Monthly Archives: October 2011

“I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12†


 

Thirty-First 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 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:

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, this week.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  I hope to see you all in Church.  This year, this past Wednesday, marks the 45th Anniversary of my father’s death.  I miss him, but know he (and my Mom) is (are) with me every single Eucharistic celebration.  In preparation for All Saints Day, let’s pray for greater courage in fighting abortion.

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Tomorrow night is Halloween.  Please be safe in all your Ghoulishly Christian endeavors.  If you have children that go “trick or treat”, please use the usual safety rules:

  1. 1.     Reflective material or flashing light or cyalume stick visible on all side placed on costume,
  2. 2.     Parent accompany the children on the haunt and haunting activities,
  3. 3.     Only go to homes where you know the occupants, and
  4. 4.     Inspect any treats prior to allowing children to have and/or consume.

Better yet, go to a party at yours or neighboring church (yet still follow the rules).

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Finally, The St. Louis Carinals are the Baseball World Champions.   There 11th World Champions in 2011 (“11 in 11”).  Besides the team, the fansare also the best.  The city is celebrating, people are hugging perfect strangers and NO rioting, breaking windows, or any other BAD behavior!  We have to be the greatest and classiest fans, not only in baseball, but in sports period!  Way to go Cardinals Nation, and way to go St.Louis Area for once again showing the world the proper and GREAT way to celebrate – –  with CLASS!  (thanks Jeff)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   701 – John VI of Greece begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   942 – Alberic nominates Pope Marinus II (Martinus III)
†   1270 – The Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis end by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis.
†   1389 – French king Charles VI visits pope Clemens VII
†   1534 – English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII head of the English church – a role formerly held by the Pope
†   1950 – Pope Pius XII witnesses “The Miracle of the Sun” while at the Vatican.
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Artemas; St. Herbert; St. Marcellus the Centurion; St. Saturninus; St. Serapion

(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 warning against following of the Scribes and the Pharisees example; and teaches that those who would be great must be servants as well.

 

(NAB Matthew 23:1-12) 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  4 They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  5All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’  8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  11The greatest among you must be your servant.  12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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 Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel continues to expand on the tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders.  Having finished a string of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus is now directing His words to the crowds following Him, warning them not to follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees in “saying” – – but not “doing”.

Today, Matthew’s begin a narrative in which Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees for their lack of humility. Matthew, in his writings, saw these Temple leaders as true enemies of Jesus (cf., Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; and Mark 8:11–13, 15).

Who were these men of “faith” that could be enemies of Jesus?  The Scribes and Pharisees were teachers of Mosaic Law.  They were entrusted with the laws interpretation, and thus were influential in determining everyday Jewish practices.  

In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing His teachings on the exact same laws and traditions offered to the Temple leaders, as found in the Old Testament, especially the Torah.  Both Jesus and the Temple leaders were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to adapt it to contemporary Jewish life of the time.  The differences between Jesus’ and the Temple leader’s teachings therefore, are often highlighted and amplified in Matthew’s Gospel.

While there is a well-seated and lengthy tradition of deep opposition existing between Jesus and the Temple leaders, today’s discourse by Jesus, exposes an opposition that goes far beyond that of Jesus’ ministry period on earth.  This opposition has to be viewed as expressing the long-held and very bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church, when this Gospel was composed.  Matthew’s Church is believed to have included many who did not believe a break with the Temple was necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ (My question: Was it?).  So, Matthew reports of Jesus stating that it is correct to “do” and “observe” what the Scribes and Pharisees teach; it is only their “example” that is to be avoided. Namely, Jesus is talking of the Temple leaders love for being honored and exalted (I call it the “look at me, I did much good” syndrome).  Therefore, today’s Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate that is occurring within the later first century Church and the Pharisaic Jewish church.

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The Temple leaders are sitting on their “laurels” – – their own personal glory – – and not sitting with God in mind and present among them.  So, is this what Jesus meant when He said:

The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:2)?  

It is not clear whether Jesus meant this is a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority, or, actually referring to a physical chair on which the “priest or Rabbi” sat as he taught and governed.  After all, there were found to be known seats such as this, in synagogues of later periods.  Did Jesus foretell future events in Jewish religion, was it just a coincidence, or was there another meaning?  

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at just this one observation, but continues to a greater phase in His comments that the Temple leaders do not walk the talk:

 “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Matthew 23:3)

Jesus is not doing away with Mosaic Law, but is instead expounding upon – – amplifying and fulfilling – – Mosaic Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophetsI have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Remember, during the “Beatitudes” narrative, Jesus declared the “was said … but I say …” statements (cf., Matthew 5:31-42).  He is now also DIRECTLY warning His disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees, by their examples, as He did when talking of John the Baptist as a “true” servant of God (cf., 14:1-12).

The Scribes and Pharisees indults and actions in observing Mosaic Law in all things cannot be taken as the PROPER way to conduct oneself, then, and now in Jesus’ Catholic Church on earth today.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by conformity to salvation history and Mosaic Law.  At the same time, He is also points – – and leads – – to a new “church” that would exist after His death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  During Jesus’ ministry, the beginning of God the Father’s kingdom on earth, His mission remained within the framework of Mosaic Law, though with a significant anticipation of the age to come.  Keeping this fact in mind, the crowds following Jesus Christ and His disciples were encouraged not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders whose deeds did not conform to their teachings.

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Carrying a heavy load is certainly not any fun or joy for ANYONE.  In verse 4 of today’s reading is the phrase, “They tie up heavy burdens”.  This particular phrase reminds me of Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom while submitting to the Church’s “yoke”.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instructionTake her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sirach 51:23, 26)

Jesus is reminding His follows that though burdened by the “law” as expanded on by the Scribes and Pharisees, that there is a undeniable hope in a faith and love to God the Father.  Those “burdened” can find rest in the “true” Word of God:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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To the indictment of the Temple leaders of preaching – – yet not practicing – – the “true” faith (verse 3), Jesus adds the indictment of “acting in order to earn praise”.  The disciples have already been warned against this same fault when Jesus taught about alms-giving, prayer, and fasting much earlier in His ministry (cf., Matthew 6:1-18).

Jesus is alluding to two specific aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses, for which many Catholics are not aware.  These two aspects, and two words associated with these aspects, are used in verse 5 of the Gospel.  Let me explain the items: “phylacteries” and “tassels”, and their proper use.

Phylacteries” are an item of clothing required by Mosaic Law during periods of prayer.  They are simple, small, and usually black boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture are written.  They are worn on the left forearm and on the forehead by black straps (cf., Exodus 13:9, 16; and Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).  If you watch people at the remains of the Temple wall (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), you will notice these small black boxes on their foreheads, and strapped (with long pieces of leather) around their left forearm, as they pray facing the wall.  These are the same phylacteries in use today, as in Jesus’ time.

The “Tassels” (officially called “Tzitzit”) are the “fringe” Mosaic Law prescribes to be worn on the corners of one’s garment (such as the prayer shawl) as a reminder to keep the commandments.  The widening of phylacteries (bigger boxes) and the lengthening of tassels (longer fringe and tassels) were solely for the purpose of making these “proofs of piety” more noticeable and pronounced.  (Humility in its finest; isn’t it!)

In their misguided zeal, the Temple leaders sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers.  They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith – – a burden – – rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to “humbly serve”.

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It is obvious Jesus loved His Father and His faith.  Jesus Christ was not afraid to express His concerns about the way the Temple leaders were abusing their positions for personal gain.  Jesus did not “bow out” or “quit” out of frustration.  Instead, Jesus Christ brought His Catholic (universal) Church into union with God His Father, and gave all that believed (and still believes) in Him the possibility of eternity salvation in paradise.  

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues actually leads to increased greed and separation from God the Father.  Another Evangelist, Mark, in his Gospel, even warns of greed and arrogance:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.’” (Mark 12:38-40)

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We now get to the second portion of Jesus’ discourse today: the warning against using various titles.  This section however, is addressed to the disciples alone, and not to the followers coming along for the ride, or the Temple leaders.  

Everybody loves a title.  I once had a title: “Director of Quality Assurance”, which meant I was reportedly in charge of a very important aspect of my company.  In reality, my jobs consisted mainly of filing papers, and counting various variables, in an office BY MYSELF (and with no staff).  (Not as glamorous as the job sounded on my business card.)

Temple leaders loved the name, “Rabbi”, meaning “my great one, or, teacher”.  It was (and still is) a title of respect for teachers and leaders.  Jesus was called “Rabbi” many times in Holy Scripture.  At age fifteen, He was even found teaching in the Temple (the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).  A large part of His earthly ministry involved being in or around the Temple frequently.  He was easily recognized as the leader of a group of people associated with the Jewish religion.

So, was Jesus against calling anyone “rabbi” or “father”?  Or, was He just directing this sharp rebuke solely to the Scribes and Pharisees? Well, I believe He was warning both His disciples and the Temple leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors in order to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others.  Holy Scripture gives more than enough warning about the danger of self-seeking “pride”.  Examples can be found in the books of Proverbs and James:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) 

And,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6),

While only the title ‘Rabbi’ is used in addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, I believe the inference is that “Father” and “Master” was also used.  The prohibition of these titles – – to Jesus’ disciples – – highly suggests that the use of these titles was present in Matthew’s first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  Per Matthew, Is Jesus forbidding the “title” or the spirit of superiority and pride shown by their acceptance (or both)?

Saint Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD), and the bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin language, comments on Matthew’s Gospel reading:

Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity.  For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives.  One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher.  I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption.  Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

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Humility is the key to piety and love of the Trinitarian God.  The Evangelist, Luke, says of humility:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Our Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme example of how to live a humble life.  The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order states:

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently (#9),

And,

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 (11).

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 In Summary, the warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the future Catholic communities as well as the Jewish leaders of His day.  Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us LOUDLY today (Yet, cannot, or will not, be heard by many).  Catholic Christian leadership is a call to “service” for the glory of God!!  Like Jesus Christ, and His Virginal Mother, those who would be leaders among us must be “servants of ALL”.

St. Paul described “servant leadership” in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He recalled their “sharing”, their humility in serving the Church, and their “toil and drudgery”:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.  You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Although the challenging words of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel was directly addressed to religious leaders of His time, many voices today should still question those in positions of political and economic power.  In their own words, participants in the “Occupy Together” movement have accused individuals, groups, and businesses of greed, arrogance and corruption.  Yet, they don’t (are won’t) see the greed, arrogance, and lawlessness on their own part.  For me, most in both groups: the US Government and in the group of “wildly greedy individuals” are equal partners in greed, arrogance, and corruption.  Their actions of removing themselves from laws (by law and action) prove their lack of caring for the people they are suppose to “serve”.  Arrogance thrives in our halls of government, and in parks around the world (with the “Occupy” groups) today.

 

There is hope however.  Respect for God and His ways will dispose us to humility and simplicity of heart.  The word “disciple” means “one who listens in order to learn”.  Jesus shows us the way to God the Father, the sure and true way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness.  He showed us “the way” by lowering Himself as a servant for our sake:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

What is true Christ-like humility?  It is when humility is “lived” with a true self-knowledge; seeing Jesus’ Christ in each and every person we meet.  The humbled do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and the power of His love and saving grace.  True humility is a “servant-like” quality, enabling us to place our life in the service of God and neighbor. Do you have a joy for Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?  Are you following Jesus’ example of service to others – with Humility?

Our response to economic and political concerns, should be to “model” humble servant leadership, and seek the same from those in positions of extraordinary power.  Remember, November 8th (Election Day) is right around the corner.  So, practice what you peach!”  What does this mean to you?  Can you list some examples of people you know who “practice what they preach”?  In these people, what do you observe in them, and what do you admire about them?

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  How many of us have been tempted to say (or actually have said) this phrase to our children and co-workers (Yep, I have)?  Today’s Gospel resounds with Jesus’ reply, “Practice what you preach.”  People, who know us best, can identify the [many] inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we actually give – – so ask, if you aren’t afraid.  

Maybe the challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency a love, faith, and hope in the Catholic Christian “way of life” we wish to teach our loved ones.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus Christ talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith.  How might you better practice the Catholic faith you professed at your Baptism and Confirmation (and at every Mass).  TODAY, choose an “action” to take which shows your faith – – in action.  Pray together that your faith will be shown consistently in your actions AND words.  Remember, God opens doors and gives you what you need to “act” on His behalf, so use the gifts and talents God has given you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

“LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.  Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.  Amen.”  Psalm 131:1-3

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

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

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23.  Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor.  Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life.  He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home.  There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits.  He was not helped by his poor education.  He applied twice before being admitted.  For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca.  When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian.  Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617.  He is the patron saint of Majorca.

Comment:

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life.  But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant.  None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness.  Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks.  Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched.  May they find such a friend in us!

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 and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

Why does Francis call us “Brothers and Sisters in Penance”?

Are we to really “hate” our bodies? (cf., Galations:5:13-21)

How much of Francis’ life was spent in penance and conversion?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Great, Another Question About the Greater Greatness!” – Matthew 22:34-40 †


 

Thirtieth 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:

 

Let’s put overpopulation in perspective.  There will be a total of 7 billion people in the world by the end of this month.  “Progressives” are concerned that this amount of people is too much, and the world is getting over-crowded.

Well, if each of the 7 billion people stood on a square three foot by three foot, the overall size would be 47.5 square miles, about the size of a couple typical counties in ONE state.

An acre of land is 208.7 feet per side.  For us “city dwellers”, an American football field is 360 feet by 160 feet, about 1.3 acres.  The United States land mass is 3,536,294 sq mi of land (No water is included in the figures).  SO, each of the 7 billion people on the earth can live within the US borders, and have about a 1/2 acre of property, EACH!  (That’s more than I have now.)

The Earth’s land mass is 57,500,000 sq mi (16.3 times larger than U.S. land mass).  With this in mind, each of the 7 billion people living RIGHT NOW can have about 8 acres of possible land, on average.  Eight acres is a plot of land 1670 feet on each side, or about a 1/3 mile, on each side.  That is about 50 football fields for EACH person on earth!!

THE WORLD IS NOT OVERPOPULATED.  From an ecological point of view, there are plenty of resources available for our NEEDS.  We just don’t want to share and/or pay for acquiring them!!  Overpopulation IS NOT the problem.  The real problem is two-fold: personal greed and materialism is!!

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I know a “good book” to read.  It is 2000 years old, and has 73 “chapters” [actually, books themselves] (some are missing 7, removed only a few hundred years ago).  It is filled with suspense, murder, love, war, sex, and mystery.  The interesting part is that everyone already knows the ending: the main character (and His followers) finally wins (actually won on day one*), but is still hard to put down.  This book comes in EVERY language spoken (including Braille), and is the most read book EVER (sorry Mark Twain).  (* What do you think about this “fact”?  Tell me what “day one” is for you?)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   502 – The Synodus Palmaris, called by Gothic king Theodoric the Great, discharges Pope Symmachus of all charges, thus ending the schism of Antipope Laurentius.
†   1450 – Death of Johannes van Capestrano, Italian saint, at age 70
†   1456 – Death of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (b. 1386)
†   1550 – Death of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (b. 1480)
†   1870 – Birth of Francis Kelley, Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma (d. 1948)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Giovanni da Capistrano; Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius; Saint Anthony Mary Claret; Saint Ignatius of Constantinople

(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:

 

 

“Love without faith is as bad as faith without love.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees continuing to test Jesus with a different question: about the greatest commandment.

 

(NAB Matthew 22:34-40) 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him,“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

This week’s Gospel follows closely behind, and is actually attached to last Sunday’s Gospel reading.  Today’s reading has the last of three questions put to Jesus by Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. 

The Herodians and the Pharisees asked the first question (in the Gospel two Sundays ago), about paying taxes to Caesar.  The Sadducees asked the second question (last Sunday), about the Resurrection (cf., Matthew 22:22-33).  The third question, today’s Gospel, is asked by a “Scholar” (probably by a Scribe and definitely a Pharisee), who asks Jesus which one of the ten is the “greatest” of the commandments.

Now, why do you think these groups are all questioning or testing Jesus Christ? Because these “pious” men are trying – – with all their power and knowledge – – to trick Jesus into saying something that could get Him arrested.  The background and context for today’s reading is one of mounting tension, hostility, and divisiveness between Jesus, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and the Jewish faithful.

Isn’t it interesting that all three religious factions (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes), plus a separate Jewish political group (the Herodians), all considered Jesus a threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles.  They all tried to trap Him, and none succeeded.

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Both the professional Scribes and the group of Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  Both made it a life-time practice to study the 616 “precepts” of the Old Testament, along with the many numerous Rabbinic “commentaries” (called the “Mitzvot”, Hebrew for “good deeds and acts of kindness”).  So, they tested Jesus to see whether He correctly understood the law as they did – – (not as they should).  

With this fact in mind, what is meant by Matthew reporting that Jesus was “tested”?  This verb is used often throughout the Gospels when attempts to embarrass Jesus’ occur.  These “tests” can be put into two differing challenges: to DO or to SAY something they believed impossible!   Attempts to challenge Jesus to DO something they believe impossible can be found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.”  (Matthew 16:1),

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” (Mark 8:11),

And,

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.”  (Luke 11:16).

The second challenge, having Jesus SAY something that can be used against Him, can also be found in two of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark):

Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?’” (Matthew 22:17-18); 

One of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’” (Matthew 22:35-36); 

“The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’  They were testing him.” (Mark 10:2), 

and,

“They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’” (Mark 12:14). 

It is obvious that these “pious” men wanted to trap Jesus in a “catch-22” situation.  He would be “damned” either way – – or so they thought!!

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For the devoutly pious Jew, ALL the commandments were to be kept with equal care.   In their questioning of Jesus, there is evidence of an obsession within the Jewish community about which “law” is the greatest:

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36).

Why would any Jewish person even care what “law” is the greatest when they should believe ALL the laws are indeed equal in status?  (Hmm?!)

Today’s question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses (the Scribes’ job in the Temple).  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and over six hundred additional rules, mostly originating in the Torah.  Adherence to the Mosaic Law, for a devoutly pious Jew, is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with “Israel” and there response bu obedience to these rules.  The ranking of the Commandments seemed to have been regularly debated among the teachers of the Law, even though ALL the Commandments were equal in importance, and today’s reading is a good proof of this.

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Interestingly, Jesus startled them with His profound simplicity and mastery of the “law of God”, and its true purpose.  In verse 37 of today’s reading, Jesus’ answer is simple and directly from the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, written by Moses through the Holy Spirit.  His answer can be found in the book of Deuteronomy:

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Matthew omitted the first part of the “fuller” quotation, found both in Deuteronomy and Mark’s Gospel:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-5);

Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’” (Mark 12:29-30).

Matthew may have omitted this first part of the quotation to focus on the fulfillment of the promises of the Holy One of Israel, for his first century Jewish-Catholic Church, rather than emphasizing the monotheistic (ONE God belief) of the Jewish faith.  Jesus Christ is the reality of, and fulfillment of that faith.  For me, what Jesus was declaring with His new, yet old, answer, is the top priority of the love for God to occupy the total person (heart, mind, and soul – – of both the Jew AND the Gentile)!!

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Jesus, in His unique quality of expanding the issue, goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him.  He joins to His “greatest and the first commandment” a second, “love of neighbor”, also found in the Torah:

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

Here’s a revelation for us – NOW, as well as the Jewish people listening to Jesus – THEN.  This combination of the two commandments, “love your God and Love your neighbor”, was already a part of Judaism.  In reality, Jesus DID NOT pronounce anything new to the Jewish people; He only emphasized what should have been recognized and lived by them ALREADY!!

This “double commandment” in today’s reading is the divine source from which the whole (Mosaic) law, and what the “Prophets” stated and affirmed in the Old Testament, originate.  “The Old lives in the New – – and the New fulfills the Old”!!  Only God has the capabilities, with a true authority, to divinely pronounce the “source” thousands of years after the Mosaic Laws had been well established.  After all, “He was, He is, and He will always BE!!”

Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question with a two-fold summary of faith.  He says that all of the commandments can be summarized in two [supplementary and complementary] commandments: “love God and love your neighbor”. Both of these directives were essential elements of the religious tradition Jesus learned as a youth, from His Jewish community.  Indeed, these two “old and new” commandments, together, still continue to be essential and important aspects of contemporary Jewish religious understanding today.  Jesus’ response to His “questioners” anticipates a vital relationship between these two aspects of the Jewish Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression in our “love for our neighbor”!!

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In Summary, we learn about “love” from real, “hard and true” examples witnessed in family life and outside the home by friends and neighbors.  We can “love God and love our neighbors” by showing everyday acts of charity, generosity, and kindness.  (Remember “Mitzvot”?)In doing so, we show (and do) our own expressions of “love for God”.  These acts, small and large, simple and extreme, are the expressions of what Jesus identified as the two greatest commandments: “love God and love neighbor”.

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What does God require of us Catholic Christians?  It is simply that we love as He loves! (Note the present tense!)  God IS love, and everything He does flows from His love for us.  God loved us first, and our love for Him is a response to His exceeding grace and kindness towards us.  The “love of God” comes first with the “love of neighbor” firmly anchored in the “love of God”.  They cannot be separated.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is immoral, hateful, and contrary to His kindness and love.  

What makes our love for God and His commands grow in, through, and out of each of us?  It is our Faith in God and hope in His promises that strengthens us in actual “loving of God.”  Faith, love, and hope are absolutely essential for a proper relationship with the Trinitarian God.  Faith, love, and hope are the links uniting us with Him.  The more we know of God, the more we love Him.  The more we love Him, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as He loves.  Is there anything keeping you from the love of God? – – and the joy of serving others with a generous heart?  – – Let us remember what Saint Paul says of hope and love:

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).

Do you know the love which conquers all?  I do!!  I hope you do too!!

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

“O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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 New Translation of the Mass

 

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

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

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Hilarion (c. 291-371)

 

Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire.  People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace.  He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honor.  Instead, he was buried in his home village.

St. Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine.  After his conversion to Christianity he spent some time with St. Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude.  Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair.  At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.

As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion.  He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world.  He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80.

Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine.  Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by St. Jerome.

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 and Penance

 

What is the meaning of “penance”?

What is the meaning of “worthy fruits of penance”?

What can God’s parental love mean in your life?

What is the greatest quality of a loving parent?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

 

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

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

“Is It Tax Time In God’s Kingdom?!” – Matthew 22:15-21†


     

 

Twenty-Ninth 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:

 

On this day, in 1940, the Nazi’s established the “Warsaw Ghetto”.  Ironically, six years later (1946) – on this date – ten Nazi war criminals of the Second World War, were condemned to death in the “War Trials” (Nuremberg), and are immediately hung.

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Seventy days left till most of us celebrate CHRISTinMASS.  I personally try to celebrate CHRISTinMASS as often as possible.  How ‘bout you?!

 

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1333 – Death of Nicolaas V, [Pietro Rainalducci], Italian anti-Pope (1328-30)
†   1591 – Death of Gregory XIV, [Niccolo Sfondrati], Italian Pope, at age 56
†   1594 – Death of William Cardinal Allen, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1532)
†   1690 – Death of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint, at age 43
†   1755 – Death of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (b. 1725
†   1855 – Birth of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1890 – Birth of Maria Goretti, Italian saint (d. 1902)
†   1978 – Pope John Paul II is elected in Rome.
†   Pope John Paul II Day in Poland

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

 

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees sending their disciples to test Jesus with a question about paying census taxes to the Emperor: Herod.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:15-21) 15 The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.  20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Payment of taxes is not likely to be a disputed issue in your life.  After all, Mark Twain’s famous saying is that the two “absolutes” in life are, “to pay taxes and dying”.  Yet, we can still learn something from today’s Gospel reading.  The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in the religion versus State issue.  Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians redirected their question to focus on the issue of greater importance: loving and honoring God.  Taking this perspective in our daily lives can help us make good judgments in dealing with conflicting issues of importance.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem (especially the Pharisee’s) continue their anxious, nervous, and stressed exchange of questions and challenges toward Jesus and His teachings.  They are afraid of Him, they know He is powerful, and they had to silence Him.  The point of today’s reading, the followers of the Temple Pharisees, along with the Herodians (the followers of Herod) consciously and maliciously try to entrap Jesus by their question with regard to the payment of census taxes.  This is not the first “clash” however.  The first encounter Jesus had with the Temple officials is described in Matthew 21, let’s look at it first:

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?’  Jesus said to them in reply, ‘I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?’  They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘If we say “Of heavenly origin,” he will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?”  But if we say, “Of human origin,” we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.’  So they said to Jesus in reply, ‘We do not know.’ He himself said to them, ‘Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Matthew 21:23–27).

In today’s reading, and in relating future disputes with the Temple leaders, Matthew follows Mark’s Gospel with few variations.

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Matthew, in this reading, puts together an unusual and uniquely strange partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans.  His collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law.  Along with his concessions, the Herodians and the Pharisees also made financial concessions.  The Herodians were willing to bend their interests, placing political over religious beliefs.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught a scrupulous and painstaking observance of Mosaic Law, and strongly opposed Roman occupation.  Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it.  In this reading, there are two severely opposing beliefs coming together for a common purpose: to destroy!!

Though Matthew maintains a joining together of the Pharisees and Herodians in this account, he clearly wished to emphasize the Pharisees’ part in the plot to discredit Jesus and His movement.  The Pharisees are solely mentioned in the first verse of today’s reading (Matthew 22:15).  The Herodians (followers of Herod) are joined with them only in the prepositional phrase of Mt 22:16:

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (Matthew 22:16)

The Pharisees wanted to “entrap Him [Jesus] in speech”.  With a covert intent, they posed a question, trying to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that would bring Him into conflict with the Roman authorities in Jerusalem.

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The help of the “Herodians”, supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, seemed to be needed in the deception of Jesus.  The Herodians were a political (and not religious) faction, who favored payment of the Roman imposed census taxes. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not favor the imposed taxes.  The Pharisees and Herodians were not friendly toward each other, and possibly even hostile toward each other, under “normal” circumstances.

So, why did they come together to trap Jesus in some sort of perceived “slanderous” statement?  The answer is quite easy: Jesus Christ was a common enemy to both of them.  To the Pharisees, He questioned their authority and teaching.  To the Herodians, He was a potential threat to their societal structure: He was revealing that both groups have gone astray from following the “Torah” of God the Father.  So, Jesus was perceived as “stirring the pot”, creating dissention within the Temple and Societal leadership itself. 

These men were as familiar with regard to Herod the Great was, 32 years prior (at Jesus’ birth), in regards to Old Testament prophecies of the “coming Savior Messiah”.  Both the Pharisees and the Herodians liked their lifestyles, and feared any change.

Per the Old Testament prophecies, the “Messiah” would:

1) come from David’s family and be heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalms 89:3-4, Psalms 110:1, Psalms 132:11, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-5, and Jeremiah 23:5);

2) have “Kings” bow down to Him (Psalms 72:10-11);

3) would bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and announce the release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1);

4) would enter the Temple “with authority” (Haggai 2:7-9, Malachi 3:1 );

And,

5) would be the cornerstone of God’s Messianic Community (Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22-23 ).  

Both, the Herodians and the Pharisees saw the people believing that Jesus of Nazareth was living out the Old Testament requirements of God’s Messiah.

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The Jewish people resented their foreign rulers and despised paying any taxes to Caesar.  So, the Pharisees posed an “impossible (tricky) question” to test Jesus to see whether He was loyal to them and to their (misguided) understanding of religion, or not.  (Nothing is impossible with God; nor is anything too tricky for Him!)  

The Herodians and the Pharisees approached Jesus, asking that He take a side in their dispute. They appear to be asking Him for His Rabbinic wisdom, yet (in reality) only wishing to trap Him in a “catch-22” situation.  If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Caesar.  If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested.  

So, why the BIG deal over a few coins?  Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power.  Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them.  In a certain sense, the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler.  Where the coin was valid, and used, the political “ruler” held political control over the people of the region.  Since the Jews used the Roman currency, it was the property of the Roman leader, Caesar.

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The Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful to pay census taxes according to “the law of God”.  Both groups thought that Jesus would be “trapped” either way He answered.  If he said “Yes”, the Pharisees would say he was paying alms to the Romans and not the church.  If He said “No”, they would call Him a “revolutionary” and report Him to Herod.

Jesus, in a classic Jewish rabbinical way, answers the question by asking a question:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18)

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Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap Him publically exposed the astuteness and cleverness of His inquisitors.  From His first words in response to their questions, Jesus showed that He is very much aware of what they were trying to do: to entrap Him.

’Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin.” (Matthew 22:19) 

Jesus asks for a “Roman coinand it is readily and immediately provided to Him.  It probably came from the hand of a Herodian in attendance (which for me is the only reason they are mentioned in this Gospel reading), yet, the Pharisees showed themselves to be quite willing to freely accept a compromise made with the Herodians and the Roman government.  Remember, Jesus had already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites in an earlier reading (Matthew 21:23–27, mentioned earlier).

They [the inquisitors] were ready to produce money for Jesus to hold.  Picture the image of Jesus holding money, and stating either, “No, don’t pay these taxes” or “Yes, you must pay Herod”!  Either would be devastating from a public perception viewpoint.  Their readiness to supply a visual image to their question – – money – – implies another proof of acceptance by the Pharisees, of the financial “advantages”, of the Roman administration in Jerusalem and Palestine as a whole.

Jesus then takes His response one step further.  He asks the Pharisees and Herodians:

 “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  (Matthew 22:20)

His inquisitors examine the coin and agree it is Caesar’s image on the coin.  This “Caesar” was the emperor “Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus” (A.D. 14–37).  

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Jesus’ answer cunningly avoids taking any sides in the question of the “lawfulness of the tax” by saying:

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)

With simple logic, Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians the coin belongs to Caesar, avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether. Going further, then, Jesus tells them that their obligation is also to pay to God that which belongs to God!

In saying to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Jesus raises the Pharisee’s debate to a new (and super-natural) level (ha, ha).   The Pharisees and Herodians hypocritically asked about taxing in respect to its relationship to the “law of God”; but instead, should have rather been concerned with repaying God the Father with the “good works” which are due to Him. 

If they don’t pay attention to this requirement, hear what Jesus had said earlier, in another parable, He recently told:

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:41, 43)

No wonder they were trying to “trap” Him!

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Holy Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due, and to owe no one anything, except to love one another:

“Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.  Love fulfills the Law.  Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:7-8)

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees in today’s story, suggests the proper ethics, a principle or belief directing one’s behavior, that Catholic Christians should adopt in their lives.  Jesus’ “Words” of “paying to God which belongs to God” should remind ALL of us the importance of keeping things of this earth in their proper perspective!!  How many of us are attached to worldly (materialistic) things at the expense of the love and honor which we owe to God?

Make a list of the activities which you spend time doing, such as household tasks, jobs, academics, and recreational activities, and so on.  What is the true importance of each of these activities?  What would happen if there were an imbalance in your attention to these activities, spending too much time on one activity at the expense of another?

Today, we are reminded of the necessity of giving things their proper importance.  The Herodians and Pharisees were giving too much importance to the issue of the payment of taxes.  Jesus Christ reminds the Pharisees and Herodians (and us) that loving and honoring God is of greater importance than ANY thing on earth.  We do many important things; but we need to remember that God is of the greatest importance in our lives!!  Pray that you will learn – – and continue – – to keep things in a proper perspective while remembering to keep God first in your lives.

 

For me, today’s Gospel reading has another deeper meaning as well.  We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in His own likeness:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.  God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female* he created them.” (Genesis 1:26,27).

We rightfully belong – – not to ourselves, – – but to God (just as Caesar’s coins belonged to him):

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

 

Let me finish today with what Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1). 

Do you acknowledge that your life – – and everything you possess – – belongs to God the Father, and not to yourself?  Do you give to God what rightfully belongs to Him?  I try every single day (and some days, I succeed!!)!!

 

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 96

Sing praise to the Lord.

 

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.  For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods.  For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place.  Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name!  Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.  Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king.  The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.  He rules the peoples with fairness.  Amen.” (Psalm 96:1,3-10)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

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

 “It is right and just.”

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

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)

 

Margaret was born of farming parents in Laviano, Tuscany.  Her mother died when Margaret was seven; life with her stepmother was so difficult that Margaret moved out.  For nine years she lived with Arsenio, though they were not married, and she bore him a son.  In those years, she had doubts about her situation.  Somewhat like St. Augustine she prayed for purity—but not just yet.

One day she was waiting for Arsenio and was instead met by his dog.  The animal led Margaret into the forest where she found Arsenio murdered.  This crime shocked Margaret into a life of penance.  She and her son returned to Laviano, where she was not well received by her stepmother.  They then went to Cortona, where her son eventually became a friar.

In 1277, three years after her conversion, Margaret became a Franciscan tertiary.  Under the direction of her confessor, who sometimes had to order her to moderate her self-denial, she pursued a life of prayer and penance at Cortona.  There she established a hospital and founded a congregation of tertiary sisters.  The poor and humble Margaret was, like Francis, devoted to the Eucharist and to the passion of Jesus.  These devotions fueled her great charity and drew sinners to her for advice and inspiration. She was canonized in 1728.

Comment:

Seeking forgiveness is sometimes difficult work.  It is made easier by meeting people who, without trivializing our sins, assure us that God rejoices over our repentance.  Being forgiven lifts a weight and prompts us to acts of charity.

Quote:

“Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we free ourselves from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.  ‘O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!’ (Psalm 95:6).  The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).  There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it” (Letter of Saint Basil the Great).

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 and the Spirituality

 

What is Saint Francis’ description of “true obedience”?

Why did Saint Francis say that moving to a “hermitage” would be an “escape”?

Does his reason resonate with us in some of our frustrations?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

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

Т

17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

“The Longest Sentence In The World Is, ‘I DO’! But What A Feast It Is!!” – Matthew 22:1-14†


 

 

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quotes 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:

 

 

It is 49 days till the Advent season begins, and the start of the “New Mass”.  Have you looked at the changes?  I have been posting most of them for over 6 months, one at a time.  Look for the section title, “New Translation of the Mass” towards the end of my blog.  Become informed, so you don’t become “lost”.

Т

Did you know today is “Clergy Appreciation Day”?  It is always the second Sunday of October.  Please say “thank you” to your Priests and Deacons today.

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1047 – Death of Clemens II, [Suitger], Pope (1046-47), (b. 1005
†   1776 – Father Francisco Palou founds Mission San Francisco de Asis in what is now San Francisco, California.
†   1793 – Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, French Jesuit missionary to China (b. 1718)
†   1845 – The eminent and controversial Anglican, John Henry Newman, is received into the Roman Catholic Church.
†   1927 – Birth of Ivan Metropolitan Ioann Snychev, Russian Orthodox Priest
†   1958 – Death of Pius XII, [Eugenio Pacelli], Pope (1939-58), (b. 1876)

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

 

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 Quotes of the Day: (You get three today):

 

 

“Don’t get up from the feast of life without paying for your share of it.” ~ Dean Inge. 

“Faith is the ticket to the feast, not the feast.” ~ Edwin Louis Cole 

“Marriage is a feast where the grace is sometimes better than the dinner.”  ~ Charles Caleb Colton

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:1-14) 1 Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying,  2“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  3 He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.  4 A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’  5 Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  6 The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.  7 The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.  9 Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’  10 The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.  11 But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  12 He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.  13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  14 Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s parable about a “wedding feast” is also in Luke’s Gospel (See Luke 14:15–24).   As in last Sunday’s parable about the “wicked tenants”, Matthew has inserted many symbolic traits inherent to his later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  The growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders of Jerusalem is relevant in today’s parable.  With this in mind, today’s parable brings into focus a similar growing tension between Matthew’s Church in Jerusalem with the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman political officials in Jerusalem.  The symbolic traits include the burning of the city of those quests who refused the invitation (Matthew 22:7), which corresponds to the destruction of Temple and Jerusalem itself, by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Today’s reading also has similarities with last week’s parable of the “wicked tenants” as well, in the sending of two groups of servants (Matthew 22:3, 4), the murder of the servants sent (Matthew 22:6), the punishment of the murderers of the servants (Matthew 22:7), and the introduction of a “another” group into the “privileged” situation, for which the previous group had shown themselves dishonorable, unworthy, and undeserving (Matthew 22:8–10).  

Т

The parable Jesus tells today is straightforward in the telling.  A king dispatches his servants to invite the guests to the wedding feast that he is planning for his son.  The listeners of this parable would have been surprised to learn that the first guests refused the invitation.  Who would refuse such a request?  Who would refuse a “king’s” invitation – – FREE FOOD & FUN?  A second dispatch of servants follows to the invitees.  Again, and with great surprise, some guests ignore the invitation for a second time.  Matters of fact, some of the invited guests go even so far as to beat and kill the king’s servants.  The king retaliates against these murderous “invitee’s” by destroying them and burning their city.  (Now, that’s what I call “scorching” retribution!)

Today’s parable ends with an element found only in Matthew’s Gospel; an element easily capable of being its own distinct [and separate] parable.  Matthew presents the “kingdom of God” in its true double characteristics, just like a coin has two sides.  BOTH sides are already present and enterable here and now (Matthew 22:1–10), AND, is something that will only be obtained and achieved by those who stand the scrutiny of His “final judgment”, the “Parousia” (Matthew 22:11–14).  (What a mystery of faith.)  Today’s parable is not only a statement of God the Father’s judgment on “Israel” and it people itself, it is also a stern and prophetic warning to Matthew’s church, and to us here, now, and into the future.

Т

Today’s first reading (cf., Isaiah 25:6-10a), and again in today’s psalm (cf., 23:1-6), Jesus’ magnificent and unending righteousness and loving goodness is unmistakable in the image of a feast of “good food and wine”. (Yummy!!)

Why does Jesus Christ portray the kingdom of heaven as a “wedding feast”?  Interestingly, wedding feasts of this time period are nothing like today’s wedding receptions.  A first-century wedding feast could normally last for an entire week or more, and not just for a few hours, but for the entire 24/7 period of time – – day and night.  The bride had many dresses for the feast, basically one or more for each day.  There would be large amounts of various foods and drinks available (and not a cash bar either).  Think of a cleaner version of “Woodstock”, and you get the idea.

Listeners of this story would have been familiar with the image of a wedding feast as a symbol for God’s salvation.  After all, they would consider themselves to be the only invited guests.  Keeping this in mind may help us to understand the relationship Jesus makes with this particular parable.  

Jesus’ version of a wedding feast is comparable to the Old Testament’s representation of “final salvation” under the image of a banquet, as found in Isaiah:

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” (Isaiah 25:6).

The symbolic image of a wedding feast is also reported earlier in Matthew, and inferred in Luke’s Gospel:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11),

And,

“The Lord said to him in reply, ‘Hypocrites!  Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” (Luke 13:15).

Т

The sending of “servants”, twice, makes me wonder about Matthew’s church and its mission.  Could he have been referring to Catholic Christian missionaries in both instances of his reported “sending servants” in these “justice parables”?  My reasoning comes in the very next chapter of Matthew book:

 “Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town” (Matthew 23:34).

Matthew’s “prophets and wise men and scribes”, I believe, are Catholic Christian disciples, sent out alone:

Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Matthew 10:41)

Let’s not get confused over the word “prophet”.  A “prophet” is simply one who speaks in the name of God; those who proclaim the “good word”, His Gospel.   As with the prophets, righteousness was (and is still) demanded of ALL His disciples.  It might be difficult for us to take the “righteous man” of this verse (Matthew 10:41) as indicating different groups within the followers of Jesus.  All designations, – – disciples, prophets, wise men, and scribes – – are used here for Catholic Christian missionaries.  However, Matthew tends to identify Jesus’ disciples, and the Twelve Apostles, in a unique way.  “Scribes”, per Matthew, is not everyone who accepts the message of Jesus Christ.  While the Twelve Apostles, in certain regards, are in many ways, representative of all who believe in Jesus, they are also differentiated from everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.  Matthew’s early Jewish-Catholic Church had leaders, among who were a group designated as “scribes”.

These men (and women) would most certainly have been beaten and killed at times, during their mission trips.  Many, such as Paul, would be scourged in synagogues throughout the many places they were sent.

The persecutions brought against the first-century disciples (the followers) of Jesus Christ during this “post-resurrection” time of local and worldly missions are related here in Matthew’s Gospel as a message to his audience. 

Thus, today’s reading also brings into dialogue, verses which deal with events preceding the Parousia:

“Beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.  Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:17, 23) 

Т

Ok, I have to wonder, “Why would guests beat and kill the king’s servants who sent to invite them to a royal wedding feast?”  Is it possible that the king was a ruthless tyrant, as evidenced by the destruction of the city of those who refused his generous invitation?  I don’t believe so, because, if we follow this path or notion of ruthless and tyrannical behavior, then the symbolism has to be about something other than the kingdom of heaven, where nothing is ruthless or tyrannical.  The symbolism of the “destruction of the city” is simply a powerful image which corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70; an important, and disturbing, event for Matthew’s Jerusalem-based Jewish-Catholic audience.

With the invited guests now deemed “unworthy” to attend the king’s wedding feast, the king sends out his servants to invite “whomever they can find”.  These “new” invitee’s (found on the streets) arrive at the banquet not realizing that it in accepting the king’s invitation, it brings certain obligations with the invite.  The guest who failed to dress in the appropriate wedding attire is cast out of the banquet feast.  How is this image pertinent to me and you – – TODAY?

Well, while many are invited to the kingdom of heaven, not all are able to meet its requirements.  God invites ALL of us to His feast, giving us His salvation.  Yet He also asks us to repent for our sins.

Т

Matthew has Jesus (in verse 10) gathering the “bad and good alike”.  My question is, “Why would you want the ‘bad’ to come to a joyous occasion?”  Maybe the answer can be found in an earlier verse from Matthew:

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” (Matthew 13:47).

Only God will judge and sort His people, separating the good harvest from the bad weeds.  It is not our job and above our “pay-scale”!  Instead, we should try with all our resources, power, and being to bring ALL people to His kingdom.  As the famous (or infamous) Marine Corps saying goes:

“It’s God’s job to forgive. It’s only our job to arrange the meeting”!!

Т

The “wedding garment” described in verse 11 of todays reading is representative of repentance and conversion: a true change of heart, mind and soul.  This is the absolute condition required for entrance into God’s kingdom – – on earth and in heaven – – from each of us “sinners”:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2 & 4:17).

This daily repentance and conversion needs to be continued, and demonstrated,  in a life of unconditional love, prayer, and good works:

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.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?  Did we not drive out demons in your name?  Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’  Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21–23).

 Т

The image of “wailing and grinding of teeth”, as found in verse 13 of today’s reading, does not sound like a fun activity whatsoever (unless one happens to be a sadistic oral surgeon)!  In this verse, Jesus is referring to the Catholic disciple who lacks being clothed in the “wedding garmentof good works, those who will suffer the identical fate as the Jewish “chosen people” (the people of Israel) who have rejected Jesus Christ in His mission and message.  Matthew gives a similar account earlier in his Gospel:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11–12)

Matthew inserted into today’s parable an element regarding the entrance of Gentiles into God’s kingdom AND the exclusion – – the separation from God – – of those Israelites descended from the patriarchs and members of the chosen nation, who refused to believe in Jesus Christ.  The phrase, “wailing and grinding of teeth”, is used frequently throughout Matthew’s Gospel to describe a “final condemnation” (cf., Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; and 25:30).   It is found in only one other place in the New Testament outside Matthew’s Gospel, that being Luke’s Gospel:

“There will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.“ (Luke 13:28).

Т

To summarize, Jesus’ message in today’s parable cautions against exclusive beliefs about the kingdom of heaven: the Protestant, “I know I am saved and going to heaven” type of belief.  This parable also teaches about humility.  Those who assume that they are the invited guests may find that they have actually “refused” the invitation, with others invited to the banquet in their place.  To accept the invitation is also to accept its obligations and responsibilities.  God wants our full conversion – – daily, – – and in complete acceptance of His mercy.

Why does Jesus’ parable seem to focus on an angry king who ends up punishing those who refused his invitation and who mistreated his servants?  We need to realize that Jesus’ parable, in reality, contains two stories.  The first has to do with the original guests invited to the feast.  The king sent out invitations, well in advance, to his subjects.  They had plenty of time to prepare for attending this great feast.  How insulting was it for the invited guests to then refuse to come when the time for celebrating arrived?!  In refusing, they not only insulted the King, but his son as well.  The king’s anger and hurt is rightly justified; they openly refused to give the king the honor he was due!!

Jesus directed this warning – – somewhat found “between the lines” in today’s reading, – – to the Jews of His day.  It both communicated how much God wanted them to share in the joy of His kingdom, AND also to give a warning about the consequences of refusing His Son, their (and our) Messiah and Savior – – Jesus Christ.

The second part of the story focuses on those who had no claim on the king; those who would never have considered getting such an invitation.  The “good and the bad“, found along the highways, refers to Gentiles and sinners – – the weeds among the grain.  How great was this invitation of grace!  What an undeserved, unmerited, favor, and kindness was this invitation for these outcasts of society! 

However, let’s look at the other side of the “grace” coin (there is always two sides to everything).  The flip-side contains a warning for those who choose to refuse His gift, His grace, OR, who approaches the heavenly banquet feast “unworthily”.  Grace is a free gift, but with it comes an awesome responsibility. 

Т

In conclusion, we are all, in fact and faith, invited to the MOST important banquet of all banquets ever possible, anywhere and at any time!!  The last book in the Holy Bible: “Revelations”, ends with a beautiful invitation to God the Father’s wedding feast for the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and His Bride, the Catholic (Universal) Church:

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’  Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’  Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” (Revelations 22:17)

 

So, how do we respond to His invitation?  God the Father has granted us “free will” to accept or reject His salvation.  The parable of the wedding feast reminds us that God desires our wholehearted and total acceptance of His invitation.

What do you consider appropriate attire for various occasions?  For example, if you were invited to a barbecue, what would you wear?  If you were planning to attend the symphony, how would you dress?  If invited to an evening wedding, what might you put on?  Doesn’t our preparation for an event, our choice of attire, indicate the importance and value we place on the particular occasion?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses this metaphor to talk about the kingdom of heaven. What does Jesus Himself expect from those who accept His invitation of salvation?

God invites each of us to His banquet; a feast we may share in, with, and through His joy – – for eternity.  Are you ready to feast at the Lord’s banquet table?

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

 

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.  Amen.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

 

 

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.

 

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the prayers of the priest have several changes, but the only change for the assembly is the addition of the word Holy” to the response just before the Prayer over the Offerings.  Where we now say, “for our good and the good of all his Church,” the new text says, “for our good and the good of all His Holy Church.

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. John Leonardi (1541?-1609)

 

 

“I am only one person!  Why should I do anything?  What good would it do?”  Today, as in any age, people seem plagued with the dilemma of getting involved.  In his own way, John Leonardi answered these questions.  He chose to become a priest.

After his ordination, he became very active in the works of the ministry, especially in hospitals and prisons.  The example and dedication of his work attracted several young laymen who began to assist him.  They later became priests themselves.

John lived after the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent.  He and his followers projected a new congregation of diocesan priests.  For some reason, the plan, which was ultimately approved, provoked great political opposition.  John was exiled from his home town of Lucca, Italy, for almost the entire remainder of his life.  He received encouragement and help from St. Philip Neri [whose feast is May 26], who gave him his lodgings—along with the care of his cat!

In 1579, John formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and published a compendium of Christian doctrine that remained in use until the 19th century.

Father Leonardi and his priests became a great power for good in Italy, and their congregation was confirmed by Pope Clement in 1595.  He died at the age of 68 from a disease caught when tending those stricken by the plague.

By the deliberate policy of the founder, the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God have never had more than 15 churches and today form only a very small congregation.

Comment:

What can one person do?  If you ever glanced through a Christopher Notes pamphlet you know—plenty!  In the life of each saint one thing stands clear: God and one person are a majority!  What one individual, following God’s will and plan for his or her life, can do is more than our mind could ever hope for or imagine.  Each of us, like John Leonardi, has a mission to fulfill in God’s plan for the world.  Each one of us is unique and has been given talent to use for the service of our brothers and sisters for the building up of God’s kingdom.

Quote:

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your belongings and give alms.  Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” (Luke 12:32-33).

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 and the Spirituality

 

How does Saint Francis show his awareness of his “duty” as a superior (aka, “minister”)?

What expectations did Saint Francis expect from other superiors (Ministers)?

How did Saint Francis advise about compassion, for friars who sin publicly?

What does Saint Francis mean when saying, “everything that makes it difficult to love God” is a “special favor”?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 9 & 10 of 26:

 

9.  The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

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10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

  

“What A Tangled ‘Vine” We Weave When We Try To Deceive!” – Matthew 21:33-43†


 

Twenty-Seventh 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:

  

Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict XVI for October, 2011

General Intention:

That the terminally ill may be supported by their faith in God and the love of their brothers and sisters.

Missionary Intention:

That the celebration of World Mission Day may foster in the People of God a passion for evangelization with the willingness to support the missions with prayer and economic aid for the poorest Churches. 

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 I can’t believe it has already been exactly five years ago today (2006) that five school girls were murdered by Charles Carl Roberts in a hostage/shooting event at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  Charles Roberts committed suicide after killing the girls.

Ironically, today is also an “International Day of Non-Violence”, commemorating the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948).

When will violence among God’s creations end?!

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1187 – Siege of Jerusalem: Saladin captures Jerusalem after 88 years of Crusader rule.
†   1264 – Death of Urbanus IV, [Jacques Pantaleon], French Pope (1261-64)
†   1538 – Birth of Saint Charles Borromeo, Italian cardinal/saint (d. 1584)
†   1833 – Birth of Rev. William Corby, American Catholic priest (d. 1897)
†   1928 – The “Prelature of the Holy Cross and the Work of God”, commonly known as Opus Dei, was founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá.
†   1931 – Pope Pius XI publishes encyclical on economic crisis

(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 country clubs, the cars, the boats, – – your assets – – may be ample, but the best inheritance you can leave your kids is a good example. ~ Barry Spilchuk

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the “Wicked Tenants”.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 21:33-43) 33 “Hear another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  34 When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.  36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”  41 They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?  43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

  

Today’s Gospel follows last Sunday’s Gospel in which Jesus was questioned by Jewish religious leaders about the source of his teaching authority. After refusing to answer their questions, Jesus tells the parable of “the two sons”.  He then criticizes the priests and elders for their lack of belief in John the Baptist’s message.  See last week’s reflection for more on this Gospel reading.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the priests and elders with a different parable on justice.  In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to “tenants” and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest the tenants owe to him.  Several times the “servants” are sent to collect payment.  Each time, they are beaten and/or killed by the tenants.  Finally, the landowner sends his “son” to collect his rent.  The tenants, believing that they will inherit the vineyard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner’s son.

After telling today’s parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants.  They all agree that the landowner should kill the “wicked tenants” and give the land to “new tenants” who will pay the rent.  (That’s “eviction” at its extreme!)

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In telling the parable, Jesus is clearly drawing upon the prophecy found in Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), which is also purposely today’s first reading because of its strong connection with the Gospel reading.  Isaiah’s prophecy about the vineyard and bloodshed is one which the priests and elders would have known well, and even taught in the Temple regularly.

Jesus doesn’t, therefore, have to explain the symbolism of the parable; the Pharisees and elders would have understood the symbolism already:

  1. 1.     the “vineyard” represents “Israel”,
  2. 2.     the “landowner” represents “God”,
  3. 3.     the “servants” represents “the prophets”, and
  4. 4.     the “bad tenants” represents “the religious leaders”. 

Yet, Jesus continues to explain the meaning of the parable for His audience: the “kingdom of God” will be taken from the “unbelieving” (as “judged” by the Temple leaders and the Jewish society as a whole) and given to the “faithful” people of Judah.  The climactic moment in these “justice” parables is when the chief priests and elders inadvertently condemn “themselves” in answering Jesus’ question.

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The hills of Galilee were alive with the sounds of music, and were lined with numerous vineyards.  It was quite common for the land owners to rent out their land to “tenants” and to expect regular payment of a portion of produce harvested.  Many did so because they could also make a lot of money easily by collecting high rent from their renters.  Their riches and status in life allowed them to travel and own homes in various other places. (Sounds exactly like today’s wealthy class.)  

In this parable there is a close correspondence between the details of the parable and the situation it is meant to illustrate: the dealings of God with His people.  Because of the heavy symbolic representations (allegory), some bible scholars think this parable does not originate with Jesus Christ, but represents the theology of the later first-century Catholic Church.  This scholarly belief also applies to Mark’s parallel parable (Mark 12: 2-10).  However, the symbolism in Matthew’s version goes further.  

There are bible scholars, however, who believe, that while many of the symbolic elements are derived from to church sources, they have been added to a parable originated and spoken by Jesus Himself (and this is my belief as well).  This view is supported by the apocryphal “Gospel of Thomas”, in which less symbolism is found:

“A person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them.  He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard’s crop.  They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master.  His master said, ‘Perhaps he didn’t know them.’  He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well.  Then the master sent his son and said, ‘Perhaps they’ll show my son some respect.’  Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him.  Anyone here with two ears had better listen!” (Gospel of Thomas, 65)

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Jesus’ parable was unsettling to some of His audience.  Why did the Pharisees and elders in particular, feel offended at Jesus’ message?  Perhaps it is because Jesus’ parable contained both a prophetic message AND a warning to the religious community and its religious leaders.   Centuries earlier, Isaiah spoke of the “house of Israel” as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7).  Isaiah warned his people that their unfaithfulness would yield bad fruit (loss of freedom, and captivity by others) – – if they did not repent and change.  Jesus’ listeners understood this parable as a “healthy reminder” that God the Father will, in due time, rid the “bad fruit” from the “harvest”, putting an end to all rebellion.

 

In the very first verse, Jesus is preaching a “prophetic” parable.  Isaiah, many centuries preceding Jesus Christ, talked of a “vineyard with watchtower and bloodshed”:

Now let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard.  My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.  Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.” (Isaiah 5:1–2);

 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry! (Isaiah 5:7)

I find it interesting that Isaiah defines the vineyard as “the house of Israel, the people of Judah”, the Jewish people.

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In today’s parable, Matthew relates two episodes of sending multiple servants, as compared to Mark’s three episodes of a single servant, in his parallel parable:

At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.  But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again he sent them another servant.  And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.  He sent yet another whom they killed. (Mark 12:2–5a)

Mark continues by sending “many others”:

“So, too,[he sent] many others; some they beat, others they killed.” (Mark 12: 5b).

These “servants” stand for the prophets sent by God to Israel as referenced by the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah.  Though, not explicitly declared in this parable, Matthew later says the following concerning the prophets and the Jewish Peoples attitude:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Matthew 23:37)

I don’t think these are very comforting words for those “unwilling” to change their heart toward Jesus’ teachings.

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Verse 34 of today’s reading talks about “obtaining his produce”.  This is very similar to what Mark relates in his parallel parable:

“At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:2)

The “produce” is the good works demanded by God.  His claim to the “produce” is the full amount of good works, to Him, and to ALL His creations.

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How many of you wonder what was meant by the “tenants” (and their negative attitude and evil intentions) in today’s parable:

Let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.”  (Matthew 21:38)

Well, I learned that if a Jewish landowner died without an heir, the “tenants” of his land would have final “quick claim” on it. 

Thus, the tenants in today’s parable obviously and dramatically take advantage of the existing law and the landowner’s patience (and perceived weakness).  Yet, they drastically underestimated the character of their landowner.  They put themselves under a severely just judgment of losing their responsibilities and their own lives when they decided to kill the last messenger, the son of the landowner:

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matthew 21:39)

Mark’s parallel parable has that the “son” is not only killed, but also that his corpse is then thrown out of the vineyard:

“So they seized him [the heir] and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:8)

The difference, as related in Matthew’s version (the son’s death occurred outside the walls of Jerusalem), may be derived from the first-century Jewish Catholic Church’s strong belief that Jesus Christ suffered and died OUTSIDE the walls of Jerusalem, as also depicted in John’s Gospel and a later letter to the Hebrews:

Carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” John 19:17;

Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood. (Hebrew 13:12).

 

Matthew goes so far as naming the “religious leaders”: the Pharisees and chief priests in His Gospel.  Clearly this shows the extreme tension mounting between Jesus Christ and the Jewish religious leaders who thought Jesus’ ministry and message was dangerous (at least, to them).  Matthew’s Gospel was written about 40 years after Jesus’ death and accurately reflects the conflicts and tensions found in the Jewish-Catholic Christian community.  Disagreement and dissention in the “Church” was prevalent even in the first-century; definitely not a new phenomenon. 

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What does Jesus’ parable tell us about God and the way he deals with His people? First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust.  The first-century “vineyard” was usually well equipped with everything the “tenants needed”.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of those tenants, trusting in them.  Likewise, God trusts us enough to give us freedom to live life as we choose.  This freedom reveals and highlights the importance of free will.  This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice.  Not once, but many times does the land owner not only forgive the tenants their “debts”, but also implores them to be honest and do what is right and just.  From this, we understand that God the Father also forgives us our debts, when we approach Him and ask for His mercy, and implores us to return to right living, producing good fruits and good work.  And, He does this even many, many, many times!!

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In Matthew’s version, Jesus then asks the question:

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” (Matthew 21:40)

The people present, listening to Jesus, answered His question.  (It’s really a “no-brainer.”)  Matthew has the listeners – – the Temple leaders and elders – – answer the question: 

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” (Matthew 21:31).

In saying this, they condemn themselves.

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In his version, Matthew further adds the landowner hires “other tenants”.  Matthew has Jesus adding God’s management decisions to send other honorable tenants, who will give the landowner the produce at the proper times: when it is at its most mature, most sweet, and most fruitful.  God will also “harvest” us at our most mature, most sweet, and most fruitful spiritually! – – By this, Jesus is declaring that God’s will works through every difficulty to ensure a reaping of a great harvest of honorable sons and daughters, filled with the spirit of integrity an honesty.

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The second to last verse from today’s reading (about the cornerstone) reminds me of Psalm 118:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22–23)

This particular psalm was used in the early Catholic Church as the prophecy of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Both Luke and Peter wrote about this cornerstone, first mentioned in the Old Testament:

He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’” (Acts 4:11);

And,

“Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (1 Peter 2:7)

The “original” parable (see Mark and Gospel of Thomas mentioned earlier) ended at Matthew 21:39:

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matthew 21:39)

However, Matthew thought necessary to complete the parable by referencing Jesus’ vindication by God:

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”  (Matthew 21:43)

This final verse from the Gospel reading (verse 43) is only found in Matthew.  In this final verse, Matthew says, “kingdom of God”, instead of his usual, “kingdom of heaven”.  I believe Matthew’s said “God” instead of “heaven” to indicate it came from his own local church traditional, making it more applicable to his first-century, predominantly Jewish, Catholic (Universal) Church.  

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The very last words spoken in the Gospel today are, “a people that will produce its fruit”.  The people who “will produce fruit”(many riches), are the Israelites AND the Gentiles together, as the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ on earth!!  So, what are these fruits, these riches?  They are NOT material items.  Material (only) riches can be an obstacle to entering God’s kingdom, obstacles which cannot be overcome with our human power and will.  Notice, you can’t take “it” (material riches) with you into God’s eternal paradise!  Comparing our “need” for earthly and material processions to entering heaven reminds me of an earlier verse from Matthew:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23–24)

Comparing of our entering heaven, with the impossibility of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, is an interesting allegory and image.  The “eye of a needle”, in reality, was an actual short or narrow gate in the wall of Jerusalem.  This smaller gate was opened after the main gate was closed at night (and staffed by TSA agents).  A camel (after taking off its shoes, belt, and emptying its pockets) could only pass through this smaller gate, only if it stooped down low, and had all its baggage removed.  A camel could only go through with NO material processions (and after a total body search and x-ray).

We come into this world naked, bare, and procession-less; and we leave this world in nearly the exact same way.  The only difference is that we also take with us (attached to our souls) the results of graces, sins, and iniquities we have “harvested” in life.  Let me ask, how shiny and well maintained is your soul?  

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Jesus, in this parable, hints and foretells both His death and His ultimate triumph over death and sin.  He knew He would be rejected by His own people and be killed.  Still, He also knew He would prevail in the end (please read Psalm 22).  After His rejection would come His glory – – the glory of resurrection and the glory of the ascension – – to the right hand of His (and our) Father in heaven.

Jesus continues to bless His people today with the gift of His kingdom on earth and in heaven.  He promises that we will bear much fruit, many graces, if we abide in Him and remain faithful to Him as found in John’s Gospel:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:1-11).

He entrusts to each and every one of us His gifts, His grace.  He gives each of us a particular mission to do in His “vineyard” – – the “body of Christ” – – the Catholic Church.  He promises that our labor, especially what we do for Him and for His creations, will not be in vain – – if we persevere with faith, love, and hope till the end:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”(1 Corinthians 15:58).

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Do you know “the rules” – – personal, profession, relational, and spiritual – – and follow them consistently?  Even the most conscientious among us need sometimes to be reminded of the rules and their importance every now and then.  How we respond to such reminders and “adjustments” reveals our “true” character in oneself and in society.  In today’s Gospel Jesus reproaches the religious leaders and elders for their failure to heed God’s messengers, the prophets.  At this moment, you have an opportunity to consider how you respond to those who are God’s messengers, those who are calling us to adjust our paths in life, and to return to the path leading to our Lord Jesus Christ, the path of faith, of living hope, and of abiding love.

What are some of God’s “rules” that we must follow?  There is a rule book for the Catholic faith: the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”.   Have you ever read one?  Have you ever seen one?  Get one, and become informed.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God’s “word”.  Our Trinitarian God speaks to us in many ways: through Holy Scripture, through the Sacraments (God’s word in action), through our Church traditions and teachings, and through modern-day prophets and visionaries (those Church approved).  We should be attentive and receptive to God’s “word” – – to us – – through these various “messengers”?

How do we respond to God’s messengers today?  How should we respond to God’s messengers today?  Pray that you will always pay attention to God’s messengers and follow God’s ways.   Let’s start with the “Act of Contrition” for the times when we have not listened to God’s word.

We can (and probably should) expect trials and difficulties as we labor for our Lord Jesus Christ, in doing our daily responsibilities.  We should even expect persecution from those who directly and indirectly oppose God’s kingdom on earth – – JESUS DID!.  I believe this is happening “right now” in our secularized and polarized society.  Being a true, practicing Catholic is not politically correct in the present United States of America!

Just remember, in the end, we will see triumph in, through, and with Jesus Christ.  Question: Do you labor for, – – work for, – – search for, Jesus Christ – – in all endeavors – – with a joyful hope and confidence in His (and YOURS) ultimate victory?  (GO team “God”, GO team “God”!!  Rah, Rah, Rah, God Is Mine!  God is Fine! God is Divine! God is “the vine”!  God is Thine!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

 

Act of Contrition

  

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.  Amen.”

 From: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers

  

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 big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.  

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long used by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils
of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

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

  

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Feast of the Guardian Angels

 

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined.  Yet guardian angels are not just for children.  Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer and to present their souls to God at death.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. St. Benedict (July 11) gave it impetus and Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20), the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

A feast in honor of the guardian angels was first observed in the 16th century. In 1615, Pope Paul V added it to the Roman calendar.

Comment:

Devotion to the angels is, at base, an expression of faith in God’s enduring love and providential care extended to each person day in and day out until life’s end.

Quote:

“May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.” (Rite for Christian Burial)

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 and the Sacraments

 

How “Catholic” would you consider Saint Francis?

What behavior does Saint Francis request of us regarding the Eucharist and the Sacred Scripture?

Saint Francis addresses some of his brothers as “priest brothers”.   What does this say of his reverence for his brothers who have been ordained with the Sacrament of the Priesthood?

In praying the “Office” (Prayer of the Church) Saint Francis tells the friars that their HEARTS must be in it (Omn.p.107).  What did Saint Francis mean by this statement?

How prominent a role did the Catholic Church and her practices, such as the Sacraments, play in Saint Francis’ beliefs, teachings, and actions?

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

2.  The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.  It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

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3.  The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times.  Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.