“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.

 


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