“That Darn Butterfly Flapped His Wing In the Rainforest, and Now I’m Overweight!”– Mt 1:18-23†


 

Did you sing happy birthday to Mary.  Today’s Gospel reading is about the nativity of Jesus, but the Mass is in honor of our Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Everyone, please give me input on what you like, didn’t like, would like, or any other “like” I may have missed!  I am totally serious – I am writing this reflection blog for you as much as for me.  I truly need your input!!!  Please, please, please leave a comment on this blog site, or on my Facebook page.  Thank you again, I love you all.  Dan

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
    
†   70 – Titus, General of Rome, sacks Jerusalem. See also: Destruction of Jerusalem.
†   701 – Death of Pope Sergius I
†   801 – Birth of Ansgar, German Catholic archbishop (d. 865)
†   1565 – The Knights of Malta lift the Turkish siege of Malta (the Siege of Malta started on May 18).
†   1853 – Death of Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (b. 1813)
†   In Malta today – Feast of Our Lady of Victories (il-Vittorja); anniversary of the 1565 victory of the Knights of Malta over the Ottoman Empire; anniversary of the 1943 surrender of Italy to the Allied forces, marking the end of World War II hostilities on Malta.†  

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON”

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Counting the days till CHRISTmas.

 

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Mt 1:18-23)

 

108 days till CHRISTmas!  One of my unique gifts in life is that I can pretty much tell you almost instantly how many days till this beautiful and magnanimous day at any time throughout the year.  I love the CHRISTmas season.  The pomp and circumstances, the beauty, the peace, and the message all create a special place in my heart for me. 

When I was young, I lived for the secular side of this holiday: the cookies, the gifts, the eggnog, the gifts, the decorations, the gifts, the music, and the gifts.  Now I live for the spiritual side: the pageant of God coming to us as promised for centuries before (but I still like getting gifts at any time).

Decorations are being set-up in the major stores as I write this.  Holiday commercials on television are rare for NOW, but have started already.  And soon, a local radio station will start playing CHRISTmas music 24/7 until New Years Day.  Oh, what a beautiful season of the year.  Why can’t we always have the spirit of this season throughout the entire year!  That would be so nice.

Today’s Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ birth.  His life is a true reality in body, blood, soul, AND divinity; and is still true regardless of the time of the year, or for the year for that matter.  Jesus needs to be reborn in our hearts and souls on a daily basis.  We need to convert our wayward actions, and commit to following Him on a daily basis.  Decorations and music from a specific season are not needed to encounter the beauty, joy, AND the TRUE REALITY of our blessed Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Can you picture how much care and divine planning God took in bringing His plan of coming to us in a human and divine form – for our salvation – to fruition?  How many events, actions, and interactions had to take place before Jesus could come into our lives?  How many people had to play out their roles in order to prepare the way for the fulfillment of all of God’s promises?

How many events, actions, and interactions had to come together before we were born?  Events in the world such as past war, famine, slavery, and travel affected our birth and being.  Hmm — That darn butterfly flapped his wing in the rainforest, and now I’m overweight! 

Seriously through, God’s interaction, His plan, shaped our families the moment we were each born.  None of us are an “accident.”  We are all instruments in God’s divine plan.  We did not just “show up” for we had a history prior to our birth and a future even after our deaths!  Besides the act of murder that is performed with each abortion and euthanasia act, I see the devastating component of the purposeful destruction of God’s plan.

Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is in fact, the work of the “Holy Spirit” of God: the Advocate, the Paraclete – the third person of the Holy Trinity.  Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is swept away by an angelic command through a dream, telling him to take Mary into his home and to accept the child as his own.  

The promises made to King David centuries before are fulfilled through this particular man named Joseph.  Through Joseph’s adoption, the child belongs to the legal and thus genealogical family of King David.  

Matthew shows the virginal conception of the young teenage Mary as the fulfillment of prophesies found in the Old Testaments book of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”   The Holy Spirit acting on, in, and through this young Mary was manifesting the future birth of our Messiah.  His birth alone fulfilled God’s divinely given stipulations as prophesied in Old Testament writings regarding “Emmanuel’s” [Jesus’] mission on earth.  Also, Matthew stresses that in the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God – this young and sin-free Mary, an important substance of fact is fulfilled in the words of Isaiah’s divine prophetic wisdom: Mary’s Immaculate Conception had to be without any doubt of faith and without carnal action for Jesus to also be born sin-free. 

Jesus’ ancestors didn’t have a clue that they were going to be significant in history, and forever immortalized in Holy Scripture.  I bet Mary didn’t understand or even totally perceive her role and significance as she was growing up in her home town of Nazareth.  As she embraced her role later in life, she saw the wisdom emanating from Jesus, and adored His counsel and love as her Son and God

What is meant by the term, “Betrothed to Joseph” in verse 18.   Betrothal was the first part of a “marriage covenant” between Jewish people in that time, place, and era.  It established a man and woman legally as husband and wife.  But, the couple at this point usually still lived in separate households, and the marriage was not consummated at this time.  But, by being legally married any subsequent “infidelity” was considered an act and sin of adultery and subject to the penalty of divorce with possible death by stoning for the guilty.  A “betrothal” was followed some time later (even months or years) by the husband’s taking his wife into his home.  At this time, our perception of a normal married life finally begins in a form we would recognize by today’s standards.  This also the time, the husband learns the married man’s mantra: “Yes dear!”

Being a devout observer of Mosaic Law, Joseph was considered a “righteous man.”  He initially wanted to sever his union with Mary whom he suspected of violating the law.  Realistically, Jewish law may have required him to do so.  In Deut. 22:20-21, “But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her un-chasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.“  But, does this biblical law truly pertain to Joseph’s situation; though pregnant, she was still a virgin!?  Unwilling to expose Mary to shame Joseph was also unwilling to order the penalty for adultery: death by stoning.

“The angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament was a common designation for God in interaction with a human being.  An angel coming to a human in a dream, specifically Joseph, happens several times in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Mathew 2:13 has the angel ordering Mary and Joseph to flee with the infant Jesus to Egypt after being warned in a dream.  Matthew 2:19, tells of the dream to Joseph in which the angel advises him that Herod had died.  And finally, Matthew 2:22 has the angel advising Joseph to take his “Holy Family” to Galilee and not to Judea in a dream.   

For me, these dreams recall those of the Joseph from the Old Testament (Genesis).  This other Joseph, in his multi-colored robes, also had prophetic and divinely directive dreams. 

The conspicuous similarities between the birth stories of Moses and Jesus are striking. There are obvious parallels existing between the New Testament nativity story and the tale in Moses Exodus:

1. In Matthew 2:13-14, Herod was going to search for the child to destroy him, so Joseph took the child and his mother and went away.  In Exodus 2:15, Pharaoh sought to do away with Moses, so Moses went away.

2. Herod’s massacre of the boys in Bethlehem corresponds to the Pharaoh’s command to throw the Hebrew children into the Nile River.

3. In Matthew 2:19, Herod dies.  In Exodus 2:23, the King of Egypt was a position that existed in some form from approximately 3200 BC to the mid 20th century.

4. In Matthew 2:19-20, the angel of the Lord (in a dream) says to Joseph (while exiled in Egypt), “Go back to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”  The language is similar to Exodus 4:19, “The Lord said to Moses while in Midian, ‘Return to Egypt, for those who were seeking your life are dead.‘”

A closer parallel is the dream of Amram, the father of Moses, as related by Josephus in the “Antiquities of the Jews.”  The Midrashic (a Jewish way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal or moral teachings) tales of Moses offer additional counterparts between the birth of Jesus and that of Moses:

1. The impending birth of each is announced to Herod and Pharaoh respectively, and both rulers are filled with “dread” at this news.

2. Amram (Moses’ father) is told that his wife will give birth to a son who will save Israel.  Joseph is told that Mary’s son will be called Jesus “for he will save the people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” was the Hebrew name Joshua (and the Greek Iesous) meaning “Yahweh helps,” and was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”

3. The birth of Jesus is heralded by a star, and at the birth of Moses there is great light.

4. From the start, both Jesus and Moses are recognized as extraordinary people.

5. Joseph marries Mary while she is pregnant.  An interesting parallel can be found in a cryptic statement of the Talmud that Amram married (actually remarried) while his bride was already pregnant (with Moses).

“Emmanuel” translates from Hebrew to “God is with us.”  God’s promise of deliverance to the Jewish people in Isaiah’s time is seen by Matthew as being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.  The name “Emmanuel” is also alluded to at the end of the Matthew’s Gospel (28:20) wherein the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence by saying,”. . . I am with you always, until the end of the age.” 

The promise of Jesus’ real presence for all time echoes the name Emmanuel given to him in today’s infancy narrative.  Emmanuel -“God is with us” – will always be with us, “until the end of the age.” (Bible trivia: The phrase, “the end of the age” is found only in Matthew’s Gospel [13:40, 49; 24:3; and 28:20]).

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, I have strengthened my belief that our lives are interlaced into God’s plan for the world.  Look outside the “box” of our lives, and look around at God’s plan.  He has great things designed and intended for each of us. 

Earlier, I reflected on Mary’s evolution to the realization of Jesus’ role in salvation, and how she sought His counsel and love.  His counsel and love is for all of us also.  We just need to choose to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and then watch as His plan unfolds before our very eyes!

 

“The Serenity Prayer”

 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.  Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (nine months earlier).

Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child that will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story (like many biblical counterparts) stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.

St. Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation and asks for an increase of peace.

 

Comment:

We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God’s love and peace to the world.

This is all true in a magnificent way in Mary. If Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.

Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary’s birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.

 

Quote:

“Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father’s immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse” (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).

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 #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

 

8.     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.

 

9.     The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

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