Today in Catholic History:
† 70 – The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.
† 1521 – Birth of Pope Urban VII (d. 1590)
† Liturgical Feasts: Saint Sithney, patron saint of mad dogs; Saint John Vianney (Jean-Marie Vianney), parish priest, patron saint of priests
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Part of asking God for something is the asking; and the asking IS part of the answer: a deepening faith in God. – Dan Halley, SFO
Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ breaking with his usual procedure of ministering only to Israelites up till this point in His earthly ministry, and answering our prayers.
21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” 24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” 28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. (NAB Mt 15:21-28)
Tyre is a city in what is the Southern part of Lebanon today. The city juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean and is located about 50 miles south of Beirut. The name of the city means “rock” after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built. Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city that has many historical sites, including its Roman Hippodrome.
Sidon is also on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Southern Lebanon, about half-way between Tyre to the south and Beirut to the north. Its name means “a fishery.” Hmm; I wound what the main occupation was in Sidon?
Canaanites, like the woman in this Gospel reading, were inhabitants of a region in the area of what is the present-day Gaza Strip, Israel, West Bank, and Lebanon. “Canaan” predates the ancient Israelite territories described in the Bible, and describes a land with different, but overlapping boundaries.
In this story of the daughter of the Canaanite woman, Jesus establishes a break with his standard procedure of ministering only to Israelites, and also prefigures the Apostles and Churches mission to the Gentiles.
This Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, is identifying Jesus as her “Lord” and “Son of David!” By saying these two phrases, she is exclaiming publically that Jesus is the one having power and authority over all others as the divine ruler by hereditary right and ascendancy from God the Father in heaven – FOR Jew and Gentile! She is also declaring that Jesus, the true Messiah, is due our love, worship, and obedience.
Jesus tells this Gentile lady, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” What did He mean by this? Didn’t He come for the entire human race?! I believe it may have been a foretelling of a future mission Jesus gives the Apostles. Like Jesus, the Twelve Apostles were initially sent only to Jewish territories and people: a way to “get their feet wet.” This statement may reflect an initial early Christian refusal of missions to the Gentiles. Or, it could just be an expression of the limitation that Jesus Himself observed during his ministry, by travelling no further than about 100 miles from His birthplace.
This woman reminds me of my wife: she won’t take “no” for an answer. The woman in this story keeps calling out after Him, to the point of annoying the Apostles. Jesus finally relents, and not only listens to her pleas, but acts on her pleas immediately.
In recalling Jesus’ encounters with women, this seems to be a normal pattern for Him: swiftly relenting to the women in His life. Mary, His mother asks Jesus to help the wine stewards at the feast in Cana; Margaret asks Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead; and Mary Magdalene had seven “spirits” removed after asking Jesus.
Now, here’s a little secret! He does the same thing still today for both men and women! All we need to do is ask Him for help, and He will help. His intervention may not be swift enough for you, and may not even be the way you wanted something carried out. To be quite honest, you may not recognize that Jesus intervened at all, but He always helps anyone who asks. The divine wisdom of God has no boundaries. Every action He takes has a purpose and reason. How He acts on a specific request is always for the best outcome of the person making the request, the people involved, and for future circumstances.
“The children” Jesus was speaking of, were the people of Israel: the Jewish people. The term “dogs” on the other hand, was (along with the word “swine”) a Jewish term of scorn for Gentiles. This saying in today’s Gospel reading, some scholars have said, may have resulted from the early Christian community’s opposition to preaching the Gospel to non-Jews (Gentiles). In the light of the verse found in Matthew 28:19: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” their understanding, for me, has an element of error in their logic. Rather, I believe that this saying [children and dogs] applied to early Christians having to deal with stubbornly brazen fellow “Christians,” as shown in Matthew 18:17: “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.”
Just like in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant found in Matthew 8:10: “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Matthew credits Jesus’ granting the request to the woman’s great faith. Her persistence in open dialogue: her loud and sincere “prayer” to Jesus was heard, and He acted on her behalf.
We don’t pray to change God’s mind. We pray that our minds are changed instead. If we got everything we ask for, then we would be God, and would have no need for faith in anyone! There would be no opportunities for other doors to open; and no need to see Jesus in others we come into contact. I believe that without faith, there would no longer be anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or gifts of the Holy Spirit. How sad would be the world then!
“Parents’ Prayer for Their Children”
“O God the Father of mankind, who hast given unto me these my children, and committed them to my charge to bring them up for Thee, and to prepare them for eternal life: help me with Thy heavenly grace, that I may be able to fulfill this most sacred duty and stewardship. Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me to be gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful; and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence, and the excess of severity; and grant that, both by word and example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety, so that at last I may, with them, be admitted to the unspeakable joys of our true home in heaven, in the company of the blessed Angels and Saints. Amen.
O Heavenly Father, I commend my children to Thy care. Be Thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is lacking in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Thy grace into their hearts, and strengthen and multiply in them the gifts of Thy Holy Spirit that they may daily grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving Thee here, may come to rejoice in Thy presence hereafter. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. John Mary Vianney 1786-1859
Seldom has a priestly life been so holy, so self-sacrificing, so fruitful of good for the salvation of souls as the life of the Cure’ of Ars in France, St. John Mary Vianney, who died August 4, 1859. It is a distinct honor for the Third Order of St. Francis that he was one of its members.
He was born in Dardilly, not far from Lyons, of simple and devout parents. Very early his pure heart experienced a burning desire to consecrate himself to God in the priestly vocation, and to win very many souls for our dear Lord. His talents were very meager; but his diligence and piety helped him to overcome all obstacles so that he was ordained in 1815.
Three years later his bishop sent him as curate to Ars, a little village in the diocese of Lyon. His parish was at the time in a very pitiable condition. The fear of God and the practice of virtue were rare things there. Attendance at divine services and the reception of the sacraments were quite generally neglected, and the young folks were mindful of nothing but amusement, a dance taking place practically every Sunday.
It was, therefore, with a heavy heart and yet with great confidence in God that the curate entered upon his duties. He realized that God’s help was his first great need. Throughout the entire day he knelt before the blessed sacrament and prayed for his erring sheep.
This zeal at prayer was soon noticed, and the grace he had asked for continued its work. The people were astonished at the devotion John Mary displayed while celebrating holy Mass. His very mortified life made a deep impression upon them. His love for the poor and the sick, his mild word to everyone soon won for him all hearts.
He invited them to pray, in the morning to attend holy Mass, in the evening to recite the rosary. He also introduced a Eucharistic confraternity. He strove to eliminate the dangers to which the people were exposing themselves by their weekly dances. When a certain person, who was earning his livelihood by means of these dances, said to him, “But a person must live,” the priest replied, “True, but one must also die.” He conducted the divine services with all possible solemnity, and this proved at attraction for the people. By means of frequent instructions, especially in catechism, he taught his parishioners about virtue and vice, and portrayed in vivid terms the reward God has reserved for the good and the punishment that will be inflicted on the wicked.
He was tireless in administering the sacrament of penance, always showing not only great zeal but also practicing meekness and charity in an extraordinary degree. In a few years the parish was completely transformed. The few dissenting voices were entirely ignored, and their worldly attractions were not heeded. The fame of the blessed success and the holy life of the priest of Ars spread rapidly. Strangers came in ever increasingly numbers in order to have their consciences set aright and to obtain advice and consolation in every type of need.
From the year 1828 the concourse of people took on the semblance of organized pilgrimages; the number of strangers was estimated to be at least 20,000 annually. Numerous conversions of a most remarkable nature occurred, and many sick persons were miraculously restored to health. These cures the humble pastor ascribed to the intercession of St. Philomena, who was venerated in his church.
The demands made upon the servant of God were, naturally, very great. He spent from 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Besides, he conducted a catechetical instruction in the church each day, and led the rosary every evening. Along with these superhuman exertions he also practiced rigorous mortification, fasted almost constantly, and slept on a board. In his way he spent himself in the fullest sense of the word as a good shepherd, and labored for the salvation of souls until he was 74 years old.
Completely worn out, he collapsed at the last day of May, 1859, and died peacefully in the Lord without any agony on August 4. Pope Pius X beatified him and Pope Pius XI canonized him and made him the patron of all priests who have the care of souls.
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 #4:
The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.
Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.