Monthly Archives: February 2011

“Enough Already, ENOUGH! Worry About It Tomorrow – Or, Maybe Not At All!” – Matthew 6:24–34†


 

Why is this Sunday called “Septuagesima”?  How did Lent come to be 40 days in length?

Because in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans, some pious Christian congregations in the earliest ages of the Church, especially the clergy, began to fast seventy days before Easter, on this Sunday, which was therefore called Septuagesima” – the seventieth day. The same is the case with the Sundays following, which are called Sexagesima, Quinquagesima , Quadragesima, because some Christians commenced to fast sixty days, others fifty, others forty days before Easter, until finally, to make it properly uniform, Popes Gregory and Gelasius arranged that all Christians should fast forty days before Easter, commencing with Ash-Wednesday.

http://calefactory.org/books/goffine/septuagesima.htm

 

 

 

With this blog reflection, I have added a new “temporary’ section titled,”New Translation of the Mass”.  I will rotate and repeat 11 changes in the congregation’s part of the Mass, until the beginning of Advent this year.

Hopefully it will be interesting and educational.  Please let me know.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1862 – Saint Gabriele dell’ Addolorata, patron of Italian Catholic youth, dies at age 23
†   1891 – Birth of Anne Samson, oldest-ever nun documented (d. 2004)
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI publishes constitution “motu proprio Quo aptius”
†   1994 – Maronite church near Beirut bombed, 10 killed
†   1995 – Death of Philip Sherrington, opus Dei Priest, at age 51
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows; Saint Leander; Saint Honorine

(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:

 

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.”  – Blaise Pascal 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

On February 6, the Church celebrates the memory of the first Christian martyrs of Japan (protomartyrs), all 26 of whom were crucified on a hill just outside Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. This group consisted of 6 Friars Minors, seventeen Japanese Franciscan Tertiaries, three other Japanese, Jesuit priest Paul Miki, and his two catechists. Among the friars, the most known was Pietro Battista, a Spanish priest who had been sent to evangelize Japan along with other Franciscans from the Philippines in 1593.

They worked tirelessly proclaiming the gospel, and building churches and a hospital in Meako. In November 1596, more Franciscans had arrived in Japan when their ship ran aground because of a sea storm. Among them was Felipe de Jesus who was traveling from the Philippines to his native Mexico to be ordained as a priest. Since he began collaborating in the mission, he was also condemned to die when emperor Taycosama, who had initially accepted Christian missionaries, imposed an edict condemning to death these friars coming from the Philippines and their companions.

The group was forced to walk from Kyoto to Nagasaki, a distance of over 800 km, enduring cold weather conditions, and suffering imprisonment, torture and public scorn. Once they were crucified, their executioners pierced them on both sides with two spears crossing each other inside the chest and coming out of their bodies by the shoulders, causing them to die almost immediately.

Felipe de Jesus was the first one to be executed and became the first Mexican saint. In one of the letters Peter Baptist wrote during his final days, he stated: The sentence pronounced against us was written on a sign and carried before us. The sign read that we were condemned to death because we preached the law of Nauan (i.e., the law of Christ) contrary to the command of Taycosama and would be crucified when we reached Nagasaki. For this we were happy and consoled in the Lord since we had forfeited our lives to preach his law.

These martyrs provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our Christian commitment to proclaim the gospel in our present world not only with our words, but also with our lives. They were courageous and faithful in witnessing Christ through evangelization, service, and accepting persecution gladly and with relentless hope.

Their witness also helps to illustrate the content of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of Peace 2011 (numbers 6-10), especially regarding the public dimension of faith. This dimension should be acknowledged and respected by all societies as a path for true peace and integral human development.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching about the meaning of “Enough”.  His message is: “Don’t worry about tomorrow”.  Jesus tells all to not look at the past too long; rather, let tomorrow take care of itself.  Pay attention to today.

 

24 “No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?  27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  28 Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.  30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  32 All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  (NAB Matthew 6:24–34)

 

Our ultimate goal is God; and to attain this goal, one needs to commit oneself – – fully, totally, and entirely to God. (Could I stress the complete surrender one needs any better?!)  One cannot have two supreme and opposing goals. 

Today’s Gospel reading is the final (third) part of the instructions from the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus.  Today, He is teaching on the way of life in the kingdom of Heaven on earth.  This reading, and its associated reflection, is about trusting God and performing “acts of loving service” to our neighbor’s on a daily basis. 

(The first two parts of the “Sermon on the Mount” and its associated reflections can be found at):

Part one: “Blessed are the …. AH, You Know ‘em! So, start LIVING ‘EM!” – Matthew 5:1-12a:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/%e2%80%9cblessed-are-the-%e2%80%a6-ah-you-know-%e2%80%98em-so-start-living-%e2%80%98em%e2%80%9d-matthew-51-12a%e2%80%a0/

Part two: ♫“All We Need Is Love; Dah, – Dah, Dah Dah, Dah!”♫ – Matthew 5:38–48:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/%e2%99%ab%e2%80%9call-we-need-is-love-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah%e2%80%9d%e2%99%ab-matthew-538%e2%80%9348%e2%80%a0/

 

What do the phrases “serving two masters” and “being anxious” have in common?  They each have the same internal source: a division within oneself.   The word “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds”. 

“But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)

(It sounds a little schizophrenic to me.)  “Anxiety”, as used in today’s Gospel reading, is when someone tries to live in two “kingdoms”: God’s kingdom, and a materialistic (some may say Satanic) “kingdom.”  Anxiety and God’s kingdom are in conflict with each other; yet, we find ourselves apparently needing to do both.

However, Jesus is telling us “NOT TO WORRY”!  Anxiety and worry can pull us away from our relying on God just as assuredly as deliberate acts of evil!  We know we chose to follow God’s principles and values, His path; OR, we find ourselves following the world’s principles and values, which, at the moment, may appear to be the right thing to do.  That, which we choose to do, becomes our “master”.   Jesus is informing us that there are some true absolutes; He reveals that we come to a point of choosing between God, OR, “mammon”.

“Mammon”?  What is “Mammon”?  (Hint: It is NOT a pagan God of old.)  It is an Aramaic word (Jesus’ native language) meaning “wealth” or “property”.  Jesus is stating that we can have only one “FIRST” priority in life; either God or earthly processions (without God). 

The word “mammon”, in reality, does not have a negative connotation.  Jesus is NOT saying we must forgo earthly material processions and wealth.  He is only saying that God needs to be our preeminent and foremost priority in life.  One can have both God and “mammon”; but can only “serve” one or the other.  We human beings are not self-sufficient; we are dependent on something outside ourselves.  Jesus, in no way, denies the reality of our human needs.  In fact, Jesus teaches us that our first or top-most priority, that of seeking God and His kingdom, assures us He will provide all material “wealth” and “property” needed (all our human material needs).  For Jesus reveals an awesome fact:

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32)

Jesus goes on to say:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) 

However, He forbids us from making earthly material processions an object of worry, fret, and restless care.  In doing so, we would in effect, become a slave to materialism instead of a “slave” to God and His divine will and providence.  In a sense, we would be practicing a form of idolatry in placing earthly material objects “first”, over God’s love and providence.  We have to keep God first in all we do, all we say, all we see, and all we think.

As for me, I believe I am in the palm of His hands, and He will work for my “good”:

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I just pray every single day that I don’t “spit” into His hands, which are holding me!

Since we DO need material “goods”; we do know God works “good” in all we do, therefore, that is why Jesus tells us NOT TO WORRY, no less than four times in today’s Gospel reading!  So, Jesus is simply reminding us NOT to be anxious or “worry” over our needs and wants.  

Look at the beauty of nature.  The birds “do not sow or reap”.  The flowers “do not work or spin” cloth.  Yet they are still provided for by God.  Human beings are worth much more than any other creations of God – we are given a soul, and the graces of free-will and reasoning.  So, how could God not provide for us, as He does for all other creation?  If what we place first in our lives is God and His kingdom, along with His providence and justice, we will have what we need. PERIOD!

I think Jesus is really awesome when He shows us the value of the very ordinary things in life: eating, drinking (of course, only milk and diet Mt. Dew), and our choice of clothes.  He is teaching us, even still to this day, to put our entire trust and love in the providence of God, our heavenly Father; and simply to surrender ourselves into the arms of our Father, God.

Jesus asks:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:27)

Jesus is actually asking His disciples if worry can add anything to one’s physical size, length of life, or quality of one’s actions and beliefs.  Compared to eternity in heaven or hell, Worry is an emptyconcept; it has no value when God is a priority in one’s life.

We need to realize that to do the job of “self-reliance”, we need one positive help (God’s grace/truth), and one negative strategy (Don’t worry).  For example, we can’t prevent all sickness and injury in ours and others lives, not to mention death.  So, just stop worrying!  It actually should be liberating for us to know that our well-being and that of others as well, does not depend SOLELY on us!  God is at work in our lives individually, and continuously – – oftentimes invisibly, in the background (if not around the corner) – – to provide for us and others, and to make up for what is lacking in our lives.

 

The words “of little faith” (verse 30) are found in five places in Matthew’s Gospel, but only once in one parallel verse from Luke’s Gospel:

“If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”  Luke 12:28)

It is used by the Gospel writer, Matthew, for those who are Jesus’ disciples; yet, whose faith in Him is not as deep as it should be (sounds like a lot of people I know, even today, within the Catholic faith.).

“He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

“When Jesus became aware of this he said, ‘You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?’” (Matthew 16:8)

“He[Jesus] said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:20)

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

What does Jesus mean by seeking the “righteousness” of the kingdom?  Righteousness is an awareness of orderliness in relationship to God; it is also an awareness of Jesus’ sovereignty.  Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, proclaims Jesus to be the “mightier” one (cf., Matthew 3:11) who was to come, and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  For us, as disordered, sinful humans, righteousness given to us is in the saving ability and activities of God in our lives.  Righteousness comes to us in our willingness to submit to God’s plan for our salvation.  Our seeking and receiving sets us apart onto God’s property, making us holy.  (Holiness means being set apart for a specific purpose.)

 

I found it inspiring that Pope Paul VI specifically commented on today’s reading with relationship to the idea of poverty, when he said,

“Why poverty?  Is it to give God, the kingdom of God, the first place in the values which are the object of human aspirations.  Jesus says: ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.’  And He says this with regard to all the other temporal goods, even necessary and legitimate ones, with which human desires are usually concerned.  Christ’s poverty makes possible that detachment from earthly things which allows us to place the relationship with God at the peak of human aspirations.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, January 5, 1977)

I began to realize that His relationship with God was the peak of Jesus’ human aspirations.  That priority set Him apart from all His brethren.  Jesus’ seeking first the kingdom set Him apart as the ONE “master”, who alone, has the power to set us free from slavery of the disorder of sin, fear, pride, and all those other bad things, vices, and disordered desires.  That “master”, the Lord Jesus Christ is saving us daily from all that would keep us constrained in such fears, anxieties, and sins by our worrying.  God provides for his creatures in the natural order of His creation, as well as in the order of grace.  So, how much more can we expect our heavenly Father – – our creator – – to do in order to sustain not only our physical bodies, but also our spiritual minds, hearts, and souls as well?  It is His nature to love, heal, forgive, renew, and to make whole again His image of Himself in us.  His way, saves us when we choose to place Him and His kingdom of righteousness FIRST in our lives.  

So, by not worrying, we are freed to address each day’s problems as they come.  Therefore, do not harbor worries and frustrations; they consume the mind, heart, and soul!  Instead, be confident that we are each individually, in God’s loving and magnificently merciful care.  He will most certainly care for us, if we allow Him!  Do not worry then about what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow. 

One who pays heed to the wind will not sow, and one who watches the clouds will never reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

“Do your duty ‘now’, without looking back on ‘yesterday’, which has already passed, or worrying over ‘to-morrow’, which may never come for you.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 253)

In foregoing worry, we are given a grace of wisdom based on God’s Fatherly providence, as well as on our own life experiences.

 

In our life-span, we learn to care for our own needs, and the needs of others.  As we grow, we learn to take responsibility for ours and others’ needs.  Sometimes, caring for one’s need means being unable to do other tasks which we would much rather enjoy.  At times, I am certain we are all enticed, coaxed, and/or tempted to NOT take responsibility for our given obligations.  We are tempted to put our own needs ahead of others.  

What are the consequences of making such a choice in our life?  Food for thought: How you spend your time, your money, and your THOUGHTS, will reveal to you what is MOST important in your life – – and what “god” you truly follow: God Himself, OR god the idol of things! 

The previous sentence highlights “your Thoughts”; it was a revelational doozy for me!  I could understand, and diligently support, the concepts of spending one’s time, talents, and treasures to show one’s love for God.  But our “thoughts” as proof of our dedication to God?!  Yep; one’s preoccupations, one’s consuming interests, and even one’s daydreams are truly and definitely important indicators of what one worships in life! – WOW!

Can you think of a time in which you have experienced God’s care for yourself and your family and friends?  God cares for us, on an individual and communal basis, every single day (every single moment) of our lives and the lives of others!  He will never, ever, forget us!  God looks after the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field.  Please remember, and thank God daily, that we are worth much more than ALL the other things within His creation.  

 

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. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862 )

 

Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.

His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.

Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.

Comment:

When we think of achieving great holiness by doing little things with love and grace, Therese of Lisieux comes first to mind. Like her, Gabriel died painfully from tuberculosis. Together they urge us to tend to the small details of daily life, to be considerate of others’ feelings every day. Our path to sanctity, like theirs, probably lies not in heroic doings but in performing small acts of kindness every day.

Patron Saint of: Clergy and Bitterness

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)

 

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.
The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.
In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be “And with your spirit”, instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 
    

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).

“You Can’t Love God If You’re A Catholic!” – Mark 9:38-40†


 

Today in Catholic History:


†   303 – Emperor Diocletian orders general persecution of Christians.
†   1417 – Bith of Pope Paul II, [Pietro Barbo], Italy (1464-71)
†   1447 – Death of Pope Eugene IV, [Gabriele Condulmer], Italian (1431-47)
†   1455 – Traditional date for the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type.
†   1970 – Holy Eucharist is given by women for the first time in Roman Catholic services
†   Memorial/Feasts: Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (died 155).

(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:

 

A man is 72 years old and loves to fish.  He was sitting in his boat the other day when he heard a voice say, “Pick me up.”  He looked around and couldn’t see anyone.  He thought he was dreaming when he heard the voice say again, “Pick me up.”  

He looked in the water and there, floating on the top, was a frog.  The man said, “Are you talking to me?”  The frog said, “Yes, I’m talking to you.  Pick me up then, kiss me and I’ll turn into the most beautiful woman you have ever seen.  I’ll make sure that all your friends are envious and jealous because I will be your bride!”

The man looked at the frog for a short time, reached over, picked it up carefully, and placed it in his front pocket.  The frog said, “What, are you nuts?  Didn’t you hear what I said? I said kiss me and I will be your beautiful bride.”  He opened his pocket, looked at the frog and said, “Nah, at my age I’d rather have a talking frog.”

With age comes wisdom.

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

A question of people’s salvation. We can all see the urgency of giving a loyal, humble and courageous answer to this question, and of acting accordingly. Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God. (Cf. 1 Cor 2:5) It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life.

The evangelizing activity of Jesus Christ. The witness that the Lord gives of Himself and that Saint Luke gathered together in his Gospel – “I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God” (Lk 4:43) – without doubt has enormous consequences, for it sums up the whole mission of Jesus: “That is what I was sent to do.” (Lk 4:43). These words take on their full significance if one links them with the previous verses, in which Christ has just applied to Himself the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.” (Lk 4:18; cf. Is 61:1) Going from town to town, preaching to the poorest – and frequently the most receptive – the joyful news of the fulfillment of the promises and of the Covenant offered by God is the mission for which Jesus declares that He is sent by the Father. And all the aspects of His mystery – the Incarnation itself, His miracles, His teaching, the gathering together of the disciples, the sending out of the Twelve, the cross and the resurrection, the permanence of His presence in the midst of His own – were components of His evangelizing activity.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against envy, jealousy, and intolerance toward others; and ecumenism.

 

38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us. (NAB Mark 9:38-40)

 

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus warns His followers about getting caught-up in the grip of jealousy, envy, and intolerance toward others.  Though the “exorcists” who did not follow Jesus Christ directly, – – meaning not with His “group” of followers, – – they were still laboring for God, and are part of His kingdom.  We cannot lose sight of the real truth that these men were disciples of Jesus.  They were, in fact, acting in the name of Jesus!    

Jesus’ reply to His jealous followers is filled with a divinely inspired, and Scripturally-based, wisdom:

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

 “All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever.” (Sirach 1:1)

There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” (Mark 9:39) 

 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.” (James 1:5)

A far-reaching principle is further revealed in the very next verse:

For whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40)

This verse reveals God’s divine acceptance, tolerance, and charity.  Even the smallest consideration, civility, and good manners, – – especially made known to those who teach in Jesus’ name – – are noticed in God’s eyes, and rewarded in His kingdom.

There is no “exclusivity” with God.  There is not a notion of “good is not good unless I am the one who does the good!”  In reality, in God’s kingdom, “good is good, even if it is not I who does it!”

An early church father (330-395 AD), Gregory of Nyssa, comments on other individuals performing acts of “good” in God’s name, and out of love:

“God never asks his servants to do what is impossible.  The love and goodness of His [Trinitarian] Godhead is revealed as richly available.  It is poured out like water upon all.  God furnished to each person according to His will the ability to do something good.  None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: ‘whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.’”

From a biblical standpoint, Mark is not the only Gospel writer to cover this specific topic.  A very similar version of today’s Gospel can be found in Luke’s gospel:

Then John said in reply, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.’”  (Luke 9:49-50)

 

We act similar to Jesus’ first disciples when we get upset at the good acts and words of others; actions and words which seem to “emit a glow” brighter than our actions and words.   The Evangelist Paul says that:

Love is patient, love is kindIt is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:4,6)

Envy, jealousy, and intolerance are sinful for the reason that these behaviors shows the way for us to grieve, distress, and sorrow over what, in reality as a Catholic, should make us rejoice and be thankful – our neighbor’s “good”!   “Envy, jealousy, and intolerance” are disrespectful and defiant to “love”.  Love is found instead through rejoicing with our neighbor’s “good”; while envy, jealousy, and intolerance are the acts of grieving over our neighbors “good”.  

So, how can we overcome envy, jealousy, and intolerance?  There is a very simple answer given in Holy Scripture; again from Paul:

The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.”  (Romans 5:5). 

The Holy Spirit purifies our love we extend to others.  The Holy Spirit also liberates us from envy, jealously, greed, and bitterness – – if we allow Him to work with, in, and through us.  The love that the Holy Spirit fills our hearts naturally seeks the highest good of others we meet.  So, in daily prayer, simply ask Jesus Christ to convert and fill your heart and soul.  That way, you may always be pleased and celebrate the good of others (even those you find unlikable and/or unfriendly).

God the Father created us in love – – to give love.  Jesus Christ’s love encourages us to give generously to those in the smallest of need of want.  The love we exhibit to others also conveys the appreciation and thankfulness we have for the overflowing righteousness and compassion our Holy Father has towards us.  

 

Have you ever felt “threatened” by other Christian groups?  You know; Christians who have a different style of worship and prayer, and/or who act (and maybe react) differently than the typical “cradle” Catholic behave.  None of us has a monopoly on God!  Remember, Jesus was not Catholic, or for that matter, Christian in His human form – – He was Jewish.  The Holy Spirit moves as He wills, and not always in ways we wish or expect. 

The cause of Catholicism is not served by the rejection of other ways of Christian discipleship.” (Fr. Denis McBride, C.Ss.R.)

Jesus is also presenting the idea of “ecumenism”.  Ecumenism is once again a very popular concept and topic in today’s Catholic conversations.  One in which I rejoice with a glad and joyful heart.  I cannot wait until all Christians are home again, back to the first and true Christian Church, – – the Catholic Church (Don’t get mad, please continue reading.). 

I know some of my readers are of Protestant faiths and are probably saying, “Say what?!”  I pray that I have not upset you too much with my remark.  I know you most probably feel the same way toward your denomination as I do toward the Catholic faith.  So, please bear with me and you will see that we are also most probably on the same wavelength when it comes to “ecumenism”.

The title I created for this reflection (“You Can’t Love God If You Are A Catholic!”) is a true comment directed to me several years ago.  Ironically, it was verbalized in a small crowd of co-workers, and by a person (a friend as well) who is an “ordained” Protestant Minister (as a “side job”) with His own “storefront” church!  I attempted to explain to this person about how the Catholic Church IS a faith of Christianity, yet he refused to believe in this fact.  He said, “I was not a Christian, but a ‘Papist’”, and he had no need or belief in a “Papacy Religion being Christian in origin”.  He had the tightest of closed minds, in my opinion.  I honestly believe he felt threatened by my faith.  Was the holy Spirit dwelling in him?

However, others in the group that day were impressed with the candor and respect I maintained throughout his “slamming” of my Catholic faith.  They were also moved when I approached – – and hugged – – this young man at the end of his diatribe, telling him that I still loved him and would keep him in my prayers.  

It soon became apparent to me that several of these people were non-active, apathetic, and/or “fallen away” Catholics.  Because of this encounter, I started a dialogue with them (and through the actions of the Holy Spirit) that eventually led them back to full union and participation in the Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a significant amount to say about Christ working in other denominations and people.  I have chosen only two for this reflection, but I encourage you to read much more on the subject while in your daily casual reading of this enticing book of information – – the “Catechism” (Ok, maybe not so enticing, to most).  Other denominations and individual non-Catholics may well be “elements” of sanctifying grace granted by God, while still not in full union with the true Catholic Church.

“’Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth’ are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: ‘the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.’  Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church.  All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to ‘Catholic unity.’”  (CCC 819)

Yes, I believe ecumenism can be achieved in our lifetimes.  Look at what is happening with the Orthodox and Anglican Churches recently.  Protestant Ministers are converting to Catholicism in large numbers recently.  God works on His time-table and not ours.  All we can do is pray for reunion, and rejoice with every child of God “coming home”.  With God all things are possible!

“Concern for achieving unity ‘involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.’  But we must realize ‘that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts.”  That is why we place all our hope in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (CCC 822)

At this same time, it seems that a large amount of Catholics are leaving the Church family.  I believe this sad event – – an “exodus” – – is due, in part, to poor catechesis since Vatican II.  Another reason is the improper, liberal, and sneaky, scheming, and deceitful oversight of the clergy in the past few decades, doing a good job (for awhile) of hiding badly behaved and wayward priests.  Thank you Lord, that this heartbreaking and distressing period in our Church is nearing its end.

However, there is also good news for Christianity (the other side of the coin).  According to the latest estimations by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, which annually publishes statistics on Christianity around the world, by mid-2011 the average number of NEW converts to Christianity will increase each day, as the number of atheists drops.

  • The average number of new Christians per day – 80,000
  • The number whom will be Catholic – 31,000
  • The average number of fewer atheists every 24 hours – 300
(source: “Our Sunday Visitor”, February 27, 2011, page 3)

 

God truly does work in mysterious and glorious ways.  It may be hard to follow Him at times, but it is never hard to love Him.  At Mass this past weekend, Fr. “Syd” asked a power question with which I will end this reflection today:

“If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict YOU?”

 

 

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

 

“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host – by the Divine Power of God – cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Polycarp (d. 156)

 

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), disciple of St. John the Apostle and friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.

St. Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—a major controversy in the early Church.

Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi in Macedonia.

At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint’s body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He died in 156.

Comment:

Polycarp was recognized as a Christian leader by all Asia Minor Christians—a strong fortress of faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. His own strength emerged from his trust in God, even when events contradicted this trust. Living among pagans and under a government opposed to the new religion, he led and fed his flock. Like the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for his sheep and kept them from more persecution in Smyrna. He summarized his trust in God just before he died: “Father… I bless Thee, for having made me worthy of the day and the hour… .” (Martyrdom, Chapter 14).

Quote:

“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians).

Patron Saint of: Earaches

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 23 & 24 of 26:


23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

 

 

24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

♫“All We Need Is Love; Dah, – Dah, Dah Dah, Dah!”♫ – Matthew 5:38–48†


            

Today in Catholic History:


†   1154 – Death of Saint Wulfric of Haselbury Plucknett
†   1431 – Death of Pope Martinus V, [Oddo Colonna], Italian, (b. 1368)
†   1798 – Louis Alexandre Berthier removes Pope Pius VI from power.
†   1994 – Pope John Paul II demands juristic discrimination of homosexuals

(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:

 

An “eye for an eye” will make the whole world blind. ~ Gandhi

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Bringing the Christian message to modern man. We have stressed the importance of this theme of evangelization on many occasions. On June 22, 1973, we said to the Sacred College of Cardinals: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity.” And we added that in order to give a valid answer to the demands of the Council which call for our attention, it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible.

 

Burning questions. This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization. It poses three burning questions, which the 1974 Synod kept constantly in mind:

– In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience?

– To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?

– What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?

Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people’s hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus commanding us to love our enemies, and to pray for your persecutors.

 

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.  43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?  47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.   (NAB Matthew 5:38–48)

 

Imagine Sister Death [a Franciscan concept and term] coming for you and taking you to the paradise we know as heaven.  The very first person you meet, after Jesus of course, is the one person you liked the least in life!  It is a very possible reality!  Remember, God loves each one of us, individually, and without regard for OUR perceived earthly status of others!  The Pharaoh of “Moses” fame, King Herod the Great, Judas, Hitler, and even today’s abortion practitioners may be in paradise with us.  After all, these much loved creations of God (though hated by man) may have chosen to repent, acknowledge their sinfulness, and may have received forgiveness for their transgressions on earth.  A prime example is St. Dismas while hanging on the cross:

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:39-43)

When Jesus talked about the law God gave to the Jewish people, He did something no one previously had ever done before.  He gave a new benchmark or norm based not only on the condition of “justice” (a sound or good reason, fairness and reasonableness), but also based on the higher law of grace and love.

Today we have the last two teachings offered at the “Sermon on the Mount”.  They both deal with love of our enemies.  Jesus is speaking extremely powerful words here.  In the first part of His discourse, He is teaching on a well known (to the common Jewish person) Levitical Law:

 “Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth!  The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return.”  (Leviticus 24:20)

Jesus knew the Mosaic Law – – and its intention – – better than any Pharisee, Sadducee, or Scribe could ever conceive and understand.  In today’s reading, Jesus quotes from Mosaic Law:

But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:23-25)

We should not understand “an eye for an eye” as an extremely harsh punishment for all crimes.  It was actually meant to limit acts of revenge by making sure the punishment was not excessive, but equitable: only “fitting” the crime or act done.  

Scripture scholars believe the language of this law came from the Semitic people surrounding them, from whom the Israelites stemmed.  So, this old ‘law” may seem quite cruel by today’s standards.  However, this law meant to limit vengeance, and to promote mercy.  In reality, the law was not normally taken “literally”, but instead served as a guide to discern for a “judge” as equitable punishment and penalty for a particular offense or crime.  It was prescribed so that the punishment from one “injured” would not exceed any injury done during the initial crime/sin.  

Now, Jesus uses this part of Holy Scripture to contrast His idea of the better, higher, more humane standard with the limited law of basic qualities.  Then He is asking His followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether.  Jesus is saying that, for His disciples, the way in His everlasting paradise in heaven, goes far beyond what this old covenant law prescribes.  We are now challenged to suppress the proportionate retaliation previously set by law, and to take the courageous step to even forgive the offender.  This is living the new law of mercy, set by Jesus Himself.  Of the five examples found in verses 38-42 of today’s reading, only the first example (eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) deals directly with retaliation for evil.  The other four speak of charity, kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy, and even LOVE for one’s enemy.  A sense of forgiveness and an absence of pride are the “new” norm which plays the essential role in His “love” command.

 

Jesus’ country was invaded by, occupied by, and ruled by a Roman government and military.  Roman soldiers in Jesus’ Palestine had the right to annex and/or requisition any property and/or services of the Jewish population by Roman civil law.  This could also include forcing people to perform specific functions – a type of conscription.

If you remember the Passion narratives, Simon is conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross:

“They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” (Mark 15:21)

Jesus is saying that the righteous man will purposely “go the extra mile” for another, with no expectation of reward or thanks. 

 

Mercy me!  Mercy Me!  Mercy is the key!  (I’m a poet & didn’t know it!)  The Old Testament is full of citations involving the directive that we must be merciful:

 “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18). 

Say not, ‘As he did to me, so will I do to him; I will repay the man according to his deeds.’”  (Proverbs 24:29)

If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink.”   (Proverbs 25:21). 

 “Let him offer his cheek to be struck, let him be filled with disgrace.”  (Lamentations 3:30). 

The response to a person who strikes us on the face, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not simply to resist and retaliate, but to offer ourselves to seek reconciliation and even to be ready and willing to surrender our property out of love.  Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way of the secular world and to serve God’s people and kingdom.

The next difficult level expected of those followers who are invited to God’s kingdom is the willingness and the ability to embrace our enemies: first to forgive, and then to love them.  

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18)

There was a religious attitude among the people of Jesus’ time on earth that allowed one to hate those not “neighbors” (meaning anyone not Israelites), and to distance oneself from those who are not their “neighbor”.  Jesus corrects this misinterpretation (cf., the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).  

In contrast to “hate”, Jesus emphasizes that “love of God” and the “love of neighbor” are the two primary and essential directives on which all other commandments and laws revolve.  He further extends these “love” commandments to our enemies and our persecutors.  He extends its meaning to encircle, to take-in, all men – – even our enemies.   His disciples, as children of God and followers of Christ, need to imitate the example of God the Father, who grants His gifts of “sun” and “rain” to all people and all creation, both good and bad.  A Christian, a true Catholic, has NO personal enemies!  Our ONLY enemy is evil – – SIN – – and NOT the “sinner”!

There is absolutely NO room for retaliation or retribution in God’s kingdom.  We need to avoid returning “evil for evil”.  We must seek the good in those who wish us a bad fate, ill-will, or harm.  The virtue of love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian – – of a Catholic: universal LOVE!  The universal call to holiness is not a recommendation, but rather, a commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How often have you accepted insults and abuse without any resentment, malice, or anger – – as Jesus showed us in His example?  When you are required to do more than you believe you should, do you insist on an equitable division, special attention, and/or “rights”; OR, do you respond with grace, joyfulness, and contentment?  

 

“Tax collectors” were Jews who engaged in the collection of taxes, tolls, and customs.  Tax collectors contracted with the Roman civil government for the right to collect these taxes within their districts.  In essence, they became sub-contractors of the Roman government, the “occupying force” in Palestine.  Whatever they could covertly and overtly collect above their allotment of pay became a profit by “embezzlement or extortion”.   Reasonably assumed, and without any doubt in my mind, abuses of embezzlement and extortion were widespread among the Jewish population.  Under-handed and crooked tax collectors were well-known and NOT liked.  Therefore, Jewish tax officials were not only NOT liked, they were disgraced, regarded as sinners and outcasts of their Jewish community – – along with their families.

Jesus’ disciples are not to be solely content and happy with the usual standards of conduct expected under Jewish Mosaic Law.  Jesus is commanding us to love all people, not just the ones we like or we think deserve love.  Even our enemies (such as the tax-collector) deserve our love.  The dishonest, the thief, the murderer, the ponzi-schemer, and so on, could become a Saint through the actions of the Holy Spirit working with, in, and through them, and you to bring them to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those they harmed.  Remember, even one of Jesus’ twelve Apostle’s was a tax-collector:

As He [Jesus] passed by, he saw Levi [Matthew], son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 5:48) Jesus introduces an image or concept as difficult for us today as it was for His disciple friends:

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

And then, He (Jesus) repeats this concept fourteen chapters later, when talking to a young rich man:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.'” (Matthew 19:21)

So, what did Jesus mean by “perfect”?  Talk about high standards!  (That’s way above me and my pay grade.)  Thankfully, the Catholic Church has asked this same question throughout the centuries.  In Chapter 5 of Vatican II’s Constitution “Lumen gentium”, it is written:

The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples, in every condition.  He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life: ‘Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect’ […] ‘Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity [love]; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.’”  (Vatican II’s Constitution “Lumen gentium”, 40)

 

The “fullness of Christ’s life” is in loving God, and loving every person and all God’s creation as fully as we can.  We are God’s “work in progress”, “Striving to reach the completeness we are called to in God’s kingdom.”  Attempting to “love our enemies” is definitely a part of our striving for completeness.  Completeness includes seeking the good and even the best for the “unjust” as well as the “just” (verse 45).  Perfection then includes desiring and encouraging the utmost “good” for, and towards, others.

Jesus’ new standard is God the Father’s own perfect, complete, universal, and practical love for each person.  His perfect love becomes the “model” each of us is called to imitate and live by, through Jesus’ invitation and command.

To enable us to do what He, Jesus Christ, calls us to do, He provides us with the enabling ability to do this command in the person of the “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit, with the gift of grace which sanctifies us, encourages us, empowers us, and inspires us.

God freely gives power and grace to those who believe, trust, and accept the grace of the Holy Spirit indwelling with us, and working in and through us.  God’s divine and totally full “love” towards each and every one, even our enemies triumphs over even our own hurts, fears, prejudices, grief’s, and every other imperfection of our lives.

This attitude is, for me, the key with understanding what Jesus was intending us to understand when He said:

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

 

As “sinful” human beings, it is far easier to show kindness, love, and mercy when we expect to benefit from doing our actions.  However, it is much harder when we expect NOTHING (not even a return of love) in exchange.  Yet, your “enemy” can actually assist you to surmount your overwhelming goal of “perfection”!  If you want to be perfect – – love all your enemies.  After all, you could be “stuck” with them for eternity!

To encourage you, my dear readers, to continue on this endeavor to be “perfect” as our heavenly father is, I offer the following:

  1. Instead of embracing and sheltering improper and hateful thoughts, say a short prayer for the person who provokes your emotions and hostilities. 

 “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”  (1John 1:7-9)

 

  1. Ask God for forgiveness when you realize your faults. 

 a.  Our actions, prayers, and love for those who do us ill-will and harm will ultimately help us overcome the strength, influence, and clout of vengeance and retribution.

 b.  Unconditional love further liberates the divine power of that “love” to do “good”, even in the face of pure evil. 

 

How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will?  Well, just remember:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Take advantage of EVERY opportunity – – every invitation granted to you – – to love another, especially the enemy.  The perfection of God will begin to emit and shine from you as you succeed.

 

We learn many practical skills in our lifetime.  Such skills include cooking, cleaning, hygiene, driving, how to deal with teenage sons, and so on.  Most of us also learn about caring for others as well as ourselves by sharing, forgiving, and loving through our personal and interpersonal experiences.

Love is the most important thing one can share with another.  The same is true in God’s kingdom.  Jesus taught His followers how to love others beyond those who are closest to them (“neighbors”).  Jesus tells us to love “even our enemies”.  As members of God’s kingdom, we are called to love everyone without any prejudice – – even “those who hate and persecute us”!

 

Jesus wants for us to love ALL others as if we were Jesus “Himself”.  If we extend ourselves in love to others, then we will be doing exactly as Jesus did, and as Jesus desires and empowers us to do..  Perfection is simply an unmitigated, non-prejudicial, and complete love for all people and all creations of God.

Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor?  Remember, you are not alone in this process.  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill and transform you into the image of His Son so that you may walk in the joy and the freedom of “the boy that was before Him.”  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. 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.”   (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 

 “Act of Love

 

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto (1910-1920; 1908-1919)

 

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon.  At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war.  Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months.  She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”  They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism.  Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home.  He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952.  Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father.  She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951.  Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000.  Sister Lucia died five years later.  The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year.

Comment:

The Church is always very cautious about endorsing alleged apparitions, but it has seen benefits from people changing their lives because of the message of Our Lady of Fatima.  Prayer for sinners, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and praying the rosary—all these reinforce the Good News Jesus came to preach.

Quote:

In his homily at their beatification, Pope John Paul II recalled that shortly before Francisco died, Jacinta said to him, “Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners.”

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 20 & 21 of 26:

 

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.

 

 

21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council

♫ “I Can See Clearly Now, the Sin Is Gone! I Can See All Obstacles In My Way!” ♫ – Mark 8:22-26†


            

Today in Catholic History:    

†   309 – Death of Pamphilus van Caesarea, Palestinian scholar/martyr, beheaded
†   600 – Pope Gregory the Great decreea saying “God bless You” is the correct response to a sneeze
†   1559 – Pope Paul IV calls for deposition of sovereigns supporting heresy
†   1560 – Death of Jean du Bellay, French Catholic cardinal and diplomat
†   1751 – 1st publication of Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard”
†   1903 – Birth of George-Henri Lévesque, Quebec priest and sociologist (d. 2000)
†   1912 – Death of St. Nikolai of Japan, Eastern Orthodox priest (b. 1836)
†   1933 – Catholic newspaper Germania warns against Nazis/communists
†   2009 – Death of Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, Korean Cardinal, Protopriest of the Holy Roman Church (b. 1921)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Abda of Edessa; Saint Elias and companions; Saint Juliana; Saint Gilbert of Sempringham; Saint Onesimus

(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:

 

A blind person asked St. Anthony: “Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?” He replied: “Yes, losing your vision.”

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Proclaiming the Gospel is a service. There is no doubt that the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today, who are buoyed up by hope but at the same time often oppressed by fear and distress, is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity. For this reason the duty of confirming the brethren – a duty which with the office of being the Successor of Peter (Cf. Lk 22:32) we have received from the Lord, and which is for us a “daily preoccupation,” (2 Cor 11:28) a program of life and action, and a fundamental commitment of our Pontificate – seems to us all the more noble and necessary when it is a matter of encouraging our brethren in their mission as evangelizers, in order that, in this time of uncertainty and confusion, they may accomplish this task with ever increasing love, zeal and joy.

A new period of evangelization. The church has the single aim of fulfilling her duty of being the messenger of the Good News of Jesus Christ – the Good News proclaimed through two fundamental commands: “Put on the new self” (Cf. Eph 4:24, 2:15; Col 3:10; Gal 3:27; Rom 13:114; 2 Cor 5:17) and “Be reconciled to God.”(2 Cor 5:20).  We wish to do so on this tenth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the objectives of which are definitively summed up in this single one: to make the Church … ever better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people ….  We wish to do so one year after the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which as is well known, was devoted to evangelization. In fact, at the end of that memorable Assembly, the Fathers decided to remit to the Pastor of the universal Church, with great trust and simplicity, the fruits of all their labors, stating that they awaited from him a fresh forward impulse, capable of creating within a Church still more firmly rooted in the undying power and strength of Pentecost a new period of evangelization.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus restoring sight to a blind man at Bethsaida.

 

22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him.  23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?”  24 Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”  25 Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.  26 Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”  (NAB Mark 8:22-26)

 

Question: What’s worse than bodily disease and infirmity?  Answer: Spiritual disease or infirmity of the heart and soul!  Disease of the body can only last for the duration of our human “bodily” lives; a mere 70 to 90 years for most.  Imperfections to our soul can last for all eternity!

Spiritual (and physical) cures can happen instantaneously, or can take a very long time to fruition.  Jesus granted cures immediately throughout Holy Scripture in all but this one case.  In reality, there were probably more “delayed” cures in Jesus’ ministry, but today’s Gospel reading is the only one reported in such detail.  This unusual “two-phase” healing is a great opportunity for Jesus Christ to teach on God’s graces, trust, hope, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

 

After His first “attempt”, Jesus asks the “blind” man if he could see.  He responds”

“I see people looking like trees and walking.”   

Walking trees immediately brings to mind scenes of animated trees from the movies “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Lord of the Rings”.  Now, think of “walking trees” from a spiritual/religious standpoint.  Could the poor blind man have been given a tiny glimpse of Jesus’ fate on a future “Good Friday”?  Could this man have been given the grace of seeing Jesus carrying the Holy Tree that ushers in a “new life” on earth and in heaven?

Jesus’ cure clearly did not completely work the first time – – WOW!  Why?!  Well, I believe this man’s sins were obstacles to Jesus’ loving and healing power – – His divine power of curing the soul and body.  The blind man was not only physically blind; he was also “blinded” in spirit and faith!  His faith was probably weakened through earthly temptations and frustrations of, and in, society.  We too are blinded by the same earthly temptations and frustrations of society, still prevalent today!  Satan never takes any time off.  It seems Satan’s temptations will only stop fifteen minutes after we are dead and in the ground.

The blind man’s sight is slowly restored, and in stages.  This poor blind man’s spiritual heart, soul, and physical body slowly respond to Jesus’ loving, healing touch.  In explaining the significance of this biblical event, a third century “Father of the Church”, St. Jerome, says:

Christ laid his hands upon his eyes that he might see all things clearly, so through visible things he might understand things invisible, which the eye has not seen, that after the film of sin is removed, he might clearly behold the state of his soul with the eye of a clean heart.” (St. Jerome)

 

Sometimes, God presents an immediate cure from our spiritual (and sometimes – physical) shortcomings.  At other times, we are afforded an opportunity to experience a gradual healing and deliverance from our imperfections.  What, – – We are afforded an OPPORTUNITY?!  Yep, God does not do anything haphazardly, or without a purpose!  We need to strive for His graces at all times, and especially in times of distress – ALWAYS!  The opportunity we are given by God is that of finding Him in all phases of our life, and the lives of others.  Not just in the good times, but also in the most “horrifying” of times as well!  Remember, God never leaves us; we choose to leave Him!

Spiritual insight is most often progressive in nature, and sometimes, in our earthly existence, it is may not be enjoyable at times.  Faith needs to grow, and with growth comes “growing pains”.  Many of the saints have called this the “dark night of the soul”.  But at all times, Jesus is there for us – supporting us.  Please remember, Jesus experienced the same physical and spiritual “human” pain that we all may have to endure as a disciple.  If Jesus HAD to go through this “purging through pain”, why should we not also?!

Does Jesus advocate a growth in spiritual faith, hope, and trust through tiny actions of mercy and liberation?  I believe He most definitely does work in very small ways at times.  As you can see, He did not give up on the blind man.  Jesus did not reject this man because of a weak faith.  On the contrary, Jesus not only stayed with this blind man, He repeatedly healing him and eventually alleviating his infirmities.  He repeatedly healed this man until fully and completely cured!  With more faith and more trust in God and His graces, comes more healing.  Through faith, trust, and love comes an increased removal of whatever is in the way of a complete and full restoration of our heart, soul, and body.

 

Look at today’s Gospel reading story as a model or representation in the spiritual (and possibly physical) healing we can receive in confession: the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  If you are like me, it seems that I repeat some of the same (or very similar) sins over and over at each “one-on-one” healing encounter I have in the confessional – – a broken record of sorts.  I admit, it can be discouraging and disparaging for me, but at least I’m past the stage of the “really juicy” stuff; I’m now ordinarily boring from a secular viewpoint.  However, the more one is exposed to this beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church (and of God), more and more of God’s healing graces we are exposed to with the Holy Spirit dwelling with, in, and through us – – helping and healing us.

Prior to confession, take some time and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate and deepen our “mustard-seed” size roots.  Allow the Holy Spirit to take a strong hold in our souls, hearts, and lives to blossom into a bush producing much fruit for harvest for us AND others.  Repeated exposure to confession can “soften” our sometimes harden hearts, and strengthen our “sinful” souls. 

God cannot work miracles in and through us without a predisposition on our part.  We must allow, and freely use the graces bestowed to us from our heavenly Father.  The ironically truthful fact about God’s graces is that He gives us more graces as we respond to, and use, the graces He has given to us previously.  Graces not used, are graces wasted.  Point-in-fact: God is “eco-minded”!  He does not like meaningless waste.  

We must recollect on, and continuously remember, that God’s graces are essential for entrance to His everlasting and perfect paradise: heaven.  His graces are necessary for desiring anything virtuous, righteous, and divine:

Give us light, Lord.  Behold, we need it more than the man who was blind from his birth, for he wished to see the light and could not, whereas nowadays, Lord, no one wishes to see it.  Oh, what a hopeless ill is this!  Here, my God, must be manifested thy power and thy mercy.” (St. Teresa, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 8)

In today’s Gospel reading, a blind man is brought to Jesus by his friends.  Without their help, he could not have found Jesus and have his sight restored.  WE must support and help each other as this man’s friends had done: bringing others directly to Jesus! 

 

Jesus’ actions with the blind man of Bethsaida and His “measured” cure probably have the same purpose of instruction in faith, trust, and God’s power as in the case of the deaf man found in Mark 7:

Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.  And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) and (immediately) the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.  He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.  They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak.”  Some commentators regard the cure as an intended symbol of the gradual enlightenment of the disciples concerning Jesus’ messiahship.”  (Mark 7:31-37)

 

Jesus never gives up on each of us – – in a personal way.  So, don’t ever give up on yourself!  Allow the Holy Spirit to peel away the “onion” layers of your life and faith to get deeper into your heart and soul.  Allow the Holy Spirit to “touch” you in a deeper and more personal way than you have ever before in your life.  Most importantly, allow the roots of the Holy Spirit to continually penetrate further into your heart, soul, and life – – a daily conversion to God!

 

I love the story of John Newton’s conversion, and his writing of the beautiful spiritual hymn, “Amazing Grace”.  This is a more modern version of today’s Gospel reading.  I would like to share this one, and someday I may even tell my “cradle Catholic” CONVERSION story.

John Newton was captaining of his own ship, one which was very active the slave trade.  Through various life situations (and God’s grace) he experienced a slow conversion of heart and soul.  So slow in fact, that John still continued in the slave trade for a period of time after his conversion.  However, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were increasingly treated humanely with his increasing conversion of faith.

John Newton ultimately left the “sea” and was eventually ordained a Anglican Minister.  His faith and zeal was so prominent that his church became so crowded during services, it had to be enlarged.  He continued to preach until the last year of life, although he was blind by that time.  He died in London December 21, 1807 at age 82.

Most scholars believe his hymn is based on two Biblical verses: 1Chronicles 17:16-17 and Ephesians 2:4-9:

“Then David came in and sat in the LORD’S presence, saying: ‘Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you should have brought me as far as I have come?  And yet, even this you now consider too little, O God!  For you have made a promise regarding your servant’s family reaching into the distant future, and you have looked on me as henceforth the most notable of men, O LORD God’”  (1Chronicles 17:16-17)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”  (Ephesians 2:4-9)

 

 “Amazing Grace

 

“Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gilbert of Sempringham (c. 1083-1189)

 

Gilbert was born in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, but he followed a path quite different from that expected of him as the son of a Norman knight. Sent to France for his higher education, he decided to pursue seminary studies.

He returned to England not yet ordained a priest, and inherited several estates from his father. But Gilbert avoided the easy life he could have led under the circumstances. Instead he lived a simple life at a parish, sharing as much as possible with the poor. Following his ordination to the priesthood he served as parish priest at Sempringham.

Among the congregation were seven young women who had expressed to him their desire to live in religious life. In response, Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church. There they lived an austere life, but one which attracted ever more numbers; eventually lay sisters and lay brothers were added to work the land. The religious order formed eventually became known as the Gilbertines, though Gilbert had hoped the Cistercians or some other existing order would take on the responsibility of establishing a rule of life for the new order. The Gilbertines, the only religious order of English origin founded during the Middle Ages, continued to thrive. But the order came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries.

Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called “the plate of the Lord Jesus.” The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert’s lifelong concern for less fortunate people.

Throughout his life Gilbert lived simply, consumed little food and spent a good portion of many nights in prayer. Despite the rigors of such a life he died at well over age 100.

Comment:

When he came into his father’s wealth, Gilbert could have lived a life of luxury, as many of his fellow priests did at the time. Instead, he chose to share his wealth with the poor. The charming habit of filling “the plate of the Lord Jesus” in the monasteries he established reflected his concern. Today’s Operation Rice Bowl echoes that habit: eating a simpler meal and letting the difference in the grocery bill help feed the hungry.

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.  

“You Thought You Had It Hard Before, Check Out These Laws!” – Matthew 5:17–37†


 

“Vigils for Victims” of underage sex trafficking are being organized outside Planned Parenthood offices coast-to-coast on Monday, February 14, from Noon to 1 PM in each U.S. Time Zone …

… and YOU can make a profound impact in one hour!

We must act swiftly and take a public stand against Planned Parenthood’s harmful agenda — raising awareness in the communities where we live, and calling upon Congress to IMMEDIATELY strip the abortion chain of all tax funding.

This Monday, February 14, all people of faith and conscience are being called upon to hold one-hour “Vigils for Victims” of human trafficking during the Noon hour in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood offices nationwide.

 This requires rapid action, but will show Planned Parenthood — and the media — the power of pro-life America to bring about change!

For more information, go to http://www.40daysforlife.com and follow the links.

Please join me at the following location:

Central West End Planned Parenthood facility
4251 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO  63108

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:


   
†   1130 – Death of Honorius II, [Lamberto], Pope (1124-30)
†   1130 – Gregorio de’ Papareschi elected as Pope Innocent II
†   1480 – Birth of Girolamo Aleandro, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1542)
†   1585 – Death of Alfonso Salmeron, Spanish Jesuit biblical scholar (b. 1515)
†   1599 – Birth of Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Siena Italy, pope (1655-67)
†   1888 – Death of Jean Baptiste Lamy, 1st Archbishop of Santa Fe (b. 1814)
†   1913 – Birth of Guiseppe Dossetti, Italian politician/priest
†   2005 – Death of Lúcia Santos, Carmelite nun and Fatima visionary (b. 1907)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Beatrice; Saint Ermenildis; Saint Fulcran; Saint Polyeuctus

(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:

 

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.  The wife said, “You should do it because you get up first, and then we don’t have to wait as long to get our coffee.”  The husband said, “You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.”  His wife replies, “No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.”  The husband retorts, “I can’t believe that, show me.” 

So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says – – “HEBREWS”!

 

 

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 13 of 13 Parts

Let us not forget, dearest brothers and sisters, that there are nearly 450,000 of us professed Secular Franciscans, in every corner of the globe.  We are a great potential force for good and grace in the service of the Church.  We make up 75% of all the Franciscans in the world!

Can you imagine what we could accomplish in the service of the Kingdom and the Gospel if only we were all true, authentic, good Secular Franciscans?

Come on, then, brothers and sisters, let us answer the call of the Church: let us “put out into the deep”, Duc in Altum, with courage, and not keep the Church waiting any longer as She urges us to retake our place fully in the Church and in the world.

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’ coming to NOT abolish the Mosaic Law, and Old Testament prophecies – – but to fulfill them.

 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  21 You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’  22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.  23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.  Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.  27 ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.   31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’  32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’  34 But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the evil one.  (NAB Matthew 5:17–37)

 

Today’s reading is the first part of three readings concerning Jesus’ teachings on the true way of life for entrance into God’s kingdom.  Part one concerns the Mosaic Law.  The second reading will deal with worship, religious practices, and prayer (Jesus’ model for His disciples).  Part three focuses on trusting God and giving proper acts of loving service to our “neighbors”.

Here in part one, we have a statement of Jesus’ position concerning the Jewish Mosaic Law.  It is composed of traditional material, plus Matthew’s own editorial touches (after all, he wrote the book).  Jesus did not come to change, tweak, amend, or even abolish Mosaic Laws.  Nor did Jesus want to distort the words and prophecies of the many biblical prophets who preceded Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill all the laws, prophecies, and promises concerning the “Messiah” and the new kingdom to come!  I know about sixty prophecies (more or less) from the Hebrew Scriptures, written 1500 to 400 years before the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  To fulfill ALL, and not just some, prophesies would be a statistical improbability (And for me, impossible!  Only God could make that happen.)  And, He promised He would, He did, and in the Person of the “Messiah”.

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the new kingdom – – the new covenant – – is a direct offshoot of the old.  In my opinion, Catholics are a second generation or first cousin of the Jewish faith.  Jesus, a Jew, proclaims this when He asserted that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity. 

Jesus requires us to follow the moral laws, “the Commandments”, not the desert code for worship during the exodus, which Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.  Since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the moral laws He gave us then are indeed perfect in nature; and thus, of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted – ever!

Those who do not obey any of the Ten Commandments, even in the smallest of ways, or who teach others to not follow the Ten Commandments, are guilty of serious moral evil (sin).  Sin affects not only the entire body of Christ, but also the human Church (us).  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church and separates the sinful one from a permissive and loving God and weakens the bens of love among the brethren (the human Church).

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  They have become Christian”, an Imitator of Christ!  The greatest gift one, as a Christian, is their best “self”!

 Jesus said,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself(Luke 10:25-28):

Then He said

“And do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Matthew 7:12).:

Peace, love, and humility are graces God bestows upon and within us.  We are to share His graces and gifts with all people we encounter – at all times and in all places.  After all, a talent or gift not shared with others is, sadly, a talent or gift wasted!  Don’t be afraid to embrace your calling, your mission on earth.  It really is possible to live the life God desires of you.  In fact, all humankind is so dearly in need of your witness to God, which only you can give.

The commandments identified in verse 19 denote those of the Mosaic Law.  However, I think Jesus was (and is) talking about more than the Jewish civil and religious regulations.  He is teaching a universal and perpetual system of moral standards and principles “until heaven and earth pass away.”

Jesus wants us to look further the Mosaic Laws and into the “heart” (the intention) of the Law-giver: God!  God wants a sincere, unconditional, and total submission, compliance, and reverence to the intentions underlying His laws.  Ok, yes the standards are immense and challenging!  However, so too are His graces and rewards! 

 

From verse 21, and extending to verse 48, Jesus gives six examples of conduct expected of His disciples wishing to follow Him and His teachings.  {We are only covering the first four examples in today’s Gospel reflection).  Each situation deals with a commandment of Mosaic Law.   Each one is presented in the second person format.  (Isn’t Jesus the “second” person in the Trinity? – Hmm.)  The first example introduces “your ancestors did something” formula.  Jesus responds by introducing a different, higher, more important standard of behavior.  He emphasizes the difference by using the very strong words: “But I say to you ….”  By doing this He is declaring an authoritative clarification of what He (and God the Father’s) expects of His sons and daughters.

In today’s reading, two of the directives accept the “old” Mosaic Law fully, while extending or deepening the directive (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28).  The two other directives in today’s reading are partially rejected as a standard of conduct for Jesus’ followers (Matthew 31-32; 33-37).  I say “partially” because His improvement is more of a “clarification of God’s intent” rather than complete rejection. [Again, Matthew 5:38-39 and 5:43-44 are not covered in this reflection]

 

The first directive, found in verse 21, in today’s reading is about killing someone.  The Mosaic Law can be found in two specific places in the Old Testament:

You shall not kill.”  (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17)
(The Hebrew word is “murder”.)

However, the second part of the verse, “whoever kills will be liable to judgment” is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament directive found in the book of Exodus:

Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death.”  (Exodus 21:12)

Jesus counters the current interpretation when He says, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment ….”  Jesus goes deeper and broader by declaring a new standard of doing harm by using just words.  Jesus’ intention is to (1) avoid harming your brother verbally, and (2) seek reconciliation with your adversary.   This standard of behavior is found in Luke’s Gospel:

“If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison.  I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  (Luke 12:58-59).

The severity of the “judge” in either (Matthew’s or Luke’s) parable is a strong warning to all people (not just Jesus’ disciples, or even the Jewish people as a whole) concerning the fate for unrepentant sinners in the coming judgment by Jesus – – the Parousia.

Anger is probably the greatest motive leading murder.  Insulting someone, using improper nicknames, and/or strong descriptive labels, are simple steps leading to anger and murder. “Raqa” (verse 22) is an Aramaic word meaning “fool”, “imbecile” or “blockhead”; using it is clearly improper and disparaging terms of abuse towards others.  These “words”, as well as the aforementioned act of murder, are forbidden in God’s kingdom. 

The Jewish people understood that not all offenses are equal.  Some are minor, others are major.  The Jews had an increasing order of punishment for issues involving anger.  There was (1) judgment, (2) being called before the Sanhedrin Court, and (3) Condemnation (death)!  This reveals the various levels and degrees of seriousness in each of the offenses (name calling, anger, and murder).  Judgment would probably first take place by the local council or congregation.  Next in order, would be a trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Temple court in Jerusalem.  The Sanhedrin was the highest judicial body of the Jewish religion, a Supreme Court of sorts.  Finally, for the most serious of charges, condemnation to “Gehenna” was the ultimate penalty – – death and burial outside the city. 

Gehenna, the “Valley of Hinnom,” or “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” was (and still is) an area geographically southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  At one time, it was the center of an idolatrous (pagan) cult in which children were offered in fire sacrifices:  

“The king [Josiah of Judah – descendant of David] also defiled Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be an immolation of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech. (2 Kings 23:10)  

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they have built the high place of Topheth to immolate in fire their sons and their daughters, such a thing as I never commanded or had in mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31)

(A Side Reflection:  A common method of abortion is to inject a super high concentration of salt into the amniotic (babies) fluid in which the fetus lives.  This barbaric act literally, and brutally, BURNS the fetus to death in its own – – once life giving – – fluid.  Can you just imagine the pain of physically and slowly burning to death?  Our society is no better than the pagan cult that once lived in Gehenna!)

The concept of punishment for sinners by fire after death or the final judgment can be found in Jewish apocalyptic literature such as Enoch 90:26:

And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house.” (Enoch 90:26)

In verse 29-30 of Matthew, Jesus is telling us that any sacrifice of self, for others out of love, is never too little for inclusion into God’s kingdom.  In reality, sacrifice of self, for others out of love, may keep one from inclusion to the horrors of total destruction in Gehenna.

 

Next are the laws regarding “adultery” and “divorce”.  The Mosaic Law is very direct when it comes to adultery:

You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

Notice the period behind the verse!  It is there for a reason!!  Adultery is a misleading name for me.  A true “Adult” would never violate that “intimate” (meaning “shared privacy”) covenant made not only with a spouse, but also made with God Himself!

The Old Testament Mosaic Law was quite interesting when it came to divorce.  Read Deuteronomy 24:1-5:

When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house: if on leaving his house she goes and becomes the wife of another man, and the second husband, too, comes to dislike her and dismisses her from his house by handing her a written bill of divorce; or if this second man who has married her, dies; then her former husband, who dismissed her, may not again take her as his wife after she has become defiled. That would be an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring such guilt upon the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage.  “When a man is newly-wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him. He shall be exempt for one year for the sake of his family, to bring joy to the wife he has married.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

The Old Testament commandment that a “bill of divorce” be given to the woman (she usually sends the bill NOW) assumes that the divorce itself is for legitimate reasons.  Jesus is denying that most divorces are, in fact, legitimate in any way. I believe this is proven in the fact that He says, “Unless the marriage is unlawful”.  This “exceptive clause,” can be found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel as well:

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

BUT, there are other sayings from Jesus about divorce which clearly prohibit it absolutely.

“He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”  (Mark 10:11-12)

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  (Luke 16:18)

To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband and a husband should not divorce his wife.”    (1 Cor 7:10, 11b)

Most bible scholars agree that these verses represent the true attitude and stance of Jesus Christ (and thus, GOD).  Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” (“unless”) are believed by some scholars to be a modification of the absolute prohibition to divorce.  It seems, however, that the “unlawfulness” that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage can be broken refers to situations unique to his own first century early Catholic community.   These situations stem from violations of Mosaic Law that forbid marriage between persons of certain blood affinities and/or legal relationships:

None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the LORD.  You shall not disgrace your father by having intercourse with your mother. Besides, since she is your own mother, you shall not have intercourse with her.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your father.  You shall not have intercourse with your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in your own household or born elsewhere.  You shall not have intercourse with your son’s daughter or with your daughter’s daughter, for that would be a disgrace to your own family.  You shall not have intercourse with the daughter whom your father’s wife bore to him, since she, too, is your sister.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s sister, since she is your father’s relative.  You shall not have intercourse with your mother’s sister, since she is your mother’s relative.  You shall not disgrace your father’s brother by being intimate with his wife, since she, too, is your aunt.  You shall not have intercourse with your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, and therefore you shall not disgrace her.  You shall not have intercourse with your brother’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your brother.  You shall not have intercourse with a woman and also with her daughter, nor shall you marry and have intercourse with her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; this would be shameful, because they are related to her.  While your wife is still living you shall not marry her sister as her rival; for thus you would disgrace your first wife.” (Lev 18:6-18)

Marriages of this sort was (and still are in most parts of the country) regarded as incestuous (“porneia” in Greek, from which we get the word “porn”).  However, some first century rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism, who had married in such a way, to remain in their incestuous marriages.  Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity, and can be seen in a similar prohibition of incestuous marriages found in Acts:

 “Tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.   Namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.” (Acts 15:20, 29)

In the interpretations, there is no exception to the prohibition of divorce, when the marriage is lawful.

 

Verse 33 (false oaths) is not a “precise” quotation from any Old Testament text. It can be deduced from several verses in the Pentateuch:

You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11)

You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)

The true purpose of any oath is to guarantee truthfulness – – by calling on God as your witness.  Remember the Old Perry Mason TV episodes wherein the person testifying in court put their hand on a bible and said, “I swear to tell the truth …”?  Also, every President of the United States, and all elected federal officials place their hand on the religious book of their faith, (usually a bible in this country), when taking the oath of their office.  One’s oath is a form of a covenant with God – – and you don’t want to purposely break a covenant with God!

Recently, in the prevalent secularization of America, and in removing God from anything and everything [a personal opinion], the use of “God-based” oath formulas, and acts such as placing your hand on a bible (never done in a courtroom anymore) are attempts, simply, to avoid God’s divine name in public. 

However, one is still in fact swearing by His name regardless.  All the things sworn to or by, – – are related to God

I had a “dah” moment in reading Verse 37.  What did Jesus really mean by saying”:

“Let your `Yes’ mean `Yes,’ and your `No’ mean `No’”? 

Was Jesus literally meaning, “Let your words be “Yes, yes,” or “No, no” without any misrepresentation, misinterpretation, or misdirection in what you say to anyone at anytime?  Some scholars believe that this statement is in fact, a milder form of an oath, permitted by Jesus.  If you look at verse 34 again, it says, “Do not swear at all“.  If taken as “biblical”, it is highly unlikely that any human could uphold this regulation.   I believe Jesus clearly explains His statement with the second half of the verse, “Anything more is from the evil one”.  Any “oath-taking”, in reality presumes our sinful weakness; namely, our sinful predisposition to lie.  Otherwise, why would an oath ever be needed?  Jesus is simply insisting that His disciples be truthful at all times, thus making any oath essentially unnecessary.  (How about that, for a much higher standard!)

 

Initially, to fulfill the Mosaic Law meant for me to literally follow each of the laws exactly to the slightest detail, forever (yeah, right!).  After a period of reflection, I have come to believe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most would think.  Instead, this “passing away” may refer to the termination in our “human” understanding and knowledge of our existing universe, for a more divinely inspired and mysterious understanding.  I believe we may be living in the early stage of the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  Isaiah declares:

“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) 

Jesus’ ministry on earth points to the “new kingdom”.  His mission never deviated from Old Testament prophecies.  In fact, I believe His ministry actually remained within the framework of Mosaic Law!  However, Jesus brought about a significant anticipation and hope of a new age and a new covenant – – His kingdom on earth.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  Are you?!

There is a responsibility for all of us to help each other, in an individual and communal way.  We are to gain knowledge to understand our faith, and God’s love and trust He has for each individual one of us – – personally!  We also must help shape the hearts and souls of others, in addition to our own.  You don’t have to be perfect (trust me, that would be impossible); you just have to give your best.  Surrender to the Holy Spirit; allow Him to work with, in, and through you.  The Holy Trinity will certainly do the rest of the work, again – – with, in, and through YOU!  YOU really can change the world, one person at a time.

Jesus does not overturn the Law of Moses, nor does he set His disciples free from the Law. He instead requires his followers to go beyond Mosaic Law by doing more than it requires. 

I sense that most people remember more through their eyes than they ever will through what they read or hear.  We need to “show” All others (not just people with whom we are comfortable) how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle.  This is done by demonstrating a proper Catholic standard of living and routine at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

We all live by rules.  Without rules, life would be chaos.  Think of the rules that you are all called to follow in order for you all to get along with others in your life.  In reality, following rules is a way of showing love and respect for one another.

“This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:21)

 

In Summary, the Law condemned murder. Jesus condemns anger. The Law condemned adultery. Jesus condemns even lustful looks.  As Jewish Christians who had always been faithful to the Law, Matthew’s community needed a way to understand the difference Jesus, and the kingdom He brings, have made.  They believed that God had always been at work in history through “the Law and the prophets.”  The written scriptures and their interpretation in tradition are surpassed by Jesus, whose life, His birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and glorification – – are THE definitive revelation of the will of God, our Father.

 

The Prayer for Controlling Anger

 

“O Lord, must I fear Your wrath?
Retribution is Yours by right!
May I never dishonor Your Divinity,
My
soul seeking to maintain Your love.
Shape my being into earnest kindness,
A reflection of Your perfection.
Grant me the
grace of self-control,
That I may not display any anger.
Should I have such an outburst,
Instantly remind me to seek redress,
For such is offensive to You.
Anger is Yours alone to avenge!  Amen.”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph (1729-1812)

 

In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter or most often as official beggar for that community.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Comment:

People often become arrogant and power hungry when they try to live a lie, for example, when they forget their own sinfulness and ignore the gifts God has given to other people. Giles had a healthy sense of his own sinfulness—not paralyzing but not superficial either. He invited men and women to recognize their own gifts and to live out their dignity as people made in God’s divine image. Knowing someone like Giles can help us on our own spiritual journey.

Quote:

In his homily at the canonization of Giles, Pope John Paul II said that the spiritual journey of Giles reflected “the humility of the Incarnation and the gratuitousness of the Eucharist” (L’Osservatore Romano 1996, volume 23, number 1).

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 13 & 14 of 26:

13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

 

 

14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service. 

“Jesus Is Teaching How NOT to Get ‘Heartburn’!” – Mark 7:14-23†


 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1537 – Pope Paul III routes Cardinal Pole to England
†   1621 – Alexander Ludovisi is elected Pope Gregory XV, the last Pope elected by acclamation.
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Ansbert of Rouen; Saint Maron’s Day – Lebanon; Saint Apollonia, patron saint of dentists and dental technicians

(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:

 

Cannibal:  “Doctor, I have terrible heartburn.”

Doctor:  “Well, what did you eat?”

Cannibal:  “Nothing special. A couple of missionaries with hooded robes.”

Doctor:  “How did you cook them?”

Cannibal:  “I always boil my food.”

Doctor:  “Well, no wonder you have heartburn. Those aren’t boilers. They’re friars!”

 

 

 

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 12 of  13 Parts

Love — “caritas” — is an extraordinary force which drives people to engage with courage and generosity in the field of justice and peace. It is a force which has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth.

Each person finds his good by adhering to the plan which God has for him, in order to accomplish it fully: in this plan, indeed, he finds his truth, and it is through adherence to this truth that he becomes free (cf. Jn 8:22). Defending the truth, proclaiming it with humility and conviction, and bearing witness to it in life are, therefore, exacting and indispensable forms of charity. (Caritas in Veritate, 1)

 

(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 about new Dietary regulations; and sin coming from the heart.

 

14 He [Jesus] summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.  15 Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”  16(*)  17 When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable.  18 He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  20 “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.  21 From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  23 All these evils come from within and they defile.”   (NAB Mark 7:14-23)

 

Do as I say, NOT as I do!  Have you ever felt like you were leading two completely different lives?  The outer public “you” is a pious and happy go-lucky person, without a problem in the world.  The inner private you – – the REAL you – – harbors hidden secrets such as addictions, infidelity, evil thoughts, theft, harm to others, greed, lies, trickery, envy, gossip, or arrogance.  These two lives directly oppose each other, and can make you seem like your losing control.  YOU COULD BE!!

Do you allow sinful thoughts and wants to invade your “being”?  Realize, we do not have to allow sinful behavior rule our lives.  Instead, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can condemn these unwanted and immoral behaviors rather than allow them to control us.  

Where does evil come from anyway, and how can we eliminate it from our lives?  Jesus dealt with this specific topic in today’s reading by answering concerns involving the topic of spiritual and dietary “defilement”.  During the time of Jesus, defilement of either type (spiritual or dietary) would make one ritually unfit for entering the Temple to offer sacrifice and to worship God. 

In the safety and privacy some time later in the day, Jesus’ “disciples questioned Him about the parable”.  The term “parable” usually refers to something hidden in a statement or story, yet revealed to the listeners.  In this case, the parables meaning is revealed to His disciples.  There are many such parables throughout most of Mark’s Gospel, with today’s reading positioning the current Mosaic food laws into the framework of the “new” kingdom of God.  These requirements are ended permanently with the new covenant established with, in, and through Jesus Christ.  Jesus restored the righteous conduct of “morality” in all its clarity, purity, and intensity.  He declared that moral “defilement” – – immoral thoughts, behaviors, and actions – – was (and still is) the only cause of “uncleanness”.

Jesus boldly “declared all foods clean”!  His bold decree seemed to go unnoticed initially by many of His followers.  Its power and influence was not realized even among the Jewish Christians of the early, first century, Catholic Church.  The proof of this statement can be found in the story of Peter’s vision.  He sees a “sheet” descending from heaven with all manners of animals (ritually clean and unclean) mixed together in the sheet, as found in the story of Cornelius’ conversion. (See Acts 10:10-11:18).

The vision Peter had in Joppa (Acts 10:10-16) showed him the full insight and wisdom of what Jesus taught in today’s reading about Jewish dietary requirements.  When he returns to Jerusalem, Peter himself tells us of this revelation in his account on the conversion of the Roman, Cornelius:

I remembered the word of the Lord.” (Acts 11:16) 

The now non- compulsory nature of such dietary instructions – – handed down by God in the Old Testament (cf., Leviticus 11) – – would obviously be something Peter would certainly include in his lectures and worship, wouldn’t he?

 

Local religious leaders were concerned with avoiding defilement in regards to dietary requirements as directed by Mosaic Law.  Jesus directed His followers – – His disciples – – to the actual cause of “true” defilement: evil desires which coming from inside a person’s deepest, intimate nature – – their heart.  Sin cannot “just” happen!  It must first emerge from the recesses of our thoughts and intentions.  Only our individual “sinful” hearts can conceive immoral thoughts.

 

We know the Word of God – – Holy Scripture – – is a living document:

The truth of the gospel is that God can set us free from the cancer of sin. Our freedom consists in being forgiven our sins. This is what the death of Jesus Christ means. God has proven faithful to us as a friend.” (Fr. Francis Martin, The Life Changer, St. Bede’s Publications)

God works in us (through the Holy Spirit) to make our hearts, and souls receptive to His word and grace.  The Holy Trinity makes our heart and souls clean and whole through the unique and supernatural powers of the Holy Spirit. 

In God’s magnificent and splendid mercy, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to save us from our own sins.  To receive His mercy, we only need to become aware of our iniquities, to simply admit our faults to Him, and to confess our sins. 

If we say, ‘We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.’” (1 John 1:8-9)

 

Denial of our nature to sin is a self-deception.  It is even contradictory of divine revelation – WOW!  There is also the certainty of sin’s continued recurrence in our lives, through our action (or inaction) of denial.  Forgiveness and release from sin is through Jesus Christ!  Again, we are assured of forgiveness and release from sin through acknowledging our nature to sin, and repenting our sins to Jesus Christ (through the Priest “persona Christi” in the confessional).

Through His Word, and the actions of the Holy Spirit, God reveals that we may recognize His mercy and grace for pardoning and healing our sinful nature.  The Holy Spirit imparts to us the grace of consciousness – – knowing right from wrong, – – and the grace of certain salvation and redemption.  SO USE THESE GRACES!

The Lord Jesus Christ is ever ready to purify our hearts, and souls through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and working in and through us.  Though His power and grace, He permits us to choose the good in our thoughts, words, and actions; and to reject evil.  We have the free-will to accept God’s love and grace, or to not to accept Him in our lives.  Do you want God to change and transform your heart and soul – – your spiritual and natural “being”?

Satan is a sly and evil spirit.  He never rests!  We have to be ever diligent.  We cannot become slaves to sin, but rather, slaves to righteousness.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

 

Our “heart” is the way we open our self to the reality around us.  Attention has to be diligent and meticulous to what comes from our heart.  By the act of original sin etched into our hearts and souls we are, in essence, all “addicted” to the grasp of “sin” in nature.  We often act as if we are the center of the world, and that everything and everyone revolves around us.  We sometimes act and believe as if everything and everyone exists solely for our exploitation, profit, and pleasure.  We must submit ourselves regularly and often to the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church, especially the Holy and living Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to fight this addiction in our hearts.

So what is this talk about the “heart”?  Isn’t the soul the important “organ” of faith?

When we speak of a person’s heart, we refer not just to his sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with others.  In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the expression “heart” in its full human meaning, as the summary and source, expression and ultimate basis, of one’s thoughts, words and actions.  A man is worth what his heart is worth…” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 164)

Jesus Christ Himself tells us today that sinful actions can come from the human heart.  The Council of Trent addressed how original sin has changed our bodies and souls.

We can understand how this can happen if we realize that, after original sin, man ‘was changed for the worse’ in both body and soul and was, therefore, prone to evil.” (Council of Trent, De peccato originali)

So, the origins of sin in our lives can be found in the nature, character, and temperament of our heart, plus its effect on our soul.  Outward acts of sin start as tiny thoughts and desires in our hearts.  However, the nature of sin can be as devious and scheming as the image of the proverbial “iceberg”.  A small portion of our sinful nature may be visible to others (or even our individual self’s); however a vast majority is still hidden beneath the surface.   The visible part, though dangerous in its own right, is not as dangerous necessarily as the much larger part hidden from view.  If we rationalize our petty sins as simple random acts of “being human”, and without dealing with the issues at root in the act of sin, coming from our hearts, we are only asking for trouble – – a true “Titanic” moment, to say the least!

Keeping tight hold of the urges and acts concerning sin within us will most certainly harm the heart and soul.  It will damage our spiritual clarity at the minimum.  And it could also damage our relationships with family, friends, and peers.  The tightly held inequities – – of which we choose not to rid ourselves – – may even cause physically harm to ourselves.  The “stress” from trying to keep secret, parts of our lives, along with the “lies” one must keep up for others, can cause both physical and psychological problems over a period of time (not to mention the immediately danger to ones eternal soul).

With that said, can you imagine the peace that would overwhelm your “being” when released from the dark recesses of sin?  Sin, our inequities, can be easily released through the beautiful and loving Sacrament of Reconciliation. (Do you get my hint to go to confession often and regularly?)  The confessional is the best place to receive the grace of repentance and forgiveness, so please start today – – right now – – by coming clean with Jesus.  Review your consciousness, and get back on that path to salvation.  God is waiting for you on your individually unique path, wanting so dearly to walk with you!

We must ask God regularly and often for forgiveness, mercy, and salvation from original sin, and we must ask it from all others as well.  WHAT!?  Yes, not only from God, but from ALL Catholics who believe and trust in the passion of Christ, who humble themselves before Him, who acknowledge their sinfulness to Him, and who also asks for mercy and forgiveness by the merits of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the Holy Tree of salvation.  Think of this the next time use pray the “Confiteor” at Mass (and posted as the prayer below).

 

(*) Some of your bibles may have a verse “16” that reads as follows, “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”  It is officially omitted in the NAB version because it is actually absent in the better Greek manuscripts from which the New Testament is translated.  Most scholars have a belief that the verse was probably transferred from other locations such as Mark 4:9 and Mark 4:23, to this location, by “scribes” transposing copies of bibles by hand.

“He added, ‘Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.’” (Mark 4:9)
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” (Mark 4:23)

 

In Summary, God’s law is meant to help us live a good and proper Catholic life.  Yet, sometimes we can get stuck in the complexities of His law (Sounds like what the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees did.).  We need to remember that God’s laws are supposed to help us DO something.  The way we should measure our lives is by examining our consciousness to see if we are living the loving compassion that Jesus Christ lived and modeled for us.  Jesus Himself said (I am paraphrasing from today’s reading):

“It doesn’t matter what goes into a person that makes Him right with God; it’s what comes out that does.”

 

CONFITEOR

 

“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.   Amen

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jerome Emiliani (1481?-1537)

 

A careless and irreligious soldier for the city-state of Venice, Jerome was captured in a skirmish at an outpost town and chained in a dungeon.  In prison Jerome had a lot of time to think, and he gradually learned how to pray.  When he escaped, he returned to Venice where he took charge of the education of his nephews—and began his own studies for the priesthood.

In the years after his ordination, events again called Jerome to a decision and a new lifestyle.  Plague and famine swept northern Italy.  Jerome began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense.  While serving the sick and the poor, he soon resolved to devote himself and his property solely to others, particularly to abandoned children.  He founded three orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes and a hospital.

Around 1532, Jerome and two other priests established a congregation, the Clerks Regular of Somasca, dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth.  Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick.  He was canonized in 1767.  In 1928 Pius Xl named him the patron of orphans and abandoned children.

Comment:

Very often in our lives it seems to take some kind of “imprisonment” to free us from the shackles of our self-centeredness.  When we’re “caught” in some situation we don’t want to be in, we finally come to know the liberating power of Another.  Only then can we become another for “the imprisoned” and “the orphaned” all around us.

Quote:

“‘The father of orphans and the defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.  God gives a home to the forsaken; he leads forth prisoners to prosperity; only rebels remain in the parched land’ (Psalm 68)…. We should not forget the growing number of persons who are often abandoned by their families and by the community: the old, orphans, the sick and all kinds of people who are rejected…. We must be prepared to take on new functions and new duties in every sector of human activity and especially in the sector of world society, if justice is really to be put into practice.  Our action is to be directed above all at those men and nations which, because of various forms of oppression and because of the present character of our society, are silent, indeed voiceless, victims of injustice” (Justice in the World, 1971 World Synod of Bishops).

Patron Saint of: Orphans, abandoned children

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.

“There Are No Salt Substitutes In Heaven!” – Matthew 5:13-16†


 

What a week we had.  Snow, sleet, wind, and COLD was had by all.  Two inches of ice with ten inches of snow on the top at the beginning and mid-week, with an additional 4 inches of predicted “just a dusting” yesterday.  More snow predicted for tomorrow. 

On the positive side, did not lose power (yet) and we got a lot of “family time”.  Playing “Chutes and Ladders” with four teenage boys can be a “hoot and howler” when stir-crazy.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I attended the St. Louis Catholic Men’s Conference, held at St. Louis University.  What a great, spiritual, and uplifting time I experienced!  The lectures were superb, the fellowship was awesome, and the books and CD’s available were numerous (my wallet was quite a bit lighter at the end of the day).  I highly recommend this conference to all, if it is available in your area.  Who wants to attend with me next year?

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†  337 – St Julius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†  891 – Death of Photius, Byzantine theologist/patriarch of Constantinople/saint
†  1740 – Death of Pope Clement XII (b. 1652)
†  1910 – Death of Alfonso Maria Fusco. Beatified Italian Roman Catholic priest and founder (b.1839)
†  1922 – Cardinal Achille Ratti elected Pope Pius XI
†  Feast/Memorials: Saint Amand, Apostle of the Franks; Saint Vedastus; Saint Dorothea, patron saint of florists; Saint Paul Miki; Saint Titus

(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 11 of 13 Parts

It is only through our conversion and our efforts to conform to Christ, like Francis, that our parrhesia and faithfulness to the accomplishment of our Mission can be born and prosper.

It is a matter of recognizing the Plan which God has for each of us, in which we will find our own Truth, which is Christ, and the Grace to accomplish fully our vocation and mission, letting charity in truth, which is God, take hold of us, as we are taught by the Holy Father Benedict XVI in his latest Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

Charity in truthis the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.

 

(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 that His disciples are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

 

13 You are the salt of the earth.  But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?  It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  14 You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house.  16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.  (NAB Matthew 5:13-16)

 

Today’s Gospel reading is quite endearing and timely for the majority us this past week.  After “surviving” a declared, genuine, and potentially life-threatening ice storm/blizzard/deep-freeze, I have used mega-amounts of driveway salt in the past few days.  (And I am supposed to be on a low-salt diet!)

Jesus just completed the teaching of the Beatitudes.  He used the metaphor of “salt and light” to describe our life as His disciples.  Jesus seemed to appreciate using fairly ordinary images, (like salt and light), to convey extraordinary truths of fact and spirituality.  At every Mass today Jesus will be stating a very deep and prophetic statement in these few sentences, and in the images it creates in our minds.  His declaration is not only for those following Jesus nearly two millennia ago, but also for His many disciples today and in the future.  He is teaching to His disciples, He emphasized that the results of their (and our) conduct, actions, and activities can influence the world for a divine good.  Every single one of us will NOT escape notice in doing God’s will any more than a city set on a mountain can escape notice.  

 

How often do we think of salt and light in our lives and in society as a whole?  We seem to take salt for granted (unless it is snowing), but this element of nature was critical in the days before refrigeration and prior to the advances in today’s preservation techniques.  During the time of Jesus, salt was also used as a healing agent as well as the aforementioned essential preservative and food flavoring.  

In a similar way, the prevalent and common use of electricity in our modern world makes us less perceptive and less insightful to the value, need, and importance of the sun’s light in our lives.

 

Jesus says to these farmers, fishermen, and laborers, “You are the salt of the earth … the light of the world.”  I am sure they were standing there listening to Him start His teaching, and thinking, “Hey, wait a minute.  You pulled out the wrong sermon today.  That sermon should be for the big city people in Jerusalem.  That is where the scholars, priests, lawyers, and philosophers live and work.  We are just little ‘nobodies’ that make no difference to anyone, barely surviving each day.”  How wrong can they be in this thought?!

Jesus is warning these men (and women) following Him that they would attract strong opposition from the world:

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mathew 5:11-12)

God could have destroyed – – wiped out – – ALL evil in His authority, power, and supremacy: in His omnipotence.  Yet, He did not.  He actually did a much better thing.  He allows good to come out of evil!  He makes “sanctity” (holiness) come out of evil!  When the day of His bountiful harvest comes, sanctity will be found so great and overpowering among us – – solely because of the wickedness, malice, and evil that will cover and take it in.  WOW – this paragraph is a reflection just by itself!

Food for thought: Even ONE person in a family or group of friends may be the salvation for the whole family or group.  It may not be given to him to see the final results, and ultimate conclusion of his acts and words on the family or group, but God truly works through each of us in unique and special ways.  Sin is negative, but sanctity is so much more positive.  In fact, sanctity is truly the only REAL power when it comes to evil!  SO, when prompted with evil, flip the coin over to see the opportunity for holiness – – for love – – for SANCTITY!

We are never alone in fighting evil.  His disciples will exert an influence on the world through and with the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we fail in doing good works, we would be as useless as “flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is concealed”.  This simile (a figure of speech or image) is the bases of a fundamental and essential teaching for any Catholic.  We all must strive for personal sanctification (a means of achieving holiness or a source of grace), AND, we must also strive to seek sanctification in all others we meet.  As salt purifies, preserves, and penetrates, so must we – – as His disciple on earth – – be “salt” in the world to purify, preserve, and penetrate society, for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, love, and peace. 

 

In Jesus’ time, people traded with salt, exactly like we trade with gold, stocks, and bonds today.  It was used as a form of “currency”!  Why?  Salt was used to preserve food from corruption: going “bad” or rotting.  Salt also “brings out” flavor in foods to which it is added, usually making it taste better.  Salt is not noticed physically in the food we eat, completely disappearing into the cuisine it is placed into.  Its “actions” in the food is noticeable, yet remains invisible to the naked eye. 

We should also be the same as “salt” among the people around us.  We should help others not to sour, not to sin, not to “go bad”.  Others we meet should recognize the flavor and zest of our spirituality, trust, and love for God and each other we come into contact, – – truly seeing Jesus in everyone we meet.  However, our actions should not draw attention to ourselves, but instead to the magnificent glory and divinity of the Holy Trinity.

“You are salt, apostolic soul.  ‘Salt is a useful thing’, we read in the holy Gospel; but if the salt loses its taste, it is good for nothing, neither for the land nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out as useless.”  (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 921)

The odd theory of salt “losing its flavor” has led some scholars to reason that the verse refers to salt from the Dead Sea.  Since this type of “salt” is chemically “impure”, it could conceivably lose its taste with time and atmospheric conditions.  (If you put salt on the bedpost, would it lose its flavor overnight?)

Our good works are the fruits of charity, – – of love.  Our works are to love others as God loves each of us individually and as a whole.

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)

John Stott, an Anglican clergyman of some notoriety, once commented that when society goes bad:

“We Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves?  One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad.  It cannot do anything else.  The real question to ask is: ‘Where is the salt?’” 

Do your thoughts, words, behaviors, actions, and life in general, help to hinder and stop the physical, social, and spiritual decay of society that is festering and rancid family, neighborhood, country, and world?

 

Jesus also used the image of “light and a lamp” to further illustrate His teaching.  Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, as they still do today.  They enable people to see and work in the dark.  Lamps have saved my shins many times in the middle of the night.  (Can you picture urban “rush hours” without intersection signal lights?)  The Jewish people of Jesus’ time comprehended “light” a little different than we do now.  For them, “light” could also be an expression of an inner beauty, truth, and goodness of, and with God.  In His light we see light.

For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:10)

God’s word is a lamp that directs our steps on our individual paths to Him.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

 

Our duty or mission as Catholics involves the conversion of others to His grace and love.  It is one of the clearest expressions of love we can show.  The Second Vatican Council emphasized our duty to be apostolic – to be like the Apostles.  And what is that duty?  Well, simply put, to preach the Gospel in our thoughts, words, and actions – – ALWAYS!!

“It seems to me that this lamp is the symbol of charity; it must shine out not only to cheer up those we love best but to all in the house.”  (St. Therese of Lisieux, The Autobiography of a Saint, Chapter 9)

St. Francis preached this notion in his own special way, when he said:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words!”

Our duty to be like the Apostles was conferred to each of us in an individual and specifically unique way with our Baptism and Confirmation (cf., Lumen gentium, 33).   We are given untold opportunities for applying our love for each other, for evangelization, and for sanctification.  Always let “your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16). 

In regards to our Catholic witness to others, it is said in the “Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church”:

“The Church must be present in these groups through her children, who dwell among them or who are sent to them.  For all Christians, wherever they live, are bound to show forth, by the example of their lives and by the witness of the word, that new man put on at baptism and that power of the Holy Spirit by which they have been strengthened at Conformation.  Thus other men, observing their good works, can glorify the Father and can perceive more fully the real meaning of human life and the universal bond of the community of mankind.” (Ad gentes, 11)

 

Many of the speeches given by George H.W. Bush (#43 – Daddy Bush) had a recurring phrase throughout his Presidency about a “thousand points of light”.  The phrase was actually created by his speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, and the phrase was first used in his inaugural address on January 20, 1989:

“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good.  We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.  We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies.  I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved.  The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”

You may like his politics are not like his politics, but this part of his speech was extraordinary in showing his love for all mankind.  God’s grace not only illuminates the darkness in our lives, showing us our sins and iniquities, but it also fills us with the warmth of His divinely spiritual light, joy, and peace.  Just as the light from our Sun (in the celestial heavens) illuminates the darkness of the world and enables one to see visually, so does the light of Christ (our heavenly SUN SON on earth) shine in the hearts of His followers and enables all of us to see the heavenly reality of God’s shining kingdom, also on earth. 

 

All Catholics wherever they happen to be, must be living witnesses and examples of God’s kingdom through their words, deeds, and actions.  We have an obligation to manifest and reveal the “new being” we became through the sacred Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  In others seeing our witness to God’s word through good works, they may recognize the true meaning of human dignity and life, as well as the universal commonality, unity, and shared aims of mankind as creations of our loving God.

Matthew’s Gospel speaks to the enduring power of imagery that Jesus often presented to His followers two thousand or so years ago (and still today).  Jesus’ call to be a “salt for the earth and light for the world” powerfully states our mission as a Church, and as individual Catholics.  Our commitment to social justice and peace for God’s creations surges from the two catchphrases that Jesus imparts to us in today’s Gospel.  Our obligations and responsibilities as disciples of Jesus Christ, leads us to our situational requirements as Catholics, known to many of us as the “Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy”.

 The traditional Corporal Works of Mercy are:

•To feed the hungry;
•To give drink to the thirsty;
•To clothe the naked;
•To shelter the homeless;
•To visit the sick;
•To ransom the imprisoned;
•To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:

•To instruct the ignorant;
•To counsel the doubtful;
•To admonish sinners;
•To bear wrongs patiently;
•To forgive offences willingly;
•To comfort the afflicted;
•To pray for the living and the dead.

 

Our mission is to be a light-bearer of, and for, Christ so that others may see the love, truth, and grace, of and in, Holy Scripture.  When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console the doubtful, and so on, we exemplify to ourselves – – and to each other – – our witness to being the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”.  When we do these things in a “community” of faith, – – the Church, – – we are indeed acting as “a city set on a mountain” that cannot be hidden!

Jesus said that “nothing can remain hidden or secret”.  We can try to hide things from others and from ourselves; yet, we cannot hide ANYTHING from God!  Many of us yield to the temptation to shut our eyes from the consequences of sinful ways and immoral habits, even when we are fully aware of what the consequences are for such behaviors.  Remember, even in those times when we abandon Him, He NEVER abandons us.  He will always wait for us to return to Him – – with the open and outstretched arms – – of the Crucified Jesus on that Holy Tree.  There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God’s light and who seeks HIs truth through faith. 

 

Prayer for Enlightenment

 

“O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to you my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity.  May my understanding be always obedient to your heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, of which you are the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and you be honor and glory forever.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Paul Miki and Companions (d. 1597)

 

Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people.  Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki.  Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.

Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan.  While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese.  The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ.  I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ.  I thank God it is for this reason I die.  I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die.  I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy.  I obey Christ.  After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors.  I do not hate them.  I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity.  But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith.  Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.

Comment:

Today a new era has come for the Church in Japan.  Although the number of Catholics is not large, the Church is respected and has total religious freedom.  The spread of Christianity in the Far East is slow and difficult.  Faith such as that of the 26 martyrs is needed today as much as in 1597.

Quote:

“Since Jesus, the Son of God, showed his love by laying down his life for us, no one has greater love than they who lay down their lives for him and for their sisters and brothers (see 1 John 3:16; John 15:13).  Some Christians have been called from the beginning, and will always be called, to give this greatest testimony of love to everyone, especially to persecutors.  Martyrdom makes disciples like their master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it they are made like him by the shedding of blood.  Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and as the supreme test of love.  And while it is given to few, all, however, must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 42, Austin Flannery translation).

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 6 & 7 of 26:

 

6.  They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity. 

 

7.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.