“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.

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