♫ “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.

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