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
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!
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.
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.
“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.