God, Please Bless America!!
September 11, 2001 needs to be forever remembered!!
Individuals have the “right” to build a Mosque near “ground-zero,” or even to burn books such as the “Koran,” but that does not make it necessarily “Right!”
Remember the “Pieta” and “Our Lady of Sorrows.” Picture the victims of this tragic act of violence in our loving Blessed Virgin Mother’s lap, instead of the usually pictured infant Jesus. (Taken, in part, from a letter by Fr. Pio Jackson, OFM)
Next week will be my first anniversary of writing these reflections. With 258 postings as of today, my knowledge and piety for Holy Scripture has vastly increased. I have grown to love reading my Bible (yes, I am a catholic WITH a Bible – actually I have several). The 73 books of the Bible are amazing reads and valuable sources of information, inspiration, and spirituality. I cannot tell you how many “God-winks” I have experienced in my journey through Scripture. God truly does work in mysterious ways.
Thank you again for reading, and for commenting on my reflections. I pray that you have been helped or inspired by my words. Actually, I should not use the word “my” as I firmly believe that I am not creating these reflections. I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me, and I love the fact that the Paraclete is so lovingly intertwined into my soul and body. Thank you Lord, my God and my all; I love and trust in you always.
Today in Catholic History:
† 1690 – Birth of Peter Dens, Belgian Catholic theologian (d. 1775)
† 1960 – John F. Kennedy avers he does not speak for the Roman Catholic Church, and neither does the Church speak for him.
(From “Today in Catholic History”
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Where will you stand in eternity? Smoking or Non-Smoking!
Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Scribes criticizing Him for keeping company with the poor and dreads of society.
1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him [Jesus}, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So to them he addressed this parable. 4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. 8 “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ 10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:1-10)
Jesus in today’s Gospel relates two of three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing. There are two fairly obvious themes with these readings today. The first focuses on God’s desire that all of us who may be lost will be found and return to Him. The second spotlights on OUR calling to search for the “lost sheep or coin” and bring them home to God.
The Pharisees and Scribes were mumbling about Jesus’ followers. Jesus wasn’t just drawing those interested in discussing religious matters on an intellectual level, or even the particulars of the temple law. These followers were not only the regular synagogue and temple worshiping crowd, but also a “new” circle of people altogether. Up till this point, many followers of Jesus would not have been considered a traditionally pious people. These individuals of various piety levels were gathering to Him — like hair on soap, and it wasn’t just a few either. The outcasts of Jewish society like the lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles, tax-collectors, and other sinners all approached Jesus with a genuine eagerness to hear what he had to say and teach.
Their “hearing” Jesus’ message started a movement towards conversion for these “outcast heathens.” This “hearing” stands in stark contrast to the “hearing” of Jesus’ fellow “chosen ones” who have heard and not believed. These Pharisees and Scribes are being cautious and suspicious of Jesus; they complain about His associating with “sinners” and the other dreads of society. These Pharisees and Scribes were not used to mixing with these “worthless” people following Jesus. They considered these people as “unclean;” and to be in contact or involved with them would bring uncleanness on them as well. Jesus’ insight about these “Pharisaical attitudes” is deliciously revealing in these three parables (only two of which are presented in this reflection).
The parable of the lost sheep in today’s Gospel is also found in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 18:12-14); but Luke adds two additional parables: “the lost coin parable” in Luke 15:8-10, and “the prodigal son parable” found later in this chapter (Luke 15:11-32). These two additional stories are from Luke’s own special tradition of faith. Luke illustrates Jesus’ particular concern for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” and for God’s love for every repentant sinner. In His parables, Jesus takes real life reactions and turns them into a spiritual understanding and application.
Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God! He does much more than simply accepting these “lost” people; Jesus welcomes them and even eats with them, which in His time and culture meant much more than just a meal. It is a special meal of welcome and recognition for that individual. There’s nothing wimpy about Jesus’ actions, attitude, or love for all people, especially the poor and suffering. He actively welcomes people who might normally expect rejection from other “teachers”.
In the first story of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the ninety-nine sheep to search for the lowly lost sheep that had left its flock. When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices, but NOT just by himself, as suggested in Matthew’s version. Instead, he rejoices with his friends and neighbors. In this same way, God rejoices more over the lowly sinner, similarly lost, who repents. In this group were the “heroes,” the non-Jews, outcasts, and tax collectors who have come to hear, really hear, Jesus. Jesus reveals that there is joy in heaven; and that there is even more joy over the outcasts repentance than the righteous, unrepentant, ninety-nine who think they have no need for a change of heart.
The Jewish people have always been a shepherding clan of people, going all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sheep were raised for wool, meat, and for holy sacrifices. A hundred sheep (99 + 1, Hmm) would be a fairly normal size for a herder. In Jesus’ parable, the herder was probably counting his herd and finds one missing. Leaving the ninety-nine, he goes off looking for the “one” lost sheep until he finds it. There is no blame directed towards the sheep that went lost; the emphasis of the story is on the joyfulness of the event when the lost is found. The point Jesus was making is quite simple and elegant: the pious people of Israel are not necessarily the lost sheep in this parable! The tax collectors and sinners are the real lost sheep for whom Jesus was sent!
The second story is about a woman who is so poor that she will not stop searching for her lost coins until she finds them. How many of us have searched through the deep recesses of our furniture and cars, just for a little spending change? This is an allegorical story to me; it makes a similar but much stronger point than the first parable.
This lady in the parable was poor. She was poor of materialistic needs and possibly poor of spiritual needs as well. In her searching of all the deep recesses of her life (represented by her home), she made a total examination of her life, consciousness, spirituality, and immediate possible future. She re-examined every part of her being (her home), and finally finding what she had lost: her conviction and belief in a loving and true God (represented by the ten coins). In her repentance of the past, her conversion in the present, and a new belief in a loving God that is forever present with her in a unique way, she found a new freedom and wealth never before experienced. This woman is now joyful and celebrates her “new” life with others, (her brothers and sisters in Christ) who believe as she.
In this second parable when Jesus talks about ten coins, He is literally talking about, “ten drachmas.” A drachma was a Greek silver coin of the time period. The drachma may not have been in circulation during Jesus’ time of public ministry in Israel, but Luke’s readers would know what a drachma was the few decades later when Luke wrote his Gospel. A drachma was worth about the same as a Roman denarius: an average day’s wage; so she was looking for ten days wages.
In studying the meaning of biblical numbers, “ten” is one of the “perfect” numbers. It signifies the “perfection,” or fullness of divinity and a completeness of right order. In other words, this number implies total and complete wholeness. As I saw myself in these stories, I saw myself searching through the recesses of my memory, looking for something I know I need but don’t have; then I remembered finding my treasure: it being the love of, and for, Jesus Christ. It was then that I realized that through these parables we all are being led to a totally perfected, complete, and wholesome soul full of joy at an eternal celebration with Him in paradise.
We are not covering the third parable in this reflection today. You will have to wait; but I guarantee a doozy of a reflection with this story from Jesus. All I can say is that it involves sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll! It will make you laugh; it will make you cry. It will be rated a five-star reflection on the “God-O-Matic” Meter! How is this for a cliff-hanger to get you back for future reflections?!
When we are lost, God doesn’t wait for our return. He actively seeks us out. And when His “lost sheep” are found, how could He not celebrate and rejoice? Jesus’ role is not only one of group redemption and salvation, but that it begins with a “one-by-one,” “person-by-person,” “search and rescue” mission. That was Jesus’ undertaking on earth in His human AND divine fullness.
If you ask your children who are scouts, or if you are one of the few parents that volunteers as a scout leader, you have probably been taught what to do when lost in the woods: literally, “hug-a-tree.” You know that this means to stay put exactly where you are so others can find you more easily. Just as any parent would go to any length to find a loved one and bring them home, so too would God. That is what Jesus is telling us in these stories! No matter what we do, no matter how bad or wrong we are, God, our infinitely good and loving Father, is always ready and anxious to find and forgive us. He desires to welcome us back into His loving arms. In fact, He actively draws us back to Himself.
Remember; Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God. An essential part of God’s character is His extending mercy and love to the “undeserving” of society. His mission is not only to welcome those who are searching for Him, but also to actually seek the injured, the sick, the oppressed, the blind, the imprisoned, and those who may not be searching for Him. God really does go to great lengths in order to rescue us. Our souls are worth all risks for Him. How does Jesus live this role yet today? The answer is, I believe a part of His initial plan unveiled two thousand years ago: the Holy Cross of our salvation and redemption — the message of true and active love for all creation still yet today.
If geographically lost, do not forget to “hug-a-tree.” When lost on our faith journey, the same advice is true: “Hug a tree” — the tree of salvation and redemption — Jesus’ Cross! He will be more than happy to hug you, and bring you to safety.
“St. Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix”
let your light fill the shadows of my heart
and grant me, Lord,
awareness and knowing,
that I may fulfill Your holy will. Amen.
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.
Mary always points us to God, reminding us of God’s infinite goodness. She helps us to open our hearts to God’s ways, wherever those may lead us. Honored under the title “Queen of Peace,” Mary encourages us to cooperate with Jesus in building a peace based on justice, a peace that respects the fundamental human rights (including religious rights) of all peoples.
“Lord our God, when your Son was dying on the altar of the cross, he gave us as our mother the one he had chosen to be his own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother, with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in all our needs” (Marian Sacramentary, Mass for the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
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 12 & 13 of 26:
12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
13. As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.