“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).

7 responses »

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  2. Pingback: “I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12† | Kids say :

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