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
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.
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.
“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).