Today in Catholic History:
† 687 – St Sergius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope, succeeding Conon
† 1124 – Chancellor Haimeric selects pope (Lamberto becomes Honorius II)
† 1945 – John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, ordained as a priest
† 1952 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Orientales Ecclesias
† 1996 – Deaath of Gerald Moverley, priest, at age 74
† 1996 – Death of Guiseppe Dossetti, politician/priest, at age 83
Franciscan Formation Reflection:
Franciscans are heralds of peace and reconciliation.
“In his Admonitions, Francis explained that “those people are truly peacemakers who, regardless of what they suffer in this world, preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of our Lord Jesus Christ” (#15). His greeting to all, still repeated by Franciscans today, was “Pax et bonum,” “peace and all good.” Franciscans are called to build peace in their personal lives and in society. As mentioned above, such a lifestyle involves an attitude of active non-violence.”
“Let Franciscans love one another, as the Lord says: This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. Let them express the love they have for one another by their deeds.” Earlier Rule, Chapter XI
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Today’s reflection is about today’s first reading at Mass; God’s “Decree” to His “Chosen” People.
6c I am the LORD, there is no other; 7 I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things. 8 Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this.
18 For thus says the LORD, The creator of the heavens, who is God, The designer and maker of the earth who established it, Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in: I am the LORD, and there is no other. Who announced this from the beginning and foretold it from of old? Was it not I, the LORD, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me.
22 Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other! 23 By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, 24 Saying, “Only in the LORD are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him. 25 In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel.” (NAB Isaiah 45: 6c-8, 18, 21b-25)
Since I wrote about today’s Gospel reading this past Sunday, I have instead chosen to reflect on today’s first reading of the Mass. The great prophet, Isaiah, is often referred to by Jesus Himself throughout His ministry. Isaiah offered an immense amount of wisdom, love of God, and prophesies in his words of hope and trust. I though, struggle at times with understanding Isaiah’s verses at more than just a cursory level. Hopefully, I have accomplished relating my thoughts on these verses without too many “Blunders.” But hey, what is the name of my blog site after all?!
Most Scholars believe the book of Isaiah was actually written by two different people, 150 years apart. Today’s first reading was written by the “Second” (Deutero-) Isaiah. And, it was probably written during the Jewish Babylonian captivity. There are even some disputes and discussions among scholars that chapters 56-66 of Isaiah were written by a “Third” (Trito-) “Isaiah.”
The first part of today’s reading is a poem of “firsts and lasts,” “beginnings and ends,” “alphas and omegas.” It is classified by bible scholars as a “servant song,” wherein the servant is the beloved and chosen “One” of Yahweh; with a mission. To paraphrase: the servant is “the chosen ‘ONE’ sent by God for a specific mission.” Hmm; Who does that sound like to you?!
In verse seven (7), a strange comment is made: “create woe.” God is not “stirring the pot!” (A talent I excel at, at times.) God is permitting evil for the sake of a greater good. Although God is said to be the author of both good and evil, evil should not be perceived as our notion of an arrogant and overconfident monster boastfully moving callously throughout the world. (Wow that was descriptive!) God allows evil via His permissive will, just as He allows us to experience, receive, and offer evil via our free-will. Several Old Testament books prophesizes such evil for the Israelites:
Amos 3:6: “If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If evil befalls a city, has not the LORD caused it?”
Amos 4:13: “You shall go out through the breached walls each by the most direct way, and you shall be cast into the mire, says the LORD.”
Isaiah 10:5-20 writes about Israel being an “impious nation”. In this case God uses Assyria merely to punish, but not to destroy His “chosen” people.
Finally, in Judges 2:6-3:6, the Israelites offend God by choosing to serve the “Baals”.
Somehow, the “servant” that this particular reading is relating to, is to be sent by God with the intent to accomplish God’s will and plan for Israel. Many centuries later, we discover His entry into humanity, through the new “Eve”, and the new “Ark”: the Blessed Virgin, Mary.
The Vulgate is the late fourth (4th) century bible as translated by Saint Jerome, from the original Hebrew and Greek, into Latin. It is known as the “commonly used translation” for all other bibles. The Vulgate Bible, in due course, became the definitive and only official Latin version of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church. Jerome’s Latin translation is well known in the Advent hymn used during Mass and in the Divine Office: “Rorate coeli desuper. This “hymn” expresses the world’s longing for the coming of Christ:”
“Mystic dew from heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield —
Fairest flower of the field”.
Saint Jerome’s interpretation (instead of the NAB used today) actually gives a more precise messianic sense in verse eight (8) by using proper names in writing “just one” and “savior” instead of the NAB’s “justice” and “salvation.” For many reasons, including this example, I actually prefer the Douay-Rheims Bible (the English translation of the Latin Vulgate) over other translations, except for the original Greek of the New Testament. (You know you’re a “Bible Geek” when you take courses in the “Kenoi” (ancient Greek of the Bible) Greek.
Historically, verse eight (8) is also a prayer or hymn used to bring to a close the anointing ceremony for Cyrus (the Great; c. 600 BC – 530 BC.) This prayer song urgently begs, implores, God to bring salvation out of their (the Jewish people) exile and captivity in Babylon.
God always listens to His people. In Isaiah 11:1 it says, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Historically, after the Babylonian Exile there existed only a “stump” of the Davidic line remaining. From this stump arose the “new shoot”, the messianic King – – Jesus Christ! In Isaiah 55:10-11, it is written:
“For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
Verse eighteen (18) [and 21b-25] is part of “The Lord’s Decree” (Verses 14 through 25). It is in a hymnic style echoing with participles (verbs used to form complex tenses, and may also be used as an adjective) that are cut off with “victorious” acclamations.
God is stating that He made the earth NOT to “waste” it, but to live in it fruitfully and reasonably with each other. God has to be an active member of the “Franciscan Action Network” (FAN), whose mission, in part, is to make aware how NOT to waste earthly resources. God is also stating that there is NO OTHER god than He! Our heavenly and almighty Father gives an allusion to the beginning of creation, when the earth was a waste and void – in verse eighteen (18), and as He did in Genesis:
“The earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
The same Hebrew word, “tohu”, is used in both passages just mentioned (Isaiah 45:18 and Genesis 1:2). The further allusion God is making here is to Palestine, which God wishes again to be inhabited by the returning exiles. Why did it actually takes till the major conflict and war, in 1968 Israel, and still is being fought over till this day?
In verse twenty-five (25), God’s chosen people, Israel, is being summoned away from the false Babylonian gods, and who never anticipated the future collapse of their own cities, as prophesized. When God foretold the future through his prophets, He set in motion the means and plan of fulfillment (salvation). This is overtly implied in the phrase “survivors from among the Gentiles.” In Isaiah 10:21-22, it is written:
“A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return; their destruction is decreed as overwhelming justice demands.”
For me, “remnant” is a difficult word and principle to define in this particular case, for “remnant” is not to be decided numerically as God’s prophets were never impressed by externals; or by an interior state of lowliness for the prophets were too realistic in their mission. The word “remnant”, in this case very likely meant the involvement in destruction – – with only a few survivors. The survivors became the hope for the future; and out of whom God reconstituted a “new” Israel. The word “remnant” goes much further though. It declared that God is not only the source of all life, but also the “ONE” who brings this life out of lowly origins, and an attitude of faith. Evidence can be found elsewhere in Old Testament Holy Scripture:
“Thus says the LORD: As the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion a pair of legs or the tip of an ear of his sheep, So the Israelites who dwell in Samaria shall escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of a cot.” (Amos 3:12)
“Hate evil and love good, and let justice prevail at the gate; then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will have pity on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)
“But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD.” (Zephaniah 3:12)
“And take from his mouth his bloody meat, and his abominations from between his teeth: He also shall become a remnant for our God, and shall be like a family in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.” (Zechariah 9:7)
Verse twenty-three (23), – – “By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear” – – inspired an early Christian hymn to Jesus. Philippians 2:10-11 declares:
“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Interestingly, inserted in this particular verse from Philippians is a reference to the “three levels” of the universe, according to ancient thought: heaven, earth, and under the earth.
Philippians is not the only New Testament book referring to today’s first reading of the Mass. Romans 14:11 also announces:
“For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’“
In verses 22-25, God says, “ends of the earth” meaning the descendants of Jacob/Israel. It directs the poem or hymn to the “chosen people” of God. But, it must not be read as a call to or for a “universal salvation” of all the Jewish people!” Rather, today’s reading refers to Israelites scattered throughout the Babylonian empire and that have already surrendered to apostasy (the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance). The fulfillment of prophecy, and of Israel’s finest hopes, is to be found only “in the Lord.”
“The 23rd Psalm”
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul:
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.
Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (1819-1876)
Born into a distinguished family in Aachen (then ruled by Prussia but formerly Aix-la-Chapelle, France), Frances ran the household after her mother’s death and established a reputation for generosity to the poor. In 1844 she became a Secular Franciscan. The next year she and four companions established a religious community devoted to caring for the poor. In 1851 the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis (a variant of the original name) were approved by the local bishop; the community soon spread. The first U.S. foundation was made in 1858.
Mother Frances visited the United States in 1863 and helped her sisters nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. She visited the United States again in 1868. When Philip Hoever was establishing the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, she encouraged him.
When Mother Frances died, there were 2,500 members of her community worldwide. The number has kept growing. They are still engaged in operating hospitals and homes for the aged. Mother Mary Frances was beatified in 1974.
The sick, the poor and the aged are constantly in danger of being considered “useless” members of society and therefore ignored—or worse. Women and men motivated by the ideals of Mother Frances are needed if the God-given dignity and destiny of all people are to be respected.
In 1868, Mother Frances wrote to all her sisters, reminding them of Jesus’ words: “You are my friends if you do what I command you…. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another” (John 15:14,17)
She continued: “If we do this faithfully and zealously, we will experience the truth of the words of our father St. Francis who says that love lightens all difficulties and sweetens all bitterness. We will likewise partake of the blessing which St. Francis promised to all his children, both present and future, after having admonished them to love one another even as he had loved them and continues to love them.”
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 15 & 16 of 26:
15. Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.
16. Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.