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
“Today in Catholic History”
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
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”
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.
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.
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.