Monthly Archives: May 2011

“BOO! I’m Sending You the Holy GHOST!” – John 14:15-21†


 

6th Week of Easter

 

 

Today’s Content:

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for June, 2011

 

General Intention:

That all priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention:

That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   757 – St Paul I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1138 – Anti-Pope Victor IV (Gregorio) overthrows self for Innocentius II
†   1167 – Battle of Monte Porzio – A Roman army supporting Pope Alexander III is defeated by Christian of Buch and Rainald of Dassel
†   1414 – Council of Constance, ending the “Three-Popes” Controversy, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V
†   1910 – Pope Pius X (pontificate: 1903-1914; b. 1835-d. 1914) publishes encyclical on “Editae Saepe”, on St. Charles Borromeo, and against church reformers
†   1939 – Death of Ursula Julia Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic nun, saint, and founder of the Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus (b. 1865)
†   1954 – Pope Pius X cannonized by Pope Pius XII
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI names 27 new cardinals, including Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, who later became Pope John Paul II

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus promising His disciples that He will send them another “advocate”, the Spirit of truth.

 

 

 

(NAB John 14:15-21) 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it.  But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.  18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.  20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.  21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

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Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s Gospel in which Jesus is speaking to His disciples at the “Last Supper”.  In today’s reading, He offers encouragement to His followers who will see Him crucified within the next 24 hours.  He is again reassuring them that even though He will leave soon – – physically, He will never abandon them spiritually and personally.  According to God’s plan, which Jesus Christ understood, He promises to send them the “Advocate”, – – the Holy Spirit, – – through whom ALL disciples will continue to live in union with Jesus Christ, now and forever..

Jesus contrasts His impending departure with the eternalness of the “gift” of the Holy Spirit.  God the Son: Jesus, will leave to return to God the Father.  Yet, God the Holy Spirit will be sent to remain with ALL disciples on earth, for all generations..

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Here is an interesting question.  What makes us both truly human and truly like God?  The Answer: – – “Love”!! 

Love, – – in its purest form, – – is unselfish, undying, and wholly directed to the good of others.  It is love which unites us in an unbreakable bond of dependability, faithfulness, and fellowship with others.  Jesus Christ loved “His own” until the end of His human life, which came to an end horrendously during His Passion and death on the Holy Cross:

“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.  He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

 

Jesus is telling us that “genuine” love requires expressing itself in words and deeds.   St. John Chrysostom, an early Church Father, says of this verse, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” in today’s reading:

This indeed is love; obeying and believing in the loved one.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily on St. John, 74)

Jesus wants us to truly and fully understand this “genuine” love of God.  For love is to be authentic, love must be reflected in a life of generous and faithful “self-giving”, obedient to the will of God which contains a powerful promise:

Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (John 14:21).

St. John the Evangelist himself encourages and urges us in yet another passage:

Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18).

And, he teaches us even more further in writing the following:

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3).

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From the very beginning of creation, God said:

It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a suitable partner for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

We were created in love, and for love; – – and to become a community, a church of loving persons, and a unified family, just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are united,  We were created in love to be  a “oneness” in pure and totally full love.  

Jesus speaks to His disciples of the inseparable and everlasting bound of love between Himself and God the Father – – AND of their love for US!  In Jesus Christ, we see the fullness of the Holy Trinity’s love and how this love is directed to OUR well-being.  The “love” of God was (and is) made manifest among us:

In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” (1 John 4:9).

 

In the Holy Cross, we see the proof of God’s love for us and the incredible price God was willing to pay for our redemption and salvation.  Jesus Christ gave up His own human life, solely that we might have an abundant, everlasting life with Him and His Father.  Through Jesus Christ, we are offered a life of love and “oneness” with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – – for eternity.  Through the Holy Cross, Jesus opened a new “way” of relationship for us as “beloved children” of God:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

 

Christians, Catholics, by reason of the “Advocate’s” presence within us, enjoy not only a “new life”, but also a “new relationship” to, and with God, whose sufferings and glory are shared with us.

Jesus Christ calls His disciples to walk in His “way of love”, His pathway, through obedience to the will of God the Father.  True love is more than sentiment, feelings, or good intentions.  True love for God is expressed in obedience; obedience is expressed in love.

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Jesus and His “Twelve” chosen disciples had become extremely close.  These men most likely depended on Jesus for their needs and guidance.  He decided where they went and what they did for three years of His earthly public ministry.  Jesus was the “go-to” guy for any difficult moments with others, including crowds.  (Jesus directed at least two smorgasbords and one wine-fest that we know.)  In all reality, He had been their “Advocate” – – in person!

 

On a number of occasions Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them another “Advocate, the Holy Spirit”:

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name–he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.” (John 14:26).

And, in John’s next chapter (John 15):

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.” (John 15:26).

Continuing with John (He definitely had the Spirit when he wrote), he goes on to say:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.  ‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.  He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.  He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.’” (John 16:7-14).

Finally, even Mark’s Gospel says of Jesus’ promise to send the “Advocate”:

It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:20).

 

He will send “another Advocate”!  What does he mean by “ANOTHER”?  Well, Jesus was the first “Advocate”.  Some literature also says “Paraclete”.  Paraclete is a simple legal term meaning “one who offers defense for another.”

Jesus was the first “Advocate” in the sense of being the “first” intercessor in heaven.  John actually writes of this in His first epistle:

My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” (1 John 2:1)

Jesus Christ is described, in 1 John 2 and in Hebrews, as the “Advocate” to come.

John writes:

My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. (1 John 2:1).

And the author of “Hebrews” writes:

Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25)

 

Jesus states that one result of His intercession with God the Father will be the coming of the “Advocate”.  The Holy Spirit in fact does come down on the disciples ten days after Jesus Christ ascends (cf., Acts 2:1-13).  The Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father AND God the Son.  Jesus is revealing the true “mystery” of the Blessed Holy Trinity by His coming.

Jesus Christ has sent the SAME “Advocate” to be with each of us, individually and personally.  It is HIS very Spirit which is with us, as His gift to us, from God the Father. 

The “mystery” of the Trinity can be difficult for us to grasp.  Today’s Gospel invites us to consider and reflect on how the “three persons” – – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – – work together so that God’s plan of salvation is revealed to us, and gives us the knowledge and strength to follow His plan.

Jesus’ mission is continued through the activity of the Holy Spirit living and working within the lives of His disciples then, now, and in the future.  We receive the exact same Holy Spirit as the first disciples through our individual Baptisms and Confirmations.  The Holy Spirit, living and working within each of us, reveals and exposes the “mystery” of God’s love for us.  Just as the first disciples were not left abandoned, we are not abandoned.  We remain in God’s loving embrace through the gift and actions of the Holy Spirit. 

When was the last time YOU called on the “Advocate” to help in difficult moments?, or just to say thanks?

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The Christian Community, to whom John the Evangelist was writing, are called “children”.  Like the term “beloved,” this was an expression of pastoral love, as coming from a Bishop of the flock.  In fact, Jesus frequently called His group of followers, “children” as is shown in the following from John’s Gospel:

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”  (John 13:33).

And, again in John’s Gospel:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you caught anything to eat?’  They answered him, ‘No.’” (John 21:5).

 

And, then later, Paul even called his company of believers, “children”:

“I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (1 Corinthians 4:14).

 

The word “Advocate” is a Greek term derived from the legal terminology for an advocate (or defense attorney).  “Advocate” can mean spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, and/or “councilor”.  The Greek word “Parakletos” literally means “one called to be beside another”: to accompany, console, protect, and defend.

The “Paraclete” in John also is meant to refer to a teacher in communion with God the Father and God the Son as a witness to Jesus Christ, and as a prosecutor of the world, and thirdly as one who brings about the continued presence on earth of the Son of God, Jesus, who has returned to the Father, and yet with us on earth today.  (Mysterious!)

Christ speaks of the Holy Spirit as “another Councilor” because He (the spirit) will be given to us, in Christ’s place as Advocate and Defender.  The Holy Spirit comes in order to help each of us on our personal and individual journeys and paths of faith.  The Holy Spirit is our “Councilor”, “Advocate”, as we make our way in this world amid the many difficulties and the temptations to feel saddened, depressed, neglected, and other limitations.

St. Josemaria Escriva says of our limitations:

In spite of our great limitations, we can look up to heaven with confidence and joy: God loves us and frees us from our sins.  The presence and the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church are a foretaste of eternal happiness, of the joy and peace for which we are destined by God.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Chris Is Passing By, 128)

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The Spirit of truth” (verse 17) is, interestingly, a term also used at Qumran (of Dead Sea Scroll fame, inhabited by the “Essenes”), where “The Spirit of truth” is a moral or righteous power put into a person by God, as opposed to the spirit of perversity (willfully persisting in perverse behavior): original and personal sin.  

For John, the “Advocate” appears to be an extremely personal and intimate “spirit”, teaching the realities of the new order from, in, and with Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead, working through the Holy Spirit indwelling within each and every one of us:

“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name–he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.” (John 14:26).

 

The role of the “Advocate” is also to guide, protect, and vivify (to cause somebody to come to life) the Catholic Church.  John states that this “Holy Spirit” will enable us to personally, individually, and intimately testify to the “truth”:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6).

As we discussed in last Sunday’s Gospel reflection, “the truth” is the divinely revealed and exposed reality of God the Father, manifested in the person and works of God the Son: Jesus Christ.  The possession of “truth” bestows knowledge of, strength over, and liberation from, sin for each of us, individually.  Much earlier in his Gospel, John said “the truth” will release you from Satan’s power:

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).

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In today’s reading, Jesus said He would:

 “… not leave us orphans; He would come to us.”  (John 14:18)

Jesus continues to make this same promise to us today and in the future.  Though I don’t always realize it, He is “right here” for ME (and you) at ALL times.

I will come to you” (verse 18) is meant to mean Jesus Christ coming into each of us, personally indwell each of us, and working in and through each of us, via the Holy Spirit.  This particular verse is not a verse foretelling of the “Parousia”, the second coming of Jesus Christ at the “end times”.  This particular verse is for us now in the present, as a present, from God the Father and God the Son.

 

In my own life, it seems I have assigned some of His “Spirit” role to my guardian angels (Yes, I have more than one.  I need as many as possible).  A lot of what I thought about the guardian angels and their role (guiding, revealing, leading, convincing, giving, producing and harvesting), is in fact, the Holy Spirits role to keep me on my path.  We need to remember that the Advocate is not just a messenger from God the Father, but actually IS God, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is given to us as a gift in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  Let me use an analogy I have come to love in its simplicity to explain how the Advocate is given to us through these Sacraments: a nice, glass of sparkling cold, delicious chocolate milk.  I liken Baptism to the squirting of chocolate syrup into a glass of milk.  The Holy Spirit in introduced into our lives and souls.  Confirmation stirs and mixes the milk (us) and syrup (Holy Spirit) together, combining them, and creating one new and delicious drink (a new and delicious life in and with God).

This is a major reason why I so enjoy the Eucharist.  Not only do I celebrate the “Risen” Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but I also celebrate in His on-going presence being stirred-up in me with every step with every step I take on His path.  Through the continued grace and gift of the Holy Spirit in my life and in my soul, God never abandons me; and never will:

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

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To recap, at various times during the “last supper”, we can see Jesus’ disciples growing evermore sad as Jesus bids them farewell:

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16);

And

So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” (John 16:22).

 

Jesus speaks with great tenderness and love, calling them “little children” and “friends”:

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” (John 13:33);

And,

“I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15).

Our Lord continues, by promising He will not leave them (or us) alone.  He will send the “Holy Spirit” to ALL His believers.  And finally, He promises that HE, Himself, will return to be with them (and us) again, – – now, – – and at the Parousia.

Actually, Jesus does come back to the “twelve” (and many others) soon after this “last meal”, His Passion, death on the Holy Cross, and His Resurrection.  He sees and is with them, again, for the forty days.  He then ascended to His Father in heaven.  During this 40-day period, He told them about the Kingdom of God:

He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3).

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Jesus promised to give His followers the best gift ever possible, – – the Holy Spirit – – as Councilor, Provider, Protector, and Helper.  The Holy Spirit is our Advocate who brings us safely through the challenges and adversities we must face in our earthly life.  

The Holy Spirit is also the “Giver” of life, and the “One” who guides us in the true way of “truth”.  We never stop learning.  The Holy Spirit leads us more and more into the knowledge of God’s love and truth as we open ourselves more and more to His influences as we to listen to and trust in Him.

Jesus also promised His followers the gift of peace.  Peace is more than an absence of battle, conflict, and/or trouble.  Peace includes everything which makes for the highest “good”.  Trust in God, faith in His promises, and obedience to His “Word” are “the ways” leading us to joy, peace, and safety in God’s presence, and His warm, loving embrace.  This is why a Catholic, a Christian, need not fear, need not be troubled by anything or anyone.  After all, what can separate us from the love of God, found in Jesus Christ, – – – – other than ourselves?

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In conclusion, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the disciples will come to know and appreciate the unity, the “oneness” of God the Father with God the Son.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ followers will understand that they too participate in the “communion” between the Father and the Son: 

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” (John 14:20).

 

Today’s reading is an example of the distinction that John’s Gospel presents between the “community” of Jesus: “the Way”, (to whom God will reveal Himself), and the “unbelieving world”, (which will remain in darkness).  The unbelieving world cannot accept the “Spirit of ‘truth’ – – the Advocate”, whom the disciples received at “Pentecost”.  Only through the actions of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us will God’s revelation and love be known to us and others.

What do you know and believe about the “Advocate”, the “Paraclete”, the “Councilor”, the more commonly known “Holy Spirit”?  What does Jesus say the Holy Spirit will do for you in your life?  Realize that through the graces of the Holy Spirit, we individually and collectively come to share in the love of God the Father made known to us in God the Son: Jesus.  

 

Though the disciples no longer “saw” Him [Jesus] after He ascended to His Father in heaven, Jesus still continues to be in the midst of the first disciples, and all His disciples to the present, and those into the future – for all time, just as He promised:

“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

We will see Him – – face-to-face – – again!!

Jesus Christ is telling each of us that He doesn’t want any one of us to be alone in our life and our journeys of faith.  He tells His disciples in today’s reading that He will ask His Father to send Him in a new way in the person of the Holy Spirit.

When the “Advocate”, the “Holy Spirit”, comes into us, the reality of God is ever so much intimately related to us for He actually enters INTO us, and remains within us ALWAYS!  I thank my God who dwells within me always!  I thank Him for the reality of His presence!

The tangible, bodily presence of Jesus Christ (that true presence which I can see and touch) was then, and is now, a “miraculous” kind of presence.  Although the intangible presence is temporary, the deeper, more intimate, personal, and enduring real presence of the Risen Christ remains within each of us though His promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  Merry CHRIST-mas(s)!  (What a PRESENT!!)

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Pentecost Prayer

 

“Father of light, from whom every good gift comes, send forth your Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind, and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds.  Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words beyond the power of speech; for without your Spirit, men or women could never raise their voices in words of peace or announce the truth that Jesus is Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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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.

 

When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  With the new Missal, we will respond:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6).  The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the DaySt. Ferdinand III, King, Third Order Franciscan (1198 – 1252)

 

(Monday’s – May 30th – Optional Memorial for SFO)

Ferdinand was King of Leon and Castile, and member of the Third Order of St. Francis.  He was born in 1198 near Salamanca, and died at Seville, 30 May, 1252.  He was the son of Alfonso IX, King of Leon; and of Berengeria, who was the daughter of Alfonso III, King of Castile, and sister of Blanche, the mother of St. Louis IX.

In 1217 Ferdinand became King of Castile, which crown his mother renounced in his favor.  In 1230, he succeeded to the crown of Leon, though not without civil strife since many were opposed to the union of the two kingdoms.  Ferdinand took as his counselors the wisest men in the State, saw to the strict administration of justice, and took the greatest care not to overburden his subjects with taxation, fearing, as he said, the curse of one poor woman more than a whole army of Saracens.

Following his mother’s advice, Ferdinand, in 1219, married Beatrice, the daughter of Philip of Swabia, King of Germany, one of the most virtuous princesses of her time.  God blessed this union with seven children: six princes and one princess.  The highest aims of Ferdinand’s life were the propagation of the Faith and the liberation of Spain from the Saracen yoke.  Hence his continual wars against the Saracens.  He took from them vast territories, Granada and Alicante alone remaining in their power at the time of his death.

In the most important towns he founded bishoprics, reestablished Catholic worship everywhere, built churches, founded monasteries, and endowed hospitals.  The greatest joys of his life were the conquests of Cordova (1236) and Seville (1248).  He turned the great mosques of these places into cathedrals, dedicating them to the Blessed Virgin.  He watched over the conduct of his soldiers, confiding more in their virtue than in their valor, fasted strictly himself, wore a rough “hairshirt”, and often spent his nights in prayer, especially before battles.  Amid the tumult of the camp he lived like a religious in the cloister.

The glory of the Church and the happiness of his people were the two guiding motives of his life.  He founded the University of Salamanca, the Athens of Spain.  Ferdinand was buried in the great cathedral of Seville before the image of the Blessed Virgin, clothed, at his own request, in the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis.  His body, it is said, remains incorrupt.  Many miracles took place at his tomb, and Clement X canonized him in 1671.  His feast is kept by the Minorites on the 30th of May.

From CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
(From http://www.newadvent.orgwebsite)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have you gained inspiration from the example and the writings of St. Francis?  How?  (Based on Article 12, General Constitution) 

Have you read a good “Franciscan” book lately, or do I avoid them in favor of fiction and other popular books?

Do you try to adopt St. Francis’ approach to God, to your neighbors, to yourself, to the Church, and to all creation as he did?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

 Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

 We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

 We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

 Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.

 Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:

 “Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).

 

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“Which Way Is OZ; Um, I Mean GOD!” – John 14:1-12 †


 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

 

Today’s Content:

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I guess if you are reading this on Sunday the 22nd (or later), Jesus Christ either:

  • Did not come yesterday to take all His “chosen” people to heaven as predicted by an engineer that calculated the date from Bible passages,

  OR,

  •  You’re not one of the “chosen” people.

(PS – It is only 578 days till the end of the Mayan Calendar)

Let us please remember what Holy Scripture says of the end of time (the Parousia):

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32).

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1377 – Pope Gregory XI issues five papal bulls to denounce the doctrines of English theologian John Wycliffe.
†   1381 – Birth of Saint Rita of Cascia, Italian Saint (d. 1457)
†   1457 – Death of Saint Rita of Cascia, Italian saint (b. 1381)1526 – Pope Clemens VII, France, Genoa, Venice, Florence & Milan form Anti-French League of Cognac
†   1667 – Death of Pope Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Italian Pope (1655-67), at age 68
†   1715 – François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, French cardinal and statesman (d. 1794)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We don’t pray to change God’s mind.  We pray that our minds are changed instead.  If we received everything we requested, then we would BE God.  There would no longer be a need for faith and trust in others!  There would no longer be opportunities for other doors to open in our lives.  And, there would be no need to see Jesus Christ in others that we come into contact with in our daily lives.  I believe that without faith and trust, there would no longer be such gifts as anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or even the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  How sad would be the world without faith, trust, and PRAYER!” ~ Dan Halley, SFO

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:1-12)

 

(NAB John 14:1-12) 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  4 Where (I) am going you know the way.”  5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”  9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  

 

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The readings for the last few Sundays have been about Jesus’ Resurrection.  Today’s Gospel takes us back in time, to an event in Jesus’ life, a day before His Passion and death.  The scene in today’s Gospel takes place at Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His trusted disciples.  Within 24 hours, Jesus will be dead.

In the Gospel chapter (John 13) just previous to this reading, Jesus washed His follower’s feet, foretold of the betrayal by one of His group of friends, and gave His “new commandment” (“Love one another as I have loved you”).  Now, in today’s reading (john 14), Jesus is revealing the nature of His true “Father” to His, “chosen” “Twelve”.  In this reading, Jesus introduces the foretelling of His departure from this world, and of His return. 

As much as we try to plan for and avoid trials and tribulations in our lives, we inevitably encounter difficulties and ordeals.  And, sometimes these trials and tribulations seem to be more than we think we can handle!  Perhaps, this is why John has Jesus saying, in the very first verse:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

It is also evident in these verses (John 14:2-3) that Jesus is concerned about the problems His departure will cause for His followers “left behind”.  Jesus knew that His disciples would have to face adversities and trials, especially after He left them on earth, ascending to His Father in heaven.  Jesus assured them that His departure is for their (and our) benefit.  It was to prepare a place for them (and us) in God’s house – a place of refuge, a place of peace, a place of rest, and a place of everlasting joy and happiness in and with God the Father Himself. 

Jesus always “speaks”, then and now, in very personal promises, words, and actions meant for us personally.  In this way, He truly and fully shares His love for each and every one of His followers: those of us who believe in Him.  So, when I am troubled, distressed, and/or “tired”, I know for certain that there is always room in His heart for me and for you as well!

 

Apparently, the prediction of Peter’s denial (Deny me three times, and then the cock crows story) troubled and saddened all His disciples (John 13).  On top of this, Jesus is soon “leaving on a jet cloud”. 

So, I am sure that He realized they needed to be encouraged and reassured.  Hence, Jesus took on the role of a cheerleader (of sorts) by telling them that He is going away to prepare for them a place in heaven.  I was not in that Jerusalem room, listening to Him with the other “Twelve”.  However, with a proper attachment to the Holy Spirit I am still quite joyous in knowing that there IS a place being reserved in heaven, just for me – – and for you too.  (So Awesome)!

Recall that Jesus talked about “my Father’s house” before:

“They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.  Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”?  But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.” (Mark 11:15-18).

Now, through John, Jesus is saying that HE is the new Temple; and there is room in His heart for everyone.  In His Father’s house, there are many dwelling places; and He is preparing a dwelling place for ALL His disciples.

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It is intriguing that Jesus Christ says, “You have faith” in God.  Then, He says, “Have faith” in me?  Notice the difference between these two phrases, “You [truly do] have faith”, and “[please] Have faith”.  The former is a matter of fact and the latter a request or plea for them to believe, i.e., have faith and confidence in Jesus Christ as the true “Promised One” to David.

Then, when Jesus declares, He is “Coming back again”, He is introducing a whole new idea about His coming again, a second time, to fulfill the end of time vision of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 10).  Another notable reference to the “Parousia” by John can be found in the first of his three “epistles”, 1 John 2:28:

Now, children, remain in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28).

Other references to the second coming known as the “Parousia” are Corinthians 4:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

“Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5);

And,

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

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Jesus Christ, though His very own personal works of salvation and redemption, has prepared our personal heavenly abodes.  In so doing, His words should be attended to, not only by the “Twelve” reclining and dining with Him at His “last meal”, but also to everyone who believed then, believes now, and will believe in Him into the centuries to come.  The Lord Jesus Christ will bring with Him – – into His glory – – all those who believe, and have truly stayed faithful to Him.

 

If the Father’s home in heaven is our destination, how can we find our way without a map or a travel guide?  How do we get to the proverbial “X” that marks the spot on the treasure map?

Holy Scripture speaks of “the way that leads to joy, peace, and “oneness” with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit:

“LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” (Psalm 27:11;

And,

“Be careful, therefore, to do as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, not turning aside to the right or to the left, but following exactly the way prescribed for you by the LORD, your God, that you may live and prosper, and may have long life in the land which you are to occupy (Deuteronomy 5:32-33).

 

Holy Scripture (John 14:15) reveals that Thomas wants to know the way.  “The Way” is used three times in this Gospel reading, and seven further times throughout the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 9:2; 18:25; 18:26; 19:9; 19:23; 24:14; and 24:22).

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The way” in verse 4 is not a mythical “yellow brick road” to heaven.  “The way” is not a physical item or trail which one treads on in order to get from one place to another.  “The way” is Jesus Christ – Himself!!  In addition, “the way”, besides being a “destination”, was also an early first-century designation or “name” for the group of believers in Jesus as the “Messiah” God.

 

When Jesus proclaims: “I am the Way”, He is not simply giving guidance and leadership in saying those profound words; He is declaring that He personally ISthe way”.  We cannot get lost if we follow Him on our individual paths to His kingdom.  He leads and guides us personally every day of our lives, if we allow.

 

Jewish temple leaders and Roman officials called followers of Jesus Christ “the way”, a name for a religious faction or sect.  Proof of such fact is found throughout the book of Acts:

“[Saul] asked him [the Temple high priest] for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.” (Acts 9:2).

At another time:

But when some in their obstinacy and disbelief disparaged the Way before the assembly, he withdrew and took his disciples with him and began to hold daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  About that time a serious disturbance broke out concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:9, 23).

And again Paul declares:

I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” (Acts 22:4);

And finally,

“This I do admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors and I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets.  Then Felix, who was accurately informed about the Way, postponed the trial, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I shall decide your case.’” (Acts 24:14, 22).

 

So, we now know “the way” is both Jesus Christ Himself and the people themselves who made up the early community of believers.  This concept of the same word (“the way”) recognizing a movement and group has not changed since the first–century, and will never change or came to an end.  The present word, “Church” represents both a movement of the Catholic faith and the people who make up the universal (Catholic) congregation now known as the “Catholic faith”. 

Anyone who was going to be a member of the early Catholic Community, known as “The Way”, had to do two things:

  • They had to know “The Way” so they could help other people live the faith.
  • They had to truly live “The Way”.

Do “You” truly know “The Way”, and are “You” living the faith of “The Way”?

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We have affirmed Jesus is “the Way”.  Now Jesus Christ, our Lord, also declares He is “the Truth”.  Many can say, “I have taught you the truth”; but only Jesus can say, “I am the Truth”.  Realize that moral truths cannot be conveyed in words alone.  Moral truths have to be communicated by example, as Jesus demonstrated in “ALL” His earthly ministry.

With God’s truth dwelling in our hearts, minds, and soul, we will speak what we “hear” from God:

When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.  He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” (John 16:13)

 

The truth” in today’s reading is the divinely discovered, revealed, and exposed reality of God the Father truly manifested in the fully human and fully divine person of Jesus Christ, and in the fully human and fully divine works of Jesus. The possession of His “truth” bestows knowledge of, strength over, and liberation from, sin for us.  Much earlier, John says the truth will release you from Satan’s power:

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).

 

It looks as if neither the Pharisees, nor the Apostles truly grasped who Jesus truly was, and what He truly was – – and it sounds as if Jesus was truly disappointed and frustrated that both groups did not fully grasp or understand – – although Jesus believed they could have, and even should have recognized Him.

It seems to me that Jesus Christ may have been, for the statement found in John 8, to be rebuking them for their unbelief:

So they said to him, ‘Where is your father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my FatherIf you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” (John 8:19)

I believe the “Twelve” disciples (soon to be called Apostles’) did not really understand what Jesus was telling them; hence, Phillip’s and Thomas’ reactions.  St. Augustine wrote of this part of Jesus’ discourse above (John 8:19):

 “It was necessary for Him to say, ‘I am the Way’ to show them that they really knew what they thought they were ignorant of, because they knew Him (St. Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 66, 2)

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Then Jesus continues, saying I am “the Life”! – – the true life of “the way” to God, and the true life of the “truth” about God – – and about Himself.  He not only shows us the path of life, but also gives the kind of special life only God can give: eternal and abundant life:

You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (Psalm 16:11);

Are there any worries or difficulties that can keep YOU from perfect peace and happiness in a life abandoned to, surrendered to, and given to Jesus Christ without restraint or condition?  After all, it is written:

 “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

He is the resurrection and the life to all that believe in Him:

Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live’” (John 11:25)

In sin, there is death; in Jesus Christ, eternal life.  The choice before us is clear.  Let us all pray for the grace to choose wisely, faithfully, and correctly all the days of our life.  Amen and Amen!!

 

Jesus ISthe Way” to God the Father, through what – – He Himself – – TEACHES.  By us keeping to His teachings, we will reach His open arms in heaven.  “The Way” is:

  • Through faith, which he inspires, because He came to this world so that:

Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).

  • Through Jesus’ example, since no one can go to God the Father in heaven without imitating God the Son (Jesus Christ).

 

  • Through Jesus’ merits, which makes possible for us to enter our heavenly abode, prepared for us by our loving and saving Messiah.

 

And above all, He is “The Way” to God the Father because:

 

  • He reveals and introduces us to His (and our) Father, with whom He is one because of His divine nature, with whom we are one because of His sanctifying grace.

 

Older Catholic Catechisms described God as “the Supreme Being, above all creatures, the self-existing and infinitely perfect spirit.”  (I seem to like Jesus’ Description of His Father better: “If you know me, you know Him.”)

As he invited Philip (and Thomas) to know Him, Jesus Christ is inviting us to know Him, “If you want to know what God is like, look at ME!”  For me, that means God cries, God laughs, God embraces little children, and God touches the lepers, the marginalized, and the outcast.

The Gospels of this Easter Season, along with my recent “Profession” in the Secular Franciscan Order, declares to me how amazingly and delightfully close, devoted, and intimate God the Father truly is to me.  (Boy, He still has a lot of work to do with me though!)

 

Jesus Christ is the ONLY path linking heaven and earth.  There are NO shortcuts to heaven!  Hanging on the Holy Cross of human death, His one outstretched hand touches this world (holding our hands) while the other touches heaven (holding His Father’s).  WOW – – What a powerful image!!

In saying “I am the way”, Jesus is speaking to ALL of us who are determined to take our individual Catholic Christian vocations seriously, be it the single, married, clerical, or religious life.  Jesus truly wants God (Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit) to be in our soul: our thoughts, on our lips, and in everything we do and say, always, – – continuously, – – and forever.

Jesus’ words do much more than simply provide an answer to the inquiries of Philip and Thomas in today’s reading.  He is telling them and us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, with an emphasis on all parts equally.  John the Evangelist says Jesus Christ is full of Truth because by coming to this world He shows that God is faithful to His promises, because He teaches the truth about “who” God is, and tells us that true worship must be:

“in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)

 

Jesus IS eternally “the Life” because He had then, He has now, and He will always have divine life with His Father:

Through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. (John 1:4).

Because of His life with God the Father, He makes us, through grace, sharers in that same divine life.  This is why John’s Gospel goes on to say:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3).

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us the purpose for our life; what we should strive for with all of our strength, being, and desire – – To know, love, and praise God in all we do, think, and say!  

Knowing God personally is the prize above all prizes.  Jeremiah says of the “Lord”:

“Let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows me, Knows that I, the LORD, bring about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth; For with such am I pleased, says the LORD.  See, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will demand an account of all those circumcised in their flesh (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

A great truth of the Catholic faith is that we can know the living God in our lives.  Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to possibly knowing something about God, but rather, knowing God intimately and personally.  The essence of Christianity, of Catholicism, is the knowledge of God as OUR personal and collective Father and Savior.  This intimate and loving relationship makes our Catholic faith distinct from Judaism and other religions.

 

Remember, Jesus said, “I AM the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.”  Everyone can achieve an understanding of “Truth” and the “Life”; but not all truly find “the Way”.  The sensible, the intelligent, and the clever living among us realize God is eternal life and a knowable truth.  The “Word of God”, – – who is Truth and Life, and joined to, and one with God the Father, – – became “the Way” by taking a human nature and form: Jesus Christ.

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Even among His “chosen”, they had moments of doubt.  Thomas doubted his fellow disciples’ news that they have seen Jesus Christ Risen.  Now, in today’s reading, Thomas challenges Jesus by saying that the “Twelve” don’t really know where He is going, or how He is going to get there.  Jesus explains that He Himself IS the way, IS the truth, and IS the life.  So, in knowing and loving Jesus then and there, the disciples (and we) now know and love God the Father Himself as we and they believe in and love Jesus their Lord!

Philip then makes a request that challenges Jesus’ words.  Philip wants Jesus to show God the Father to the assembled followers.  

Jesus had just finished telling those assembled disciples:

If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7).

I rank Phillip asking for proof as one of the boldest questions directed to Jesus.  Philip is asking for a “theophany”, an appearance to a human being of a god in a visible form, similar to the one Moses experienced in Exodus:

“Moses then went up with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel, and they beheld the God of IsraelUnder His feet there appeared to be sapphire tile work, as clear as the sky itself.” (Exodus 24:9-10).

 

As a first-rate teacher, Jesus responds to Philip by repeating and elaborating on what he has just told the disciples:

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9).

They had seen Jesus and had known Jesus.  So, they have seen and known God the Father. Then Jesus immediately offers another reassurance about His departure:

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” (John14:12).

 

The connection between Jesus and His Father, between Jesus’ work and the work of God the Father, is made clear in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is in God the Father, and God the Father is in God the Son: Jesus.  As God spoke His name to Moses, “I am,” so too Jesus speaks His name to His disciples:

 “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).

 

Philip (and Thomas) were both blinded to the reality of the faith they actually had:

“Jesus said, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” (John 14:9). 

 

Linger over this for a moment and consider who God the “Father” actually is.  He is:

  • The all-powerful Creator of the universe.
  • The Author of life who keeps everything in existence. 
  • He is the God whose beauty, only partially revealed, dazzled Moses and made Moses face so radiant that people were afraid to approach him (cf., Exodus 34: 30-35).  (Moses then decided to wear a veil after being with God.)

Previously, Isaiah was so overcome by the sight of God that he feared for his life:

“In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.  Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft.  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!’ they cried one to the other. ‘All the earth is filled with his glory!’  At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.  Then I said, ‘Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6: 1-5).

 

Wow!! God the Father is:

  • Glorious in holiness,
  • Robed in light, and
  • Majestic beyond compare.

This is God the Son – – Jesus Christ – – as well.  Seeing the one IS seeing the other:

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14: 10-11).

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Jesus’ followers were feeling they were going to be left behind.  Jesus was going to His “glory”, and they were being left out.  Who hasn’t experienced that same feeling of being “left out” in the crowd?  I was poor athletically and ended up being picked last, as always, for team sports.  Over time I perfected “Right Field” and “Timed Out” on the various baseball and soccer teams.

In today’s reading, Jesus assures them:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1,3). 

He assures us as well, with the exact same words:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1,3). 

Jesus Christ will never leave us behind!

 

Jesus’ words must have seemed peculiar, puzzling, and even out of the ordinary to the “Twelve” who were dining, talking, and listening to Him at, what came to be, His last earthly meal.  They could not understand the unique and mysterious “oneness” of – – Father and Son.  By this time, Jesus Christ had walked on water, controlled the wind, forgave sins, and even raised the dead.  ALL in the presence of these “Twelve” men!  Yet, they still did not know Him yet as God.  No wonder Jesus rebuked these “men of faith”.

The vision of God the Father in Jesus the Son is a vision found only through faith.  No one has “seen” God as He truly is:

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

And,

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

 

No image, symbol, or thought can truly capture ALL that God is, for He is beyond any and all images, symbols, and thoughts.  However, an image, symbol, or thought, can express something about who God is and how each of us has experienced God the Father in our lives.  For some of us, it could be an image, symbol, or thought of a shepherd, a rock, a bright warm sunset, or the look in your spouse’s eyes.  What is your favorite image, symbol or thought of God the Father?

 

All manifestations of God the Father, Himself, – – a Theophany – – have only been seen as reflections of His greatness and power.  The highest and greatest visual expression of God the Father which has EVER been given to us is IN the person of Jesus Christ Himself; the Son of God sent to be among us in both a human and divine “Way”.  Vatican II says:

Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth.  Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.”  (Vatican II, Dei Verum, 4).

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Before leaving this world, Jesus Christ promised His “Twelve” (and others, including us today) that He would make them (and us) “sharers” in His power and authority.  God’s plan of redemption and salvation was manifested through these “Twelve” men, and is now manifested through us and future generations.

The “works” of God: conversion of people to the Catholic Christian faith, sanctification by preaching and teaching and by the Sacraments of the Catholic Church which are all done in and through His Name – – Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says, in today’s Gospel:

“…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these …” (John 14:12).

The “works” Jesus speaks about are the miracles performed through their (and our) works in the name of Jesus Christ.  Here are only two of many such “works”, as found in the book of Acts:

Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer.  And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.’  Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.  He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:1-10);

And,

“Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.  A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5:15-16).

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Did Jesus Christ already know His “word” would be preached, not only throughout first century Palestine, but throughout the ends of the earth and for all eternity?  The answer: OF COURSE HE DID!!

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (John 3: 21)

Jesus’ extraordinary power, graced to us through “apostolic succession” and the Holy Spirit, cultivates within us a gift and ability to teach and preach.  We are lovingly bestowed a great grace proceeding from Jesus Christ HIMSELF, who ascended (not taken or escorted) to God the Father, and is “seated at His right hand!!

 

Jesus undertook and endured the humiliation and pain of the cross for the redemptive payment for OUR sins and not His (for He had none).  He not only gave of Himself in this heroic virtue of giving up His life, He still gives of His glorified “self” from heaven by the manifest actions of power through the Apostles – – and through US – – by the Holy Spirit!

 

The disclosure, the revelation of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), is fully completed in the passage which follows today’s reading (and is the Gospel for next Sunday; John 14:15-21).  Because Jesus leaves and returns to His Father, the Father then sends in Jesus’ name the Holy Spirit, theAdvocate” promised by Jesus Christ: the Holy Spirit in the divine person, who continues the work of God the Father and of God the Son on earth today.  He is commonly referred to as the “Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity”. – – the ONE God of Israel.

 

Our minds can’t comprehend all the philosophical and theological questions about God.  It is far beyond our finite capabilities.  Even St. Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican), who, in my opinion is the greatest Theologian in Catholic Church history, is said to have remarked that everything he had written (a large amount – he loved to write) was like “straw”.  After experiencing a vision during the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass one day, St. Thomas Aquinas believed that what he wrote was absolutely worthless in describing the theology and philosophy of God and His unique Being.  He never wrote another word, and died a short time later.

If a man known as a “Doctor”* in the Catholic Church, a man recognized by other Christian religions as a “learned” man, a man whose writings are held in high esteem throughout all of Christianity, whose writings can be found in any and all Colleges and Universities of the world, cannot describe the essence of God, CAN ANYONE?!

(* a “Doctor of the Church” (from the Latin “docere”, to teach) is a title given to individuals whom the Catholic Church recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.)

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In Summary, members of the same family often bear close resemblances to one another.  Sometimes physical resemblances are shared within a family, but often the similarities are behavioral characteristics and mannerisms. Close resemblances in others (and possibly ourselves) are affirmed through a number of phrases commonly heard in our society: “He’s a chip off the old block” or “She’s her mother’s daughter.”

Can your friends recognize common traits of you in your family, and family in you?  Are there physical resemblances that friends recognize in you, and recognize in other members of your family?  Are there mannerisms which are shared among members of your family?  Are there any common interests and occupations that people might associate with your family?  (Medicine runs in my family’s occupational line.) 

Keep in mind that members of the same family intrinsically share many characteristics, even though each person in the family is a unique individual.  What does Jesus Christ tell His disciples about His relationship with God the Father? – – they are in each other.  The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ (God the Son) is so close and intertwined that Jesus says those who have seen and known Jesus have also seen and known God the Father.  Jesus promises His followers that, because of their faith in Him and in God the Father, they too will be able to do the exact same work Jesus Christ did Himself.  Do others recognize in YOU the works, characteristics, mannerisms, and traits of God the Father and God the Son?

 

Today’s Gospel features a true “mystery of faith” which might be examined in light of familial relationships.  In Jesus Christ we see and know God the Father.  Likewise, God the Father is known through the life, work, and teachings of God the Son: Jesus Christ.

I can choose to look to Jesus Christ and the way He is revealed in Holy Scripture.  Whenever the glorious Jesus Christ comes to His disciples and Apostles in their individual and collective struggles, He is always merciful, compassionate, and loving, just as His God and Father is – – merciful, compassionate, and loving.  This is how I see God.  This I know God to be, and will always be in my life!

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To conclude, Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally and individually know God as our loving and merciful Father.  To see Jesus is to see what “God the Father” is like.  In Jesus we see the perfect love of God.  Jesus’ perfect love illuminates a God who cares intensely for each of us in an individual and unique way, and who lovingly desires each of us to dwell in His kingdom.  God’s desire for us to share His “Way”, “Truth”, and “Life”, led Him to the point of laying down His own life solely for us: that is Jesus Christ upon the Holy Cross.  

Jesus is the true and full revelation of God, who loves us completely, fully, unconditionally, and perfectly.  He promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in His name.  For this reason, He taught His followers to pray with confidence the following words:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:9).

 

Please meditate on the following, before answering:

Do YOU pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence found in His love, trust, and care for YOU?  Have you ever addressed God as “My Father in heaven?

The “God of all ages” was (and is) fully and definitively revealed in the human Jesus Christ!  If you want to know “what” God is, and how to reach Him, look to Jesus Christ.  Through Him, you have been given access to every grace and spiritual gift, to an imperishable and unending inheritance, and to none other than God the Father Himself!  Alleluia and Amen!!

 

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Our Father

 

“Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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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.

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Joachima (1783-1854)

 

Born into an aristocratic family in Barcelona, Spain, Joachima was 12 when she expressed a desire to become a Carmelite nun. But her life took an altogether different turn at 16 with her marriage to a young lawyer, Theodore de Mas. Both deeply devout, they became secular Franciscans. During their 17 years of married life they raised eight children.

The normalcy of their family life was interrupted when Napoleon invaded Spain. Joachima had to flee with the children; Theodore, remaining behind, died. Though Joachima reexperienced a desire to enter a religious community, she attended to her duties as a mother. At the same time, the young widow led a life of austerity and chose to wear the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis as her ordinary dress. She spent much time in prayer and visiting the sick.

Four years later, with some of her children now married and younger ones under their care, Joachima confessed her desire to a priest to join a religious order. With his encouragement she established the Carmelite Sisters of Charity. In the midst of the fratricidal wars occurring at the time, Joachima was briefly imprisoned and, later, exiled to France for several years.

Sickness ultimately compelled her to resign as superior of her order. Over the next four years she slowly succumbed to paralysis, which caused her to die by inches. At her death in 1854 at the age of 71, Joachima was known and admired for her high degree of prayer, deep trust in God and selfless charity.

Comment:

Joachima understands loss. She lost the home where her children grew up, her husband and, finally, her health. As the power to move and care for her own needs slowly ebbed away, this woman who had all her life cared for others became wholly dependent; she required help with life’s simplest tasks. When our own lives go spinning out of control, when illness and bereavement and financial hardship strike, all we can do is cling to the belief that sustained Joachima: God watches over us always.

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)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 22 & 23 of 26:

 

22. The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love.  This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

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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.

 

“There are Good Sheep, and there are ‘BAAA’-d Sheep!” – John 10:1-10 †


 

“Good Shepherd Sunday”

The fourth Sunday of the Easter

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Please keep me in your prayers today.  After three years of formation, I am “Professing” in the Franciscan Order of, and for, “Seculars”.  This will be my final “Rite of Commitment to the Gospel Life” in the Secular Franciscan Order.  This Sacramental will be within the Mass; and within, though, for, and with the Holy Spirit in my soul, mind, heart, and body in a very unique covenant with our Almighty and Magnificent Lord Jesus Christ.

After much contemplation, meditation, and prayer, my journey has come to a point of wanting to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit as our Order’s Seraphic Father, – – St. Francis, – – showed to his brothers and sisters in Christ.  My journey of faith has been fruitful, emotional, exciting, thought-provoking, and divinely inspiring.

I want to thank a few people for assisting me with the special journey I took to get to this point – – and a journey I will continue for the rest of my life.

First, I want to express gratitude to my wife and Sons.  They have put up with a lot of strong emotions and turmoil from me at times over the past couple of years (for which I am truly sorry).  I love them so dearly. Next, I want to thank my SFO Fraternity (Our Lady of Angels), my Regional Fraternity (St. Clare), and all the people that I have come to know as dear friends and a true “family”.  We have had our times of frustrations, short tempers, and concerns.  (I am rather stubborn at times after all – however, I know most people would never believe this [hee, hee]).  As in any family, these sad and distressing periods only highlight and enlighten the love, trust, and respect which emanates when we are together as a group.

It is important for me to give a special thanks to a dear friend, confidant, and journey partner: my “Spiritual Director”, John Hough.  Though his education, philosophy, and theology is Jesuit-based (Sorry St. Francis), no one could have done a better job in walking with me on my formation path, truly holding me up at times (an achievement in itself), and helping me to grow in the love and awe of God’s Word – – Holy Scripture, Church teachings, and traditions.  And, I also want to thank John for helping me to understand my unique role in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  John, I love our four hour breakfasts/talks at McDonalds each and every Saturday morning.  It is quite interesting to see individual’s reactions when they see two middle-aged Catholic men, with Bibles open on the table (next to the coffee and Egg McMuffin), discussing matters of faith and Scripture.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to unendingly thank, praise, and adore my God in the Holy Trinity: Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I surrender my “self”, – – my “ALL”, – – to You and to Your “will”.  As St. Francis joyously proclaimed throughout his entire earthly life:

“My God and My ALL!”

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar Sunday.  The name “Good Shepherd” derives from the Gospel reading on this day, which is also always taken from the 10th chapter of John.  In this reading, Christ is described as the “Good Shepherd” who, by dying on the Cross, lays down His life for His sheep.

Recently, today’s Feast Day has also become known as “Vocations Sunday”, a day in which prayers should be said for vocations to the priesthood and religious life by the Catholic faithful.  This also includes praying for me and other Catholic brothers and sisters who seek a more intimate and formally “consecrated” manner of living out our faith, our hope, and our love for the Holy One of Israel, our Lord, Savior, and friend, Jesus Christ.  That’s why I am asking you, my dear readers, and thanking you for praying for me and my brethren in the Secular Order of St. Francis of Assisi.  Thank you ALL!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Shepherd_Sunday

 

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Today in Catholic History:

†   884 – Death of Marinus I, [Martinus II], Pope (882-84)
†   913 – Death of Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz (present day Germany)
†   1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull “ad exstirpanda“, which authorizes the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition.
†   1608 – Birth of René Goupil, French Catholic missionary (Canadian Martyrs) (d. 1642)
†   1665 – Pope Alexander VII proclaims the theology of Fr. Jansen as heretical (called Jansenism).  Jansenism emphasized predestination, denied free will, and maintained that human nature is incapable of good.
†   1773 – Death of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (b. 1710)
†   1800 – Pope Pius VII calls on French bishops to return to Gospel principles
†   1891 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical “Rerum novarum“, the first document of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition.
†   1912 – Alexis Kagame, Rwanda, priest/writer
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order.
†   1948 – Death of Edward Flanagan, American priest and founder of Boys Town (b. 1886)
†   1961 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical “Mater et Magistra”  (Mother and Teacher) on the topic of “Christianity and Social Progress”.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Achillius; Saint Isidore the Labourer; Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle; Saint Reticius; Saint Denise; Saint Dymphna; In the Coptic Church: Athanasius of Alexandria

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus BEING the gate for His sheep.

(NAB John 10:1-10) 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

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What do you know about sheep and shepherds?  Realize that shepherds and sheep have a very close, unique, and personal relationship with each other.  Still to this day, sheep only follow their own shepherd; they recognize his voice – – his word – – and will not follow a stranger.  The shepherd’s job is to protect his sheep, even with his life if necessary.  In some ways, the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep is like that of a parent and child (God the Father, and His children on earth).  In Jesus Christ, our personal “Good Shepherd”, we find protection from our dangers, and the reward of an abundant and everlasting life with and in Him.

The fourth Sunday of the Easter season is called “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  In each of the three lectionary cycles (A, B, and C), the Gospel reading invites us yearly to reflect on Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”.  In each cycle the reading is from the same tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.  This tenth chapter sets the framework and basis for Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the “Good Shepherd”, leading us, – – His sheep, – – to paradise in His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  Today’s Gospel reading falls between the stories of Jesus’ curing the man born blind (chapter 9), and the resurrection of His dead friend, Lazarus (chapter 11).  Both of these “bookend” Gospel stories were just proclaimed during this year’s Lenten Season.

Following the controversy which ensued when He healed the man born blind, Jesus directs His “figment of speech” about “the sheep and the shepherd” towards the Jewish religious leaders listening to Him: specifically, the Pharisees.

The Pharisees believed in a “divine origin” of creation, found in the Jewish Scriptures known to us as the “Torah.”  The Pharisees also believed in the oral traditions received from Moses, Joshua, and the “Elders”.  Pharisees had a belief in the resurrection of the dead (unlike the Sadducees), and were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral (again, unlike the Sadducees).  Most scholars believe that the other Temple Leadership faction, a group called the “Scribes” and who were considered experts in Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this Pharisaic “party” of Temple leaders.

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Before we  dive into today’s reading, and pull away the layers of meaning hidden yet needing to be exposed with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to explain the concept (for me, at least) of the repeated words, stressing a particular point.

Whenever Jesus says, “AMEN, AMEN”, I believe He is saying to us:

Yo, LISTEN to me.  I am about to say something very important and profound.  Open those ears and shut those mouths!!”

(Trivia time:  “Amen, amen” is said 13 times in the New Testament, all in John’s Gospel: Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 21.  The repeated word combination – – “Amen, amen” – – is used three times in the Old Testament: Numbers 5, Nehemiah 8, and Tobit 8).  Each time it is used by the writer or speaker to declare that what follows is a true teaching from God.

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Jesus Christ was not the first to use the metaphor of a “Good Shepherd” in teaching about God’s kingdom.  Jeremiah (a seldom read book of the Old Testament) criticized, and spoke against, the Kings and priests (also described as “shepherds”) who let go, – – or even led – – their “sheep”, astray.  Jeremiah wrote:

“The priests asked not, ‘Where is the LORD?’  Those who dealt with the law knew me not: the shepherds rebelled against me.  The prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after useless idols.”  (Jeremiah 2:8);

But then, God promises:

I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” (Jeremiah 3:15).

He then goes on to say, referring to the false shepherd in Jeremiah 2: (above):

“Yes, the shepherds were stupid as cattle, the LORD they sought not; Therefore they had no success, and all their flocks were scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21);

In God’s name, Jeremiah promised “new shepherds” who would graze their flocks properly so that they will never be harassed or anxious again:

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.  Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deedsI myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.  Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Another prophet, Isaiah, even wrote of the “Good Shepherd”:

Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:9-11).

And finally, Ezekiel censured false “shepherds” for their misdeeds and laziness, their greed and neglect of their responsibility:

Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them (to the shepherds): Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?  You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured.  You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts.  My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.  Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:1-9)

(WOW!!  What a scene.  Does any of this possibly sound familiar to you recently?)

The motif of a “shepherd” was not only related by the prophets, but also used for “Yahweh” – – God Himself – – throughout the Old Testament:

“Then he blessed them with these words: ‘May the God in whose ways my fathers’ Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day.’”  (Genesis 48:15);

“Each one’s bow remained stiff, as their arms were unsteady, By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel(Genesis 49:24).

The special King of Israel, David, saying this song, remembers his early days shepherding in the hills of Israel.  This is what David sang:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.”  (Psalm 23:1-4);

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph! From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself.” (Psalm 80:2);

And, a later prophet said this addressing God:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” (Micah 7:14).

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The 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved Psalms expressing our fundamental and  necessary trust in Jesus Christ, who leads us always from dark and difficult places and into the light of His presence, the majestic peace of rest in His kingdom (our true Easter faith).

The 23rd Psalm is not the only portions in Holy Scripture to talk so eloquently about the Shepherd who will rescue from darkness and bring to restful pastures.  Later, the prophet Ezekiel wrote:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel (in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places).”  (Ezekiel 34:11-13).

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Today, in this Gospel reading, Jesus again presents Himself as THE promised “Shepherd”, who looks after His sheep, seeks out strays, cures the
crippled, and carries the weak on His shoulders:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in
search of the stray
?  And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not strayIn just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14);

And Luke also writes:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In addition to the title, “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ attaches to Himself the image of the “gate”, and “door” into the “sheepfold”, we now know as the Catholic Church.  As Vatican II teaches:

The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (John 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd (Cf., Isaiah 40:11; Exodus 34:11ff.), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf., John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4), who gave His life for the sheep (cf., John 10:11-15).” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 6, 11/21/1964).

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The “Good Shepherd” discourse is a continuation of the confrontation with the Pharisees described in John 9 (the blind man cured).  Since the image of the “Good Shepherd” is figurative, then the “hired hands” would, in fact, be Pharisees who had just excommunicated the cured blind man (cf., John 9).  Today’s reading serves as a commentary on the “cured blind man” story told in this chapter.

Throughout John’s Gospel, the Pharisees (along with the Scribes and Sadducees) failed to accept Jesus’ ministry and teaching, either out of fear, ignorance, or greed.  They showed themselves to be “thieves and robbers” (verse 1) because they tried to lead the “sheep” without themselves entering through the “gate” – – Jesus Christ.

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)

Through the use of this metaphor, Jesus is telling His listeners that those who follow Him and His “way” will find an abundant and glorious life in paradise.  Jesus Christ identified “Himself” both as the “Good Shepherd”, the “door”, and the “gate” of the single, true “sheepfold”.  Still today, the current shepherds of the current sheepfold (Catholic Bishops and the Pope, making up the “Magisterium”: the teaching authority) who are faithful to Him are the ones whom the sheep (Jesus’ disciples – – US) should follow, as faithful sheep follows their shepherd.

We all have “closed doors” in our lives, places we do not wish to enter.  Places inside ourselves where we do not want to go, out of fear and hurt.  Behind these “doors” are things like old hurts, previous and present addictions and health concerns, strong hatreds, personal fears.

Jesus is telling us that He can lead each of us through His “gate”, as each one of us is a much loved part of His flock.  Jesus Christ can lead each of us, personally and individually, through the “closed doors” in our lives – – those places where there is trouble, – – so we can deal with those issues with His support, help, and love: His grace.  Jesus doesn’t stop at just opening up the “doors” of our lives: He also leads us out again, into His kingdom on earth.

As our true “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ NEVER leaves us.  In today’s Gospel reading, He is telling each if us: Don’t be afraid”!!

Jesus, our loving “Good Shepherd”, will always furnish, through the Holy Spirit indwelling within each and every one of us, all that is necessary to do God’s will:

“May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus our Lord, furnish us with all that is good, so that we may do His will.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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A “Sheepfold” is a low stone wall opened to the sky.  It is simply a pen for sheep.  Other names for a “sheepfold”, in modern language can be “a folding” or sheepcote.  The image represented in today’s reading for the “sheepfold” is, in reality, God’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ’s metaphor about the relationship between sheep and their shepherd is based on the concept of familiarity.  So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name.  Sheep recognized, and loved, their specific shepherd.  They would not follow a stranger shepherd arbitrarily.  At the end of a day grazing in the field, shepherds (still to this day) lead their sheep from pastures to a common gated
area called a “sheepfold”.  One shepherd is chosen to protect all of the community’s sheep until the next morning when each flock’s shepherd would return to lead his designated sheep to pasture again.  As shepherds move among sheep, the sheep follow only their shepherd by recognizing and following his voice – – his words.

In the winter the sheep were usually brought into a communal shelter, locked and kept secure by a guardian shepherd, usually positioned at the “gate”.  He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.

Each Shepherd had a distinctive call, which only his sheep would recognize and follow.  Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming this familiar in recognizing Jesus Christ’s voice?  Can you quickly discern His voice, His call, from other voices in the world?  Well, you certainly can: the gift of discernment.  This gift is the ability to make good judgments; it is every disciple’s bequest in and through Jesus Christ; it is developed as we imitate His first followers who:

“… devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42).

Paying close attention to Holy Scripture and Church teachings can help us recognize God’s “voice” and the nature of details He might be telling us:

Be attentive to him and heed his voice.  Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin.  My authority resides in him.” (Exodus 23:21)

Fellowship with other followers of Jesus Christ can build us up, helping us to see and understand whether our thoughts and actions are on target with God’s will, or not.  Fellow disciples of Jesus Christ can listen to your ideas and opinions, and advise us whether they think an idea or opinion is sound or not.

Our personal prayer can become an awesome conversation when we learn to “hear” the voice of God, who loves us above all His creations.  The Eucharist can become an intimate, cherished, and loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to lead us, Himself, into a deeper understanding of His Father’s “will”.

Do not worry about trying to “find” Jesus Christ’s voice within you.  If you simply allow Him to act in and within you, you WILL follow Jesus Christ Himself, intuitively.  You already know His voice:

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

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A shepherd is the leader of a cluster of sheep, called a flock.  They recognize him as their provider, their protector, and their “ALL”Without the shepherd, the “sheep” would no longer be protected, and would succumb to a horrendous death from the evil that follows them (wolves, dogs, and coyotes – – materialism and/or Satan).  These sheep in today’s story follow their human protector, and no other; we “sheep” follow our Divine protector and no other.  Sheep “recognize his voice”, and go where he goes: we “sheep” recognize Jesus Christ’s voice and follow Him, personally and collectively.  We are a “flock”.

In today’s reading, the Pharisees (sheep not of His flock, nor shepherds) do not recognize Jesus.  They do not recognize His voice, His words, or His authority over them.  However, the people of God, as symbolized in today’s story by the blind man and the sheep, do recognize Jesus’ voice, His words, and His authority over us.

Jesus uses the image of the shepherd’s voice being recognized by the sheep to teach a divine truth: since there are “strange” voices surrounding and constantly calling to us (evil), we need to know and recognize the “voice” of Christ Himself!  His voice is continuing without end, and is addressing us through the “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church.  In following God’s specific voice, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we are receive all the nourishment and protection our soul needs.

St. Josemaría Escrivá writes eloquently about the flow of grace given to us through the voice of Jesus Christ, in an everlasting way, through the Sacraments:

“Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, 34).

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We’ve all experienced coming into, and being part of, a group in which we did not know anyone initially.  Perhaps it was simply at a friend’s party, or at a wedding or funeral of a relative or acquaintance.  In such encounters and interactions, we naturally look for a familiar face, and listen for a familiar voice within the group or crowd of individuals.

Jesus Christ came as someone who would be (and still is) with us at every step and turn in our lives.  Even when we feel alone, lost, or confused, He is there.  He wants to be a familiar presence in our lives always; He wants His voice to be the voice which we grow to know well, and hear often.  All we need do is to allow Him to get close, and then listen.

So, listen to Jesus and let His face shine upon you:

Shepherd of Israel, listen, guide of the flock of Joseph!  From your throne upon the cherubim reveal yourself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.  Stir up your power, come to save us.  O LORD of hosts, restore us; Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.  May your help be with the man at your right hand, with the one whom you once made strong.  Then we will not withdraw from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.  LORD of hosts, restore us; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”  (Psalm 80: 2-4, 18-20)

John says that Jesus used a “Figure of speech” (verse 6) in His teaching of the “Good Shepherd”.  John the Evangelist is simply using a different word or phrase for His descriptive speech than the “parable” of the Synoptic Gospels.  However, the concepts are similar.  In His metaphor, Jesus develops and interprets the image of the “shepherd” and “the flock”, in order to ensure that all who are well-disposed to His teachings can understand the meaning of His discourse.

The Pharisees (and many other Jews) failed to understand Jesus Christ.  Their lack of understanding is nothing new for Jesus.  The same people (Pharisees and other Jews), also failed to understand the Eucharist:

“The Jews murmured about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father  and mother?  Then how can he say, “I have come down from heaven”?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Stop murmuring among yourselves. (John 6:41-43);

These same people failed to understand the true meaning of the “living water”:

“Some in the crowd who heard these words said, ‘This is truly the Prophet.’  Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But others said, ‘The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?  Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’  So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” (John 7:40-43);

And these same people failed even to understand or believe in the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

 “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45-46).

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The full power of the “Good Shepherd” image came easily to the first-century Palestine inhabitants.  The Jewish people, most of whom were well acquainted with nomadic shepherds in a country where shepherds were a familiar sight.

The sheep themselves were part of a “nomadic” shepherd’s family.  These animals traveled with the family, from birth to death.  New lambs were continuously being born into the “family” group and flock.  Sights, sounds, and smells of the family, the shepherd, and the flock were familiar to these newborn lambs from the time they are born, bonding them to the shepherd as a baby does to its mother.

From the very beginning of our lives, we come to experience and grow in knowledge of God throughout our lives.  We “see”, “hear”, and “smell” God though our various lessons and interactions of life.  As we grow and age, people “from outside the fold” seem to help us interpret our experiences, and help enhance the “truths” we hold within ourselves.

There is a fine distinction, easily overlooked, in today’s reading.  In John 10:7-8, the figure of Christ is as a “gatefor the shepherd to come to the sheep.  However, in the very next verses, John 10:9-10, the figure is that of a gate for the sheep through which sheep could “come in and go out”.

In verse 7-8, Jesus will readily leave the ninety-nine “sheep” to search for and rescue the “one lost sheep”:

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you; in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).

In verse 9-10, Jesus is also the figure of a “gate” for the sheep to “come in and go out”.  With Jesus Christ as our personal “protector and supplier of all our needs”, we enter into His kingdom, in heaven and on earth.  I see this phrase of “coming and going” as living a proper and morally straight Christian Catholic life in all we do, think, believe, and say.  As a Catholic, we are called to “come” to Him, our shepherd, at His table, to receive Him truly, physically, and spiritually through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – – Communion, at every opportunity possible. With Jesus Christ indwelling fully within and though each of us at the dismissal of the Mass, we are told to “go out” to spread the good news, the Word of God:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

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What is the lesson we are to learn in today’s Gospel reading?  I believe it is to “abandon” ourselves to Jesus Christ.  We are taught to say: “Lord, do with me what you will.”  This lesson is emphasized during the Advent Season with Mary saying:

“‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38),

And, continued with Jesus teaching us “how to” pray:

“… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

When one gives oneself to Jesus Christ, that person receives  a “Good Shepherd” who will walk with  them through every rough spot – – and knows he or she is never alone with no  “key” to enter the sheepfold.

What does today’s Gospel  reading mean to me (and to you)?  This is  a question that should be asked any,  and every time one reads Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels.  When reading and meditating on the WORD, one  must keep in mind the history, geography, and society AT THAT TIME, while at  the same time keeping it in perspective with today’s much different world and  society.  We should keep in our minds and  hearts what was meant by the “words” themselves then, and still today.  God’s WORD is truly without end:

The word of the Lord remains forever.”  (1 Peter 1:25)

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Our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, promises to go and gather  His sheep, scattered throughout the lands, and bring them back to “good pastures”.   Jesus  Christ is the ONLY source for  forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.   In today’s reading, by referring to the Jewish  teachers and to their traditions, Jesus rejects these “supposedly religious” men  as “thieves and robbers”.

It is so easy to recognize that the “voices” of thieves and  robbers CANNOT bring forgiveness,  redemption, and salvation.  In actuality,  these “thieves and robbers” would be  more than happy to quietly, and sneakily, steal any worthwhile virtues and  divine fortunes you have on your soul.  Please  remember, Jesus is the “Good Shepherd”  who came so that we (His sheep) may have eternal live for eternity in heaven  with Him.  Jesus is the way, truth, and  life!

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I have grown to realize that an individual who belongs to the  “true” Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic (universal) Church, sometimes seems  to enter into “confinement”, that is, the proverbial “sheepfold”.  Maybe this feeling of confinement is because there  are things one CANNOT do in God’s kingdom.  Maybe one feels their “thinking and beliefs” have been stifled by being  a faithful and pious Catholic Christian.  (Have I peeked your interest in where I am going with this thought  process?)

Jesus Christ’s words are “true” in the Catholic  Church.  One may expect that belonging to  the Catholic Church community means giving up some freedom to think and believe  what one may want.  However, in reality,  the security one can find in the “true” Catholic Church – – founded by Jesus  Christ Himself, – – allows all of us the freedom to dream, to explore, and to  ask questions one possibly could not have ever asked before.  By belonging to a community of Jesus Christ’s  disciples, one can dream even greater dreams and experience a far greater destiny,  regardless of “who” we are in this world.  Jesus Christ has come so that we might have life; He has rescued each of  us; He will nurture each of us; and He will love each of us, as only a “Good Shepherd” can do; and only a “Good Shepherd” does.

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In concluding this reflection, (even though we have less  experience with sheep and shepherds in our fast-paced and modern society, we  can still identify strongly with the image of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” and the “gate” for us, His sheep.  For me, Psalm 23 remains a popular and  favorite psalm for prayer in my life.  In  Jesus’ role of the “Good Shepherd”,  we know ourselves to be protected and cared for by a loving, compassionate, and  merciful God – – for the Father, by the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

Holy Scriptures describe God as a “shepherd” who brings  security and peace to His people:

The LORD will guard your coming and  going both now and forever.” (Psalm  121:8).

Even today’s leaders,  the Catholic Priests, Bishops and Pope of Christ’s Church on earth, are called “shepherds”,  with Jesus’ image of “Good Shepherd” in mind:

“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all  mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all  things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD’S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17).

Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected  them from danger day and night, so too does Jesus stands watch over His people,
becoming the “shepherd” and “guardian” of our souls:

For you had gone  astray like sheep, but you have now  returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter  2:25).

And He has chosen to appoint “shepherds” to watch with Him,  and protect by Him, all His sheep, day and night in each generation.

We are given, in  today’s Gospel, the opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith’s leadership,  and their role in God’s kingdom.  Jesus’  words suggest to us that those who will lead the Catholic Christian community should  be known by their faithfulness to Jesus.  Church leaders should recognize that Jesus Christ  is the “true gate” for all of His “sheep” (His followers), and that having a  good and proper relationship with Jesus Christ is of primary importance for every  Catholic leader now identified as a “Good  Shepherd”.

Jesus’ metaphor also  suggests that a faithful Catholic leader requires a good and proper relationship  with the community: the “shepherd”  knows “his sheep”, AND they (His  sheep) know him.  Catholic Christian  leaders should “truly”, and “fully”, follow the example of Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd”, by being faithful to Him  and being a good and proper “shepherd” themselves. (AMEN, AMEN!!)

Do you know, do you recognize, and do you desire the peace  and security of a life “truly” and “fully” “abandoned” to God as your personal  and communal “Good Shepherd”?  (Sounds hard, doesn’t it?!)  Do you look to Jesus, the “Good Shepherd”,  to receive the strength and courage you need, on a daily basis, to live and  serve Him as His faithful disciple?

Jesus Christ is the GATE.  The only way into His sheepfold, His kingdom, is THROUGH Him.  We must  enter into Him, and allow Him to enter into us (surrender ourselves), thus  filling us with His presence.  Through Jesus  Christ, we not only enter into His kingdom, but in His filling us with  “Himself”, we become the gate for others to enter into His kingdom as  well.  Very powerful; just think about  this last sentence for a while.  – – Read  Ephesians 4:11-16.

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I hope you have guessed by now that I have chosen the 23rd  Psalm as the closing prayer for today’s Gospel reflection.  Written by King David, the 23rd Psalm  is portrayed with figures of a “shepherd”  for the “flock”, and a desire for  generosity toward a guest at His feast.  The  imagery of both sections of the 23rd Psalm is drawn from the  teachings and traditions of the “40 year exodus” in the desert:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in  his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes  with care.  They shall not hunger or thirst,  nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities  them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” (Isaiah 40:11; 49:10);

And,

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers  them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10).

There are five terms or phrases in the 23rd  Psalm’s beautiful song and prayer that I would like to explain prior to your  reading it on your own:

  • The right path” means the “right  way”, the “way of righteousness.”
  • A dark valley” is often translated to  mean the universally well-known, “the  valley of the shadow of death.”
  • You set a table before me” is an  expression occurring in an “exodus” perspective, as found in Psalm 78:19:

They spoke against God, and said, “Can God spread a table in the desert?” (Psalm 78:19)

  • Oil” is a well-known (at least to the  Jewish People) perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at  banquets and in the anointing of Kings: (cf., Psalm 104:15; Matthew 26:7; Luke  7:37, 46; John 12:2).
  • Goodness and love” are the blessings emitting  continuously, and without end, from God’s covenant with Israel, the “chosen”  people.

 “23rd Psalm

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures you let me graze; to safe  waters you lead me; you restore my strength.  You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.  Even when I walk through a dark valley,  I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.  You set a table before me as my  enemies watch; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Only goodness and love will pursue me  all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to  come.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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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.

There is  only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130)

Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference.

When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint—Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore’s supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.

He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as “the five saints.”

Comment:

Many implications can be found in a simple laborer achieving sainthood: Physical labor has dignity; sainthood does not stem from status; contemplation does not depend on learning; the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that his work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. Perhaps the truth which emerges is this: If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also. “[S]eek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,” said the carpenter from Nazareth, “and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).

Quote:

“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food’” (Genesis 1:28a, 29–30a).

Patron Saint of: Farmers, Laborers

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)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Franciscan Spirituality

 

Have I developed and nurtured my Franciscan Spirituality?  Or have I been developing and practicing another style and approach?

What have I been doing recently to develop my Franciscan Spirituality?

Have my religious activities been heavily “routine” and without much “spirit”?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives.  Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

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16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation,  redemption, and service of the human community.

“Let’s Have Two For the Road!” – Luke 24:13-35 †


  

 

Third Week of Easter

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

On this Mother’s Day I wrote a little letter to my Mom in heaven:

Dear Mom,

I thought of you with love and a smile today, but this is truly nothing new,
I thought about you yesterday and the days before that too.
I think of you in silence, yet I often speak your name.
All I have are memories of you, and a picture in a frame. 

Your memory is a keepsake, with which I’ll never part.
God has you in His keeping – – His hug of warmth and love,
But I’ll always have you in my life and in my heart.

I Love You Always Mom.  Say “hi” to God for me.
Better yet, give Him a kiss and tell Him that someday
I also, pray to Him, for the grace to see.

Love,
Dan

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Today is the Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel in Monte Gargano, (near Naples) Italy in the year 492 AD.  Saint Michael’s name means, “Who is like unto God”.

A man named “Gargan” was pasturing his large herds in the countryside.  One day a bull fled to the mountain, where, at first, it could not be found.  When its refuge in a cave was discovered, an arrow was shot into the cave, but the arrow returned to wound the one who had sent it.  Faced with so mysterious an occurrence, the persons concerned decided to consult the bishop of the region.  The bishop ordered three days of fasting and prayers. After three days, the Archangel Saint Michael appeared to the bishop and declared that the cavern where the bull had taken refuge was under his protection, and that God wanted it to be consecrated under his name and in honor of all the Holy Angels.

Accompanied by his clergy and town’s people, the pontiff went to that cavern.  He found the cave already disposed in the form of a church.  The divine mysteries were celebrated there, and there arose in this same place a magnificent temple where the divine Power has wrought great miracles.  To thank God’s adorable goodness for the protection of the holy Archangel, the effect of His merciful Providence, this feast day was instituted by the Church in his honor.

 (from http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/05-08.htm website)

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Today is also the 66th anniversary (1945) of “Victory in Europe Day” day (VE Day).  VE Day officially announced the end of World War II in Europe.  On this day, at 02:41 hours, German General Jodl signed the document of unconditional surrender, formally ending war in Europe.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   535 – Death of Pope John II, [Mercurius], Italian (533-35)
†   589 – King Reccared summons the Third Council of Toledo
†   615 – St Boniface IV ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   685 – Death of Benedict II, Italian Pope (683-85)
†   1521 – Birth of Saint Peter Canisius, [Pieter de Hondt/Kanijs], Dutch Jesuit
†   1721 – Michelangiolo dei Conti replaces Pope Clement XI, as Innocent XIII
†   1786 – Birth of Jea Vianney, French Catholic priest (d. 1859)
†   1828 – Birth of Sharbel Makhluf, Lebanese monk (d. 1898)
†   1895 – Birth of “Servant of God” Fulton J. Sheen, American bishop (d. 1979)
†   1969 – Pope Paul VI publishes constitution Sacra Ritum Congregation
†   Feast/Memorials: Arsenius the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church; Saint Desideratus of Soissons (d. 550); Saints Wiro, Plechelmus and Otger; Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Quote of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ appearing to two disciples who are walking to Emmaus.

 (NAB Luke 24:13-35)  13 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14 and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  17 He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast.  18 One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”  19 And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.  21 But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.  22 Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.  24 Then  some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”  25 And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets spoke!  26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.  28 As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.  29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”  So he went in to stay with them.  30 And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  31 With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.  32 Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  33 So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them 34 who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”  35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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On most Sundays during the Cycle “A” Liturgical Season “Easter” season, our Gospel Reading for Mass is taken from John’s Gospel, instead of Cycle “A’s” usual Matthew’s Gospel.  This week’s Gospel, however, is taken from the Gospel of Luke.  (Are you confused yet?)  As in last week’s Gospel (the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Apostles hiding together, as a group, somewhere in Jerusalem), today’s Gospel shows us how the first community of disciples came to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  In these narratives, we gain a unique insight into how the community of the Catholic Church came to be formed.

As near as bible scholars can tell, the Gospel of Luke was written 40 – 50 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension; most likely for people who had never physically met Jesus during His earthly ministry.  In 70 AD, the Roman Army sacked Jerusalem, destroying the Jewish Temple, leaving not a stone upon a stone, thus fulfilling Jesus’ prophesies.

One reason why this account of Jesus Christ’s appearance to the two “followers” on the road to Emmaus was specially cherished by the early Catholic Christian community and incorporated into the Gospels, was because this account reveals what we do at each and every Catholic Mass.

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A little “history” of the events in this particular Gospel reading:

Jesus’ death scattered His disciples. His death shattered their hopes and dreams; their “Messiah” was now dead. They hoped so much that He would be the one to redeem Israel; and they believed that “hope” was destroyed in His death.  They saw the cross as a sign of defeat.  Most of His disciples could not understand the meaning of the empty tomb until the “Risen”Jesus Christ personally appeared to them, giving them an understanding that seemed previously incomprehensible.

Emmaus was about “seven miles” from Jerusalem. In the original Greek language found in the Book of Luke, it is literally, sixty stades.” With a “stade” being a measurement of 607 feet (Per NAB footnote), this equates to 36,420 feet or 6.9 miles. Because some old and historical manuscripts read that Emmaus was “160 stades” (more than eighteen miles) the exact location of Emmaus is disputed by some scholars.  I believe 18 miles was too long of a distance for people to routinely travel, especially in the rough and robber-ridden wilds of Palestine.  For this reason, I am in the belief of the former: a seven mile separation between Jerusalem and Emmaus.

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Have you noticed how many of Jesus Christ’s resurrection appearances involved “food” in some way?  Four of seven (or so) appearances involved eating, preparing, or supplying food in some way.  Jesus must have been a Franciscan at heart!

The first appearance is to the women (including Mary Magdalene) who were to finish preparing Jesus for His final burial:

“At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Then, the “Risen” Jesus Christ appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:

“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16);

 “It happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” (Luke 24:30).

Next was His appearing to the ten Apostles, according to Luke:

“While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.” (Luke 24:41-43).

And finally, He appeared to seven Apostles at the Sea of Tiberius, grilling food for them at the seashore (Can you say, “Bar-B-Q”):

“When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. (John 21:9).

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The event in today’s Gospel reading centers  Jesus’ explanation and illumination of the Jewish Scriptures by the “Risen” Jesus Himself (the true “Christ”: the Word, Life, and Hope of Israel.  And, the reading also focuses on the disciples recognition of Jesus Christ Himself being physically present with them when “breaking bread” during the evening meal.  Then, at this moment, Sanctifying Grace opens their eyes to recognize Him as He really is.

When we read today’s Gospel, we may be amazed to learn that these two “followers” of Jesus could walk, talk, and share with Him, – – at length, – – yet not recognize Him until the last minute of their lengthy interaction with Him in this unique and very personal way.  We discover, again this week (as in last week’s reading), that the “Risen” Jesus was (and still is) not always easily recognizable in our lives – – and something not even when we are present with Him at the breaking of the bread.

“Cleopas” and the other disciple walked with a person whom they believed to be a stranger.  Only later in their communications and dealings with Him did they discover that this “stranger” was Jesus Himself – – in a Resurrected and Transfigured form.  Through this first interaction with Jesus’ community of two, we learn to recognize Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, just as they met Jesus Christ in the “breaking of the bread”.

With His fellow travelling partners, walking on that dusty, hot road, Jesus references certain quotations of Holy Scripture and explains those references – – in relating to Himself without their knowing it yet.

“And he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not  necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27).

The disciples on the road to Emmaus finally hear Holy Scripture, as interpreted by Jesus Christ Himself, in a way which never came to mind for them before.  It caused their hearts and souls to burn intensely within their bodies.  It was what they had been waiting to hear for all their religious faith lives.  They heard Him, understood Him, and then believed:

Hear me, all of you, and understand.” (Mark 7:14)

Jesus rebuked His disciples on the road to Emmaus for their “slowness of heart” in believing what Holy Scriptures had said concerning the prophesies of the “Messiah”:

And he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke’”! (Luke 24:25).

Is Jesus quoting from Isaiah in His rebuke of the two disciples?  See what I mean:

 “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Was it not foretold you from the beginning?  Have you not understood?” (Isaiah 40:21).

These two men did not recognize a “Risen” Jesus Christ until He had “broken bread” with them.

Jesus proclaims to them the message of His whole ministry on earth: a kerygmatic proclamation; good news to the poor and the blind and the captive.  Here is an example of another kerygmatic statement:

The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34),

Kerygma comes from the Greek verb “kerusso”, meaning to cry or proclaim as a herald, and means proclamation, announcement, or preaching.  “Kerygma” is a Greek word used in the New Testament for proclaiming and/or preaching. Other examples include the following New Testament verses:

“In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea.” (Matthew 3:1);

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19);

And,

“But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14).

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Imagine the feelings of the two disciples in today’s reading.  They are leaving their Passover “community” in Jerusalem, probably returning home to Emmaus or elsewhere.  Their friend and their reason to believe in the “truth”, Jesus Christ, had been tortured and crucified in a humiliating and horrifying way.  Their hope is gone and they are probably in fear of retaliation from Jewish and/or Roman officials.  They are bewildered and confused, trying to make sense of what had just occurred.  These two men, as well as the entire Christian community, was wondering what their future would entail.

Jesus Himself approaches the two men on the road to Emmaus.  They take Him for an unknown person, a stranger.  Jesus asks them what they are discussing.  He invites them to share their experience and interpretation of the events surrounding His crucifixion and death from their points of view.  When the two disciples give their feelings and beliefs of what happened, Jesus offered His own interpretation of His crucifixion and resurrection, citing the Jewish Scripture:

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.”   Luke 24:27)

In reality, and unbeknownst to these two men of faith, it was impossible for Jesus Christ to be held by a human condition such as a death on the Holy Tree.  Jesus took this “finality” of a human condition, – – and changed it, turned it around, – – making His death a divine condition of redemption and salvation for all His followers.

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In the encounter with these two disciples, we find the model for our Liturgy of the Word: what we do each time we gather as a Catholic Community, as a Catholic Church, in preparation for the Eucharistic Celebration at Mass.  In the encounter of these two men with Jesus Christ, we can reflect upon our own life experiences, and interpret them in light of Holy Scripture, just as Jesus Himself did for them.  In the “Liturgy of the Word” the great issues of life are addressed.  Holy Scripture is used to help all of us to understand these issues.

The dialogue from the Liturgy of the Word is followed by the “Liturgy of the Eucharist”, our communal-personal “breaking of the bread”.   In today’s Gospel reading, we also find a model for our Liturgy of the Eucharist.  These two men, these two “followers” of Jesus Christ, invite the yet “unrecognizable” Jesus Christ to stay and eat with them.  During the meal in which they shared in the “breaking of the bread”, the disciples’ eyes are made “un-blinded”!  They finally recognized the stranger as truly being Jesus Christ, in His Resurrected and humanly perfected body.  In the Eucharist, we also are allowed to share in the same “breaking of the bread”, discovering Jesus in our midst (though He has always been there).  In the Eucharist, and in our lives, we gather together to “break open” the Word of God.

Jesus Christ presented to His faithful disciples an example of the liturgical gestures still used to this day at every Eucharistic celebration at Mass:

“And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” (Luke 24:30)

For me, the events happening in today’s reading overtly suggest primarily a catechetical and liturgical reference, rather than an apologetic or teaching reference.  (Teaching relates to a removing of intellectual impediments to Catholic faith, thereby enhancing believers’ confidence in the truth being taught; it also helps to weaken skeptics’ objections.)

Finally, at Mass there is the dismissal rite.  We are not only instructed to go out to tell the “good news” (the Gospel) to other people in the way we live, in the things we do, and in the words we say, but also so compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so.  Like the disciples who walked on the way to Emmaus, we are to witness to Jesus Christ’s presence in the world today.

Just as the disciples turned, and returned to Jerusalem to recount and relive their experience “on the road” to other disciples and Apostles, we too are sent from our Eucharistic gathering, the “Mass”.  Our experience of Jesus in the Eucharist COMPELS us to share the encounter of our “discovery” with others:  “Jesus Christ died, has ‘Risen’, and will come again.”   (Jesus is alive, with AND within each of us!)

As the Apostles and His disciples were first-century witnesses to the resurrection, God calls us to be 21st-century witnesses to the same event.  Two thousand years later, God still wants the resurrection to be at the heart and forefront of our faith.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.   The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith  believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross: Christ is risen from the dead!  Dying, he conquered death; to the dead, he has given life.” (CCC 638)

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There is a consistent and on-going element found in several of the “Resurrection” narratives: not immediately recognizing the “Risen” Jesus Christ.

“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16)

The Fifth Century Church Father, Augustine, reflected on the dim perception of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection in the  minds of these first
century disciples:

“They were so disturbed when they saw him hanging on the cross that they forgot His teaching, did not look for His resurrection, and failed to keep his promises in mind” (Sermon 235.1).

And, Augustine continues:

Their eyes were obstructed, that they should not recognize Him until the breaking of the bread.  And thus, in accordance with the state of their minds, which was still ignorant of the truth ‘that the Christ would die and rise again’, their eyes were similarly hindered.  It was not that the truth Himself was misleading them, but rather that they were themselves unable to perceive the truth.” (From The Harmony of the Gospels, 3.25.72)

The “Risen” Jesus Christ appeared somehow different, initially unrecognizable.  He only becomes recognizable after an encounter with Him had already been on-going for a period of some time.

“After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country.” (Mark 16:12);

 “But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Luke 24:37);

 “When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.” (John 20:14);

And,

“When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (John 21:4).

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These two disciples of Jesus Christ, in today’s reading, had probably walked that same road from Jerusalem to Emmaus before.  They certainly had read Holy Scriptures before.  They had probably even shared meals with others before.  Yet, not like this time, with Jesus Christ being in their personal, physical, presence.  This meal was made different solely because it was presided over by the “Risen” Jesus Christ Himself.

They recognized Him in the “breaking of the bread”.  That is the exact, same kind of presence we can experience in both the usually expected and uniquely unexpected ways of our lives.  In these expected and unexpected ways, we can realize that the “Risen” Lord is with us (with me) in a personal and unique way.

As a disciple – – a follower – – of Jesus Christ, I personally experience Him in many ways in my life and lifestyle.  (How ‘bout you?)  Sometimes, I have learned to see Jesus in unpredictable ways such as under the clear, starry, night sky, or maybe in a beautiful sunset or sunrise.  I also experience Jesus Christ sometimes when I think deep thoughts, or when I see other people, and yes, I see Him even sometimes in tragedy.

However, the only place where I can count on experiencing Jesus Christ, my merciful and magnificent Lord, is in the Holy Eucharist.  He can come in a hundreds of different ways, and they are ALL beautiful and real.  But, the one place that is predictable, and the one place where Jesus Christ is usually more intense, is in the Holy Eucharist, His true physical body, blood, soul, and divinity.

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Why should we go to Mass?  I can, and should, read Holy Scriptures at home, or even listen to them in my car and I-Pod.  I can pray without going to a particular building at a specific time and having to be with others also not necessarily wanting to be there.  I believe this is how most Catholics feel about attending Mass (SOooo SAD!).  So, why go to Mass?

The answer is very simple.  God is everywhere, and was everywhere, for these two men on that dusty, hot, country road connecting two cities.  But there was a distinctive, more intense, more active presence of Jesus Christ with them, when they sat down to “break bread” that evening, with that “stranger” who became God before their eyes.  I believe that when a Sacrament is celebrated, especially the Holy Eucharist, that is the kind of presence we can experience in a most personal way.

So why go to Mass?  Because something different and unique can be found there!!  To meet Jesus Christ fully and completely in this Sacramental way, to have Him speak His words to us, and to “break bread” with us, is to experience a special kind of regular, intense, predictable, and recognizable presence which is different – – more full and more complete, – – from any other kind of experience possible.

The “Risen” Jesus Christ is with each of us in a distinctive way at the Holy Eucharist at Mass and Adoration.  His Presence had a powerful effect on the two travelling disciples when He “broke bread” with them that day.  His Presence in the Holy Eucharist can have a powerful effect on me and you, in that same personal way.  That’s why we go to Mass.

Someone that I have come to appreciate, and someone I watch on EWTN each and every week, wrote of his feelings towards the Holy Eucharist:

There is no price too high, no sacrifice too precious, and no demand too great for the privilege of dining at the table where Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist.”  (Marcus Grodi and others, Journeys Home, The Coming Home Network International)

I could not express this personal, internal emotion any better than this wise and sage man.

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The “Risen” Jesus Christ comes among us in order to engage us, to connect us, and to draw us into living, dying, and passing through death to life, even now as we live.  He still does this by sharing a meal with us in the Holy Eucharist.  When you go to Mass and are offered the Holy Eucharist, are you ready for this kind of personal and powerful connection with Him?

How often do we fail to recognize the Lord when He speaks to our hearts and opens His mind to us? The Risen Jesus Christ is ever ready to speak His word to us and to give us understanding of His ways and of His (our Father’s) plan for salvation.  Listen to the “Word of God” attentively, and allow His “Word” to change and transform you.

As the domestic or “Militant” church, we have the opportunity to make our time on earth a prayerful encounter with others, and with Jesus Christ Himself.  We can share our encounters, interactions, and experiences of the day, thus connecting them with the encounters, interactions, and experiences of others.  We should take time to reflect upon our life in the light of Holy Scripture, and to connect with Jesus in our unique and personal way – – in a one-on-one communication with our loving God and Savior.

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Prayer to St. Joseph for the Church Militant

“O Glorious Saint Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, and the head of the Holy Family. You have been chosen by Christ’s Vicar as the heavenly Patron and Protector of the Church founded by Christ.

Protect the Sovereign Pontiff and all bishops and priests united with him. Be the protector of all who labor for souls amid the trials and tribulations of this life; and grant that all peoples of the world may be docile to the Church without which there is no salvation.

Dear Saint Joseph, accept the offering I make to you. Be my father, protector, and guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me purity of heart and a love for the spiritual life. After your example, let all my actions be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart. Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death.  Amen”

(From http://www.ucatholic.com/catholicprayers website)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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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.

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We now say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, it is simply:

It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Peter of Tarentaise (c. 1102-1174)

There are two men named St. Peter of Tarentaise who lived one century apart.  The man we honor today is the younger Peter, born in France in the early part of the 12th century.  (The other man with the same name became Pope Innocent the Fifth.)

The Peter we’re focusing on became a Cistercian monk and eventually served as abbot.  In 1142, he was named archbishop of Tarentaise, replacing a bishop who had been deposed because of corruption.  Peter tackled his new assignment with vigor.  He brought reform into his diocese, replaced lax clergy and reached out to the poor.  He visited all parts of his mountainous diocese on a regular basis.

After about a decade as bishop Peter “disappeared” for a year and lived quietly as a lay brother at an abbey in Switzerland.  When he was “found out,” the reluctant bishop was persuaded to return to his post.  He again focused many of his energies on the poor.

Peter died in 1175 on his way home from an unsuccessful papal assignment to reconcile the kings of France and England.

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)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Love of Life and Suffering

 

Identifying with Christ – Is this the real goal of my life?  How much effort do I put into this?

Can my acceptance of pain I cannot avoid have a purifying role in my life?  If I unite my sufferings to Christ’s, can it ease my pain as well?

What is MY sense of appreciation for all the things that the Word Made Flesh has suffered for me?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

8. As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.  Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

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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.