Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Let Us Walk and Talk Together!” –Matthew 21:28-32†


 

 

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Psalm
  • 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:

 

 

It is exactly 3 months till CHRISTinMASS today.  I love this season more than any other season of the year (Easter comes close, with Halloween being a distant 3rd).  The reason is because I believe more people live a life of “thinking” about Jesus, and are more open to hearing His message than any other time of the year.  It is so sad that a secular aspect of this beautiful time of the year has to be used to draw people back to what should be a daily event: celebrating Christ in our lives.

December is the Christmas Season per any wall calendar.  However, we need to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” every day of our existence.  I pray that we can all celebrate Christ in all aspects of our lives.  Let us “Walk the Talk” together on our individual paths of righteousness, leading to eternal joy and paradise in paradise.  Let us all keep “CHRISTinMASS”!!

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   303 – On a voyage preaching the gospel, Saint Fermin of Pamplona is beheaded in Amiens, France.
†   1392 – Death of Sergius van Radonesj, Russian saint, at age 78
†   1534 – Death of Clement VII, [Giulio de’ Medici], Italian Pope (1523-34), at age 56 (b. 1478)
†   1617 – Death of Francisco Suarez, Spanish Jesuit, philosopher/theologian (b. 1548)

(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:

 

 

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody.  The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards those who are victims of exploitation, corruption, poverty, and disease.  Love has to be built on sacrifice.  We have to give until it hurts.”  ~ Mother Teresa, “Where There Is Love, There Is God”, Doubleday

 

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus posing a question to the “Chief Priests and Elders” on the meaning of obedience; the Parable of the “Two Sons”.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 21:28-32) 28 “What is your opinion?  A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’  29 He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went.  30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order.  He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.  31 Which of the two did his father’s will?”  They answered, “The first.”  Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

What kind of future are you preparing for?  Jesus encourages us to think about the consequences of our choices, especially those decisions which will count not just for now, but for eternity as well.  The choices we make now can, and WILL, affect and shape our future, both our human future on earth as well as in our eternal life in the age to come.

 

The background for today’s Gospel concerns the mounting tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes.  Jesus has already entered Jerusalem and overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple:

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12).

 Jesus obliviously caught the attention of the religious authorities.  The “learned men”, (the chief priests and elders), approach and question Jesus about the “source” of His authority.  

Jesus refuses to name His source of His authority to these religious leaders.  Instead, He questions the “Chief Priests and Elders” through the parable we “hear” in today’s Gospel reading.  The religious leaders answer is essentially and humanly correct, but their answer, at the same time, convicts them.  Their failure to take note of the call for repentance from John the Baptist and for their inability to recognize the Kingdom of God is their downfall.

The example Jesus posed in today’s Gospel could have been taken directly from any of our personal experiences.  Each of us can recall instances in which someone spoke one thing, and then did another.  The reason for Jesus’ parable is to illustrate that our “actions” speak louder than “words”, even with God.  (And even “by” God.)

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Today starts a series of debates in Jesus’ public ministry.  His message is directed to the Jewish people about their misinterpretations of their Scriptures.  This message is highlighted by today’s first of three parables on the judgment of Israel, as found in Matthew’s Book (Matthew 21:28 – 22:14).  Future parables will include, “The Parable of the Tenants”, (Matthew 21:33–46), believed to originate from Mark 12:1–12, and, “The Parable of the Wedding Feast”, (Matthew 22:1–14) which is very similar to a parable found in Luke 14:15–24, concerning their readiness to accept invitations from God, and about proper attire, both external and internal.

In today’s reading from Matthew, the “two sons” respectively represent the religious leaders and the religious outcasts who followed John the Baptist’s call to repentance, in contrast to the religious leader’s choice NOT to respond to John the Baptist’s call for repentance to them as well.  The chief priests and elders condemned themselves by their choice not to follow the example of conversion and repentance of the tax collectors and prostitutes.

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Matthew’s first parable, (today’s parable), if taken by itself, would point simply to a difference between “saying and doing”, – – talking the talk versus walking the talk – – a theme of much importance throughout his Gospel:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21);

And also,

“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50).

This theme of the importance of one’s actions (or lack of actions) in response to a call to repentance is probably the parable’s “original” point.  However, the theme is given a more specific application by the addition of the very last two verses:

“’Which of the two did his father’s will?’  They answered, ‘The first.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.’” (Matthew 21:31–32).

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Jesus states:

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew21:31).

I take His words, “entering the kingdom of God before you”, as meaning “THEY (the “sinners”) enter AND YOU do not.”  (Do you see any correspondence to today’s Church situations?!)

Now, listen to Luke’s version, and notice the similarities:

“All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.” (Luke 7:29-30).

Pretty interesting declaration, don’t you think?!

 

Also in verse 32, when Jesus said, “When John came to you in the way of righteousness …”, several meanings are possible.  First, that John the Baptist himself was “righteous”; or, that he “taught ‘righteousness’” to others; lastly, that John the Baptist had an important place in God’s “plan of salvation”:

John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?  Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him” (Matthew 3:14–15).

I see meaning in all three reasons.  John is aware of Jesus’ superiority to him – – as the mightier one – – who is coming and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit:

 “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).

John’s reluctance to allow Jesus among “the sinners” whom he is baptizing, is strongly affected by Jesus’ prophetic response.  To “fulfill all righteousness” is a two-fold reference to 1) the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and 2) the righteousness of moral conduct in conformity with God’s will.  These are God’s expectations for ALL – – both leaders and laity.  Here, however, “righteousness” seems to refer to “the saving activity of God the Father”. “To fulfill all righteousness” is to submit to “the plan of God (the Holy One of Israel)” for the salvation of the whole human race, His loving creation in His image and likeness.  God the Father’s plan involves Jesus’ true and real identification with sinners; hence the spiritual appropriateness of His accepting John’s baptism (… to “fulfill all righteousness”)..

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To Summarize: the situation Jesus posed, through today’s parable, is rather clear-cut and straightforward.  Given the same task by their father (to go out and work in the vineyard), one son declares his disobedience in words, yet then eventually obeys in his actions.  The second son obeys with his words, yet disobeys in his actions.  The question which Jesus poses is insightful and direct:

 “Which of the two did his father’s will?” (Matthew 21:31)

  All would agree that “actions speak louder than words” and that even if his words were disobedient, the son who did the work as ordered did the father’s will.  Remember how Jesus gave a revealing definition of who is truly His brother:

“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

Jesus’ is just as insightful and direct- – TO US – – as well.  The chief priests and elders, the ones who speak most often about God, did not act accordingly.  They did not respond to the message of repentance announced by John the Baptist with a change of heart, a conversion.  Instead, John’s message was listened to by those one would not expect to repent – – tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. However, because of their choices and actions, these sinners will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders.

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In conclusion: Jesus tells a simple story, a parable, of two typical and imperfect sons, to illustrate the attitude and desire of God, and the way of God’s kingdom on earth.  The father sufficiently provided for his sons: food, housing, and everything else they needed.  Everything the father had and owned was shared with his children.  The father also accorded his two sons with work in his own vineyard.  He expected them to show him some respect, loyalty, and honor by doing their fair share of the daily work.  The first son told his father, face-to-face, that he would not work for him. However, he soon changed his mind and did what his father asked of him.  The second son said he would work for his father, but didn’t carry through his promise.  He acted contrary to his father’s will and his own best self-interest.  So, who really was the good son among the two?  Both sons disobeyed their father; however, one repented and then did what the father told him.

Jesus makes His point clear though this parable: Good intentions are not enough.  Also, promises don’t count unless they are acted on.  God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our words and actions that we respect His will.

God the Father offers each of us the greatest treasure possible: unending peace, joy, happiness, and life with Him in His eternal, everlasting, joyful kingdom.  We can lose that treasure by refusing the grace – – the gift – – God the Father offers us by following His way of truth and righteousness.  How well are you doing in respecting the “will and plan” of our heavenly Father?

Jesus asks us the same question, “Who did his Father’s will?”  Do your words indicate your obedience to God?  If not your words, do your actions?  God desires a full and daily conversion of heart so that our actions (and our words as well) will give evidence of our total love for, trust and faith in God.  Remember what is written in Hebrews:

Without faith, it is impossible to please him [God].” (Hebrews 11:6)

Did you notice that Jesus “condemned” the religious leaders for not allowing John the Baptist’s message of repentance to change their hearts and actions?  Recall a time when a family member or friend said one thing and then did another.  Acknowledge that sometimes the action taken demonstrates a “true” change of heart, a true conversion of heart and soul.  Jesus wants us to do more than just to pay lip service to, to only recognize, and to make some concession to, the Gospel.  Jesus wants ALL of us to be transformed – – converted – – by His “Word”!!  WALK the TALK!!  Experience a true conversion to and for God by showing evidence of your change of heart in both actions and words.

 

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 Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 25

A prayer to God for mercy.

 

“Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths.  Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long.  Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old.  Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD. 

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore He shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble His way.  Amen” (Psalm 25:4-9)

 

 

 

 

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 Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of
the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

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

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Finding the Body of St. Clare

For some six centuries the body of St. Clare laid buried deep under the high altar of “Santa Chiara”, a church in Assisi built in her honor.  In 1850 Pope Pius IX granted permission for excavations to be made to find and exhume her body.

After seven days, the stone coffin containing the body of the saint was found.  When it was opened, it was discovered that the body of St. Clare, though blackened with age, was still incorrupt.  It was put into a crystal coffin, and placed in a crypt of the church, after it was completed in 1872.

The feast of the Finding of the Body of St. Clare, instituted by Pope Pius IX, is celebrated by the all three branches of the Franciscan families.

 (From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/stswebsite)

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Sacraments

 

How prominent a role did the Catholic Church and her practices (such as Sacraments) play in Saint Francis’ thinking and advice?

How many of “blessings” and “helps’ from God are many non-Catholics totally unaware of?

 

 

 

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 Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

 

 

25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means.  Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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26. As a concrete sign of communion and co-responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance.  They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

  

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“Dan’s Ultimate Manifestic Quality Statement! Me, Me, Me; OOoo, OOoo, OOoo, Me; Pick Me LAST!” – Matthew 20:1-16†


   

 

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • 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:

 

This blog-post marks two full complete years of writing my reflections.  In these two years I have written and published 387 separate reflections on various issues, predominately religious, and nearly always based on the days Gospel reading from the Roman Catholic Missal.

My blog has had over 40,000 individual visits in these two years.  In the first month (September 2009), there was an average of 5 people visiting my site per day.  I am now averaging about 125 visits per day, with the busiest being May 7, 2011 (296 hits), and the busiest month occurring in May, 2011 (6528 hits).  Thank you for coming to my site, and especially for coming back repeatedly.  Please spread the word to your friends and family about my reflection blog.

I have to give a special thanks and graditude to my dear friend and Spiritual Director, John Hough.  John is a very active member of my parish and participates in the ACTS retreat faith fellowship encounters I attend every Saturday morning, consisting of a group (usually about 14-20 people), showing our faith by participating in the following:

Rosary before Mass, Mass itself, then the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass, and finally ending with some cholesterol enhancement at the local McDonalds Restaurant.       

Besides John’s impressive and extensive knowledge of the Catholic faith, both theological and philosophical (he has multiple advanced degrees), has a vast methodical understanding of the English and Kenoi Greek languages; a “troubling” knowledge for me at times as he edits my papers.  (I have an especially bad problem with consistently using the word, “that”, and with separating my nouns from my verbs in sentences.)  He pulls no punches grammatically, theologically, and in pushing my gaining in understanding the nuances and “truths” of faith, philosophy, tradition, and Holy Scripture.  (I love him for “pushing” me forward on the “true” path, God’s path.)

John frequently laughs at my interpretations of the Sunday Gospel.  Only last week, he commented on how I can delve far and deep into a theological thought, and then associate it to a whimsical cartoon character’s action, in one paragraph.

It is true; I have learned to peel back the many layers of Catholicism, faith, and tradition.  My family often says that I get too “extreme’ in explaining a facet of our faith.  When a group from the local Church of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon’s) came to the door, my wife said to them prior to leaving the room:

“I feel sorry for you guys!” 

I’m not sure what she meant by her statement.  However, they did leave with Rosaries in their hands and shaking their heads somewhat.  (They have never been back, though I have seen them in the neighborhood.)  (Thank you Holy Spirit for you interactions through me on this day!!)

The Holy Spirit has brought John Hough into my life.  Through John (and the Holy Spirit) I have gained a grace of a profound, mysterious, and insightful view of God’s love, trust, and faith in me; and a grace to spread the mustard seeds of faith, love, trust, and hope to others.  Thank you John, my “true” Brother in Christ!

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   324 – Constantine the Great decisively defeats Licinius in the Battle of Chrysopolis, establishing Constantine’s sole control over the Roman Empire.
†   1502 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) lands at Costa Rica on his fourth, and final, voyage.
†   1663 – Death of St Joseph of Cupertino, Italian saint (b. 1603)

(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 teaching of God’s generous mercy in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

 

 

 

(NAB Matthew 20:1-16) 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5So they went off.  [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?’  16Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, – – and continuing to plummet daily, – – today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most if not all of us, in a unique and extraordinarily personal way.  So many family homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor wages and other business costs are much less than in the United States.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from Galilee to teach in Judea.  Here, He will be sought out by large crowds, and “tested” by the Pharisees on issues such as marriage and divorce.  Jesus also will encounter a rich young man who is interested in obtaining eternal life and wondering what he is “lacking” since he believes he has been following the commandments all along.  Jesus’ response to the rich young man is to invite, challenge him to be “perfect” y leaving ALL his possessions and follow Jesus Christ full-time.  The rich young man felt unable to accept Jesus’ invitation.

Is the rich young man going to be one of the first, or one of the last, into God’s kingdom?  Think about this when you get to the conclusion of today’s Gospel reading:

 “The last will be first, and the first will be last”. (Matthew 20:16)

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Today’s parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard several times throughout the day, and then paying ALL the laborers the same wage regardless of how long they worked in the vineyard.  On the surface, the parable of the workers in the vineyard appears to be a reproach to common sense.  Reason states: those who work a longer day “ought” to be paid more than those who work just an hour or two.  When viewed in this way, the landowner certainly seems extremely unfair.  This intelligent and emotional response is,  in reality, because we comprehend today’s parable in our own preconceived notions of how fairness and equality should be quantified.  However, ….

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Why does the landowner seek out, and then hire laborers throughout the entire day?  I usually like the simplest and most direct answers.  So, I think my answer that he, the landowner, simply doesn’t want to exclude anyone willing to work.  The Land owner hired individuals, even in the late afternoon, so they wouldn’t go home payless and hungry.

This landowner definitely had and displayed a compassion for the others around him as demonstrated by his actions.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps – – he was “Walking the Talk”.  Too bad the laborers which were hired “first” (at dawn) did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on godly business principles and on mercy and kindness to others.

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To continue, in my miniscule understanding of Biblical interpretations, different understandings have been given to the very last verse:

The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16). 

This verse from today’s reading is similar to another verse a little earlier in Matthew:

Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).

The just mentioned verse (Matthew 19:30), and the following (verse 8 from today’s reading) are the inverses of Matthew 20:16:

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” (Matthew 20:8). 

In view of Matthew’s association of the “first-last” references with today’s parable along with the verse from Matthew’s previous chapter, in its reverse order, I’m thinking the order may mean that all who responded then (and still respond today) to Jesus’ call – – at whatever time (first or last), – – will receive the benefits and graces of His kingdom: a true gift from, and of, God.  Through Jesus’ parable, Matthew is suggesting that there is an unparalleled equality of ALL His disciples (workers), in their payments of eternal life as a “free”, already “paid-for” (by Jesus’ sacrifice), gift!

The catalyst which opens this story to a controversial discussion and various opinions among the workers and landowner is verse 8:

“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” (Matthew 20:8). 

This particular facet of the story has no other purpose than to show “how” the first laborers come to know what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

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If you pay attention to the reading, the landowner paid on the terms which were negotiated.   What did the landowner mean when he said to the laborers:

“…I will give you what is just.”? (Matthew 20:4)

The landowner acted justly.  I realize that he did not actually say “what” they would be paid as a wage when hiring the laborers.  Although this wage was not stipulated, it is inferred to the reader that it would be a “fair” wage “for the amount of time worked”.  As most people, I would reasonably assume that the laborers who started at nine in the morning (not at dawn), and those hired later, would be paid differently respective: more for those early starters than for the late comers.  However, in God the Father’s kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, no separations, and no seniority lists.  All in heaven are equally joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God, each in their proper order. 

This parable, however, goes far beyond his being “just”.  We come to see that the landowner is not simply just, he is exceptionally just; he is even radically just.  But, he has given those who labored in the field for a full day their rightly due wages.  But he has also given a full-day’s wage to those who worked only one hour or so.  No one is cheated, but a few receive copiously from the landowner – – just as we receive from God – – more than what is merely justifiable or due.  God, like the landowner, is radically just and copiously generous.  The workers who complained are made to look foolish as they “grumble” over the fact that the landowner made all his laborers equal.  Indeed, what more could one ask for than to be treated as an equal at work or anywhere else?

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To continue on, in verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive phrases in one sentence, “My friend”, and “I am not cheating you”.  In calling the laborers his “friend”, he is expressing a true caring for the specific individual(s).  He sought out a special, unique, and personal type of relationship with him (them).  The land owner further stressed that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  On the contrary, he only asked of each laborer to perform a certain function, then paid each of them what he had promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should not be of any concern to anyone else.  After all, the landowner gave to the laborer(s) what he promised him (them).

God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit asks of each of us to perform certain function: to love, trust, and have faith in Him; to love, trust, and have faith in others with whom we come into contact.  He wants to have an intimate, personal, and unique relationship with each of us.  In doing so, He will give to each of us what He has promised: an eternal relationship of joy with Him in paradise.

My thoughts on this parable remind me about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were discussing the graces and talents which each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold!

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At first sight, the laborers appear to have an appropriate grievance against the landowner.  The earlier workers labored longer, so they “deserved” more than those who only worked “fewer” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to endure smaller pay.  In retrospect, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, we need to look at this parable from another viewpoint other than the laborers’.  They ALL received something else that day besides the “fair” wage for the work they performed: they received a JOB, a gift of mercy and generosity!  These laborers were bringing home “the bacon”; well, at least money, to their families.

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We should look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor for them.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavily on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried about how they were going to feed and clothe their family – – (not to mention their home, car insurances, their children’s college educations, and future wedding expenses – -).  Then suddenly and unexpectedly, a stranger – – toward, and at the end of the work day – – offers each of them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think these individuals were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers?, trying to do their best?  When we say something is “unfair,” please take a second look, flip that coin over, as it may very well not only be “fair”, but be a godly “Christian” approach to the situation!

God calls and asks EACH of us to do certain things, and if we do them, we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to do certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more than anyone else.  Yep, those of us who arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, are given more graces (and talents) to share – – more work!!

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in the bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed in our heart and in our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our words, actions, faith, soul, and our relationships with others.  Those who find God’s promise of redemption and salvation, at the end of their life’s journey, through the “Sacrament of the Anointing” while on their deathbed will not have enough time to nurture a huge bush or tree of graces like one growing over many years in others.  Yet, they will still have the same bounty as everyone else in God’s kingdom.  There is NO difference in feeling or reward when it comes to the eternal joy and magnificence found in being face-to-face in the presence of God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” experience, the ultimate manifested equality within the Trinitarian family of God!

To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:19-20);

And,

“One body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

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The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involved no violation of law or justice toward any of the laborers.  His only problem, “per-se”, is having a virtue of generosity toward the later hires.  Virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent.  Virtues should be valued as a foundation for principles of good moral life and ethics in decision making.  Virtues not only promote, but also reveal the character and moral well-being of individuals, and society as a whole.  Virtues are AWESOME!!  Virtues are likenesses of God Himself:

I know, my God, that you put hearts to the test and that you take pleasure in integrity. With a whole heart I have willingly given all these things, and now with joy I have seen your people here present also giving to you generously.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is the sin of “envy.”  Envy is a vice contrary to virtue.  Envy is a feeling of unhappiness or greed in regard to another’s advantages, successes, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment:

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  (Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21)

Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin, deforming the soul, and can lead to eternal separation from God in the hell of the individual aloneness within himself – – unless acknowledged, confessed, corrected, and repented through the Sacrament of Reconciliation with and oneself.

The workers in this parable sound very much like bickering, backbiting children, comparing what they have been given individually, and then complaining to their parent: “It’s unfair!”  Children have a tendency to equate love with gifts and other material things.  This tendency can give way to a spirit of “entitlement”, which offsets the spirit of gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation.  Any effort we make to overcome the tendency toward entitlement, to keep love from being entwined and linked to things like gifts and possessions, will enable us to accept “fully” the love which God freely and generously gives to each of us – – PERSONALLY!!!

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To conclude: until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the “early risers”, the ones willing to get to work early.  Upon reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual workers situations, the landowner treated each and every one in a fair, just, and loving way.

This parable reminds us that although God owes us nothing, he offers ALL GOOD abundantly, copiously, and spontaneously.  We are occasionally tempted to think that our own actions deserve more of God’s abundant and overflowing grace, than the actions of others.  However, God’s generosity cannot be quantified or partitioned into different amounts for different people – – He gives us His ALL, to each of us – – uniquely and personally.  When we think of “how much” we deserve, we are relating to God on “OUR” terms rather than accepting God’s radically different ways – – His plan for us.

God is generously opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter freely, both those who have labored a life-time for Him and those who come to Him at the last hour.  While the grace is the same, the motive for one’s labor makes all the difference.  Some work only for “reward” and not out of love as a gift.  They will only put as much effort in as they think they will get out.  Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work, to give, to accomplish.  The Lord calls His disciples to serve God and neighbor with generosity and joy.  Do you perform your work and duties with cheerfulness for the Lord’s sake?  Do you give generously to others, especially to those in need?

 

Please consider these further questions.  Why did the laborers in today’s reading grumble?  Was the landowner’s assessment over wages accurate and just?  Now, look for any tendency you may have to make comparisons.  Ask yourself if these comparisons are helpful in your relationships.  Sadly, we are sometimes like these laborers when we make comparisons in our daily lives.

Love cannot, and should not, to be measured – – it is NOT a quantitative virtue.  Sit quietly, acknowledging God’s great love for you as an individual.  Reflect on the time, talents, and treasures you have to offer; and how you can best share these graces from God the Father to others in your life.

Many of us have been given more than we need for life and comfort.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of this world in which we live TODAY, most of us reading this reflection actually live in comparative royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are offered many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not necessarily mean materialistic items; it also means spiritual wealth through prayers and kindness to the others we meet – – Time, Talents, and Treasures.

God wants us to be like the “landowner” was with each of his laborers.  In this Gospel reading, it is written:

You too go into my vineyard.” (Matthew 20:7)

All of us should respond to Jesus’ “call” in the unique way we are capable of doing so.  Each of us has a distinct and personal “calling”, regardless of the time (first or last, early or late) in our lives.  In answering this call from God, we will receive “the same” inheritance of benefits in, and of, God’s kingdom.  Please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; an awesome, beautiful, and everlasting gift of God.  (Oh, by the way, please read a great book: “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back”, by Todd Burpo.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Prayer for Vocations

 

“Lord Jesus, as you once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men, let your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come, follow Me!

Give young men & woman the grace of responding quickly to your voice.  Support our bishops, priests & consecrated people in their apostolic labor.

Grant perseverance to our seminarians & to all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally consecrated to your service.  Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.  Lord, SEND WORKERS TO YOUR HARVEST and do not allow humanity to be lost for the lack of pastors, missionaries and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church; the model of every vocation, help us to say ‘Yes’ to the Lord Who calls us to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation.  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 third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663)

 

Joseph is most famous for levitating at prayer.

Already as a child, Joseph showed a fondness for prayer.  After a short career with the Capuchins, he joined the Conventuals.  Following a brief assignment caring for the friary mule, Joseph began his studies for the priesthood.  Though studies were very difficult for him, Joseph gained a great deal of knowledge from prayer.  He was ordained in 1628.

Joseph’s tendency to levitate during prayer was sometimes a cross; some people came to see this much as they might have gone to a circus sideshow.  Joseph’s gift led him to be humble, patient and obedient, even though at times he was greatly tempted and felt forsaken by God.  He fasted and wore iron chains for much of his life.

The friars transferred Joseph several times for his own good and for the good of the rest of the community.  He was reported to and investigated by the Inquisition; the examiners exonerated him.

Joseph was canonized in 1767.  In the investigation preceding the canonization, 70 incidents of levitation are recorded.

Comment:

While levitation is an extraordinary sign of holiness, Joseph is also remembered for the ordinary signs he showed.  He prayed even in times of inner darkness, and he lived out the Sermon on the Mount.  He used his “unique possession” (his free will) to praise God and to serve God’s creation.

Quote:

“Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own.  When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this.  The will is what man has as his unique possession” (St. Joseph of Cupertino, from the reading for his feast in the Franciscan breviary).

Patron Saint of: Air travelers, Astronauts, Pilots

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:

 

Saint Francis

 

How does Francis identify himself?

What attitude toward the Sacrament of the Eucharist does Francis express in his writings?

How and why does Francis express that the focus of our lives is “to praise God”?

Francis writes: “…hate our bodies with their vices and sins”.  What specifically are we to “hate”?  How does this compare to the spirit of “Canticle of the Sun”?  How does this compare to Romans 8:5-8?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 18 & 19 of 26:

18.  Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

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19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

 

 

A Soldier’s “Deck of Cards for God”!


After reading this, you will never look at a deck of cards in the same way.                             

Here is a new way to look at a deck of cards!! 

A Soldier’s

Deck of Cards for God

 

It was quiet that day, the guns and the mortars, and land mines for some reason hadn’t been heard in this Islamic Country.  The young soldier knew it was Sunday, the holiest day of the week.

As he was sitting there, he got out an old deck of cards and laid them out across his bunk.  Just then an army sergeant came in and said, “Why aren’t you with the rest of the platoon?”

The soldier replied, “I thought I would stay behind and spend some time with the Lord.”  The sergeant said, “Looks to me like you’re going to play cards.”

The soldier said, “No, sir.  You see, since we are not allowed to have Bibles or other spiritual books in this country, I’ve decided to talk to the Lord by studying this deck of cards.”  The sergeant asked in disbelief, “How will you do that?”

 

“You see the Ace, Sergeant?  It reminds me that there is only one God.

The Two represents the two parts of the Bible, Old and New Testaments

The Three represents the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost – – the Holy Trinity.

The Four stands for the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Five is for the five virgins there were ten but only five of them were glorified.  

The Six is for the six days it took God to create the Heavens and Earth.

The Seven is for the day God rested after making His Creation.

The Eight is for the family of Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives — the eight people God spared from the flood that destroyed the Earth..

The Nine is for the lepers that Jesus cleansed of leprosy He cleansed ten, but nine never thanked Him.

The Ten represents the Ten Commandments that God handed down to Moses on tablets made of stone.

The Jack is a reminder of Satan, one of God’s first angels, but he got kicked out of heaven for his sly and wicked ways and is now the Joker of eternal hell.

The Queen stands for the Virgin Mary.

The King stands for Jesus, for he is the King of all kings.

 

When I count the dots on all the cards, I come up with a total of 365, one for every day of the year.

There are a total of 52 cards in a deck; each is a week – 52 weeks in a year.

The four suits represent the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

Each suit has thirteen cards — there are exactly thirteen weeks in a quarter.”

 

“So when I want to talk to God and thank Him, I just pull out this old deck of cards and they remind me of all that I have to be thankful for.”  The sergeant just stood there. After a minute, with tears in his eyes and pain in his heart, he said, “Soldier, can I borrow that deck of cards?”

Please let this be a reminder and take time to pray for all of our soldiers who are being sent away, putting their lives on the line fighting

 

Prayer for the Military”:

 

Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them.
Bless them and their families
I ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.   Amen.

 

When you read this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our servicemen and women all around the world.  Of all the gifts you could give a Soldier, prayer is the very best one.

 

In God I Trust!!

“Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35†


 

 

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • 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:

 

Today is Patriot’s Day.  Please keep all individuals involved (directly or indirectly) with the evil of terrorism in your prayers today, and every day.  2,977 souls lost to 19 hijackers on four planes.  In addition, 6,294 people were reported to have been treated in area hospitals for injuries related to the 9/11 attacks in New York City.  Individuals from more than 90 countries were directly affected on this ill-fated day.  Please Lord, let us not forget these brave souls, and their sacrifice at the hands of pure evil.

(Information obtained from Wikipedia.)

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Wednesday September 14 is the Feast of the Cross.  According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the true Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.

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September 14th It is also a very important day for Franciscans.  It was on this feast that St. Francis of Assisi received the “stigmata”.  During the Lent of 1224, two years before his death, his mind and heart turned frequently to meditate upon the suffering of Christ and His obedience to the Father.  Retreating with Friar Leo into the wilderness, Francis agonized over the great pain that Jesus experienced and thanked our Lord for the supreme sacrifice that He had endured.

On 14 September 1224, in the solitude of prayer on Mount Alverna, while praising God and pouring out his love for Him, Francis beheld the crucified Christ borne aloft by six wings.  In this moment of seraphic ecstasy, he who had sought to imitate Christ in all things, received the marks of his Lord’s crucifixion—the stigmata—on his hands, feet, and side, two years before Sister Death came to him.

And so, when the world was growing cold, Christ renewed the marks of His passion in the flesh of Saint Francis to rekindle our love for God.  By bearing the marks of the crucifixion in his body, Francis experienced an even deeper union with Jesus.  Thus, the God whom Francis had cherished, both as the child of Bethlehem and as the victim at Calvary, brought the Saint into more perfect conformity with His Son.

“Heavenly Father, you gave your servant Francis the grace of intimate union with your crucified Son.  Help us with the cross we bear that, united with you, we too may know the peace and joy that Francis received.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.”

(from the website: http://www.shrinesf.org/francis08.htm)

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   506 – The bishops of Visigothic Gaul meet in the Council of Agde.
†   1226 – The Roman Catholic practice of public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass spreads from monasteries to parishes.
†   1279 – Death of Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. c. 1215)
†   1557 – Catholic & Lutheran theology debated in Worm
†   1838 – Birth of John Ireland, American Catholic archbishop (d. 1918)
†   1914 – Birth of Patriarch Pavle, Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church
†   1987 – Shoot out at Jean-Bertrand Aristides’ (former Catholic Priest) church in Haiti, 12 die
†   2001 – Coordinated attacks resulting in the collapse or severe damage of several skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destruction of the western portion of The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and an intentional passenger airliner crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Two thirds of rescuers (FD, PD, EMS) in New York were Roman Catholics.
†   2004 – All passengers are killed when a helicopter crashes in the Aegean Sea. Passengers include Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria and 16 others (including journalists and bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria).
†   Feasts/Memorials: Beheading of John the Baptist in the Eastern Orthodox tradition (Julian Calendar); Feast of Neyrouz, the New Year’s Day in the Coptic calendar

(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:

 

 

“He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven: for everyone has need to be forgiven.” ~ Thomas Fuller

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that we must forgive one another AS God has forgiven us.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 18:21-35) 21Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  30But he refused.  Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s Gospel reading is known as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

This is the final section (of three) of Jesus’ “Discourse on the Church”, and deals with forgiveness which His disciples are to give to fellow disciples who sin against them.

Today’s Gospel reading directly follows last week’s Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the first-century Jewish (predominately) Catholic (Universal) Christian community.  In today’s reading, Peter asks Jesus how many times one should give forgiveness to another.

Jesus also gives a lesson on how mercy and justice go together.  In the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the prophet “Amos” speaks of God forgiving transgression three times, but warns of God punishing for the fourth:

For three crimes of …, and now four— I will not take it back.”(see Amos 1:3-13; 2:1-6). 

Peter proposes a reasonable number of times, i.e., perhaps “seven”.  Jesus Christ replies by expanding Peter’s proposal by an “enormous” amount; not just seven times should one forgive, but 77 times (perfectly complete AND completely prefect and complete [will explain a little later]).  Through the parable, we come to understand the depths of God’s mercy toward us and the results of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

 

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To the question Peter asks about how often forgiveness is to be granted (verse 21), Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit (verse 22).  He further illustrates His answer with a parable about the unmerciful and unforgiving servant (verses 23–34).  Through this parable, Jesus is warning ALL OF US that His heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment as that given to the unmerciful servant (verse 35). 

Matthew 18:21–22 corresponds to Luke 17:4:

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:4).

However, today’s parable and Jesus’ final warning are distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  It is suggested by some biblical scholars that today’s parable did not originally belong to this situation.  This reason is that it really does not deal with repeated forgiveness, which is the point of Peter’s question and Jesus’ reply.

 

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Why does Peter ask Jesus (in verse 21) if he must forgive someone “as many as seven times”?  For part of the answer, let’s look at the meaning of the number seven in Holy Scripture. (Information obtained from http://www.BibleStudy.org.)

Seven, in Hebrew, is “shevah”.  It is from the root, “savah”, meaning to be full or satisfied.  Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root meaning of fullness and complete satisfaction.  On the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation.  His creation was full and complete, and good and perfect.  Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it.  Hence the word, “Shavath”, means to cease, desist, rest, and “Shabbath”, “Sabbath”, is the “day of rest”.  

It is seven, therefore, that impresses (and means) perfection and completeness in connection with which it is used.  It marks off the week of seven days, which, arbitrary as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance among all nations, and in all times.  A “Seven Day Week” passes on an eternal “Sabbath-keeping”, which “keeps on” for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.

 

In the creative works of God, “seven” completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow; it satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In both, the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Another meaning of the root, “Savah”, is to swear, or make an oath.  This oath is clear from its first occurrence in Genesis:

“This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there.” (Genesis 21:31),  

in which this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs“:

“Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, and Abimelech asked him, ‘What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’  Abraham answered, ‘The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.’ (Genesis 21:28-30),

points to the idea of satisfaction or fullness in an oath.  

 

The Greek translation of “Seventy-seven times” (verse 22) corresponds exactly to a verse in Genesis:

“If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:24).

There is a probable reference, though by difference, to limitless vengeance implied in the verse relating to “Lamech” in the Genesis text.  However, Jesus’ answer demands “limitless forgiveness” – – Perfectly AND Completely – – on the part of His disciples!!

 

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The “Master” in today’s parable decides to settle accounts with his servants.  We are told that one particular servant owed him an “enormous” sum of money.  Although the servant promises to repay everything, it is unlikely that he would ever be able to repay the debt that he owes.  However, the Master listens to his servant and is moved by the humility of his pleading, and mercifully forgives the entire debt.  

God will settle our account which we have with Him, in the SAME way we settle our accounts with others.  Let us all remember the “Golden Rule”:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

So, how much did this servant owe.  You will be amazed at what I found out about this debt.  A huge amount, per biblical scholars, literally meant, “ten thousand talents” (per NAB footnotes).  The “talent” (A Hebrew coin) was a unit of coinage of high, yet varying value, depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only in today’s reading, and in the “Parable of the Talents” (cf., Matthew 25:14–30).

To emphasize the worth of a “talent”, it took 8883 denaii (=/-)* to make ONE talent.  One denarius (a Roman coin) was the usual payment for an entire days work.  Thus, ten thousand talents was equivalent to payment for slightly over 204,203 YEARS of work (I assume pre-taxed).  In Jesus’ time, this amount would have been greater than the total revenue of an entire province!  (This “Master” must have been the “Bill Gates” of his day.)  [* per “Talents (Biblical Hebrew) to Denarius (Biblical Roman) Conversion Calculator”]

 

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In those days, justice was swift.  Justice will also be swift at the “Final Judgment” (the Parousia) as well.  At the Parousia, it will be TOO LATE to justify your account; it needs to be taken care of NOW!!

The servant says to his master, “I will pay you back in full” (verse 26).  This is a grossly empty promise, given the size of his “enormous” debt.  As I said a moment ago, there was no probable way he could ever repay such a large amount.

There is no offence which can be done to us that would compare with OUR debt to God the Father!  We have been forgiven a debt way beyond all paying, just like the servant in this reading.  In order to ransom our debt of sin, God the Father gave up His only begotten Son.  And God the Son (Jesus Christ) paid our debt (my debt and your debt!)!  If God forgave each of us our debt to Him, which was (and still is) very great, “enormous” in fact, then we too must forgive others the debt they owe us, completely and perfectly!!

The servant asked for forgiveness, and his “Master” granted his request.  All we have to do is two things.  First, acknowledge our sins and call it by name.  And second, to ask sincerely for forgiveness.  God, our Father, our Master, will certainly grant our personal request as well.  Do not hesitate: go to confession NOW!! – – (PLEASE!)

 

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Rather than displaying gratitude for this forgiveness, the servant confronted a fellow servant who owed him a small debt, a pittance when compared with the amount owed to his Master.  The unmerciful servant refused the pleas of his fellow servant, sending him to prison.

Did this servant show the same kindness and mercy toward another that was shown to him? … NO!!  He “sought out” another who owed him a debt of just a few hundred denarii: “a much smaller amount” (verse 28).  Remember, a denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer, and the difference between these two debts is enormous.  This comparison (or actually, a lack of comparison due to the enormous difference in amount) signals a lesson in the absurdity and travesty of the conduct from a Catholic Christian who has received a great grace (a beautiful gift) of forgiveness from God the Father, then refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses done to him by others.

“I wouldn’t do that!” may be your response.  Well, remember this reflection the next time someone does something nice for you, and you repay by ridiculing, slandering, or defaming another only a short time later.  Have you ever received Christ in the Eucharist, and then thought poorly of another in the communion line; or, said (even yelled) a swear word to another while driving home from THAT mass?  Hmm!!

 

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Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven.  If we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us.  If we want mercy shown to us, we must be ready to forgive others as God the Father has already forgiven us (Because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, His investment in us.).

Remember, your actions have repercussions.  If you treated others of God creation with disrespect, why would you expect “respect” from God the Creator?  If you disregard others, God will most certainly disregard you as well.  Hmm, think of these words: “disrespect” and “disregard”.  If you “dis-” others, God the Father will “dis-” you as well. 

 

Then, a few other servants tell the merciful Master about the unforgiving actions of his servant.  Then the Master calls his servant to an account; and punishes the “unforgiving servant” because he refused to show the same kind of mercy given to him previously from his Master.  Jesus, in today’s parable, concludes by declaring emphatically that this is how it will be with God the Father toward those who refuse to forgive another.

Just like Santa Claus, God the Father knows who has been “Naughty and Nice”.  He doesn’t need a checklist or a group of “elves” to keep track of our sins and iniquities since they are written on our souls.  Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can wipe the soul totally clean.

 

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The servant’s Master in today’s reading was “dissed” with the servant’s actions towards another as well.  He summoned him, he judged him; and he sentenced him.  It was too late for repaying any debt, any amount.  Since this “sinners’ debt was so great as to be realistically un-payable (verse 34), his punishment would be endless.

Interestingly, in this thought, I find some relative comfort and hope.  If our sins are too great, our reward will obviously be eternal damnation and separation, the ultimate “dis-” appointment.  However, knowing I am not an angelic being (my mother and wife call me a “fallen” angel anyway), I know that a small amount of sin will not permanently separate me from my Lord.  There is hope in knowing that a small amount of sin and iniquities can be purified in “purgatory” prior to ascending to the highest heaven.  There are many references in both the Old and New Testaments to a place we know as “Purgatory”.  Here is just two:

Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:26)”,

And,

Nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies.  Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelations 21:27).

(Regarding “purgatory”, please review the following: Matthew 5:48, 12:32, 12:36; Hebrew 12:14; James 1:14-15, 3:2; 1 John 5:16-17;  2 Samuel 12:13-14; 2 Maccabees 12:44-46; 1 Corinthians 3:15, 15:29-30; 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6; and 2 Timothy 1:16-18.  (If you know of others, please let me know.)

 

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To summarize, God the Father’s forgiveness has already been given to us through Jesus’ Sacrificial investment in me and all of us, through our baptism, and continuing through the special graces of all the Sacraments which perfectly complete and mature us as members of the Catholic Church, God’s family on earth.  Jesus made it very clear that God the Father will also withdraw His mercy and forgiveness at the “Final Judgment” for those who have not imitated His forgiveness by their own actions during their earthly life:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

 There is an ever-present temptation to quantify forgiveness as Peter tried to do.  But, Jesus’ point is one of forgiveness – – NOT in quantity, (the number of times we extend forgiveness to another) – – but in the quality of attitude, i.e., in perfect and complete mercy (forgiveness) to ALL, even unto our enemies.   

 

In today’s parable, the Master’s forgiveness is analogous to God’s forgiveness toward us.  His forgiveness and mercy should be used to transform us, (inside – outside), helping us to be as forgiving as God the Father is toward us.  The lesson, the moral of the story, is exceptionally clear: If we hoard God’s mercy while showing no mercy to others, we, in fact, forfeit the effects of God’s mercy in our lives.

The Evangelist James says that judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy:

“Judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:13). 

Mercy is a true gift – – a grace – – offered in a way in which “justice” is not disregarded.  Mercy “seasons” justice as “salt” seasons meat and vegetables, giving them flavor.  Mercy follows justice, and “perfects” it.  Mercy, with justice, is a delightful meal to consume, and is exactly what we obtain with each Eucharistic celebration. 

 

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To conclude, we learned (and continue to learn) to trust God’s mercy and forgiveness through experiencing forgiveness from those closest to us, our family and friends.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that forgiveness is measured by its quality more than its quantity.

Consider times recently when you or another sought the forgiveness of another.  Were any statements made, putting “conditions” on forgiveness, such as “I will do this if you do that” or “I will accept your apology if or when ….”  

Do you sometimes “keep count” or “put conditions” on your forgiveness of another?  Do you find yourself sounding like Peter, concerned with quantity of forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness abundantly and unconditionally? – – rather than offering forgiveness perfectly and completely?  This is something you may be doing without even realizing, so please reflect on your attitude, as well as your behavior when offering forgiveness. 

What does the servant do to make his Master so angry, so “dissed”?  Well, the answer is simple: he refuses to forgive his fellow man’s debt.  Because we have all received God’s forgiveness, God the Father expects that we will also be forgiving toward others.  Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?  Please, please, PLEASE release these vices, these hindrances, and these malice’s toward others, before it is TOO LATE!!

Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times to forgive another, at the end of today’s parable, is found in the attitude and intention to forgive, as described in the following words:

“… forgives his brother from his heart(Matthew 18:35).

Therefore, the number of times we forgive another is, in reality, less important than the depth of our forgiveness.  So, we must forgive one another from the heart, and with unconditional love – – perfectly and completely! – – Because God has forgiven us from His heart, with unconditional love, perfectly and completely – – FIRST!!

 

 

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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.

 

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)

 

A sermon he heard at age 15 inspired today’s saint to become a missionary in China.  There he met a brutal death on a cross for refusing to renounce his faith.

Born in France in 1802, Jean-Gabriel became a Vincentian priest.  He displayed so many gifts and had such fine personal and spiritual qualities that, for a time, his religious order kept him busy closer to home.

He finally received permission to begin his missionary endeavors in 1835.  After a 1,000-mile trip by boat and foot across three provinces, he arrived in central China.  In one early letter written to his community in Paris he described himself as a curious sight: “my head shaved, a long pig-tail, stammering my new languages, eating with chopsticks.”

He soon joined the Vincentians in helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and in educating them in the Catholic faith.  He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity.  He was tortured and interrogated for months.  Almost one year later he was executed by strangling while hanging on a cross.

St. Jean-Gabriel was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.  Chinese government officials denied permission for any public Mass commemorating the new saint.

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:

 

Peace

 

What does the liturgy at Mass mean when it uses the word “Peace” several times before Communion?

Is the “sign of peace” at Mass – only a gesture? … Or, is it a prayer? 

What meanings do I give the “sign of peace” at Mass?

Do we (do I) let Christ “guide our feet into the way of peace”?

How do examples and principles of prominent people (and neighbors) in our lifetime fulfill your call to peace? 

Can you give examples?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

11. Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

 Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

 

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12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

 

 

“May the Best Man Lose His Life – – to Jesus!” – Matthew 18:15-20†


 

Twenty-Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • 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:

 

Popes Prayer Intentions for September

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asks that we join him in prayer for the “concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the missions.”  These are our Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

GENERAL INTENTION:
That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

MISSIONARY INTENTION:
That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

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Next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of this country’s attack by fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists.  Please pray for all the affected souls (dead and alive) from this disaster of pure hated.  Lord, please be in our prayers, hearts and mind, on this sad, yet glorious day.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   422 – St Boniface I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1085 – Death of Irmgarde van Keulen, German countess of Aspel/saint
†   1571 – Catholic coup in Scotland
†   1781 – Los Angeles, California, is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion) by 44 Spanish settlers.
†   1918 – Jhr Ch Ruys de Beerenbrouck, Jhr. Charles Joseph Maria Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (1 December 1873 – 17 April 1936) was a Dutch nobleman and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1918 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933, who becomes 1st Dutch Catholic premier

(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:

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 

(NAB Matthew 18:15-20) 15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship?  Jesus offers His disciples a special grace of spiritual freedom and power for restoring the broken or injured relationships within His faith community.  He makes it very clear that His followers should not tolerate a break, infringement, or outright violation in relationships among themselves.

This reading gives direction to the actions of Jesus Christ’s reputable disciples toward those who have strayed from their teachings and practices.  Today’s discourse is the “how-to” for dealing with someone who sins, and yet continues within the community (Sort of like many of our present day Catholic Legislators).  Them, and many others in the Catholic Church today are “Catholics Only In Name”: “COINs”!!

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from a part of Matthew’s book which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order discourse”.  In this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly, openly, and frankly about Catholic (Universal) Church discipline and Church order.  

Today’s reading is only one of two instances wherein Jesus uses the word “church” in Matthew’s Gospel.  In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ “Word” and teachings, we can also hear and experience reverberations of the kinds of questions and problems faced by the first-century Catholic Christian community for whom he wrote.

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Not in today’s reading, but found immediately prior to this reading (Matthew 18:1-14), is the first part of the “discourse on the Church.  Matthew addresses the Catholic Christian community’s concern about hierarchy.  In this previous “first” part, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  His response indicated that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children!!  He further cautioned the “church leaders” who might lead His disciples going astray – – off path of salvation, by accident or purposely.

Next is today’s part, the second section of Jesus’ “discourse on the Church”, Matthew 18:15-20.  Here, Jesus addresses a very common occurrence in the early Christian community: a dispute between two or more members of His Catholic Church.

Sin must be confronted, and help must be offered, in restoring a damaged personal or communal relationship of love, trust, and faith.  When these relationships between brothers and sisters of Christ are damaged, then we must spare no effort; we must use all resources – – human and divine – – to help the brother or sister “at fault” to see their error, and to set the relationship “just and righteous” again.

Regardless of the decision in dealing with one in error, the church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven – – by God the Father Himself.  The three-step process of rectification in today’s reading relates (though not exactly) to the Qumran community procedures found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8).

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In the conclusion of today’s reading, Jesus ends with a proverb about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to a very small number of prayers (Hope hopeful is this!!).  Jesus Christ is always in “the midst” of any gathering of His disciples, no matter how small.

After reading and reflecting on this Gospel reading multiple times, I wonder whether this context of prayer, as portrayed in today’s reading, has anything to do with the preceding judgment of the unrepentant sinner.  It seems uncertain in context, but not in concept.  Let’s see what I say about this, in detail, later.

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Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters in a fair way; a procedure which continues, in a very similar form, to this day.  First, the victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement.  If this fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront – – in a loving manner – – the “offender” again.  If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire church community.

Finally, and sadly, if the offender refuses to adhere to the restoration arranged by and approved by the church community, then Jesus Christ Himself suggests the “offender” may be expelled from the Church, – – “excommunicated”.

 

Jesus starts His discourse with a profound and heavily-laden theological sentence:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) 

Your brother”, from verse 15, is the colloquial term for a Catholic Christians fellow disciple in Christ.

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8).  

The bracketed words, “against you”, (also in verse 15) are words widely attested to in many versions of Holy Scripture.  However, they are not in the ancient manuscript texts, “Sinaiticus” and “Vaticanus”, nor in some other written documents.  Their omission in these important documents only broadens the type of sin in question to ANY type of sin!  

Still in verse 15, “Won over” literally means “gained.”  Saying, “we won over this person”, means this person has come too understood, and corrected his fault.  In doing so, he has gained his own personal insight, and, at the same time, you gain a friend and companion on your faith journey.

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Taking two or three with you as witnesses (verse 16) when confronting a person who is in error, is not a new concept.  In actuality, this exact model is even covered in Moses writings, the Torah:

One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

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What is meant by the word “church” (verse 17) in this reading?  The words, “the church” is the second of the only two instances of this specific word in Matthew’s Gospel; the other being Matthew 16:18:  

“I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Here, it refers not to the entire church of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 16:18, but instead, to the local congregation instead.

 

Also in verse 17, what did Jesus mean when He said, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”?  Well, history shows that in first-century Palestine, observant and pious Jews avoided any interaction with “Gentiles” and “tax collectors” – – “heathen sinners”!!  In the same way, Catholic Jewish-Christian disciples of this biblical time also had to separate themselves from the arrogantly un-repented, sinful member who refused to repent, even when convicted of his sin by the whole church (his brothers and sisters in Christ).  This person was (and still is) to be put outside the fellowship of the Catholic Church community; he or she is “excommunity-cated”.

 

The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector points to a stage in Matthew’s first-century Catholic (Universal) Church, wherein, it was principally composed of Jewish Christians.  Though this period of a “Jewish-only” Catholic Church has long since passed, the principle of exclusion (including the severest form, excommunication) for such a sinner remains to this day, and has spread from Matthew’s local church, to the entire worldwide church community.  Saint Paul even made a similar demand for excommunication in his first letter to the Corinthians (Corinthians 5:1-13), in regards to incest and pride:

“It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.  And you are inflated with pride.  Should you not rather have been sorrowful?  The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2).

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus’ instruction (and if anyone knew about sin, he did!!):

 

When any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound.  Therefore ‘rebuke him between thee and him alone,’ intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.  For it may be that through shamefacedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse.  ‘Rebuke him’ therefore ‘between him and thee alone.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;’ because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it.  But ‘if he: will not hear thee,’ that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, ‘take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’  Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren.  But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected.  For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.” (Sermon 82.7)

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What can we learn from today’s reading, along with the above passage from St. Augustine, about how to repair a damaged relationship?  

If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus Christ says the first step is to speak directly, yet privately, to the individual who has done you harm.  The worst thing one can do is dwell on any grievance, poisoning the mind, heart and soul.  Retaining grievances (resentment) makes it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.  If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it “face-to-face” and “heart-to-heart”.  

If this fails to resolve the issue, then the second step is to bring another person (or persons) to help in the “repair of the relationship”.  This “witness” should be mature, wise, and compassionate person rather than someone who may be equally hot-tempered and/or judgmental.  Remember, the goal is not to put the “offender” on trial, but to persuade the “offender” to see his error, and to be reconciled with each other (and the church).  

If this loving (and second) interaction fails, we still must not give up.  Instead we should seek the help of the entire Catholic Christian community – – the “Church”.  Notice the emphasis and importance is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Catholics, who will pray, seeking a solution for reconciling the matter, based on Christian love and wisdom rather than relying on coercive force, threats, and legal action.

Lastly, if the church fails to bring about reconciliation, what else is there to do?  Jesus Christ says we have the right to abandon stubborn and inflexible offenders, treating them like social outcasts.  

The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religiously pious Jews.  However, we know from Holy Scripture that Jesus was often a companion and friend of tax-collectors; He ate with them, and even praised them at times!  Even if excommunicated, we should always hope and pray for a conversion of heart in the “offender”, and reconciliation with the church family.

 

Jesus does not discourage, in any way, disagreements within the Church community.  After all, being human in nature, disagreements are inevitable.  He even acknowledged the reality of conflict and error in our world, and offers His disciples a specific, respectful, and loving means for addressing such matters.  

I love what Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said about disagreeing with the “infallible teachings” of the Magisterium:

“You have two choices if you disagree with the Church’s infallible teachings:

1)  Change your mind, or
2)  Change your mind!!”

(Bonus Trivia Question:  Can you name ALL the “infallible” teachings of the Catholic Church.  You may be surprised at how many there are in fact.  The answer will be at end of today’s reflection.)

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Let’s go on to the next verse:

“I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

Except for the use of both singular and plural verbs for “bind” and “loose” in verse 18, it is practically identical with Mathew 16:19b:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:19b).

Many bible scholars take it as a granting (a grace given) to all Jesus’ disciples what was previously given to Peter (the first Pope) alone.

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It is in the conclusion to today’s reading (verses 19 & 20) that a great message of hope is found: Jesus is “truly” present with the Catholic Church community, and will guide His Church community in its relationships.  If decisions are taken to Him in prayer, then His church community can be assured of the Holy Trinity’s assistance.

 

Some bible scholars take verses 19 and 20 as relating to “prayer” when the church community gathers in order to deal with the specific un-repentant sinner of verse 17.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17).

Unless an “a fortiori” argument (argument “from [the] stronger [reason]”) is assumed, this seems unlikely to me.  After all, God’s answer to the prayer of “two or three” (as stated in both verse 19 AND 20) envisions a different situation than prayer involving the entire church body (the congregation).  In addition to this argument for a separate meaning and purpose, the object of “prayer” in today’s reading is expressed in the most general of terms, as it expresses “anything for which they are to pray”, and is not specific to the un-repentant sinner.

 

However, this last verse of today’s great message is one of “hope inspired by a grace”, from Jesus Christ Himself:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

His presence guarantees the value, merit, and importance of prayer.  This verse is similar to one attributed to an unknown Rabbi, executed in 135 A.D., at the time of the second Jewish revolt:

“…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3).

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In conclusion, conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family, church, and societal life.  Yet, within these groups, we are given an opportunity to learn how to “fairly” resolve disagreements by treating people with love and respect.

It needs to be reiterated, Jesus Christ refuses NO ONE who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.  A call to accountability is inevitable, and we can’t escape it, both in this life, and at the “Day of Judgment” (the “Parousia”) when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Do you tolerate broken relationships?  Or, do you seek to repair, restore, and amend relationships in the way God gives you, through opportunity and His grace given process?  While we have the opportunity to do so in this life, we must not give up on our stubborn, inflexible, “offenders”.  Instead, take every opportunity and make all effort to win them back into the fold – – with, in, and through the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.  

This week, reflect on your way of resolving disputes at work, and at home.  What kinds of things produce disagreements for you?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples the proper way to handle conflicts within the Catholic (Universal) Christian community – – the Church.  Try to summarize Jesus’ steps He personally proposed for resolving conflicts.  How might today’s Gospel enlighten you in handling disagreements?  

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promised (and still promises) He will help those who pray to Him with their needs.  Pray that you (and your family and friends) will learn to handle inevitable conflicts in a respectful, loving, Christian way.

 

(Bonus Trivia Question Answer:  There are only TWO “ex cathedra” (infallible) teachings in the Catholic Church; both are about the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

First, is her “Immaculate Conception”, declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.  And the second is about her bodily “Assumption” into heaven, declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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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 “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, I have greatly sinned and later adds through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

 

Rose achieved sainthood in only 18 years of life.  Even as a child Rose had a great desire to pray and to aid the poor.  While still very young, she began a life of penance in her parents’ house.  She was as generous to the poor as she was strict with herself.  At the age of 10 she became a Secular Franciscan and soon began preaching in the streets about sin and the sufferings of Jesus.

Viterbo, her native city, was then in revolt against the pope.  When Rose took the pope’s side against the emperor, she and her family were exiled from the city.  When the pope’s side won in Viterbo, Rose was allowed to return. Her attempt at age 15 to found a religious community failed, and she returned to a life of prayer and penance in her father’s home, where she died in 1251.  Rose was canonized in 1457.

Comment:

The list of Franciscan saints seems to have quite a few men and women who accomplished nothing very extraordinary.  Rose is one of them.  She did not influence popes and kings, did not multiply bread for the hungry and never established the religious order of her dreams.  But she made a place in her life for God’s grace, and like St. Francis before her, saw death as the gateway to new life.

Quote:

Rose’s dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God.  Live so as not to fear death.  For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”

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:

 

Peace

 

How do you explain what “peace” is? 

What are some different meanings for the word “peace” – among governments, neighbors, in families, relationships?

What did Francis mean by this word: “Peace”?

What does Sacred Scripture mean by this word: “Peace”?

Since we are called to be “peacemakers” by Christ, go line by line and explain how each suggestion (pledge line) of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis [above] helps promote peace.

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsections #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. 

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.   Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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05.  Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.