brings a new understanding.  It isn’t so much on how “small” the mustard seed is, but rather that the mustard seed is unaffected by its surroundings, environment, or what conditions may be present!  Therefore, so should our faith, “be like unto the mustard seed.”  Faith that is like unto the mustard seed is unmovable, non-doubting, & steadfast.  Just Believe!

From http://my.opera.com

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the parable of the “narrow door,” and faith and relationship with God.

 

 

22 Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13: 22-30)

 

Today’s Gospel reading is the third of three parables (the others are described later in this reflection) in chapter 13 of Luke’s Gospel that deals with the theme of the unexpected reversals brought by the Kingdom of God.  The other two parables are about the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large bush, and the small amount of yeast that makes a large batch of dough rise.  All three parables are about the “few and the many,” in relation to the Kingdom of God.

As the parable in today’s Gospel reading opens, Luke reminds us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem.  This journey, this “exodus” as Luke refers to it, makes up the entire middle of his Gospel.  Jesus teaches as he goes to His ultimate destination, Jerusalem.  

A question from the crowd gives Jesus the chance to make a prophetic statement.  Luke uses this type of question device a number of times in his Gospel.  A few weeks ago, the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” led to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The question about “only a few will be saved” today uses typical Christian language about salvation, but also expresses the Jewish concern about whether everyone who calls himself a Jew is actually faithful to the covenant.  

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  What a direct, challenging, and difficult question.  Jesus gave an equally direct and very challenging answer in this Gospel reading.  Salvation is something we have to take seriously.  We have to hold our faith, internally and externally, each and every day of our lives.  St. Augustine once said that God created us without our help, BUT, He will not save us without our help!  We have a major part to play in letting redemption make a way into our hearts, minds, and souls. 

These sayings of Jesus in today’s Gospel, follows upon the two parables of the kingdom in Luke 13:18-21, —“Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'”  Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened,” — and are used to illustrate the future proportions of the kingdom of God that will result from its small beginning in the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.  Nothing will stand in the way of Jesus’ part in fulfilling God’s will, and in establishing the kingdom through His actions such as teaching, exorcisms, and healings.

One must remember that Jerusalem is the city of destiny and the goal of the journey for Jesus Christ on earth.  Only when he reaches this “holy city” will his work be accomplished.  (Trivia time:  the word “Jerusalem” translates to “city of peace.”)

Jesus answers that they (and we) must strive in the time we have remaining on earth, to enter through that the narrow door of faith and trust in Him.  Many will be trying to get in, but won’t be strong enough [in faith or trust].  Jesus then shifts to a parable about another door. (The translation actually says “gate,” then “door,” although the same Greek word is used.)  Once all those entering the master’s house are in and he locks the door, there will be no way for others to enter.  Those outside the door (the kingdom of God) may knock, but the master will say he doesn’t know them.  God will deny even knowing them; they will be like strangers to Him.  Unlike the Gospel reading from a few weeks ago where Jesus was teaching about prayer, and we were told to knock and the door would be opened, in this parable the master will not open, and will say he does not know those outside.  People from other places than the Jewish people of Jerusalem will take our place inside.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, Jesus says, will take our place with others in the Kingdom of God.  Those who do not make it through this “narrow door” will be cast out to where there is wailing and grinding of teeth – eternal agony without love of any kind!

The gate to Jerusalem, in reality, was supposedly a very narrow doorway.  Apparently, in order to go through the gate to the temple courtyard, camels had to have all baggage removed to squeeze through.  By saying the gate is narrow; Jesus is saying a great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom, and the urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter the kingdom because the “narrow door” will not remain open indefinitely.  Get rid of your baggage and step over that threshold NOW, before it is too late!

By rejecting Jesus and his message, His Jewish “contemporaries” place at the table for the feast in God’s kingdom, will be taken by Gentiles from the four corners of the world.  Those called last (the Gentiles) will precede those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended (the Jewish people).

The image of the door is replaced in the final verses of today’s parable with the image of a heavenly banquet.  Two passages from the Book of Isaiah influence the conclusion of this story.  Isaiah 43:5-6 speaks of God bringing Israel’s descendents back from the east and from the west, the north and the south.  And Isaiah 25:6 speaks of the Lord providing a feast of rich foods and choice wines for all peoples on His Holy Mountain.  The answer to the question “if only a few will be saved” is NO.  In the end many will be saved, but many who thought they would be saved will not be saved.  The parable is a prophetic warning to repent, in order to enter the kingdom.  Oh, how I wish the faithful would grasp hold of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and treasure it for the heavenly grace that it is!

In Luke 14:15-24, — the parable about the invited dinner guests not coming to the banquet, so the master sent his servants out to the streets to get people for the banquet — the story of the “great dinner” is a further illustration of the rejection of Jesus by Israel, who is God’s “chosen” people.  In doing so, Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of the kingdom and the extension of the invitation to others, such as the Gentiles, who recognize their need for salvation, is exemplified.

 Another similar parable is found in Matthew 22:1-10, a story about a king who gave a wedding feast.  The invited refused to come, not once but TWICE; and going as far as killing some of the servants sent by the king to invite the people.  The king sent troops to destroy and burn their cities, and kill the offenders.  Afterwards, the king sent out servants to the streets inviting anyone they came across, bad and good alike to the banquet, thus filling the hall with guests. 

In this parable, this story, are many symbolic traits by Matthew, instead of Luke.  The burning of the cities of the guests that refused the invitation corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The parable ends by presenting the kingdom in a two-fold expression of faith.  The first expression is a kingdom that is already present and that can be entered here and now.  The second being one that will be possessed only by those who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment, during the Perugia.  

We all take advantage of certain days throughout the year to celebrate individuals and to make sure that they know that they are not taken for granted.  Birthdays, anniversaries, religious and secular holidays, and so on.  These days are intended to express appreciation in a special way, but are not meant to replace the appreciation and love that we should always show one another.  

We are also guilty of taking one another for granted from time to time (and maybe even daily).  In today’s Gospel, Jesus told us a story about some people who took something for granted and then paid a very heavy price.  He is warning us not to assume that we will have eternal life in heaven, and not to take HIS invitation for granted.

The question for all of us to reflect on is whether we have Jesus first in our lives, and in our priorities.  Are we taking the time to let Him minister to us: to advocate, comfort, and care for us, every day of our lives.  The “creed” we say at every Mass IS the statement of our Catholic faith.  We must place our faith and trust in all the truths that this creed proclaims, without any uncertain or optional requisites.  One cannot pick and choose which tenants of Catholicism to believe and practice, in order to be Catholic!

Every day of our lives, we need to make it an essential element of our time, to make our own personal confession of faith, based on the truths of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.  I find the best time is in the evening, just prior to going to bed.  I simply review the days happenings, and my thoughts and actions; then ask God for forgiveness of any errors in my day, and for the ability (through the help of the Holy Spirit) to not repeat them. 

We need to open our hearts to these truths in the creed daily, so we can place our faith in them more and more.  From a tiny mustard seed, a might bush will grow!  Let us all show appreciation for one another today, and in the days ahead.  Let us strive to NOT take for granted any of the many things others do for us.

 

 

“Faith of a Mustard Seed”

 

 

“Lord, I know that faith is a powerful force.  By our faith we allow the Holy Spirit to reside in us, to teach us, and to guide us.  Without faith the Paraclete cannot live in and through us, and we would be as people of just this world instead of your kingdom.  It is written in Sacred Scripture that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible.  Please allow my faith to grow into a mighty tree, so that I may harvest a huge bounty to share with you and others.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Queenship of Mary

    

Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.

In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen” and Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.

Comment:

As St. Paul suggests in Romans 8:28–30, God has predestined human beings from all eternity to share the image of his Son. All the more was Mary predestined to be the mother of Jesus. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in dependence on Jesus, was to be queen. All other titles to queenship derive from this eternal intention of God. As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving his Father and his fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship. As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time (Matthew 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.

Quote:

“Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69).

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 #22 of 26:

The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

 

“Heaven is the Ultimate “Equal Opportunity” Crowd!” – Mt 20:1-16†


Going to the Chapel, and I’m Going to Get, Umm, – “retreated.”  Yep, I am going on our Franciscan (SFO) annual retreat this weekend.  So, I may be a little late in posting a reflection on Sunday, but it will get done.  If there are any intentions, please be comforted that I intend to pray for any of your intentions (this sentence is close to a “department of repetition department” sentence).  Pax  [PS – Please pray for good weather]

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   849 – Death of Walafrid Strabo, German monk and theologian
†  1503 – Death of Pope Alexander VI (b. 1431)
†  1559 – Death of Pope Paul IV (b. 1476)
†  1579 – Birth of Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, Roman Catholic nun (died 1640)
†  1596 – Birth of Jean Bolland, Flemish Jesuit writer (d. 1665)
†  1857 – Birth of Libert H. Boeynaems, Belgian Catholic prelate (d. 1926)
†  1952 – Death of Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Chilean Jesuit saint (b. 1901)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

  

Today’s reflection is about the landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day, and paid all the same.

 

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15 (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’  16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  (NAB Mt 20:1-16)

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most of us, and in a very unique and special way.  So many homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor is so much less than in the United States.

This parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day and then paying all the laborers the same wage.  It is difficult to know whether he actually composed it, or received it as part of his education and faith formation.  If the latter, what was the original reference?  In its present context, it is closely association with Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”   

Why does the landowner go find and hire laborers throughout the day.  As I believe in simple answers, I think it is because he doesn’t want to leave out anyone willing to work.  This landowner definitely had compassion for the others around him.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps.  Too bad the laborers that were hired first did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on Christian business principles, and on kindness to others around them. 

Different interpretations, in my understanding, have been given to the verse about the first being last and the last being first.  In view of Matthew’s associating it with today’s parable, and then substantially repeating it, but in its reverse order at the end of the parable (verse 16), probably means that all who respond to the call of Jesus at whatever time (first or last), will be inheriting the benefits of the kingdom: the gift of God.  In other words, Matthew is suggesting through Jesus’ parable, that the equality of all the disciples is in the reward of inheriting eternal life.

When the landowner said to the laborers (verse 4), “What is just,” I recognized that he did not actually saying what they would be paid as a wage.  Although the wage was not stipulated, it is clear to the reader that it would be a fair wage for the amount of time worked.  I, as most people would have assumed, believed that these and the subsequent would-be hires for the day would be paid less.  But in God’s Kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, and no separations.  All in heaven are joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God.

Verse 8, Beginning with the last . . . the first” is the catalysis that open this story to a potentially controversial discussion and various opinions.  This particular aspect of the story has no other purpose that I can see, other than to show how the first laborers knew what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

In verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive articles or phrases, “My friend,” and “I am not cheating you.” In calling the laborers his friend, he is expressing a caring for that individual, and that he wished a type of special relationship with that individual.  He further stresses that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  He only asked for the laborer to perform a certain function, and then paid him what he promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should be of no concern to anyone else.  The landowner gave to the laborer what he promised him.

This reflection on the above paragraph makes me think about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were talking about the graces and talents each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold! 

The laborers, at first sight, had an appropriate grievance against the landowner. They worked more, so they deserved more than those that only worked a “few” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to suffer.  In hindsight, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, they (and we) need to see things from another viewpoint.  They received something else that day besides the “fair” wage: they received a JOB!  These laborers were bringing home money to their families.

Everyone needs to look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired for that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavy on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried how they were going to feed and clothe their loved one’s (not to mention college educations).  Then this stranger, at the end of the day, offers them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think those men were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers, doing their best?  When we say that something is “unfair,” please take a second look, as it may very well not only be fair, but the Christian thing to do!

God asks of us to do certain things, and if we do them we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more.  Yep, those of us that have arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord, are given more graces to share. 

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed on our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our soul, faith, and our relationships with other.  Those that find the redemption and salvation of God’s promise, through the Sacrament of the Anointing while on their deathbed, will not have enough time to nurture a huge tree of graces like those that others may grow over many years, but will still have the same bounty as all others.  There is NO difference in the eternal joy and magnificence of being in the presence of our Lord Jesus, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” crowd.

The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involves no violation of law, justice, or gratitude towards any of the laborers.  His only “problem per-se” was having the virtue of generosity towards the later hires.  In my belief, virtues are a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and valued as a foundation for principles of life, and good morality and ethics in decisions.  Virtues promote the individual and collective societies well being.

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is a sin of vice: it is “envy.”  Envy is a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin that destroys the life of grace, and creates a threat of eternal damnation in hell to the individual, if un-repented.

Until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the early risers; the ones that were willing to get to work early.  Upon meditation and reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual situations any of these workers may have had, the landowner treated each and every one on a fair, equal, and loving basis. 

Many of us have been given more than we need in life.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of the world, we actually live as royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are given many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not only mean materialistic items; it also means our spiritual wealth as well, through prayers and kindness to the others we meet.

God wants to treat each of us as the landowner did.  In Matthew 20:7, it is written, “You too go into my vineyard.  “Any of us who responds to Jesus’ call, and each of us has a distinct and unique calling, regardless of the time (first or last) in our lives, will receive “the same” in inheriting all the benefits of God’s kingdom.  And please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; a gift of God.

 

“Prayer after Confession”

 

“O almighty and most merciful God, I give You thanks with all the powers of my soul for this and all other mercies, graces, and blessings bestowed on me, and prostrating myself at Your sacred feet, I offer myself to be henceforth forever Yours.  Let nothing in life or death ever separates me from You!  I renounce with my whole soul all my treasons against You, and all the abominations and sins of my past life.  I renew my promises made in Baptism, and from this moment I dedicate myself eternally to Your love and service.  Grant that for the time to come, I may detest sin more than death itself, and avoid all such occasions and companies as have unhappily brought me to it.  This I resolve to do by the aid of Your divine grace, without which I can do nothing. Amen.”

From Catholic Prayers Website
http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1562-1641)

 

Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.

Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.

The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.

During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.

Comment:

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.

Quote:

St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself…But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

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 #18 of 26:

 


Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

“Your House or Mine – God Doesn’t Care!” – Luke 1:39-56†


Today is the “Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Mother” to Heaven; Body & Soul. 

 

Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven, defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. “Dogma” is an article of faith that has been revealed by God, which the Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to be believed by all the faithful. This dogma teaches that Mary was truly assumed body, blood, soul, and humanity into the glory and magnificence of the “third” heaven.  (2 Cor 12:2 and 1 Peter 3:22)

It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation  for Roman Catholics in the United States; though “Holy Day of Obligation” is a term, I believe, most Catholics in the U.S. have removed from their vocabulary.  The other “Marian” Holy Days of Obligation are January 1st: the feast of “Mary, Mother of God,” and December 8th: the feast of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus).”

 

 

Next weekend I will be on a retreat with my brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order.  I will pray for all your intentions, during this spiritually awesome time for me.  As you can tell, I in no way consider retreats as a “chore.”  I truly love encountering Christ in many, and diversified ways.  Hopefully, I will be able to post a reflection next Sunday, but it may be a little later in the day or evening.  Pax et Bonum.

 

 

Today is also my birthday [of sorts]. In renewing a solemn pledge: a “Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary,” I made a spiritual rebirth.  Today is the beginning of a renewed chapter in my life.  By imitating Mary, I can say, “May it be done according to your will!”  What are the wonderful effects of this devotion on my soul?  They are:

†       “First, through the Holy Spirit, Mary will convey to me a portion of her profound humility.

†       Second, Our Blessed Lady also will give me a portion of her faith, which was the greatest of all faiths ever on this earth. 

†       Third, this Mother of fair love will take away from my heart all scruple disorder of servile fear. 

†       Fourth, Our Blessed Lady will fill me with a great confidence in God, and in herself.  I will not be approaching Jesus by myself, but always by that good Mother. 

†       Fifth, the soul of our Blessed Lady will impart itself to me, to glorify the Lord.  Her spirit will enter into my spirit to rejoice in God. 

†       Sixth, Mary will bear fruit in her own time, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ. 

†       And seventh, I gave Jesus more glory in a month, than by any other practice, however difficult, in many years.”  WOW!!!

From the devotion itself

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s Visit with Elizabeth.

 

 

39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:39-56)

 

 

The Gospel for today reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven might be best understood as a real experience and preview of the “Parousia” (see last Sunday’s reflection).  This view covers the full realm of Catholic beliefs about the uniquely human and divine person of Jesus Christ, truly human, and the relationship of His whole family, beginning with His mother.  For me, this understanding, or way of looking at the supernatural gift of Mary’s Assumption brings about an abounding and thriving meaning of God’s introduction of His Son, Jesus to the world and to His own Israel, through Mary, for my (and your) personal salvation. This is so strong that Luke actually interprets it TWICE in Mary’s Canticle, in today’s Gospel reading.  The first interpretation we find in verses 1:39-45; and the second is in verses 1:46-56.  The first introduction of Jesus is two-fold: (1) in Mary’s physical traveling to visit Elizabeth and her words of greeting on arrival at Elizabeth’s home; and (2) in Elizabeth’s reaction, her words, and the physical action of Elizabeth’s baby leaping for joy, while still in the womb.  The two mothers-to-be come together to praise a God who is very active and paramount in their lives. 

The second introduction (verses 46-56) is in God’s own action, through Mary, to bring Jesus the Messiah to us, in fidelity to His promises to Abraham and his sons, grandsons, King David, and to all Israel, as well as to all peoples.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God intends for each one of us. (That’s you and me, Bubbas!!)

The presentation of Jesus (in the womb) to His cousin John (also in the womb) will be renewed again a little more than 30 years later, with John the Baptist honoring and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Lamb of God to come, when Jesus’ presented Himself for baptism at the Jordan river.  This is also the first of only two times in all the Gospels that God speaks, proclaiming Jesus as His only-begotten and well beloved Son.

Can anyone imagine the faith Mary had in God?  WOW!!!  For me, it’s beyond my mental reasoning.  Her mind was uncluttered by any of the effects of sin that mar our soul.  An unblemished soul is something neither I, nor anyone reading this reflection, can claim (regrettably). 

Only Mary, born without the stain of original sin (the Immaculate Conception) could give birth to the mysterious uniqueness of Jesus Christ: truly divine and truly human, undiminished divinity and true humanity in one person forever.  Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin: namely death and decay.  Mary is literally the first person to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son secured for you and me, all of mankind that chooses to believes in God and His revelation of mercy.  

Her role in salvation had been pre-conceived by God before the beginning of time, and any role God would give Mary would be a uniquely special one for her.   Even though she apparently discerned that she was being asked to do the impossible, when the archangel Gabriel said something to her about having a baby, Mary displayed a total and unconditional faith and trust in God AND in the Son that God was promising.  Thank God the Planned Parenthood offices were not open, and trying to encourage Mary to avoid the “inconvenience” of an unexpected pregnancy, and the “embarrassment” of a “virginal” conception!  How often have we done anything as unconditionally as Mary did for God, and for us!? 

Was Mary ready for the rigors of being the Mother of God?  This question is answered in the following verse, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.”  It is not an easy feat for a 14 year-old Jewish child, being pregnant at the time, making a rugged four day trip by herself.  And to accomplish this feat “in haste” even adds to her abilities to handle the bad, as well as the good.  Mary is a tough opponent to evil: one heavenly tough lady!

Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation in their lifetime.  Upon arriving, “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” These verses made me recall a similar thing happening with the leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb.  This story can be found in Genesis 25:22-23: “the children in her womb jostled each other so much that she exclaimed, ‘If this is to be so, what good will it do me!’  She went to consult the LORD, and He answered her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”  Interesting to me is that this is a preview of the relation between John and Jesus, just without the quarreling!

 “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice … saying, ‘most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb …’” Having been graced to be filled with the Holy Spirit during an ACTS retreat several years ago, I can appreciate the energy, joy, and charisma associated with the event of being as one with the Holy Spirit.  I felt literally “on top of the world,” and so filled with love that I felt like I was truly going to burst.  Now, I need to emphasize that I never considered myself a “Charismatic Catholic,” and have never talked in tongues.  Until I had this retreat experience, I thought of “those” people as a little strange.  Through this encounter on my retreat with the third person of the Holy Trinity, I no longer have doubts in the capabilities of God’s graces.

Calling Mary “Most Blessed” brings up the image found in Revelations 12:1: “A woman clothed with the Sun.”  For me, Mary was wearing the mantle of God long before her conception with Jesus.  God, the first person of the Holy Trinity, presented to Mary the grace of bringing into this sinful world, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the complete image of Himself, and His Word – her Son Jesus, through the action of the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit.  This is a mystery of faith probably more complex than the United States Internal Revenue Code for most of us to truly understand.

Mary asks, “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even before his birth, Jesus was identified as the Lord.  There were no pre-conceived notions from Mary, Elizabeth, or any other individual aware of the promises about the coming Messiah.  No one alive at that time knew exactly what the Messiah’s role would be.  Some, maybe even most, thought Jesus would become some type of warrior king, similar to David.  If so, how surprised were they to be.  All Mary knew was that SOMETHING special was in store for all of them, and that even though totally blind to any future events, she put her total faith and trust in the hands of God!

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith, trust, and fidelity stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah with Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John.  In Luke 1:20, “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” Zechariah becomes mute, in response to his questioning of God’s grace.  But when Mary asks a similar question, unlike Zechariah who was disciplined for his doubt, Mary is praised and reassured. 

The difference between the two, I believe, is the level of their faith and trust in God’s capabilities.  Zechariah, an elderly temple priest, had doubt and lack of trust, probably due to the many years of A) strictly human reasoning, and B) concupiscence’s effect on his soul, thus making him skeptical.  Mary, on the other hand, had no sins to mark her soul, and had been nurtured by the faith of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.  Even in her young age, and with a perfectly sinless and grace filled soul, she knew nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

Mary’s role in this beginning of this infancy narrative should be seen in connection with her presence among “those who believed” after Jesus’ Resurrection that unique Sunday Morning.  Why?  The answer can be found in Acts 1:14, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”   Mary was with Jesus His entire life.  Mary saw Jesus, as her son AND as her Lord on earth (But don’t most Jewish mothers? – OK, sorry).  Mary trusted in God wholly and completely, and she continued to say “YES” to God, without fail, her entire life.  We need to see the totality of Mary’s life as we see Jesus in the totality of His life.

The nature of God in Jesus’ conception is proclaimed in Mary saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ….” There is an Old Testament parallel for this New Testament verse: “the Song of Hannah,” found in 1 Sam 2:1-11.  A whole separate reflection can be written on the correlations between the two, so I urge you to find it in your bible and read it.  This “song” is credited to Hannah after her birth to Samuel as her thanksgiving to God because of her giving birth to a son, despite her previous years of sterility.  She praises God as the helper of the weak who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly, and who alone is the source of true strength. 

Mary praises God for what He has done for mankind through her child, Jesus; and rejoices in God’s fulfillment of His promises in the verse, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  Mary was totally FILLED with the Holy Spirit, so there was NO room for sin, or for the least little self-centeredness.  Mary literally surrendered herself, and gave all she had, body, soul, and spirit, to serve God, in order for Him to live within, and to work through her!  This is EXACTLY what we need to do each and every day of our lives!!!  (TRUE!!!)

In this new era of salvation, Mary will be hailed as the Mother and Queen of Israel and us all.  “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”  Mary was humble.  So humble in fact, that I believe she may have had a hard time saying that all generations will honor her.  However, we still have to remember, always, that she WAS absolutely and truly FULL of God, thus making her actions and remarks as truly true.  Mary allowed God to work through her, and to work without any impediments from her, in any way.  This is reiterated in Mary continuing her Canticle, saying, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Her “lowliness,” her humbleness, is contrasted against with the might and majesty of God; for NOTHING is impossible with God. (Are you getting the “nothing is impossible with God” theme yet?)

Should we be afraid of GOD?  After all, the next verse says, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”  “Fear” of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.” 

The fullness of Jesus Christ, as shown through Mary – both physically and spiritually, is also available to any Catholic in a state of grace.  We receive these seven gifts when given “sanctifying grace:” the life of God within us.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1831) notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”  When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ Himself would.

Fear is a curiously strange word for most Americans. Most of us take this word as “bad.”  Instead we need to see this word as more of a “healthy fear.”  Healthy fears keep us from burning ourselves when cooking, shocking ourselves when plugging in a lamp, and keeping us from sinning when tempted.  So, we need not fear God as the world experiences fear, but we need to delight in the healthy fear – the profound respect for an infinitely good and powerful God.

Luke 1:50 ends the first part of the Canticle of Mary and transitions into the second part of the Canticle.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God does for those who faithfully and respectfully “fear” Him.

Verse 51: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heartHe has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowlyThe hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”  These six past-tense verbs describe God as the one who performed these actions, and is now in the present tense, operating in the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary.  My question is, “Who are the rich, and who are the hungry?”  Are the “lowly” the Jewish people of Israel, the sick, or the downtrodden?  Is being “rich” a measure of materialist wealth, or is it the proud and arrogant people who have no time or need for God? 

God, through Jesus, is creating a new “exodus,” a new journey that shows a preference for the humble, the poor, and the downtrodden.  This is manifested in Jesus’ ministry, and in the future missions of His disciples. 

Being “poor,” for God, does not come with a social status, or ethnic heritage.  The humble, poor, and downtrodden have to respond to God’s good news, in order to complete this journey with Him.  In the next verse of Mary’s Canticle, “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever,” God builds a “new covenant” upon the old foundation of Abraham’s.  God’s gift, His grace, that Mary is proclaiming, is NOT contingent solely on the ethnic heritage of Abraham’s genealogy.  It is NOW open to All, regardless of social status, ethnicity, previous religion, or any other origin.

“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”  Why would a young woman with the love and charity we all admire in her, leave prior to the birth of Jesus’ precursor: John?  Elizabeth certainly could have used the help with the delivery and other “nursing” and household issues.  Luke, I believe, does this solely in explicitly emphasizing the three main characters in each birth narratives: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John in one; and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the other.

Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and, because of her strong faith and belief, she responds as the servant in this psalm (song) of praise, the “Magnificat.”  The Magnificat, with the possible exception of verse 48, “for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.  Even if not written by Luke, it fits in well with his themes found elsewhere in his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of the Jewish family prophesies.  

In Summary, Mary’s faith and trust is what God wants each of us to imitate.  Can we imitate her faith? Even though Mary was sinless; and we know ourselves to be sinners endeavoring to sin less and less, these virtues are not something beyond our grasp.  In fact, we can grow in these virtues.  We do this when we try our best to follow her, and HIS path to salvation and redemption.  Imitating Mary leads us to her Son because they walk and exist together.  What is really awesome is that we don’t have to walk this path alone.  As a child of God, we can hold the right hand of Mary – our Heavenly Mother – with one hand, and the left hand (making Him our right hand man) of Jesus – our loving brother and kinsman redeemer – with the other, on the path that we take to the glory of paradise, in the salvation of the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2 & 1 Peter 3:22).

 

“The Hail Mary”

 

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

(Actually yesterday’s Saint of the Day, but he is one of my personal patron saints, and the main reason I am a Secular Franciscan)

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata,, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes” (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

He is the Patron Saint of Addicts and Drug addiction.

 

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 #15 of 26:

 

Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

 

“Yo’ Bro’ – You Royally Screwed Up This Time!” – Mt 18: 15-20†


Just a few days left before I make my “Total Consecration to Jesus, Through Mary!”  I would love to share a very small portion from the devotion.  This was in yesterdays reading:

Unfortunately, so many people care little or nothing about the Word of God, even though they have heard it time and again, because they do not have the spirit of Christ.  Yet, if you really want to understand the Words of Christ, you must try to pattern your whole life on His.”

“What good is it to know the entire Bible by heart and to learn the sayings of all the philosophers if you live without grace and the Love of God?”

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1253 – Death of St. Clare of Assisi, Franciscan and Founder of the Poor Clare Nuns (b. 1194)
†   1890 – John Henry Cardinal Newman, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1801)

 (From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) 

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  
    

“The good of the collective is based on the good of the individual.” – John Hough :>
      

    

Today’s reflection is about what excommunication really is; and prayer.
      

15 “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (NAB Mt 18: 15-20)

 

As meant for those who have strayed from Jesus’ path to salvation, the lesson in today’s Gospel Reading turns to how Jesus’ disciples are to deal with anyone who sins, and remains within the Church community, even though unrepentant.

For the sinner, first there is to be a private correction.  If this is unsuccessful, then there is a further correction before two or three witnesses.  And, if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the Church communities and leadership), and if the sinner refuses to listen and act on the correction of the Church, the person is to be expelled from the Church body (excommunicated).  The Church’s judgment, Jesus expounds in this bible reading, WILL be ratified in heaven by God.  

Most good models for correcting behavior seem to follow this approach in the workplace.  The standard is to first give an oral counseling: a one-on-one type of re-education, which should have NO impact on the employee’ status, if they comply.  If the behavior still does not change, the employer asserts a correction attempt through a single, or series of, formal (maybe written) notice(s) of poor behavior, with specific goals for the employee to achieve by a certain point.  Failure at this time could result in further disciple, including suspension and dismissal from employment.  If still not repented, the employee goes before a human resources (HR) hearing/evaluation which usually results in suspension or probable termination.

We do the same things in our own families.  How often do we re-teach safety and household living behaviors to our children, with escalating modes of discipline for repeated deviations in behavior?  My children still shudder, even as teenagers, when I say “time-out is about to commence.”

 “Your brother,” in the verses above, refers to the fellow disciples in the Catholic Church community of the time.  Later in Matthew’s Gospel (23:8), Jesus reiterates this by saying, “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.”  

The words, “against you,” in the first sentence of today’s gospel, creates the potential for a dualistic approach to this one sentence.  The omission of these two words in brackets definitely broadens the scope and type of sins in question. Without the words, the verse is saying that you should notify the individual of his errors, every single time he sins, regardless of how minor the offense, or too whom the offense was directed.  Though we are obliged to tell people when they are in error, and especially when in danger of harming their soul, I definitely can see this verse being majorly abused by a few people.  We all know people that get into everybody else’s “business.”  How do you feel when they approach you?  I bet it is not welcoming or Christian.  My caveat to this sentence is to remember to preach with love, and to remember that we are ALL sinners.

By bringing the repentant sinner back into the fold of the Catholic Church, the Church itself gains that soul for salvation, and eternity in heaven.  The term “won over” literally means “gained” in the context of this gospel interpretation.

When Jesus said, “ … take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses,’” He was referring to the Old Testament Law found in Deuteronomy 19:15: “One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”   Please remember, the goal is to bring someone back into God’s grace, and not to “gang-up” on the person.  The individuals (the witnesses) need to have a loving and caring approach in breaching the person’s inappropriate behavior.

When Jesus refers to “the Church,” this is the second of the only two instances of the word “Church” to be found in all four gospels.  The other instance is also found in Matthew’s Gospel, 16: 18: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  In this latter case (16:18), Jesus’ “Church” means the community of disciples that He will gather together; and like a structural building, this community of disciples will have Peter as its solid foundation – a “rock” to build on.  In the case of today’s Gospel reading, the small distinction is that it probably does not refer to the entire Church body like in Matthew 16:18, but only to the local congregation of followers in the town, instead of the entire Catholic (meaning universal) Church.

“Treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”  Hmm, sounds like a pretty harsh treatment to me!  After all, how many people like to hear that a tax or bill collector is at the door, or on the phone?  How many people invite the bill collectors, and other enemies to dinner?  Observant Jews of this time in bible history avoided any relationships or camaraderie with Gentiles and tax collectors.  For me, this is profoundly interesting, since Matthew was a lucrative tax-collector prior to his conversion, through Jesus.  Proves to me that there is definitely hope for us all, through Jesus’ salvation and redemption.

In this verse about Gentiles and tax-collectors, Jesus is saying to the congregation of Christian disciples to separate themselves from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent, especially when convicted of their sin by the entire Church.  The person in this case has purposefully excluded themselves from the fellowship of the Church community through their own action and/or reaction.  This person had, by their refusal, self-excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

I see this problem in excess with today’s society; at least in the United States.  It seems Catholics today like to pick and choose which tenant of the Church to obey, and which of those that is of no importance to them.  This is evident with the numbers of Catholics attending Sunday Mass: about 30%.  Sadly, seventy percent ARE NOT GOING TO MASS, except maybe for CHRISTmas and Easter!  My children, in an ironic joke, call these people “C&E” Catholics.

Other tenets of dissent from CATHOLICS include, but definitely are not limited to, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, including same-sex marriage, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and even Papal Authority.  I am sure there are many other issues, but I’ll just leave it at this.  On reviewing this list, it is identical to the problems protestant faiths have with Catholicism. 

Sadly, this condition in the Catholic Church is because of poor catechesis in the past couple of decades.  Educating these poor souls is essential, for their eternal survival, and the Church’s.  At the end of the day though, I truly believe in what our late and Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “There is something a Catholic can do if he or she disagrees with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  You can change your mind, or you can change your mind!”  

The harsh language about Gentiles and tax collectors probably reflects a period in the time of Matthews’ participation in the local Synagogue, when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians, and very few Gentiles followed Jesus. This aforementioned time had long since passed when Matthews Gospel was written around 50 A.D., but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner still remained, even years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  

Paul makes a similar demand in 1 Cor 5:1-13, when he gives extremely clear advice on how to handle any case wherein a member of the Catholic Church  is caught up in immoral behaviors and actions.  Paul gives a strong case for excommunication, ending with what is written in 1 Cor 5:13: “God will judge those outside. Purge the evil person from your midst.”

There are many examples in Jewish literature of this “binding-loosing” image.  Except for the plural of the verbs “bind” and “loose,” the verse in today’s reading is practically identical with Matthew 16:19b, – “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This phrase is understood by scholars as granting to all the disciples, what was previously given to only to Peter.  There can easily be several meanings to this particular verse, but two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, AND the lifting or imposition of excommunication.  

All Catholics are to go out into the world and witness to God – to live and preach His word.  Someone who purposefully excludes themselves from the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, through their own action and/or reaction is self-excommunicated.  All the Catholic Church is pronouncing, when saying someone is excommunicated, is the recognition of the individual’s own deviation from the path of salvation.  It is to be considered a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty.  Excommunication is meant not to punish, but to correct the person’s belief or behavior, and to bring the person back to a path of righteousness and salvation.  Excommunication is always done through love for the individual, and the Church Community.

The excommunicated person does not cease to be a Christian.  One’s baptism cannot ever be cancelled, as baptism creates a permanent and everlasting mark on one’s soul.  However, the excommunicated person is, in essence, “exiled” from Catholic society, and as non-existent in the eyes of ecclesiastical authority.  The excommunicated offender’s status before the Catholic Church is, sadly, that of a stranger.  Thankfully, such an exile immediately ends as soon as the offender has given a suitable remedy for their offense, as judged by the ecclesiastical authority.  

The right to excommunicate is a necessary corollary of the fact that the Catholic Church is a society, a community, of people.  Every society has to have the right to exclude and deprive unworthy and culpable members from its “rights and social advantages,” either on a temporarily or permanent basis. This right of exclusion is necessary, by natural law, to every society, in order that it can run smoothly and without interruption, for its own survival.

Excommunication, especially “a jure,” is either “latæ” or “ferendæ sententiæ.”  The first (latæ) is incurred as soon as the offence is committed, by reason of the offence itself without any intervention from an ecclesiastical judge.  The person is excommunicated at once by the fact or acts itself!  Examples are those people that performs, assists in, or obtains an abortion, in direct violation of natural and Canon Law, and are automatically excommunicated.

The second (ferendæ sententiæ) is inflicted on someone only by a judicial sentence.  It occurs only when an ecclesiastical judge has summoned the person before a tribunal (a type of court trial); has declared the person guilty; and punished him according to the terms of Canon law.  You will know this type of excommunication by these or similar words: “under pain of excommunication … will be excommunicated”.  A recent example in my area was for Catholics attending or assisting at the ordination of women priests or a bishop, in direct violation of Canon Law.

The Gospel reading ends with a verse about a favorable response from God to our prayers.  Even if that number of followers gathered together is a very small number, Jesus will be in their midst.  Do you take the ending verses in today’s Gospel Reading about granting prayers from groups, as applying to prayer on the occasion of the Church’s gathering to deal with the sinner that is not repented?  I think it seems unlikely.  God’s answering of prayer from a very small group envisions a totally different situation from that involving an entire congregation praying in union.  Also, the target of the prayer in the last two sentences of this Gospel Reading is expressed in a very “general way;” presuming, anything for which they are praying, will be answered.

Some see the last sentence of today’s Gospel reading as meaning that the presence of Jesus seems to guarantee the worth and effectiveness of prayer.  The bible verse is extremely similar in perspective to one attributed to a rabbi that was executed in A.D. 135, during the second Jewish revolt: “… When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqe Abot 3:3).  WOW!  What a promise to make.  Or is it?

Jesus, in reality, isn’t talking about some type of magical formula to get whatever we wish.  We can’t win a MEGA lottery with some sort of prayer!  What Jesus is stating in these bible verses, is that it is good to have someone else praying with us. for like petitions or intention requests.

The two or three people praying together, is not limited, in any way, to geographical locations.  You do not have to be physically together for Jesus to be in your midst.  No matter how far apart you may be physically, if you and others are praying for the same intention, Jesus IS WITH YOU!  This is the major emphasis of the “Divine Office:” the prayer of the Church.  At any given moment, people across the world, AND in heaven, are praying this prayer – with God in their midst!

It isn’t easy waiting, and trusting in God, at times of stress and need.  Praying with another is encouraging and helpful for our mental being and spiritual souls.  Friends help us discern God’s direction.  So, keep persevering in your prayer life, and see how the Trinity works in you, AND your prayer partners.  Together, you can give each other a great piece of mind during times of sorrow or tribulations.  Maybe this peace IS the unintentional answer to your prayer.

 

Act of Hope

 

“O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clare of Assisi 1194-1253

 

At the beginning of the 13th century, when luxury and sensuality held sway, St. Francis of Assisi made his appearance, giving to men the example of a poor and penitential life. But God wished also to give the vain and pleasure-loving women of that period an example of contempt of the world’s vanities. For this mission he chose Clare, the daughter of a prominent and noble family of Assisi, born January 20, 1194. Her father was Favarone de Offreduccio, count of Sassorosso; her mother, the servant of God Ortolana, who died in the odor of sanctity.

Before the child’s birth it was revealed to the mother that her offspring would be a brilliant light in the world. This light the mother detected in her daughter from her earliest years. Besides being favored with personal beauty, Clare possessed a charming personality and rare qualities of mind. She was a favorite in the family, and hardly had she attained to young womanhood, when several suitors sought her in marriage.

But her virtues surpassed the gifts with which nature endorsed her. She interested herself in the poor and frequently denied herself things so as to be able to give more to the poor members of Christ. She loved prayer, and it was her sweetest delight to surrender her heart to sentiments of ardent devotion before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Beneath her beautiful garments she wore a sharp penitential belt in order to honor the sufferings of Christ and to preserve herself a chaste virgin for His sake.

She was 18 years old when she heard St. Francis preach in the cathedral of Assisi during the Lent of 1212. His words on contempt of the world and on penance, and particularly the holy example he set, so earnestly affected Clare, that she conferred with him and soon recognized that God was calling her to lead a life similar to his in the seclusion of a convent. She did not hesitate to carry out God’s plans. Realizing that her family, intent only on a brilliant future for her in the world, would oppose her vocation in every way, she had to leave home in secret.

On Palm Sunday she went to church, dressed in her richest garments, to attend divine services. That night, attended by an elderly relative, she went to the little chapel of Sty. Mary of the Angels, where St. Francis and his brethren came to meet her with lighted candles in their hands. Before the altar she removed her beautiful head-dress, then St. Francis cut off her hair and covered her head with a veil of common linen. In place of rich garments, she received a coarse penitential garb and was girded with a white cord. This was the way in which the mother and founder of the Poor Clares was invested on March 18, 1212. For the time being, St. Francis placed her in a convent of Benedictine sisters.

When Clare had successfully overcome the great opposition of her family, who had intended to force her to return home, her sister Agnes joined her in the sacrifice. St. Francis arranged a little convent for them near the church of St. Damian. There the number of consecrated virgins soon increased. They served God in great poverty, strict penance, and complete seclusion from the world according to a rule which St. Francis gave them as his Second Order. Clare was obliged in obedience to accept the office of abbess in 1215 and to continue in it for 38 years until her death. But her love for humility found compensation in the performance of the lowliest services toward her sisters. In spite of her great physical sufferings, she set her sisters a striking example of zeal in penance and prayer.

In the year 1240 an army of Saracens who were in the service of Emperor Frederick II drew near Assisi. They rushed upon the little convent of St. Damian that lay outside the city and had already scaled the walls of the monastery. In mortal fear the sisters had recourse to their mother, who was ill in bed.

The saint, carrying the pyx containing the Most Blessed Sacrament, had herself carried to a convent window. There she pleaded fervently with the Lord of heaven in the words of the Psalmist (Ps 73:19), “Deliver not up to beasts the souls, that confess to thee, and shield thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.” A mysterious voice coming from the Host said, “I shall always watch over you.” Immediately panic seized the besiegers. A ray of brilliant light which emanated from the Blessed Sacrament had dazzled them. They fell down from the walls and fled from the place. The convent was saved and the town of Assisi was spared.

After suffering from serious illness for 30 years, Clare felt that her end was drawing nigh. After she had received the last sacraments, she and one of her sisters beheld the Queen of Virgins coming with a large escort to meet her, the spouse of Jesus Christ. On August 11, 1253, she entered into the joys of eternity and on the following day her body was buried. Pope Alexander IV canonized her already in the year 1255. She was chosen as the universal patroness of television in 1958.

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 #11 of 26:  

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.

“Me Prepared? Nope, But There Is Plenty of Time – Isn’t There?!” – Luke 12:32-48†


One week to go till the finish of my yearly devotion: St. Louis de Monfort’s “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.”  It has been an awesome journey of faith.  It ends next Sunday, when I renew my consecration of the Marian Feast of “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” 

As a side note, completion of the devotion and consecration, —   along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation attained yesterday, attendance at Mass on the day of consecration, and reception of the Holy Eucharist on that day, — will grant me a plenary indulgence: a total wiping clean of any imperfections on my soul from the abuses I have earned through my own sins – and that’s some serious wiping!  This is the ultimate in being prepared for the Parousia.  (If you do not understand what “parousia” is, you will after reading this reflection today.)

 

 

** A mini-reflection: (You get two reflections, for the price of one today!)
  

For those did not know their Church Calendar backwards and forwards, this past Friday was the feast of the “Transfiguration of the Lord.”
     

The Transfiguration of Christ is related in detail in the Synoptic gospels: Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 9:1-8, and Luke 9:28-36.  Six days after His stopover in Cæsarea Philippi, Jesus took Peter, James and John to Mount Tabor where He was “transfigured” before their eyes.  His face shone as the sun, and his garments became snow white.  The dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. 

This sounds a lot like what happened with Moses on Mount Sinai, as written in Exodus:  “The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.  But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights. As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.”  (NAB Ex 24: 16-18, 34: 29)

Previously, we learned from Exodus 3:14 — “God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, ‘This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.’” — that God revealed His glory in the bush that was burning bright, but not consumed.  Then, at a later time as written above, the bush blazed and the cloud became luminous on the mountain top, as God gave Moses the Law of the Covenant.  On another mountain top, Jesus like the bush before, again revealed His glory in Jesus, and the glory of His Father shining threw His whole body, and even His garments.

In this manifestation, Moses and Elijah not only encouraged Jesus, but also adored Him as the promised one of God.  And, for the second time (the first being at His baptism in the Jordan River), God spoke and proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son.  Jesus’ speaking with Moses and Elijah about the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem strengthened His faith, and the growing faith of his three friends, preparing them ALL for the terrible struggle they were to endure at Gethsemane.  After all, in witnessing this beautiful manifestation, Peter, James, and John received a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to come.        

Have you been transfigured?  Are you burning with God’s love and revelation?  Have you ever received Jesus in Holy Communion?

PS – See if you can find the link between the “Transfiguration” and today’s Gospel reading.

 

Does anyone have access to a few free “used but still usable” 1 volume Divine Office books (“Christian Prayer”)?  We have several new Inquirers and Candidates in our SFO Fraternity.  If you know of one collecting dust, please let us use it for the glory of God.  Will pick up if in St. Louis metro area, or will gladly pay for postage.  Please let me know if you can help.  We need a minimum of three, but can use 10 if possible.

Our SFO Fraternity has decided to try to get hold of donated “Christian Prayer” books that have been used in order to save trees, and to continue the good works from Religious that have died or left the order.  When using the original owner’s book, we will also be praying for their soul and intentions. (What’s a better payment than praying for one’s soul and intentions?!)
      

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

“What I desire most is to be faithful and to finish the race. It doesn’t matter if I finish running or crawling; all I want is to finish and to hear God the Father say to me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23). I can’t give up; I must keep going.”

— Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR,
Hiking the Camino:
500 Miles with Jesus,
Servant Books

 

  

    

Today’s reflection is about being prepared, for when we do not know or expect, the Son of Man will come.

 

32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.  34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  35 “Gird your loins and light your lamps 36 and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.  38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.  39 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”  42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  44 Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  (NAB Luke 12:32-48)

 

God desires to give us His Kingdom.  He wants to take us to be with Him forever in paradise.  But we MUST wait, and be Prepared.  Sounds like a “scouting” thing to me.  Maybe the scouts have it right in their “Scouting Oath and Law:”

“On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

The “Scout Law” is to be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent (12 virtues).  What else can you ask for in being a Catholic?  Our entire Catechism and focus of our faith are possibly summed up in these two promises that “children” pledge routinely throughout the world.  Didn’t Jesus say we are to be like children to enter the kingdom?  Kind of makes you think; doesn’t it!?

Today’s Gospel Reading is a collection of quips and sayings related to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and “the return of Jesus.”  Luke emphasized the importance of being faithful to the instructions and teachings of Jesus in the period before the “parousia.”  What the heck is “parousia?”

Parousia is the return of Jesus Christ to end the current period of human history and existence on earth, and to open the new era of paradise here for some, and eternal torment, also here, for others.  This “time” when Jesus will return has been given many names: the Day of the Lord, the Parousia, the end time, and the Second Coming of Christ.  I might even call it the “Oops – Too Late” time for some.

Why do we have to wait for the Parousia?  The Jewish people knew and trusted they would defeat their many enemies, but had to endure many plagues and tribulations before they were released by the Pharaoh, after the first “Passover.”  Abraham and Sarah had to wait a very long time before Isaac was born: and ditto for Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth.  I, for one, never joke about my wife and I being too old to get pregnant: God does have an awesome and surprissing sense of humor after all!  Waiting is a necessary component of faith in God: it is a virtue called patience.

God has bequeathed to us paradise with Him.  He just asks us to be prepared, by doing a few simple things.  First, forget about the materialistic things of this world, and instead embrace the spiritual things of His kingdom.  Secondly, use the resources available to you to help others in need.  After all, as is written in today’s Gospel reading, “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be (Luke 12:34).” 

“Gird your loins and light your lamps … ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks ….”  I yelled out this phrase to my teenage children, and then almost fell out of my chair laughing after seeing their faces.  I honestly believe they thought I went off the deep end!  This phrase simply means to be dressed and ready to go, day or night; for when He comes, no one knows.  I’ll go even further and say that the “dressed” part of this phrase is to be dressed in God’s graces and virtues; and the “light” is the illumination present in us (we call this “Sanctifying Grace”).  This transfigured grace guides us in walking in the brightness of Jesus’ footsteps.

Peter asks if this parable is meant just for the Apostles, or for the large crowd that had gathered to listen to Jesus.  Without answering Peter’s question, Jesus responds with yet another parable (I love Jesus’ style) about servants awaiting the return of their master.

This new parable adds to the theme of vigilance and caution.  It explains how to wait, and reminds us of the reward for the faithful follower at the heavenly banquet in paradise.  If it was addressed to the Apostles, then it was addressed to the leadership of the “early” Catholic Church; and the “Church body” of today: the faithful individuals and community, in union with the Magisterium.  

Those faithful followers and servants whom God finds observant will be sanctified on His return: the Parousia.  God so dearly wants to oblige himself to us.  He desires to have us recline at His table, and wishes to wait on us as He hosts the divine feast in heaven.  I suspect God will be the perfectly gracious host, at a meal of a lifetime!

“My master is delayed in coming” is a statement that indicates that the early Christian expectation for the impending return of Jesus had undergone some modification.  Luke warns his readers against depending on such a delay and acting irresponsibly, and may I say unwisely.  A similar warning can found in Matthew 24:48-51: But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Two warnings in the hand are better than one soul in hell! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Is this time of preparation and waiting going to be an easy wait?  Hell NO! – Literally.  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  The “Peter Principle” states that “we rise to our highest level of incompetency.”  The “Jesus Principle” states that we can rise to the highest level of sanctification and perfection.

God’s kingdom is unfolding in this world and in our hearts and souls – TODAY!  We actually see a hint of the kingdom at every Mass and Liturgical Sacrament.  We catch sight of the kingdom every time we gather in His name.  We make out His kingdom in every person we help, we forgive, and to whom we ask for forgiveness.

We are not to be like the greedy rich fool in last Sunday’s Gospel reading who planned to store his great harvest in barns rather than share it.  We are instead to share our wealth with anyone we encounter in need.  We need to see Jesus in all humans, regardless of their earthly predicaments.  The solution for the angst or fear brought on by Jesus’ return and the coming judgment is to surrender our greed and dependence for material possessions, and to provide for the needs of others as our circumstances allow us. Our immense treasure will instead be in heaven, where it cannot wear out, be stolen, nor destroyed (Luke 12: 33).

How many clocks are in your home?  If you’re like me, you have a timepiece everywhere: the kitchen and living room walls; on the microwave and oven, on the DVD/DVR device(s), on both sides of the bed, on the cell phone(s), and maybe even on your wrist.  With all of these time reminders, are you (or a loved one) still repetitively late to appointments, breaking my “11th Commandment: “Thou shall never be late!”?

FYI, I don’t believe you really want to be late, when the Parousia occurs.  Place a symbol such as a crucifix, Rosary, or picture of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus,” near your clocks as a reminder that it is always “time” for us to be acting like Disciples of Christ.  Another easy thing that I have recently started doing is to set an alarm on my cell phone (that is ALWAYS with me) for 3 p.m. (that’s 1500 hours for the military mind set).  At this time each and every day, when the alarm alerts me, I pray a very simple and short prayer: “Jesus, I trust in you.”  This literally puts Jesus into my thoughts and heart at least once in the middle, and probably the busiest point, of every day.

Another major way to be ready for the coming judgment is to simply be on continuous alert.  We must be like the servants waiting for the master’s return from a wedding banquet that (even now) usually lasts for days in the Middle East.  (And we complain about a couple hours of bad food and cash bars.)  We need be watchful, so that even if Jesus comes in the middle of the night, we will be ready for Him.  We ought to be found doing our Catholic and sacred jobs when Jesus arrives at the time of the Parousia.  If we are doing our jobs, our reward will be great.  But if we relax and neglect our duties, acting like the greedy rich man, we will not have a place in God’s kingdom: eternal paradise.  This requires that we be living in a consistently moral and obedient way, so that we are always ready and prepared to give a first-rate account to God of how we have lived.

It can be an easy wait for those that maintain their faith and Christian practices.  Here is the secret: Just live every day as you want to live in God’s Kingdom.  If you do, Jesus will surely wait on you!  He’ll honor you for helping others, and for walking in His footsteps.

There is a great hope and joy in today’s Gospel reading.  God is never outdone in generosity!  God ALWAYS wins: and He picked all of us to be on His team!

 

 “The Apostles Creed”

 

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
     

*****
    

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Holy Father Dominic 1170-1221
   
  

Dominic was born to wealthy Spanish nobility.  At his baptism, his mother saw a star shining from his chest.  Dominic, though of noble stature, eventually turned his back entirely on material possessions and wealth.

He studied theology at Palencia, and became the “Canon” of the church of Osma.  As a Priest and Augustinian, Dominic lived a lifelong apostolate among heretics, especially the Albigensians in France.  He founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215.  The Dominicans were a group who live a simple and austere life.  Dominic also founded an order of nuns dedicated to the care of young girls.  He was a true visionary, and associated with friends such as Saint Amata of Assisi (a Poor Clare Nun).

At one point Dominic became discouraged at the stalled progress of his mission; the heresies remained.  He received a vision from Our Lady who showed him a wreath of roses, and told him to say the Rosary daily, and to teach it to all who would listen.  Eventually the true faith won out over the heretics. Dominic is often erroneously credited with the invention of the Rosary, but the Rosary predated his life.  It had been prayed long before his birth by those who could not read, as a substitute for reading and praying the Psalms.

Through St. Dominic and Blessed Alan, it is a widely accepted belief that our Blessed Mother Mary granted fifteen promises to all those who recite the Rosary:

1.  Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.

2.  I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.

3.  The Rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.

4.  It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things.  Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5.  Those who recommend themselves to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.

6.  Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune.  God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an un-provided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

7.  Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

8.  Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

9.  I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

10.  The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

11.  You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.

12.  All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13.  I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

14.  All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Legend says that Dominic received a vision of a beggar who, like Dominic, would do great things for the Faith.  Dominic met the beggar the next day, and he embraced him saying, “You are my companion and must walk with me.  If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us.”  The beggar was Saint Francis of Assisi.

Quote:

“A man who governs his passions is master of his world.  We must either command them or be enslaved by them.  It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.” – Saint Dominic

Based on: 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 #8 of 26:
   

As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.

Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.