Monthly Archives: January 2011

“Blessed are the …. AH, You Know ‘em! So, start LIVING ‘EM!” – Matthew 5:1-12a†


 

I want to start off by appologizing for any mistakes today.  I went to bed late and am tired.

Yesterday, I attended the “Catholic Men for Christ” conference at St. Louis Universities “Busch Student Center”.  This conference was about Life – – about SAVING the lives of God’s Warrior Men.

With fellow “Brothers for Christ”, we heard about what it means to be a a God loving man, a better husband and father, and a true LOVER of our Lord and our Blessed Mother.  We learned how to be a “chaste” man in the example of our patron of all fathers, St. Joseph.  And, we also learned how to say “Yes” to God, and to make an ordinary man into an EXTRAORDINARY man for Christ!

The speakers included Bishop Ed Rice, Zip Rzeppa, NFL player/Coach/EWTN Show Host Danny Abramowicz, Fr. Tom Santen, and Catholic Evangelist/ EWTN Show Host Richard Lane.  Mass was celebrated by Bishop-emeritus Robert Herman.

It was nice to see nearly 1500 men praising and worshiping Christ as only men can do.  I nearly cried seeing a line stretching for 100’s of feet for the 20 or so priests hearing confession (an optional component of the day).  How great can the Holy Spirit be when he works in His creations!

If you ever get the opportunity to attend, please do so.  It will be a God-send.

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


  
†   1077 – Pope Gregory VII pardons German emperor Henry IV
†   1592 – Ippolito Aldobrandini elected Pope Clement VIII
†   1910 – Birth of Frans Dohmen, union leader (Dutch Catholic Mineworker’s Union)
†   1964 – Death of Berthold Altaner, German church historian, at age 80
†   1969 – Death of Georges Pire, Belgian monk, Nobel laureate (b. 1910)
†   Feast/Memorials: St. Mutien-Marie Wiaux;  St. Hippolytus; St. Hyacintha Mariscotti; St. Aldegonde; St. Bathild; St. Martina, Virgin and Martyr; St. Savina, martyred under Emperor Diocletian; St. Anthony the Great’s feast in the Coptic Church
†   Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church: Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer and forgiveness.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Author of “Life’s Little Instruction Book”.

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 09 of 13 Parts

There is a very beautiful expression in the Acts of the Apostles, where it says: “Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice.”

This is parrhesia: standing up, having the courage to speak along with others, not as lone voices, not every man for himself. Courage consists in getting others to speak, as a group, an association, a Church, a diocese or a parish.

This is how the Church want us: frank, open, bold, full of God, in the style of original Franciscanism, in the beautiful style of the Seraphic Father, faithful to the wording of the Rule, moving from the Gospel to the Life and from the Life to the Gospel, faithful executors of the mission which God entrusted to Francis, for him and his children, and which the Church has confirmed.

But are we really like this?

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching what it means to be happy

 

1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.  5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.  6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.  9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.  12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  (NAB Matthew 5:1-12a)

 

The Beatitudes are so familiar to each one of us that we easily risk losing sight of how revolutionary and radical the Beatitudes are, then and now!  How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution?  Well, The spirit of poverty allows ample room for the joy of possessing God in His majesty, mercy, and love within each of us.  The spirit of hunger searches for sustenance and strength in God’s promise, word, and grace to each of us individually, through the actions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Grief and mourning over vices, iniquities, and sin leads one to a freedom from the burdens of fear, guilt, and oppression, to a state of pure joy in and with God and His kingdom.  God reveals to the “humble hearted” person a true and complete source of copiously perfect joy and happiness.

 

Today’s reading is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as found in Matthew’s Gospel. The outline and manner of the “Beatitudes” found here is not unique to Jesus in His teaching ministry on earth.  The Beatitudes are found in one form or another throughout the Old Testament.  For example, the words of the Beatitudes can be found in the psalms and in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.  The Beatitudes are a simple way to teach how to find favor with God, and entrance to His kingdom on earth and in heaven.

This reading is the first of several teachings or sermons that are a principal part and focus in the framework of Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” parallels Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Luke 6:20-49), although some of the phrases or sayings in today’s reading are found in other parts of Luke’s Gospel.  

The matter and arrangement of Jesus’ sermon isn’t probably due “solely” to Matthew’s writing skill and editing.  Matthew seems to have possessed a fairly structured written account of Jesus teachings as at least one of his sources in writing his Gospel.  Most scholars believe the form of this [unknown] source that MAtthew used may have been as follows:

T   Four “beatitudes” (Matthew 5:3-4, 6, 11-12),

T   A section on the “new righteousness” with illustrations and examples (Matthew 5:17, 20-24, 27-28, 33-48),

T   A section on “good works” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18),

T   And finally, “three warnings” (Matthew 7:1-2, 15-21, 24-27).
(1) “Stop judging, that you may not be judged; (2) Beware of false prophets; And, (3) everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.”

In comparison to Luke’s sermon (on the plain), Matthew’s sermon (on the Mount) wasn’t addressed solely to Jesus’ disciples.  Matthew’s version has Jesus also delivering His message to the masses – – the crowds (see Matthew 7:28).

You must note that in this reading that the people whom Jesus calls “blessed” and “happy” are not people we normally think of as being blessed or even happy!  These individuals were local farmers in a country occupied by an oppressive foreign government and rule.  These farmers were literally, at best, surviving!  Most of them were only one bad harvest away from famine.  I am sure, they all were praying and searching for a windfall of some type, to ease their burdens.

The poor in spirit, the meek, and the persecuted are those found to be in “favor” with God.  “The least will be first” (Matthew 20:16).  This Gospel is truly one of reversals that will be prevalent with God’s kingdom on earth.  Jesus’ plan for happiness reflects little of what the world might call happiness for most of us in today’s secularized world.

The word “Blessed” is sometimes translated as happy, fortunate, and/or favored.  For Jesus, being “Blessed” is a divine “favor” graced upon those who are poor, those who mourn, and those who are persecuted. Jesus’ message certainly would been a welcomed, captivating, and surprising message to the poor and hard working individuals who heard Him that day, (be it on a plain or on top of a mountain).

Although modified by Matthew, the first, second, fourth, and eighth Beatitudes are paralleled in Luke:

1st – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20)

2nd – “Blessed are they who mourn” (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21, 22)

4th – “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:6; Luke 6:21a)

8th – “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.” (Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 5:22-23).  

The other beatitudes were probably added by Matthew as his own composition.  A few Western and Alexandrian manuscripts and many patristic (from early Church fathers) quotations give the second and third beatitudes in reversed order.  (I report this solely to show that the beatitudes can be found in other writings than the Bible.)

 

The first beatitude is, “The poor in spirit”.  In Old Testament Scripture, the “poor” (“anawim”) are those who are without any material possessions and whose confidence is in God: 

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; Seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the LORD’S anger.”  (Zephaniah 2:3)

In the NAB, the word “poor” is translated as “lowly and humble”.  Matthew added “in spirit” to indicate that the devout poor was meant, BUT also to extend the Beatitudes to all – regardless of their social rank.  Whichever their situation, the individual must recognize their complete dependence on God to gain entrance to His kingdom.  The same phrase, “poor in spirit”, can also be found in the Qumran literature (1QM 14:7 – The Dead Sea Scrolls).

In Psalm 37:11, it is written:

“But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity.”

In the psalm, “the land” means the land of Palestine.  However, in today’s reading Matthew means the kingdom of God, both on earth and in heaven.

The statement found in verse six (6), “for righteousness”, is an addition to the Beatitudes by Matthew.  “Righteousness” can be defined as having a proper moral conduct that is in conformity to and with God’s will.  For Matthew, righteousness refers to our attitude and actions being in sync with the saving grace and activity of God in our individual lives.  To be righteousness is to submit to God’s plan for the salvation of the human race through, in, and with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 24:4 states:

The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely.”

Only individuals whose hearts were clean [pure] were allowed to participate in Temple worship – – to be with God in the Temple is described in Psalm 42:2 as “beholding his face“.  In today’s reading (verse 8), the promise to the “clean of heart” was that they will see God – – not in the Temple, – – but in His “coming” kingdom on earth!

What is meant by these words from verse ten (10)?

The prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10)

Matthew saw Jesus’ disciples standing in the sacred and holy lineage and procession of God’s persecuted prophets of the Old Testament.  With using this expression or phrase, is Matthew considering all “Christian” disciples – – as prophets, – – similar to those found in the Old Testament writings and traditions?

 

The Beatitudes can be understood as a formula or outline for Catholic living and practice, especially in today’s world.  It is obvious that Jesus turned things upside down in preaching the Beatitudes, and they are still upside down today.  Our vocation as Catholic followers of Jesus Christ is not to be first in this secular world.  Rather, it is to be first solely in the eyes of God.  In referring to the good things that God’s faithful will experience, Matthew reminds us that those who act in the manner described in the Beatitudes will find their reward with God.

The status and prestigious things that matter to most of us in this secular world today will not matter in any way or detail in God’s kingdom.  There is no “celebrity status” in heaven.  In His kingdom there is also no temptation, sin, pain, suffering, or tears.  There will be no war, divorce, or divisions of any kind.  We will live in peace, rest, comfort, perfect and complete joy, and in perfect health with the Holy Trinity, the angels, our friends and family, and with all the saints.  (I can’t wait to talk face-to-face with St Francis and St. Mother Theresa.)

Today’s Gospel offers a stark contrast to many messages and experiences we hear, observe, and are offered in our secular society today.  What would happen if we were to accept without analyzing, questioning or discerning the get ahead and be on top messages and “opportunities” of our worldly, materialistic culture?  We probably would believe that happiness means having money, being successful, having many possessions, and so on.  If we think this way, we would not be unlike the farming people who heard Jesus teach on the day when He taught the Beatitudes. The crowd with Jesus on the Mount (or even on that plain as in Luke) that day also probably associated happiness with material possessions and status prior to His teaching.

 

For you personally, what does it mean to be “happy” or “blessed”?  Make a list of traits that you would associate as ones of a happy person.  Then reflect on Jesus’ description of happiness in the beatitude sermons.  Think about each of the Beatitudes individually and what might you share or lack with each of the Beatitudes?  What do you believe is “true happiness” in this secular world, and in God’s kingdom?  Can they reasonably coexist with each other in harmony?  (I would love to hear your answers to this last question.  It might be an interesting topic for the near-future.)  

The beatitudes which Jesus offers us are in obscure and possibly incomprehensible opposition to the world’s understanding of happiness and joy.  Jesus’ Beatitudes sum up our calling, our vocation, as His disciple – to live a life not of the secular world, yet still in the secular world.  The joys of heaven will more than outweigh the troubles, persecutions, tribulations, and hardships one can expect (and anticipate) in this secular world.  Thomas Aquinas, a doctor of the Church (and a person I am growing to understand and love the more I am exposed to him) said: “No one can live without joy.  That is why a person deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures.”  

As a man that lived for years of my young adulthood in the shadows of “carnal pleasures” I so understand this quote from this brilliant philosopher-theologian.  Listen to the Word of God with an open heart and mind, and experience a peaceful heart, mind, and soul.  You will then have the grace to be happy even in difficult situations, knowing you are at peace with – and in – God!

 

 

Prayer of St. Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.   Amen
.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti (1585-1640)

 

Hyacintha accepted God’s standards somewhat late in life. Born of a noble family near Viterbo, she entered a local convent of sisters who followed the Third Order Rule. However, she supplied herself with enough food, clothing and other goods to live a very comfortable life amid these sisters pledged to mortification.

A serious illness required that Hyacintha’s confessor bring Holy Communion to her room. Scandalized on seeing how soft a life she had provided for herself, the confessor advised her to live more humbly. Hyacintha disposed of her fine clothes and special foods. She eventually became very penitential in food and clothing; she was ready to do the most humble work in the convent. She developed a special devotion to the sufferings of Christ and by her penances became an inspiration to the sisters in her convent. She was canonized in 1807.

Comment:

How differently might Hyacintha’s life have ended if her confessor had been afraid to question her pursuit of a soft life! Or what if she had refused to accept any challenge to her comfortable pattern of life? Francis of Assisi expected give and take in fraternal correction among his followers. Humility is required both of the one giving it and of the one receiving the correction; their roles could easily be reversed in the future. Such correction is really an act of charity and should be viewed that way by all concerned.

Quote:

Francis told his friars: “Blessed is the servant who would accept correction, accusation, and blame from another as patiently as he would from himself. Blessed is the servant who when he is rebuked quietly agrees, respectfully submits, humbly admits his fault, and willingly makes amends” (Admonition XXII).

 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) Prologue to the Rule: 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance 

In the name of the Lord!

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).

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♫ “Sow a Seed, a Tiny Seed. Ray, a Drop of Golden Sun!” ♫ – Mark 4:1-20†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1109 – Death of Albericus of Côteaux, French saint
†   1564 – The Council of Trent issued its conclusions in “the Tridentinum”, establishing a distinction between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
†   1589 – Job is elected as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
†   1722 – Birth of Alexander Carlyle, Scottish church leader (d. 1805)
†   1789 – John Odell signs contract for £336 to build St Peter’s church (Bronx)
†   1932 – Birth of George H Clements, first Roman Catholic Priest to adopt a child.
†   1962 – Bishop Burke (not Raymond Cardinal Burke) of Buffalo Catholic dioceses declares Chubby Checker’s “Twist” is impure & bans it from all Catholic schools
†   1976 – Belgium catholic elite start amnesty campaign for war criminals
†   1991 – Alfaro Vive guerrilla group of Ecuador gives arms to Catholic church
†   Feasts/Memorials: Timothy and Titus; Saint Paula; Saint Alberic; Saint Margaret of Hungary

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

  

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html
 

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 08 of 13 Parts

John Paul II strongly advocated parrhesia:

“The parrhesia of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason” (Fides et Ratio, 48)

And the Holy Father Benedict XVI, then a Cardinal, commented thus on these words:

In a climate in which present day Catholicism risks being too acquiescent about conventional culture’s attitude to values and human rights, often considered variable “rules in a social game”, the Holy Father claims the right and duty of faith to speak strongly and clearly, to proclaim Christ as the ultimate and definitive truth of mankind and the world: with parrhesia, indeed. (from a talk by Card. Ratzinger on the Encyclical)

And on boldness, an exceptional Secular Franciscan, Bishop Don Tonino Bello, expresses himself thus:

“Boldness” does not mean rashness or foolhardiness, but parrhesia, i.e. freedom, frankness of speech, the active capacity to say things in the name of the Gospel. It does not mean to tone down the Gospel, to sweeten it or to dilute it to the point where it no longer says anything new.

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ “Sower and the Seed” parable.

 

1 On another occasion he began to teach by the sea.  A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.  And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.  2 And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, 3 “Hear this!  A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.  6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.  7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain.  8 And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”  9 He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”  10 And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables.  11 He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.  But to those outside everything comes in parables, 12 so that ‘they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.'”  13 Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? 14 The sower sows the word.  15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them.  16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.  17 But they have no root; they last only for a time.  Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  18 Those sown among thorns are another sort.  They are the people who hear the word, 19 but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit.  20 But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (NAB Mark 4:1-20)

 

The word “parable” (Greek: “parabole”) is used as a term covering a wide variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitude’s, and allegories.  In the New Testament, a “parable” primarily designates stories that illustrate comparisons between Christian truths and the events of everyday life at that time (and even now).  The key feature of today’s parable is the sowing of the seed, and its representation of the new initiative of the kingdom of God coming into the world.  

The use of parables was typical of Jesus’ mysterious and unfathomable method of teaching to the crowds.  Compare Jesus’ way of teaching to the masses with the interpretation that He presents to his disciples (a fewer number than the crowds) according to their capability to appreciate and comprehend His word. 

Parables were meant to focus and sharpen the curiosity of the individual “hearer”.  Today’s parable was a calculated homily appealing to a rural-oriented audience present at the seashore for Jesus’ lesson and sermon.  The local farmers knew the problems associated with trying to be successful in their particular farming environment.  After all, much of Palestine (even still today) is very rocky, with the top-soil that is more than often quite thin.  The Palestinian sun bears down on the earth relentlessly, often scorching and burning crops, and thus decreasing the usual bounty for the farmer.

Without any doubt from me (a self-proclaimed urban-city “born and bred” inhabitant expert), a large portion of the seed was scattered on ground not fit for growing dust, much less any plant.  Any gardener or farmer reading this reflection will recognize the importance of the need for good soil in order to supply nutrients for growth to any plant.  The “roots” of the plant are fundamentally necessary to get the food and water it needs.  Though much seed was used and wasted, the seed that fell on “good ground” (and also tended to with care) grew a good root system and bore a harvest of large bounty.  

The distinct and various types of soil conditions in today’s verses refer to the diverse range of responses to the word of God.  The climax of Jesus’ parable is the harvest of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold, indicating the completion of the exponential expanding kingdom on earth and in heaven.  Thus, the present and future actions of God, – – from the initiation to the fulfillment of the kingdom, – – are presented through todays and others of Jesus’ parables and teachings.

The point of today’s parable is that in spite of some failures due to resistance, conflict, and indifference, Jesus’ message of the coming of His kingdom will still have a bountiful and enormous success.

 

It seems Jesus preferred teaching outdoors and usually by water, be it the Jordan River or the Sea of Galilee.  The crowd present must have been massive and swarming to require Jesus to take a position in a boat in order to teach.  Can you picture Jesus standing in a boat at the shore of the Sea of Galilee (If He walked on water, He certainly can stand in a boat!)?  Mark depicts Jesus teaching to the crowds from such a platform a few times throughout his book.   

“Once again he went out along the sea.  All the crowd came to him and he taught them.” (Mark 2:13)

 “Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people (followed) from Galilee and from Judea.  Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.” (Mark 3:7-8)

In contrast to His teaching near or on the Sea of Galilee, the mountain was the typical scene of Jesus at prayer and in the process of forming his disciples:

“And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.”  (Mark 6:46)

 “He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.” (Mark 3:13; 9:2)

 “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them,” (Mark 3:13; 9:2)

 

The verses in today’s Gospel should be viewed against the concerns, unbelief, and opposition Jesus encountered in His earthly ministry.  With the background of today’s parable in mind, the distinction in Jesus’ method of teaching becomes clearer in His presenting the kingdom of God to the unbelieving crowd in one manner, and to His followers (His disciples) in another.  To the unbelievers, His message is presented in simple parables – – and the truth remains hidden.  For Jesus’ disciples, the parable is interpreted in their individual minds, heart, and souls, and the “mystery” is partially revealed to them by the Holy Spirit’s action, because of their faith.

 

There are different ways of accepting God’s word.  They all produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. The prejudiced individual shuts His mind to Jesus’ message.  This individual is not teachable and remains blind to the illumination of God’s word.

Then there is the shallow “hearer”. This person fails to fully understand and internalize the message.  In essence, he/she lacks a “depth” of understanding.  At first, he/she responds with enthusiasm and passion.  However, this zeal wears off and their minds seem to wander to something else.  Some quit when God’s mission gets too hard for them (“when the going gets hard …”).  And, even some (if not most I believe) just drift away, distracted by other “priorities” in their earthly world.

Another type of “hearer” is the person who is just too busy to pray, study, and meditate on God’s word.  His/her ability to accept God’s word is hardened.  His/her brain, heart, and soul are “rock hard”, and cannot be penetrated.

Finally, there is the individual whose mind is open to God’s word.  This person is willing to listen, learn, and accept Jesus’ message fully.  He/she allows the Holy Spirit to dwell in and through them. 

God gives grace to those who hunger for His word that they may understand His will, and have the strength to live according to His will and plan.  Do you hunger for God’s word; do you want to grow in God’s love?

 

My wife planted a small garden last year.  As always, she started by tilling the earth with her tiny two-tine tiller.  Tilling this year consisted of her little beast of burden buried somewhere in our garden shed; trying to get it started (with lots of prayers and frustrations); and then breaking up the earth to prepare it for the seeds.  She planted a variety of seeds and starter plants in a small patch of ground: three types of tomatoes; four types of “squash;” three types of melons, and even a couple of sunflowers just for fun.  Weeding the garden was a major challenge and sometimes unsuccessful for her.

The crops were surprisingly bountiful (especially the squashes) as compared to other years.  I even experimented once with “her” produce, and made “No-noodle vegetable lasagna” wherein I substituted thinly sliced zucchini instead of the usual pasta noodles.  All the veggies (except the mushrooms) came from my wife’s garden.  We had so much in fact, I actually made two big pans; sharing one with our neighboring friends.  With great humility, this meal (MY RECIPE AND CREATION!!) was a huge success!

What does my wife’s garden have to do with finding God?  For me, this was the meaning of Jesus’ parable about throwing some seeds around on the ground.  My wife searching for the tools to do the job, represents finding the time to look for God: finding Him in prayer and adoration; the Sacraments and sacramental’s; Reconciliation; and most importantly – – in the Eucharist.

The breaking up of the ground represents our submission to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to live in and with us, and to work through us.  Our lives (the soil) has to be prepared so that the Holy Spirit can take a strong hold and “root” in us, allowing the Holy Spirit to grow in, through, and out of us. 

Most of my wife’s seeds were planted in fertile soil, but some were eaten by birds, squirrels and rabbits, and even our dogs; and sadly, some never germinated.  I believe this is a representation of the same thing happening in each of us.  Being sinners, and definitely imperfect, the seeds of faith sometime never germinate within us, and some seeds of faith are destroyed by our vices and sins.  Yet, some seeds germinate and take a good strong root within us, if we allow.  In fertile soil, a well-prepared soul in this case, the seeds of God’s grace grow to fruition and sprout great graces (the vegetables) for the harvesting.

Some of the seeds in my wife’s garden grew surrounded by weeds.  When the vegetables were ready to be picked, we had to separate them from the tangled weeds to gather them.  They were still perfectly good to eat, even though they were not necessarily in pristine soil and conditions.  The same is true with our graces in God’s Kingdom.  Some of our graces are planted in fertile soil, but due to many circumstances weeds grow around our faith, trust, and love in and for God.  These circumstances (weeds) could include drugs, mental problems, petty crimes, bad family life, insecurity, or any other calamity that could affect someone’s spiritual life.  Even though you may be in this “weedy” soil, good produce is still possible and can be harvested from you.  With God all things are definitely possible, even with all the baggage we oftentimes carry.  Please allow God to harvest you from the weeds of life.  Jesus’ parable of the “sower and the seed” definitely gives hope and encouragement to all that listens to His word.

Remember, we are all unique.  No one path to God’s Kingdom is identical to another’s.  Each of us is a unique and “one-of-a-kind” individual, with unique and individual experiences.   God has a purpose for your life being different from any others.  I also believe that God gives you all the graces and talents you need to make that journey on the path that you must take to Him.

Maybe the parable today actually describes the different times in our individual lives as much as the different attitudes of the people we meet.  Though I am always open and in dire need of hearing God’s word, I seem to truly receive His word as eagerly as I should – – only some of the time!  I further believe this is truly human nature; an effect of our original sin on our soul.  God knows this as well – – Heck, after all, doesn’t He know everything?  Even though I may not be completely open to God’s word today, He also knows I will be more open, more attentive, and more determined in His word “tomorrow”.  God, “the sower”, will keep throwing me some of His seeds (His graces), and I know at least some will take root through His divine mercy and love.

 

St. Francis, while praying before the San Damiano Crucifix in the little town of Assisi in Italy, heard God tell him to “rebuild my house which is falling in ruins.”  Being a man trained in practical business matters from his father, St. Francis understood that God had told him that the old chapel he was praying in, which was now decrepit and literally falling apart, and – – brick by brick, – – needed to be repaired.

Francis did exactly that; he rebuilt that small Chapel and several others as well in his lifetime.  In addition, St. Francis also helped rebuild the entire Catholic Church.  He started three separate Franciscan Orders of priests, brothers, and nuns that eventually (and rapidly) spread world-wide; and even into the Anglican and Orthodox Churches.  God’s seed was planted with St. Francis in very fertile soil, and grew to an immense size, bearing much great fruit for God and His kingdom.   Are there any seeds waiting to sprout in you that could equal or surpass St. Francis’ bounty?  Ask God!

 

Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

“Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Sts. Timothy and Titus

 

Timothy (d. 97?): What we know from the New Testament of Timothy’s life makes it sound like that of a modern harried bishop. He had the honor of being a fellow apostle with Paul, both sharing the privilege of preaching the gospel and suffering for it.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Being the product of a “mixed” marriage, he was considered illegitimate by the Jews. It was his grandmother, Lois, who first became Christian. Timothy was a convert of Paul around the year 47 and later joined him in his apostolic work. He was with Paul at the founding of the Church in Corinth. During the 15 years he worked with Paul, he became one of his most faithful and trusted friends. He was sent on difficult missions by Paul—often in the face of great disturbance in local Churches which Paul had founded.

Timothy was with Paul in Rome during the latter’s house arrest. At some period Timothy himself was in prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul installed him as his representative at the Church of Ephesus.

Timothy was comparatively young for the work he was doing. (“Let no one have contempt for your youth,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12a.) Several references seem to indicate that he was timid. And one of Paul’s most frequently quoted lines was addressed to him: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Titus (d. 94?): Titus has the distinction of being a close friend and disciple of Paul as well as a fellow missionary. He was Greek, apparently from Antioch. Even though Titus was a Gentile, Paul would not let him be forced to undergo circumcision at Jerusalem. Titus is seen as a peacemaker, administrator, great friend. Paul’s second letter to Corinth affords an insight into the depth of his friendship with Titus, and the great fellowship they had in preaching the gospel: “When I went to Troas…I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia…. For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6).

When Paul was having trouble with the community at Corinth, Titus was the bearer of Paul’s severe letter and was successful in smoothing things out. Paul writes he was strengthened not only by the arrival of Titus but also “by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more…. And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, when you received him with fear and trembling” (2 Corinthians 7:7a, 15).

The Letter to Titus addresses him as the administrator of the Christian community on the island of Crete, charged with organizing it, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops.

Comment:

In Titus we get another glimpse of life in the early Church: great zeal in the apostolate, great communion in Christ, great friendship. Yet always there is the problem of human nature and the unglamorous details of daily life: the need for charity and patience in “quarrels with others, fears within myself,” as Paul says. Through it all, the love of Christ sustained them. At the end of the Letter to Titus, Paul says that when the temporary substitute comes, “hurry to me.”

Quote:

“But when the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy” (Titus 3:4-8).

Patron Saint of Stomach disorders

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 25 & 26 of 26:

 

25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

 

26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co-responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

“Yo; Drop That Stuff and Come With Me! We Have Places To Get To, People To Save, and Lots of Bread To Break!” – Matthew 4:12-23†


            

Today in Catholic History:
    


†   909 – John of Rila (aka Saint Ivan) was the first Bulgarian hermit, known for the “fable of two pies”.
†   1350 – Birth of Vincent Ferrer, Spanish missionary and saint (d. 1419)
†   1492 – The “Pentateuch” (Jewish holy book) is first printed.
†   1789 – Georgetown College becomes the first Roman Catholic college in the United States in the city of Washington, D.C.
†   1929 – Birth of Patriarch Filaret (Mykhailo Denysenko) of Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate
†   1936 – The Catholic People’s Party (KVP) of Curacao (a Caribbean Island) is formed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II condemns the US embargo against Cuba
†   Memorials/Feasts: St. Raymond of Peñafort, confessor, d. 1275; St. Emerentiana, virgin and martyr, d. 305; Blessed Marianne of Molokai

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 07 of 13 Parts

The Church expects us, urges the Cardinal, to have an attitude and conduct of authentic evangelical parrhesia  spent in the city of man. In the city of concrete human relations, of ‘humanity in situ’, not in a virtual, purely academic city, one of theoretical situations and obliging conformity towards the powers that be – out of fear or, worse still, for one’s own personal advantage.

What is parrhesia  ?

It is speaking clearly, without fear and hesitation, giving uncompromising witness to the Truth of the Gospel, explaining the hope that lives in us, sowing with humble courage the seed of the Word.

Today, more than ever, we should ask the Lord for the grace of parrhesia, for each one of us, for the whole SFO and for our churches.

In order to rediscover our prophetic mission and not be silent about violence perpetrated on the poor.

In order to intervene with courage every time human rights are violated.

In order not to be afraid of threats and to speak with honesty, without betraying the Word of God and making compromises, when the rights of God are made subordinate to the interests of men and of the idols which would claim His place.

 

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html
 

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus beginning to preach in Galilee.  He also and calls His first disciples.

 

12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”  17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.  21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.  23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.   (NAB Matthew 4:12-23)

 

Today’s Gospel records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry begins after His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and after his forty-day retreat to the desert where He was tempted by Satan.  When Jesus returns from His sojourn in the desert, he learns that John the Baptist had been arrested and was imprisoned.

 

Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali and Jesus’ residence at Capernaum is realized and fulfilled in the opening verses of today’s reading:

“They look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.  In the former time he brought them into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  (Isaiah 8:22-9:1)  

Galilee was at the crossroads of the “world” and much traffic passed through this little region.  This territory was devastated politically and religiously around the mid-700’s B.C., with the Assyrian invasion.  At this time a segment of the Jewish population was exiled to other regions, and a substantial number of “foreigners” were moved into the territory, forcibly taking possession of the land from the Jewish people, and then inhabiting in it.  For this reason, the area is referred to in Holy Scripture hereafter as the “Galilee of the Gentiles”.  This same land that was devastated and abused in Isaiah’s time will also be the first to receive the light, mission, and salvation of Jesus Christ’s life and preaching.

In order to fit Jesus’ move to Capernaum into Isaiah’s prophecy, Matthew speaks of Capernaum as being “in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali“, though it was actually “only” in the territory of Naphtali.  Matthew also somewhat “tweaked” his understanding of the “sea” in the messianic prophecy as the Sea of Galilee instead of the original Mediterranean Sea, as in Isaiah.

 

 

At the beginning of His teaching and preaching ministry, Jesus takes up the words of John the Baptist:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  (Matthew 3:2)

Jesus made two rather simple and direct demands: repent and believe!  The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sins for what they are – – denial, refusal, and a rejection of the love of God.  God wants to change our ways of thinking and transform our lives by the power of His ever-living word, and through the actions of the Holy Spirit.

However, Jesus Christ takes up John’s words of repentance and penance with a different meaning than John’s.  In Jesus’ ministry on earth, the kingdom of heaven had already begun to be present (and still is present today and forever).

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  (Matthew 12:28)

Jesus’ enduring, permanent, and redeeming efforts usher in a “new” age and covenant in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ brought such an enhancement and improvement through His salvation, that what is now required from us to be part of His kingdom, is a true and radical daily change in our behavior towards God and others.  God, in and through Jesus Christ, intervened in a special way to save all mankind.  We must now be open to God’s grace, and reform our ways in this same special way – – DAILY! 

We are obligated to make a stand – – either for God, or against Him!  (There are NO grey areas here!)  We must purposefully stop our moving (or slipping) away from God, and instead purposefully and lovingly move closer to Him.  With the coming of Jesus Christ, penance and a turning toward God on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis are absolutely essential!

Repentance is of such exceptional importance for Jesus that He preaches on this issue as the very first subject in His public ministry.  His words not only echo John the Baptist’s proclamation, it is the same – – word-for-word – – with John’s (as found in Matthew 3:2).  Both John and Jesus demanded repentance and penance as a precondition and qualification for receiving the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ has brought in and established in its fullness in, with, and through Him.  Jesus will present, illustrate, and reveal the Kingdom of God to be a Kingdom of love and holiness.

“We must submit our sins to the Church with a contrite heart in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may be daily more and more converted to the Lord, remembering His word: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand’”. (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 5)

Mankind fell into darkness with Adam and Eve’s sin.  Yet, God never abandoned His “chosen” people.  When His Son, Jesus Christ, was scourged and crucified, God raised Him up!  And this is our personal story, our future, as well.  We are sinners who are saved through the light of Jesus Christ.  We die in, and with, Christ – – and we rise with Him!  We go from the darkness of sin, to the light of His salvation.

 

 

These four men chosen by Jesus to be His first disciples, (and even His first Apostles), had already met the Lord, Jesus Christ, prior to His choosing them:

“The next day John [the Baptist] 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.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ’Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).  Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)”.  (Jn 1:35-42)

Their brief meeting with Jesus must have had an extremely powerful effect in their hearts and minds, as well as on their souls.  The effect Jesus had on these four fishermen moved them to immediately leave everything behind so as to follow Him, and to be His first disciples – – traveling with Him unfailing for three years and over many, many miles of ministry.  Can you envision the powerful presence that Jesus had on the people He met in order to elicit such an immediate and complete response as that of these first disciples?  Rising above their own personal and spiritual human faults and shortcomings (which the Gospel does so well at never hiding), we can see the great and wonderful promptness and generosity of these men (and hopefully ours) in answering God’s call.

“God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, He calls us in a loud voice, as He once called Peter and Andrew”. (St. Josemaria Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 45)

The promptness, enthusiasm, and eagerness with which these disciples (and future Apostles) follow Jesus were remarkable.  They immediately leave their nets and past lives, and follow Him.  God comes into all of our lives just as He did with these four fishermen; coming to us individually, He personally calls us to do His work in our lives and witness.  If we do not answer Him “immediately”, He may “continue” on His way, and we could easily turn our back on Him, and lose sight of Him. 

He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.  When the Lord calls us to be his disciple and benefactor of His grace, we should not think that we don’t have anything to offer Him in exchange.  The Lord takes the little we can offer and uses it for a sign and greatness of, for, and in, His kingdom in heaven and on earth.

Were these men more special than any of us?  HECK NO!  These were men had little education, and laboring as fishermen, when called by Jesus Christ.  More so than not, Jesus Christ seems to call ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats, while in the midst of their ordinary labors, actions, and lives.  The Wise Men were “called” in their ordinary glimmering occupations of studying and dreaming in the flickering stars; Moses was shepherding his flock when told to start a travel export company of sorts; Elisha was plowing his land when summoned to help another prophet, and to take care of a “jezebel”; and Amos was looking after his herd of sheep, his grove of fig trees, and counting his money when was given his mission.

Jesus’ calling of the first disciples gave to each of them a part in His work and mission.  Their “calling” entailed an abandonment of family, friends, and their former ways of life.  (Note: later bible verses suggest that the first disciples’ separation from their families may not have been as complete as the verses in today’s Gospel might lead us to believe.)  Is it surprising that three of the four chosen today (Simon, James, and John) are prominent among Jesus’ disciples (and Apostles) as having a closer and more personal relationship with Him than any others following Him?  They had the privilege of witnessing events in Jesus’ life and ministry which the other disciples did not see and experience.

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1; 26:37) 

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.”  (Matthew 26:36-37).

 

 

The reading today ends Jesus’ first ministry actions as reported in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 3 and 4).  His ministry activities of teaching, proclaiming the good news of God (the Gospel), and healing will continue for the next three years on earth, and still continues today through the actions of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us in a personal way.

 

Today’s Gospel reading ends with a description of Jesus’ ministry – – as it is beginning – – in that small fishing village of Galilee.  

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.”  (Matthew 9:35)

Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God with his life and work.  He teaches in the synagogue and preaches of the “kingdom”.  Jesus’ ability to cure people’s diseases and illness is a “sign” of God’s kingdom.  In Jesus’ ministry, we can already begin to see the Kingdom of God among us.

 

Could it be that the message for us today is to balance the fundamental “call” to be a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ with the challenge to be “fishers of men”, even within our own little circle of families and friends?  Initiating, and maintaining this balance will probably necessitate that we – – change some of our “priorities” – – in respect to our own families, friends, AND GOD!

Itemize and list the duties and activities of your typical day.  What are your “priorities” in your daily details and schedule?  How do you respond and react when your daily plans are interrupted or must be changed?  With your daily life in mind, reflect on the faith, trust, and example of the first disciples who “immediately” dropped everything they had and knew to follow Jesus.  Does your “priorities” and schedule give witness and evidence of placing God first in your life?  What might you do in order to better reveal and expose that God is your priority?

Do you show others around you the joy of the Gospel – – God’s “LIVING” Word?  Do you pray for your friends and family, co-workers, and the marginalized to come to know Jesus Christ?  Do you pray for them to grow in the beauty and acknowledgement of His eternal and unending love?  Please pray that you will always give witness, confirmation, and external signs that God comes first in your life.

“Only when a person is struck and opened up by Christ can true community grow.”  (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] “The Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements”)

 

 

Psalm 27

 

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom do I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom am I afraid? 

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’S house
all the days of my life,
that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord
and contemplate his temple. 

I believe that I shall the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord. 
Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mother Marianne Cope (1838-1918)

 

Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai.  Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).

Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome.  She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.”  Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus.  Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”

On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany.  The girl was named after her mother.  Two years later the Cope family immigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York.  Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York.  After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.

Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation.  A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.

Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881.  Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy.  More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked.  When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there.  The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne!  On Molokai she took charge of the home that Blessed Damien DeVeuster (d. 1889) had established for men and boys.  Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony.  Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.

Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully.  Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.

Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918.

Comment:

The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai.  Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded.  God grants gifts regardless of human short-sightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.

Quote:

Soon after Mother Marianne died, Mrs. John F. Bowler wrote in the Honolulu Advertiser, “Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world.  She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all.”

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 23 & 24 of 26:

 

23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

  

24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

“Where Is the ‘LOVE’ In All the Trickery? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!” – Mark 3:1-6†


 

Many Christian churches have designated January 18th – 23rd of every year as a “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”.   How can pray for a deeper unity among believers?  What unites us is much greater than what separates us!  Let us anticipate the day when we all will be completely and truly united in and with Jesus Christ, our common “Lord and Savior”!! 

The theme for prayer this year is from Acts (2:42):

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

“Teaching of the Apostles” can be achieved by learning what our church’s teach.  When was the last time you actually read, even a portion, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Do you own, or heard of such a book?  It is, in essence, our faith’s “book of rules and practices”.

“Communal life” can be gained by seeking opportunities to support one another in Jesus Christ.  All we need is “LOVE.”  (Hint: this is covered in today’s reflection)

“Breaking of the bread and prayers” is possible through working together for a common cause.  How do you support the poor and maligned?  Do you work to protect the unborn is some way?  Praying with other Christians (both Catholic, and of other faiths) is a powerful way to break new ground, and possibly even change the way we view each other’s faith and traditions.

 

 

 

 

This January 22nd is the 38th Anniversary (1973) of the controversial, immoral, and death sentencing decision from the US Supreme Court legalizing abortion in the case titled “Roe vs. Wade”.

Norma McCorvey, the real name of the person called Jane Roe in the infamous lawsuit, has since converted to Christianity (in 1995).  She has dedicated her life to stopping Abortion.  An active “Pro-lifer” now, she has a ministry called “Roe No More.” (http://www.roenomore.org/)

In describing how McCorvey views the “Pro-abortion” (Pro-Murder) community, she says, “Plain and simple, I was used. I was a nobody to them.  They only needed a pregnant woman to use for their case, and that is it.  They cared, not about me, but only about legalizing abortion.  Even after the case, I was never respected — probably because I was not an ivy-league educated, liberal feminist like they were.”

The prayer today (at the end of my reflection) is a “Novena Prayer of Reparation”.  Please pray this prayer frequently for the end of the horrendous assault against creation, nature, and God!

 

Today in Catholic History:
 

†   973 – Pope Benedictus VI elected
†  1607 – San Agustin Church in Manila is officially completed; it is currently the oldest church in the Philippines
†  Feast/Memorials: St. Mark of Ephesus
†  Eastern and Oriental Catholic Orthodoxy — Julian Calendar Theophany (Epiphany).
 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”  – John Bunyan

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 06 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  •  AWARENESS OF BEING PRESENT ALL OVER THE WORLD, EVEN WHERE THE CHURCH IS PRESECUTED

Perhaps you will not be asked to shed your blood in martyrdom, but you are indeed asked to give consistent, strong witness in the fulfillment of the promises made at Baptism and Confirmation and renewed and confirmed at your Profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. (John Paul II)

  • INVOLVEMENT WITH AND SUPPORT OF FRANCISCAN YOUTH

The letter, then, contains a strong, earnest exhortation to be an effective “sign of contradiction” in the world, with frankness and courage, and never to be content to go on guiltily accepting the evil of this world and the plight of the poor and excluded.

 (Continued on next published blog)

  

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFSSFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

  

  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus curing a man with a “withered” hand.

 

1 Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand.  2 They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him.  3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.”  4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  5 Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  6 The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.  (NAB Mark 3:1-6)

 

This is only the start of the third (3rd) chapter of Mark’s Gospel, and the Temple, religious, a government officials are already are upset and outright hostile toward Jesus.  Is He really a threat?  Well, you decide.  It seems the crowds love Him, and want to hear Him wherever He goes.  Not only does He obviously speak well, He speaks with an “authority” that others cannot match.  Jesus speaks the truth and is not afraid to debate His “elders” in the synagogues or Temple.  In today’s reading, He actually refers to these “pious” men as having a “hardness of heart!”  Their closed-mindedness actually angers Jesus!  And finally, Jesus talks and teaches about something “new” coming — the Kingdom of God!!

In today’s reading, Jesus is depicted in yet another controversy and disagreement with his rivals and opponents over the question of His performing work on the Sabbath, thus violating the Mosaic Law in regard to the Sabbath-day observance.  His rivals and opponents (mostly the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were already cold, distant, and unkind toward Him because they believed Jesus was a persistent violator of the Sabbath regulations.  These people held a very strict belief of the Sabbath observance, based on “God’s resting” on the seventh day:

Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”  (Genesis 2:2-3)  

Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”  (Exodus 20:8)

In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  (Exodus 20:11)

“Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the LORD, your God, commanded you.”  (Deut. 5:12)

 

The Scribes, Pharisees, and Herodians wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath observance so that they could (and most certainly would) publicly accuse Him of breaking “God’s divine law!” 

Sadly, these “leaders” (May I say, “Fools”?) put their own thoughts, actions, and needs as a much higher priority than the wishes of God.  Where was the LOVE?  They were wrapped up in their own stringent interpretations and micro-managing “by the book and to hell with anything else” type of legalistic worship, simply because they forgot, did not understand, or did not care to see the true and loving purpose of God in theirs, and others lives.  Though these men “of prayer” were sincere in their devotion and worship, their role became ones of guardian and interpreter of the Law, instead of ones for “love” of God’s law.  Instead of using common sense, they attached themselves to the interpretation of God’s word.  This position led them to an unsound attitude.

Jesus also loved the “Law”!  He lived to uphold the Law and the word of God in its true way and meaning: with love as the key element, and not the “rules”.  But,  He also wasn’t keen on rules that put unnecessary burdens on people, or misrepresented the intent of God’s word.    In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus shows them (and others present at this time) their falsehoods by pointing to God’s true intention for the Sabbath: “to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it“.  In asking His question, Jesus foreshadowed His own rising up on that Sunday morning we now call “Easter”, – – a resurrection that He shares with us all.

Jesus’ question to His opponents places the matter at hand in a broader theological context that seemed to be well outside the reasoning and questions of the Pharisees and Scribes.  As the Second Person of the “Trinitarian Godhead”, Jesus has the same authority as God, His (and ours) heavenly Father.  In the question that Jesus articulates to these men in the synagogue, He declared that the Mosaic Law does not supersede His divine authority: power over life, death, and judgment.

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.  Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.”  (John 5:21, 24-26)

“Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son.  And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”  (John 5:22, 27)

Jesus’ answer to their question seemed to truly “stir the pot”; and was blunt, apparent, and obvious in showing His power and divinity (I just love this guy – and God!)!  He healed the man “with the withered handin the sight of all (especially those opposed to His mission), and reduced His opponents to silence.

In the clashes Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes during His three years of earthly ministry and teaching, He seemed to always overcome His opponents with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; and always seemed to “reduce” them to silence. 

And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”  (Mark 12:34)

 

Well, so what happens?  These Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and even some other Jews in Galilee, did not like being put “in their place” by this “commoner.”  They thought of Jesus as a rogue organizer and zealot that had to be taken care of in the most severe of ways: with His life.  These so-called “religious” people were scared of losing control, and also of Jesus’ message and teachings to others in their synagogues and Temple.

“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.’  For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.” (John 5:17-18)

Mark reports the plan and actions of the Pharisees and Herodians to “put Jesus to death” after they witnessed His display of divine power.  Jesus’ words and actions were perceived as arrogance toward the synagogue and Temple leaders by His rivals and opponents.  Mark used this “perception” and “plan” as a pattern for later conflicts, disagreements, and debates throughout his Gospel.

“Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?  But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.”  (Mark 11:17-18)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me?  Bring me a denarius to look at.’  They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’  They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’  So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him.”  (Mark 12:13-17)

 

Herodians” were tireless supporters of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (ruler) of Galilee and Perea.  The Temple leaders needed their help to take action against Jesus, especially actions ending with His death.  (Were they the “biblical” mafia of the time?)  Along with the Temple leaders, the Herodians exhibited a serious and extreme focus on fulfilling an immoral mission: the impending passion and death of Jesus Christ. 

Their immorally based mission was, at the same time, a necessary and important component in God’s salvation plan.  Hmm, makes you think; doesn’t it?  There are always two sides to a coin!  If you see the bad in life, flip the situation over and look for the good.

 

How do you handle adversity in your life?  Do you “trust” God totally and completely?  Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful?  You need to remember that fear is a natural reaction, and even has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to impending danger or harsh conditions.  It is called, “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.  However, also remember Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal, self-preservation, bodily reaction.  Jesus wants “perfect love!”

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:18-19)

 

 

Catholics (and I am sure other Christians) celebrate Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” in some way.  Sadly though, it usually does not include remembering, observing, and/or honoring God – – and His bringing about redemption in and through Jesus Christ.  For most Catholics (my perception anyway), Sundays do not include the “new creation” God brought about through Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.  How SAD!!

As disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, our “Sabbath” should express a true and total honor to God for all that he has done for us.  Unnecessary work and activities should be curtailed.  We should spend time with our family and friends in a special way, thus honoring God’s creation.  The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day”:

“Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the LORD, your God, commanded you.  Six days you may labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD, your God.  No work may be done then, whether by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or ass or any of your beasts, or the alien who lives with you.  Your male and female slave should rest as you do.  For remember that you too were once slaves in Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”  (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“God’s action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, ‘be refreshed.’  The Sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite.  It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.”  (CCC p.2172)

“The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath law.  But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.  He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’  With compassion, Christ declares the Sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.  The Sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.  ‘The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’”  (CCC p.2173)

“The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship ‘as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.’  Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.”  (CCC p.2176)

“’Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’ (Deut 5:12).  ‘The seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest; holy to the Lord’ (Ex 31:15).  The Sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.” (CCC p.2189-2190)

However, such “rest“, as prescribed in Holy Scripture, the Catholic Faith and its teachings, or even by “tradition”, does not excuse or release us from loving others.  It can take a little extra effort to observe a day of “rest”.  In fact, wouldn’t the Sabbath be the best days for helping someone enter into “rest” with the Lord, Jesus Christ?  In truly loving the Lord, – – above all, – – then the love of, and for, God must, and will, naturally and automatically pour out as a love for others as well.  Helping others is a beautiful and spiritual way of honoring our God, and keeping the Sabbath “holy”!

Here is some food for thought: Picture Jesus standing before you and inviting you to come up to be with Him, like that man in today’s reading.  Well, each one of us IS that man in the synagogue.  Each one of us is personally and individually invited to “to come up” and to enter into Jesus Christ.  Will you accept His invitation immediately, or do you want to “wait and see” what is best and/or more lucrative for you?  Do you honor the Lord in the way you spend your Sunday with family, friends, and neighbors?  The “Lord’s Day” is called such for a real and true reason. 

As we “Keep CHRIST in Christmas”, we must also “Keep Son (of God) in SUNday!”  RUN TO JESUS TODAY AND EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE!!

 

Novena Prayer of Reparation

 

God and Father of Life,
You have created every human person,
And have opened the way for each to have eternal life.

We live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.

In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.
May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life.
We pray through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Fabian (c. 250)

 

Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope.  Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian.  This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in A.D. 250.  St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”

Comment:

We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition.  A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of more than 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world.  We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.

Quote:

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).

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 19 & 20 of 26: 

19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon. Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

 

 

20.  The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

 



“Jesus Is the ‘Lamb of God’! Did He Like Mint Jelly?” John 1:29-34†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†  308 – Death of Marcellus I, Catholic Pope
†  429 or 430 – Death of Honoratius of Arles, bishop/saint
†  1120 – The Council of Nablus is held, establishing the earliest surviving written laws of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†  1412 – The Medici family is appointed official banker of the Papacy.
†  1581 – The English Parliament outlaws Roman Catholicism.
†  1914 – Birth of Roger Aubert, Belgium, church historian (Le Pontificat de Pie IX)
†  1966 – Harold R Perry becomes 2nd black Roman Catholic bishop in US.
†  Feasts and Memorials: Berard of Carbio; Saint Fursey; Honoratus of Arles.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 05 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRULY FRATERNAL LIFE

You are called upon to offer your personal contribution, inspired by the person and the message of Saint Francis of Assisi, to hasten the coming of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, mutual responsibility and love are truly alive (Cf. Gaudium et Spes 33 ff). You must deepen the true foundations of universal fraternity and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of brotherliness (John Paul II, Message to the Chapter, 2002).

  • THE REDISCOVERY  AND CONSOLIDATION OF ONE’S OWN IDENTITY AND MISSION  IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD

The Rule and the General Constitutions must, by virtue of your Profession, represent for each of you a model of daily experience, based on a specific vocation and a precise identity.

Stand firm against all forms of exploitation, discrimination and exclusion and all attitudes of indifference towards others (John Paul II).

As secular Franciscans, you live, by vocation, as members of the Church and of society, inseparable realities. You are asked first of all, therefore, to bear personal witness in the environment in which you live: among people; in family life; in work; in joys and sufferings; in dealings with people, all brothers and sisters with the same Father; in your presence and participation in the life of society; in fraternal relationship with all creatures” (SFO General Constitutions 12.1). (John Paul II)

 

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html
 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus is the Lamb of God, God’s own Son.

 

29 The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  30 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’  31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”  32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.  33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”  (NAB John 1:29-34)

 

Today it is John’s Gospel.  What happened to Marks’s Gospel?  Isn’t this Cycle “A” of the Liturgical year, when we are suppose to use Mark’s Gospel?

Well, last Sunday, we actually read and heard (at least I hope you either read or heard) Matthew’s account (again, not Mark’s) of Jesus’ baptism, on the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.”  Today, we hear and learn about John the Baptist’s “testimony” with regard to Jesus, which is found in John’s the Evangelist’s Gospel.  Please be very careful in reading this reflection and Gospel reading.  There are two John’s: John the Gospel writer and John the Baptist.

The Gospel according to John is quite different in character from the three synoptic Gospels. It is extremely literary and symbolic in nature. I consider John’s Gospel as being more spiritual, and conceptual, and more of a personal journal than that of a historical book.  It does not follow the same sequence or duplicate the same stories as the synoptic Gospels. John’s Gospel is a work of a growing and maturing theological reflection about John’s personal remembrances of Jesus.  His Gospel grows out of a different time, environment, and tradition than the other three (3) Gospel writers.

John’s Gospel differs from the other (Synoptic) Gospels today because he does not actually describe Jesus’ baptism.  Instead, John’s emphasis is on John the Baptist’s announcement that Jesus is the Son of God by declaring Him to be the Lamb of God.

When John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching, he cries out to Him in such a way as to give witness to whom Jesus actually is: “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John declares he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon, and rest upon Jesus.  Because of this personal and public revelation, John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the one who is to come after him and fulfill the age of the prophets, completing John’s role as the last prophet.

John the Baptist uses two familiar titles for Jesus in today’s reading.  He calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the “Son of God.”  John the Baptist identifies Jesus’ ultimate purpose of redeeming a sinful humanity by using these prophetic titles.

 “The Lamb of God” was and still is a most important, powerful, and personal description of the Holy Messiah to come.  This image of God’s lamb is first promised to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:8 (“God will provide Himself the lamb.”).  Secondly, He is the paschal lamb, whose blood is smeared on the door frames of the Jewish faithful and saved Israel, as found in the stories of the book of Exodus, Chapter 12.  Thirdly, Jesus is the prophetic suffering servant who is led “like a lamb” to slaughter as a sin-offering:

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.  (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.”  (Isaiah 53: 7,10).

Finally, Jesus is the victorious apocalyptic lamb that destroys evil in the world, as is found in Revelations, Chapters 5-7.   

It is noteworthy in these references to the “lamb” that the Baptizer John was the son of a Temple priest, Zachariah, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the Temple for the sins of the people (see Luke Chapter 1, and Exodus Chapter 29).  In Jesus, John the Baptist saw the true and only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin, and the one who will bring us to salvation.  (See references Genesis 22 through Revelations 7.)

John refers to Jesus as “He existed before me” even though John is actually six months older than his cousin, Jesus.  John (the Baptist) was linking Jesus to Elijah for himself, his followers, and his audience.  John believed Jesus’ pre-existence was implied through Holy Scripture.  John the Baptist obviously thought of Jesus as a higher and mightier person and soul than he himself; and probably he even thought of Jesus as the true Messiah. Evidence is found in an earlier Gospel verse:

The one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27)

John’s Gospel starts with Jesus’ Baptism story.  He does not have an infancy narrative like the ones found in the synoptic Gospels.  Thus, there is no genealogy recorded in John’s Gospel.  The “Gospel writer” named John, has John “the Baptist” saying, “I did not know him”.  Without the other three Gospels (the synoptics), the kinship between Jesus, and John the Baptist would be unknown.  When John says he “did not know” Jesus he was actually and truly referring to the hidden reality of Jesus’ Messiahship and divinity.  But the Holy Spirit, in this event, revealed to John the Baptist Jesus’ true nature (human and divine).  John bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God.  

I am still curious, though, as to why John the Evangelist decided to leave all of Jesus’ life prior to this event out of his Gospel!  Why and what was his purpose in excluding this part of Jesus’ life?  (Sorry, I don’t have an answer for this one yet! – – Maybe later.)

 

 

Also different from the Synoptic Gospels is that Jesus’ baptism is NOT connected with the “forgiveness of sins” of others.  Instead, its purpose in John’s Gospel is revelatory in nature, making Jesus known to Israel.  John the Baptist’s testimony clearly distinguishes the difference between his mission, and his Baptisms with water, from the mission and Baptism with the Holy Spirit that Jesus will inaugurate. 

John refers to the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus “like a dove”.  This spiritual dove is a symbol of a NEW being created through the “dove” of the Holy Spirit and the living, flowing waters of Baptism.  It also represents the human and divine nature of Jesus’ becoming part of a NEW restoration of the community of Israel, brought together again in a NEW covenant by John the Baptist’s final testimony: “Behold the Lamb of God.”.  Two Old Testament verses come to mind to support this belief:

Then he sent out a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.” (Genesis 8:8)

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like sparrows, from the land of Assyria, like doves; And I will resettle them in their homes, says the LORD.”  (Hosea 11:11).

 

 

John’s use of the word “remain” in verse 33, if you peruse his Gospel, is the first time he uses a verb he obviously favors.  John uses this particular word thirty-seven (37) times throughout this single book of the Holy Bible (NAB-CE edition).  I believe he uses the word, remain”, to emphasize and cement the permanent relationship held between the Father (God) and Son (Jesus), and between the Son (Jesus) and His disciples, His followers, and His believers.  In such a relationship and role, Jesus is the permanent possessor of, and Baptizer with the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “the Son of God” is another example of John exhibiting a different approach, or a different wording structure, from that of the Synoptic Gospels.  The three other Gospels, instead, use the phrase “This is my beloved Son“:

And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”  (Matthew 3:17)

And a voice came from the heavens, ’You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Mark 1:11)

And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Luke 3:22).

Again, why did he deviate so much from the other Gospel writers in this aspect?  (I am still working on this one!)

 

 

When John writes, “God’s chosen One,” he is probably referring to the “Servant” found in the book of Isaiah (42:1).

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.  (Isaiah 42:1)

John baptized in order to prepare for, and to make known, the ministry of the “One” who was to follow after him.  John the Baptist’s witness is an excellent example of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ, and for us today.  By our own Baptism, we are called to make Jesus known to the entire world in our words, attitudes, deeds, and actions; and by the witness of our lives as Catholics.

Our lives are to offer testimony, not only for ourselves, but also to the whole world, of Him who we know: Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Son of God.  Remember, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  How does the example and witness of your life give testimony to the loving and reconciling presence of Christ?  What might others come to know and embrace about Jesus in observing your personal and family life?  (You tell me!  Please write!)

As a form of meditation and reflection, look for as many phrases, terms, and “titles” for Jesus as possible in your bible and prayer books.  Examples include Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Savior, Prince of Peace, and so on.  What do these different phrases, terms, and titles mean to you?  What do they tell you about Jesus?  Let me know your favorite, or most interpersonal titles for our Lord; I truly would like to know.

 

Communion Invocation from the Holy Mass

 

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Berard and Companions (d. 1220)

 

Preaching the gospel is often dangerous work. Leaving one’s homeland and adjusting to new cultures, governments and languages is difficult enough; but martyrdom sometimes caps all the other sacrifices.

In 1219 with the blessing of St. Francis, Berard left Italy with Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis to preach in Morocco. En route in Spain Vitalis became sick and commanded the other friars to continue their mission without him.

They tried preaching in Seville, then in Muslim hands, but made no converts. They went on to Morocco where they preached in the marketplace. The friars were immediately apprehended and ordered to leave the country; they refused. When they began preaching again, an exasperated sultan ordered them executed. After enduring severe beatings and declining various bribes to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, the friars were beheaded by the sultan himself on January 16, 1220.

These were the first Franciscan martyrs. When Francis heard of their deaths, he exclaimed, “Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!” Their relics were brought to Portugal where they prompted a young Augustinian canon to join the Franciscans and set off for Morocco the next year. That young man was Anthony of Padua. These five martyrs were canonized in 1481.

Comment:

The deaths of Berard and his companions sparked a missionary vocation in Anthony of Padua and others. There have been many, many Franciscans who have responded to Francis’ challenge. Proclaiming the gospel can be fatal, but that has not stopped the Franciscan men and women who even today risk their lives in many countries throughout the world.

Quote:

Before St. Francis, the Rules of religious orders made no mention of preaching to the Muslims. In the Rule of 1223, Francis wrote: “Those brothers who, by divine inspiration, desire to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers should ask permission from their ministers provincial. But the ministers should not grant permission except to those whom they consider fit to be sent” (Chapter 12).

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 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

 

 

17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

“Capernaum – If You Can Make it Big There, You Can Make It Big Any Where! – – OR – – Jesus Loved To ‘Stir the Pot!’” – Mark 1: 29-39†


 

It is exactly one year ago today that Haiti experienced the “Great Earthquake”.  The challenges are still ever present throughout this poor and devastated country.  Please remember them in your prayers.  They are still hurting in all but faith!

            

Today in Catholic History:


    
†  689 – Death of Benedict Biscop, English saint
†  1167 – Death of Aelred of Hexham/Rievaulx, English abbot/saint, at age of about 56
†  1390 – Death of Peter van Herenthals, Dutch theologist/church historian, at age 67
†  1598 – Pope Clement VIII seizes duchy of Ferrara on death of Alfonso
†  1700 – Death of Marguerite Bourgeoys, saint (b. 1620)
†  1777 – Mission Santa Clara de Asís is founded in what is now Santa Clara, California.
†  1817 – Death of Juan Andres, Spanish Jesuit (b. 1740)
†  1781 – Death of Richard Challoner, English Catholic prelate (b. 1691)
†  1915 – Birth of Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, Catholic archbishop of Ottawa
†  1995 – Pope John Paul II begins visit to SE Asia
†  2006 – Turkey releases Mehmet Ali Ağca from jail after he served 25 years for shooting Pope John Paul II.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 04 of 13 Parts

 

The Cardinal’s letter underlines some key points and expresses a strong exhortation, centered on the evangelical word parrhesia in combination with the missionary mandate, to all Secular Franciscans, singularly and collectively as an Order in all its forms: local, regional, national and worldwide.

The key points are the following:

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRULY FRATERNAL LIFE
  • THE REDISCOVERY  AND CONSOLIDATION OF ONE’S OWN IDENTITY AND MISSION  IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD
  •  AWARENESS OF BEING PRESENT ALL OVER THE WORLD, EVEN WHERE THE CHURCH IS PRESECUTED
  • INVOLVEMENT WITH AND SUPPORT OF FRANCISCAN YOUTH

 

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

  

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing Peter’s Mother-In-Law, His curing of many others, and expansion of His mission on earth.

 

29 On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.  30 Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.  They immediately told him about her.  31 He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.  32 When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  33 The whole town was gathered at the door.  34 He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.  35 Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  36 Simon and those who were with him pursued him 37 and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  38 He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”  39 So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.  (NAB Mark 1: 29-39)

 

Each of the Gospel writers tells Jesus’ life, mission, and love for us in just a little different way or focus.  In today’s Gospel story, Mark shows Jesus as being close and easily approachable to us.  Jesus is found to be deeply and truly concerned for the well-being of others.  Mark present’s the kingdom of God as a sudden, surprising, and somewhat unsettling happening.  Finally, with Mark, Jesus is not the humble, gentle teacher of serene peace we often picture in our minds.  Rather, Jesus is pictured as an unstoppable “disturber” of the status quo; Jesus “stirred the proverbial pot” in Mark’s viewpoint!

In Contrast, Matthew highlights the fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies in relation to the coming Messiah.  And Luke focuses on the value of community and fellowship, with Jesus as the head and focus of the community.

Today’s reading is told as an “eyewitness account”, or “third person” type of story.  Jesus was still in Capernaum where He had been teaching.  He performed an exorcism in the synagogue that could not be kept quiet from the general population.  Jesus was apparently teaching and/or praying, when He was interrupted and received word of Simon [Peter] having a very sick Mother-In-Law in his home.  (Was it a penance or plenary indulgence for Simon Peter to have his In-Laws living with him?)

Jesus leaves the synagogue with James and John (the brothers’ fishermen) and “entered the house of Simon and Andrew”.  An EWTN special recently showed that the synagogue was literally only a few yards from Simon Peter’s house.  Thus, people that were listening to Jesus teaching at the time of His interruption could easily follow Him to the house.  Others leaving the synagogue a little later would see the group of men looking in the door and windows of Simon’s house and then possibly also gathered around, just to see what was happening and what all the commotion was about.

Per today’s reading, Simon was obviously married.  Just as in my marriage, I bet he “wore the pants” in his home.  And just as in my marriage, his wife told him which ones to put on!  Do you wonder if his wife traveled with her husband, Simon Peter, on his journey with Jesus?  I believe so, as evidenced is in what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5)

“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.”  We do not know the cause of the fever, but fever in adults is usually due to an infection of some type.  Remember, there were no modern-day antibiotics in Jesus’ time, so an infection of such nature as to cause one to be bed-ridden routinely ended with the death of the person.  Jesus, – – the human flesh and bones “Christ” – – destroyed the power of sin and death then, now, and forever and ever.  Amen!

Jesus “approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”  Simon’s and Andrew’s “Momma” was suddenly, completely, and miraculously cured through the actions and laying of hands of Jesus Christ.  Jesus fulfilled prophesy from Isaiah, in part, in performing this action:

“Our infirmities He bore, our sufferings He endured.”  (Isaiah 53:4)

The “laying of hands” is an important and special sacramental within the Catholic Church.  The Priest and Bishop (in Persona Christi) lays his hands on the head of the sick in a “Healing” service, and the Sacrament of the Sick; and the Holy Spirit, through the Bishop, bestows a special mark on the soul of the newly ordained priest with the laying on of his hands.

Can you even imagine Jesus standing next to your bed?  I don’t believe anyone would just lie there if they saw “God” standing before them – – with a smile on His face!  I think anyone would immediately spring out of bed (if at all possible) in His presence.  I can picture my reaction to this possible event vividly.  I would jump out of bed, give Him a big hug, and then fall to my knees to kiss His feet.  I so love the Lord, and cannot wait to see Him (but I’m not rushing things either)!

 

 

Jesus had already healed a man in the synagogue, and now He heals Simon’s mother-in-law.  That “evening” He continues to heal large numbers of sick and possessed people from the town of Capernaum and surrounding areas.  To see Jesus and what He was doing “the whole town gathered at the door” of Simon and Andrew.  There was no keeping Jesus’ ministry and power quiet to the masses, and word spread like “fire”.  (Could this be the Holy Spirit working already?  I believe so.)  

Simon’s and Andrew’s home became the “headquarters” for Jesus’ public ministry.  Can you picture Jesus having a small office in a back room of the Simon Peters house, a calendar on the wall, a desk with an in/out basket set on top of it, and memo pad at hand?  I so love picturing what it was truly like being with Jesus in His HUMAN and divine natures.  I bet He had one helluva sense of humor!! (Excuse the sort-of-pun.)

The first (1st) to know of Jesus’ divinity and power were not these pious people of a small fishing village in Galilee called Capernaum.  In actuality, it was Satan and the evil spirits processing the inhabitants in the area.  These “spirits” and supernatural immoral beings know fully and truly who Jesus is, even before His actions in this small fishing town.  The followers and disciples of Jesus have yet to get a fuller and more complete picture of Jesus.  Then they will “know” Him as the dying and rising “Messiah”.  I believe this is why Mark wrote:

“He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew Him.” 

 

 

After all of this excitement, teaching, and healing Jesus felt it necessary to withdraw temporarily.  He needed some quiet time, and some “one-on-one” time with His heavenly Father.  “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  

One of my favorite things to do when possible (and always on vacation or retreat) is to wake early, sit outside, and pray my morning office and rosary while observing nature around me.  All my senses become alive, and I feel so much closer to God in these special times.

 

 

Jesus was on “God time” and knew of the plan of salvation that He had embarked on.  On the other hand, His disciples really had no clue of their futures.  (I wonder if they would have stayed with Him if they knew of their future fate?!)  They thought Jesus could “make it big” in Capernaum, and were concerned with His leaving.  So, “Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’”  Simon and others wanted Jesus to do more in Capernaum.

Jesus wanted to broaden His Mission of preaching and teaching to the whole of Galilee.  In saying, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also”, Jesus was not throwing His mission to Capernaum in the trashcan, or even saying that His mission in Capernaum was complete.  Rather, Jesus wanted to spread His mission of proclaiming the salvation and kingdom of God to as many as He could possibly do in His human form.  Jesus was planting as many mustard seeds of faith as He could!  “So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”  

 

 

Today, there are three versions – – three Gospels – – for this one story.  Each one is a little different and unique: a different focus or viewpoint about Jesus’ life and His love for us in regard to the inhabitants of Capernaum.  God gave us the 73 books of the Bible – – His living Word – – our Holy Scripture.  With, in, and through it, we can grow closer to Jesus and grow to love Him even more!  We can get an even richer and fuller understanding of Jesus through the “eyes” of four “inspired” writers of the Gospels.  So, don’t just read one Gospel for the day; find the same story in each Gospel, and read them together to get a more complete picture.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading, along with todays, totals 24 hours in Jesus’ life.  When you read a Gospel like this one, or the similar one’s in the other three Gospels, you see how Jesus spent His time.  You see how humble, generous, and loving He was.  Do you wish to walk in Jesus’ path and be like Him?  Well, you cannot walk in His path for He was perfect and divine, and WE ARE NOT.  But, Jesus most certainly can walk with you in your own path to salvation, if you allow Him!  What better of a travel companion can any have!!!

Do you ask Jesus to heal you; to heal your family, friends and others; to heal your community, your country, and your world? God’s power to heal restores us to health physically, mentally, and spiritually.  His power to heal also draws us to serve and care others in need (which is everyone).  There is nothing that God cannot handle or do! He can do anything, including the impossible!!  So take you’re your problems, take your concerns, take your infirmities to Jesus, through prayer, faith, and trust – – and He will help you!!  Caution: It may not be the help you expected, but it will be the help you need!

 

 

Prayer in Time of Trial

 

“St. Maximilian [Kolbe], we thank God for the good example of your life.

You teach us to love and thus overcome our hatred of those who harm us.  You teach us to hope and thus conquer the depression and despair that so often overwhelm us.  You teach us courage by your daring enterprises for God and sacrifice of self as the Immaculata’s instrument.

Pray for us now that Mary, our Mother; and Jesus, her Son will bring to our troubled spirit peace, calm, and joy.  Amen.”

(Spend two minutes thinking of the good things that God has done for you during your lifetime.)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)

 

“God closes a door and then opens a window,” people sometimes say when dealing with their own disappointment or someone else’s. That was certainly true in Marguerite’s case. Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in seventeenth-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence.

Born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.

In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.

Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for coworkers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes at their school for Indian children. A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.

Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.” Marguerite was canonized in 1982.

Comment:

It’s easy to become discouraged when plans that we think that God must endorse are frustrated. Marguerite was called not to be a cloistered nun but to be a foundress and an educator. God had not ignored her after all.

Quote:

In his homily at her canonization, Pope John Paul II said, “…in particular, she [Marguerite] contributed to building up that new country [Canada], realizing the determining role of women, and she diligently strove toward their formation in a deeply Christian spirit.” He noted that she watched over her students with affection and confidence “in order to prepare them to become wives and worthy mothers, Christians, cultured, hardworking, radiant mothers.”

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.

 

 

 

“You May Walk On Water In The Future, But Now You Have To Go Under!” – Matthew 3:13-17†


 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   1428 – Pope Martinus V declares Jacoba van Beierens (Duchess of Bavaria-Straubing, Countess of Hainaut and Holland from 1417 to 1432)  marriage invalid.
†   1431 – Judges’ investigations for the trial of Joan of Arc begin in Rouen, France, the seat of the English occupation government.
†   1522 – Adriaan F Boeyens elected only Dutch pope (Adrian VI – 1522-23)
†   1554 – Birth of Gregory XV, [Alessandro Ludovisi], pope (1621-23)
†   1856 – Birth of Adriaan Aškerc, Slavic priest/poet (Primoz Trubar) (d. 1912)
†  1902 – Birth of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Spanish Catholic priest and founder of Opus Dei (d. 1975)
†   1958 – Birth of Mehmet Ali Ağca, Turkish attempted assassin of Pope John Paul II

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

  

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 03 of 13 Parts

 

“The Church expects from the unique Secular Franciscan Order great service to the cause of the Kingdom of God in the world today. She wishes your Order to be a model of organic, structural and charismatic union at all levels, in such a way as to present itself to the world as a “community of love” (Rule SFO 26). The Church expects you, Secular Franciscans, to give a bold and consistent witness of Christian and Franciscan life, with the aim of building a more fraternal and evangelical world and so bringing about the Kingdom of God.”  (John Paul II, Message to the General Chapter of the SFO, 22 November 2002)

“We expect, in short, this Fraternity to grow in the Church as a living body  based on communion, providing, in contemporary contexts, forms of social, cultural and spiritual commitment.” (Letter of Card. Rodé)

 

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan River, and the Spirit of God coming upon Him.

 

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”  15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then he allowed him.  16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him.  17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (NAB Matthew 3:13-17)

 

This Sunday marks a transition from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time.  What have we learned and experienced through these past 43 days of the Advent and Christmas Liturgical Seasons?    We learned that (1) before Jesus’ birth, Gabriel announced to Mary and to Joseph (individually) who Jesus would be.  At the nativity – – The Word of God’s human birth, – – the shepherds and the Magi (2) recognized Jesus as the true “Messiah and King of the Jews”.  And today, at His baptism, (3) God the Father proclaims publically that Jesus is His Son and inaugurates Jesus’ public mission on earth.

Today, we celebrate the start of Jesus’ public ministry.  The baptism of Jesus is the happening when Jesus is equipped by the Holy Spirit for His special role and ministry, and when His heavenly Father proclaimed Him to be His “Beloved” Son.

Matthew’s Gospel is the only account of the baptism of Jesus to include a dialogue between Jesus and John the Baptist.  The baptism which John performs at the Jordan River foreshadows our present day Catholic Rite of Baptism.  Why did Jesus, – – who is totally free of sin and divinely perfect, – – present Himself at the Jordan River for John to baptize Him?  Think about this for a little while; I’ll answer in just a bit.

John baptizes for repentance from sin and in accepting this baptism from him, Jesus unites Himself with all sinners – – even though He is without sin.   The conversation between John and Jesus is distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  This dialogue shows John the Baptist’s knowledge and understanding of Jesus’ divine superiority to him as well as to everyone on earth.  John recognized Jesus as the mighty “Messiah” who was to come and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, as distinguished from his practice of baptizing only with water:

“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).

From the point of view of the 1st century Christian community, the Holy Spirit and fire were understood to be external signs of cleansing and strengthening believers.  This was experienced by the Apostles at Pentecost, fifty (50) days after Jesus’ Resurrection.  The early Christian community recognized John’s prophetic description in what Jesus would do, and which was experienced by the Apostles at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. 

 “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.” (Malachi 3:2-3)

I believe Jesus didn’t just show up like He made an appointment, arriving at a designated time to get baptized.  I am sure He arrived much earlier, maybe even days or weeks earlier.  Jesus listened, watched, conversed, and ate with John the Baptist (His cousin).  Jesus probably even watched people come and go, being baptized by John in the Jordan River.

Jesus overcomes John the Baptist’s reluctance to admit Jesus among the sinners whom he is baptizing.   Jesus says to John: “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”, referring to the “fulfillment” of messianic prophecies, and “righteousness” referring to proper conduct in agreement, compliance, and obedience with God’s will and plan for the salvation of not only the Jewish people, but also all peoples.  Jesus would explain this, or proclaim this, during His ministry when He taught:  

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  for they will be satisfied.”  (Matthew 5:6)

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

To fulfill all righteousness” meant Jesus had to submit – – to surrender – – to the God’s plan for the salvation of the human race.  This entailed Jesus being identified with the lowly of society: the sinners and the marginalized.  Thus, Jesus’ acceptance and participation in John’s baptism was appropriate and absolutely necessary, not for Him, but for us! 

Jesus allowed Himself to be counted among sinners.  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to his Father’s will.  Out of love He consented to this baptism for the remission of our sins.  In Jesus’ humility, obedience, and surrender, one can perceive a foreshadowing of the “baptism by fire” for the remission of our sins by His Passion and bloody death upon the Holy Tree some three years later.  Do you personally know, live, and show Jesus’ example of love, trust, and submissive obedience to God?

Today’s reading says, “the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him.”  I love the saying about the Old Testament living in the New, and the New Testament fulfilling the Old.  It is so true here in this reading, and in Isaiah:

 “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”  (Isaiah 42:1)

God the Father speaks directly to His people through Jesus and the Holy Spirit in Holy Scriptures, in both the first and second Testaments.  There is a distinct difference between Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels with regard to this particular reading.  In Matthew, God declares in a public statement that Jesus “is my Beloved Son”.  In Mark (and Luke), God proclaims directly to Jesus that He is His Beloved Son:

“And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Mark 1:11)

God’s voice and message reflects several Old Testament prophesies.  Isaiah would prophesy:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”  (Isaiah 42:1)

And David would proclaim:

 “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, “You are my son; today I am your father.”  (Psalm 2:7)

And earlier, Moses had written:

 “Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’”  (Genesis 22:2)

Just imagine yourself standing on the river bank when God spoke to Jesus and the crowd.  What an experience that would have been.  Can you picture a loud booming voice while a pure white and beautiful dove descended upon Jesus and resting on Him gracefully? 

At that very moment, the people there actually “SAW” the Trinitarian Godhead in totality – – the Father (the voice), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit (the Dove) – and revealed to all!!  God showed Himself in a very unique, special, powerful, and “NEW” way.  The “Trinitarian Godhead” is something that not even the most faithful Jewish believer would have conceived as being possible.  God wanted to make it really clear to those present at the time that something new and awesome was about to happen in salvation history!

This same voice was heard out from the heavens is also saying the exact same thing to each of us, “This is my Beloved child, and I am well pleased!”  We are, in fact, members of God’s Royal Family!  We, who believe, are all children of God!

With God’s affirmation, Jesus was able to resist the temptations found in the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (40 days in the desert with temptations by Satan).  Also with God’s affirmation, Jesus began his public ministry with a “joy” of truly knowing His loving heavenly Father.   

For the sake of the joy that lay before Him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God.”  (Hebrew 12: 2)

The Holy Spirit was also present at His baptism when He entered into Jesus.  The Holy Spirit “anointed” Jesus for his public ministry – – which began at that very moment in the Jordan River.  This same Holy Spirit works not only in and through Jesus, but also in and through us.  Jesus IS the emanating source of the Holy Spirit for all the faithful then, now, and for all eternity.  (See Hebrews 12: 22-24)

At His baptism, the waters (of the river) were consecrated by the descent of the Holy Spirit into Jesus as He descended into the living and flowing waters of the Jordan River.  This action signified the beginning of a new creation in Jesus – the “Savior Christ”.   From the waters of Jesus’ baptism another manifestation, – – another “Epiphany”, – – becomes apparent!  (Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Son of David and the future suffering servant of Isaiah.)

Jesus Christ’s baptism ushered in His public mission on earth.  At our baptism, we too are “anointed” with consecrated water, and become a new creation with and in God.  In a similar way to Jesus, our baptism inaugurates our mission as Catholics.   At our baptism, the exact same Holy Spirit came to each individual one of us, just as He did with Jesus Christ! 

At our baptism, we were gifted by God!  No matter who we are, how old we happen to be, how healthy or sick we are, how rich or poor we are, how smart or “dumb” we are, we can do something with the gifts – – be it a time, talent, and/or treasure – -that God has given us.

Look at Jesus’ humble attitude and love for all creation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to form and build this same attitude in your heart and soul.  If you do, heaven may open up for you as well; and you may actually “hear” or “experience” God talking to or in you.  There is a mission or task that God has anointed you to initiate and complete.  (So do it!)  

Is the Holy Spirit living in you and emanating through you?   Do you radiate Jesus’ attitude, love, and joy to those around you?  God wants His love, joy, and truth to emanate in and through us so that others may see, hear, and experience the goodness, truth, and beauty of God’s message and meaning of salvation. 

Through the Holy Spirit entering into us in the Sacrament of Baptism, we can support each other on our Catholic journey of faith by “affirming” the importance of each other not only in our eyes – – but also in God’s eyes as well!  Through our baptism we too were made children of God along with Jesus Christ!  Through our baptism, we too can resist temptations, and share in Christ’s mission!

 

Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix
 

 

“Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.  Amen.” 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Adrian of Canterbury (d. 710)

 

Though St. Adrian turned down a papal request to become Archbishop of Canterbury, England, Pope St. Vitalian accepted the rejection on the condition that Adrian serve as the Holy Father’s assistant and adviser. Adrian accepted, but ended up spending most of his life and doing most of his work in Canterbury.

Born in Africa, Adrian was serving as an abbot in Italy when the new Archbishop of Canterbury appointed him abbot of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul in Canterbury. Thanks to his leadership skills, the facility became one of the most important centers of learning. The school attracted many outstanding scholars from far and wide and produced numerous future bishops and archbishops. Students reportedly learned Greek and Latin and spoke Latin as well as their own native languages.

Adrian taught at the school for 40 years. He died there, probably in the year 710, and was buried in the monastery. Several hundred years later, when reconstruction was being done, Adrian’s body was discovered in an incorrupt state. As word spread, people flocked to his tomb, which became famous for miracles. Rumor had it that young schoolboys in trouble with their masters made regular visits there.

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 9 & 10 of 26: 

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.

 

 

10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.