“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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