“Are You Ready To Meet Jesus’ Expectations?! Are You Watching?!” – Mark 13:33-37†


 

First Sunday of Advent

  

 Today’s Content:

 

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

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  Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the “National Day of Listening”.  I have come to realize that though we all “listen”, many of us have lost the grace of actually “hearing”.  I compare listening and hearing to another great sense: peripheral and central vision.  “Listening” is our peripheral auditory sense, making us able to navigate the verbal/audible environment subconsciously and with little effort.  “Hearing” is like our central vision, able to be focused and pinpointed.  Hearing is an active sense that needs to be honed through usage and training.  Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth.  Use the ears twice as often as the mouth.

Т

I attended an excellent meeting/program last Saturday, put on by the Secular Franciscan, St. Clare Region, Executive Committee (REC), titled “Servant Leadership”.  I highly recommend all SFO’s take this program when it becomes available to you.  We had Franciscans participating from all three Franciscan Orders, and from three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Southern Indiana).  The Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, SFO, wrote a very excellent synopsis of this training program, which I would like to share below: 

 “Servant leadership” is a [daily] reflection on a conversion-based, Gospel-centered life.  Our models for “servant leadership” include Jesus, Saint Francis (with his characterizations of being detached, patient, fraternal and ‘in solidarity’, and flexible), and Saint Clare (being reverent, steadfast, and prayerful). [Put all 7-8 characterizations together, and you get a ‘parent’]  The three essential characteristics of Franciscan “servant leadership” are: 

1)  Having a call or commission,
2)  Commitment, and
3)  Vision.  

Leadership should be based on prayer, which flows from – – and results in – – conversion.  Servant Leadership requires a fundamental and genuine dialogue and focused listening skills [See the above article on hearing versus listening.].  The ability to share leadership tasks through delegation should be emphasized.  We should recognize the diversity of gifts, aptitudes, and talents that exists among us all, and be quick and creative in utilizing these graces.  Leaders come in different “flavors,” with each leadership style having certain advantages.  Remember,  a leader’s style will flow from background, personality, etc. ~ from Mike DePue, SFO

 Т

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.  With my wife’s work schedule (she is an Emergency Department Nurse in a large metropolitan area), our families “Turkey Day” is actually today (Sunday).  For me however, every day with her and my children is “Thanksgiving Day”; I love them all more each and every day – – even on the “fowl” [sic] days.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   399 – St Anastasius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

†   640 – Death of Acharius, a 6th-century bishop in Gaul. Bishop of Noyon/saint

†   1095 – Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

†   1775 – Birth of Joachim G le Sage ten Broek, Dutch notary/catholic foreman/publicist

†   1894 – Birth of Amphilochius of Pochayiv, Ukrainian Orthodox saint (d. 1971)

†   1934 – Birth of Lawrence Martin Jenco, Servite priest, taken hostage in Beirut by five armed men in January 1985, while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services there, being held for 564 days  (d. 1996)

†   1970 – Pope Paul VI wounded in chest during a visit to Philippines by a dagger-wielding Bolivian painter disguised as a priest

†   2004 – Pope John Paul II returned the relics of Saint John Chrysostom to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Roman Catholic); Barlaam and Josaphat, Apostle Philip, and Gregory Palamas  (Eastern Orthodox—Revised Julian Calendar)

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Watch a child.  If a little boy falls in the park and scrapes his elbow, he instinctively runs to his father or mother to make it better.  More often than not, the parent can do nothing except gently kiss the bruised elbow and tell the little one that it is going to be OK.  The amazing thing is that often this is all the child needs.  The kiss doesn’t “fix” it; it just lets the little one know that he is loved, he is not alone, and he is going to be OK.  Sadly, as we grow up we begin to believe that a little kiss or a mere hug isn’t going to fix anything, so we stop asking.  God the Father is inviting you to run to Him with your cut elbows, broken heart or shattered dreams.  No hurt is too little and none is too great.” ~ Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift”, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning His disciples to be watchful and alert, so that they will be ready when the Son of Man comes.

 

(NAB Mark 13:33-37) 33 Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  34 It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the season of Advent, which marks the start of a new liturgical year for the Church.  The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged on a three-year cycle.  Each year features a different Gospel—Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with readings from the Gospel of John interspersed throughout all three years.  With this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, focusing our attention on the Gospel of Mark throughout the year.  

Since this the first week of the new Liturgical Year (cycle “B”), let me give a little history on Mark’s Gospel, based on the introduction to his book from the NAB Bible.

Mark is the shortest of all four Gospels, and is most likely the first of the four to have been written.  His Gospel recounts what Jesus Christ did in a vibrant and dramatic style, where one incident follows directly upon another.  With Mark, Jesus is portrayed as immensely popular with the people in Galilee during His ministry (cf., Mark 2:2; 3:7; 4:1).

The framework of Mark’s Gospel is partly geographical: Galilee (cf., Mark 1:14 – 16:8).  Only rarely does Jesus go into “Gentile” territory (cf., Mark 5:1–20; 7:24–37).  Mark’s Gospel is more oriented toward Christology: Jesus being the “Son of God” (cf., Mark 1:1- 11; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39).

Although the book is anonymous, apart from the heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (in Jerusalem) Catholic Christians assembled:

When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer.” (Acts 12:12).  

This “Mark” was a cousin of Barnabas (cf., Colossians 4:10), and accompanied Barnabas and Paul one of his missionary journeys (cf., Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39).  Traditionally, Mark’s Gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution, and when destruction by the Roman Armies loomed over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.  Mark’s audience seems to have been Gentiles unfamiliar with Jewish customs, as shown in the following verses:

“They [the Pharisees] observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].)  (Mark 7:2–4).

Mark was intended to prepare Catholic Christians to be faithful in the face of persecution (cf., Mark 13:9–13), while proclaiming the Gospel in Galilee (cf., Mark 13:10; 14:9).  In this difficult time, it helped to recall that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties, which Mark does.  Early Christian communities took courage from Jesus’ warning to remain alert and watchful, and they found in His words a way to persevere through suffering.

Т

To begin my reflection on today’s reading I’d like to start with two important Advent themes running though both this week’s and next week’s reading.  Today’s theme is about the Lord’s return at the end of time; and next week’s theme is centered on John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus.

Today’s reading is taken from the end of Mark’s Gospel, the chapter that immediately precedes Mark’s account of Jesus’ Passion.  Having been recently questioned repeatedly by the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus is now questioned by His disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew—who are seeking details about His prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  Jesus answers them with many warnings about the difficulties disciples and their followers and their followers will face in THEIR lives.

This portion of Mark’s Gospel is an “eschatological” discourse (dealing with the coming of the new age – the “eschaton” – in its fullness the “final stage”) about specific events which will precede it.  This Gospel deals also with how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting that event which is as certain to happen as its exact time is unknown to all but God the Father:

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

Therefore, Jesus is teaching us the necessity for a continual – – and actively persistent – – alertness, attentiveness, and preparedness for His promised return.  

This vigilant waiting, emphasized in this reading, does not mean an ending of ordinary activity, with a concentration only on what is to come.   Instead, Jesus’ message reveals a continued and faithful accomplishment of present, ongoing, ordinary, day-to-day duties and responsibilities, with a continued and persistent awareness of the coming end, for which all (we ALL) must be ready – – continuously, persistently, and faithfully.  This “time to come” will initiate the “great judgment” (Parousia) in which the everlasting destiny of ALL will be made known to ALL!!

Т

For me, vigilance is another way of saying “LOVE”.  Let me explain what I mean by this statement.  A person who keeps God’s commandments, (big “C” and little “c”), and continuously looks forward to Jesus Christ’s return, rarely looking backward at his past life, is doing exactly what our “Trinitarian God” wishes for us to do!  Our lives are, and should be, a period of faithful hope and waiting, vigilantly: vigilance IS “the way, the truth, and the life” towards our encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The first Catholic Christians often repeated tenderly the hope, desire, and longing for His return.  That’s why they prayed so frequently:

Come, Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelations 22:20).

By expressing their faith, charity, and longing in this way, early Catholic Christians found the interior “core” strength, optimism, and confidence necessary for fulfilling their family and societal duties and responsibilities, while at the same time, interiorly detaching themselves from earthy (materialistic) goods, with the “self-mastery” which comes from the faith and the hope of eternal life (cf., 1Peter 1:3-9).  Remember, Mark’s audience lived in a time of trial and tribulation, at the cusp of the Temple’s destruction by the Roman Armies, and the severe persecution of any and all Jews and Jewish Christians believers.  I pray daily to grow into their “self-mastery”, their interior “core” strength, and their hope, desire, and longing for Christ’s return.  Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis called this “Daily Conversion”.  Today, Franciscans, indeed, all Catholic Christians, are being called, through this Gospel reading, to “Daily Conversion”.

Т

Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and grace, and He expects us to be ready for action – – prepared for the future.  Our call is not only to believe, but also to watch; not only to love, but also to watch; not only to obey, but also to watch!  So, what are we to watch for?   Answer: the greatest event to come, and ever to happen – – the promised supernatural magnificent return of our Lord Jesus Christ – – when He comes again “in glory” at the end of the age (the Parousia).  

This type of watching which Jesus Christ has in mind is NOT a passive activity.  It is not a “wait and see what happens” approach to, and in, our lives.  Jesus urges us to be ever vigilant and persistent in “active” prayer that His “kingdom may come” and His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf., the “Our Father”). 

We are not only to watch for Christ, but also, we are to watch with Christ!!  The Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on Him and His “Word” daily.  He wants us to be ever-ready for His action and grace in our present lives, and in our present world.  

Those who “wait” for the Lord will not be disappointed.  (That’s a promise: cf., Psalm 27:14, 37:7, and 40:1.)  He will surely come with His sanctifying grace and saving help.  Do you watch for Jesus Christ’s action in your present life? – – with a faith and joyful hope for your future? – – with vigilance and patient awareness?  Are you aware of yourself having “everlasting life” within you – – NOW?  If you’re curious about watching for Jesus in your present life, look up, read, and reflect on what John says in John 6:54, 56* (will be posted at the end of this reflection).

Т

To conclude, today’s Gospel reminds us that Advent is about more than OUR preparation for the Catholic Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas.  Advent is also about preparing ourselves for Christ’s RETURN “in glory” at the end of time: the Parousia!  Like the disciples and the faithful in Mark’s first-century community, we must also stay continuously and persistently vigilant, alert, and watchful for His return.  Our faithfulness to our Trinitarian God, through the good times, and especially through the difficult times, shows us to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In our lives, we try to prepare ourselves for many future events: the next vacation, a marriage, a child’s education, retirement, and so on.  We are careful not to allow ourselves to be caught by surprise.  We prepare so that we can handle any challenges we may face.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are called to be just as attentive and alert to the coming of the Son of Man so that event will not catch us by surprise and unprepared.  This means we are to attend to our spiritual life as carefully as we attend to other important matters we may encounter!!

Try to remember a time when you received surprise visitors at your house.  It could be a neighbor who stopped by, or a relative who arrived unannounced.  Were you prepared to receive this unannounced guest?  What might you have done differently, if you knew ahead of time that this visitor was going to arrive?  Jesus told His disciples that “no one knows when the Son of Man will return, except the Father”.   Are you prepared?!  Pray that through this Advent season you will become more prepared to receive Jesus Christ (in Holy Communion *) AND when He comes again “in glory” – – at the end time.  

 

(*)  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 54, 56)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

“Optional Closing Prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet”

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.  Amen”

 

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New Translation of the Mass

(This is the Last “New Translation of the Mass” segment.  It will be replaced with a new segment titled, “Catholic Apolgetics” next week) 

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 in use 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:  St. Francesco Antonio Fasani  (1681-1742)

 

Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695.  After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial.  When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout, and penitential.  He was a sought-after confessor and preacher.  One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.”  Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead!  The saint is dead!”  Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Comment:

Eventually we become what we choose.  If we choose stinginess, we become stingy.  If we choose compassion, we become compassionate.  The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

Quote:

During his homily at the canonization of Francesco, Pope John Paul II reflected on John 21:15 in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other apostles and then tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”  The pope observed that in the final analysis human holiness is decided by love.  “He [Francesco] made the love taught us by Christ the fundamental characteristic of his existence, the basic criterion of his thought and activity, the supreme summit of his aspirations” (L’Osservatore Romano, vol. 16, number 3, 1986).

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:

 

Virtues and Vices

What is a VIRTUE?

Can you name them? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How are the virtues tied together?

What are the vices contrary to these virtues?

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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).

 

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