Monthly Archives: December 2011

“If We Emulate Mary, We Shall Never Lack God’s Grace!!” – Luke 2:16-21†


 

The Octave** Day of the Nativity
of the Lord Solemnity of Mary,
the Holy Mother of God

(** An eight day celebration: “Octave” is the eighth day or last day of a particular feast)

Today’s Content:

 

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

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions
for January, 2012:

General Intention: Victims of Natural Disasters.

That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives.“

Missionary Intention: Dedication to Peace.

That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will.”

Т

Today, this first day of a new year, we celebrate an extremely important Feast Day, the Solemnity of Mary, OUR Blessed and Holy Mother of God. 

Early Christians gave Mary the title “Theotokos”, meaning, “God-bearer” (Council of Ephesus 431 AD).  We still celebrate Mary as the Mother of God, and the Mother of ALL mankind, because, in bearing Jesus Christ, she bore the fullness of the “Godhead” within her.  On this day, we are reminded of the role that Our Blessed Virgin Mary played in God the Father’s salvation plan.  Christ’s Birth was made possible by Mary’s personal and fully complete fiat:

Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 38:1).

Today, this first day of a New Year is a great day to stop and reflect on both the past year and what’s ahead on your person path to salvation.  Have you followed Mary’s example in living your life according to God’s “will”, His intention, and His purposeful plan?

May your new year – – and ALL new years – – be filled with the love, joy, peace, and hope of being fully “one” with our loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Т

Last week’s reflection blog was the most awesome one I believe I have ever written.  The Holy Spirit allowed me to break through to a new level of understanding the “Word”.  I feel truly blessed to have the Holy Spirit inspiring me to see Holy Scripture from a different perspective.  Thank You my dear Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for allowing me to spread your good news.

Please let me know what you think of His grace working in me.

ТТТ

            

Today in Catholic History:

†   379 – Death of Basilius the Great, of Caesarea, Saint (Moralia)
†   404 – Death of Saint Telemachus
†   1431 – Birth of Alexander VI [Rodrigo Borgia], Spanish/Italian pope (1492-1503)
†   1502 – Death Gregorius XIII, [Ugo Buoncampagni], Italy, pope (1572-85)
†   1970 – Revised calendar for Western (Roman Catholic) Church goes into effect
†   1982 – Pope John Paul II prays for an end to martial law in Poland
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Jesus’ Circumcision (Old calendar); Final Day of Octave of Christmas, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New calendar); Fulgentius of Ruspe; Odilo of Cluny; Telemachus; Orthodox Christian Churches – Feast Day of the Circumcision of the Lord in the Flesh; also the feast day of St. Basil, Bishop of Caesaria.

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

ТТТ

 

Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about the shepherds finding Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

 

(NAB Luke 2:16-21) 16 So they [the shepherds] went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  19 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.  21 When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

ТТТ

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at last week’s Midnight Christmas Mass.  The “shepherds” acted upon what they had seen and heard.  These lowly men of society took the important message they had received from the angel appearing to them, and “hurriedly” went to find the baby Jesus, still in the manger, in the town of Bethlehem.

In going to see the Holy Family, the shepherds find exactly as the angel had said to them:  

This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

Therefore, the shepherds’ visit was a unique and significant moment of fulfillment, manifestation, revealing; and they became the first witnesses to the beginning of salvation, the fulfilling of God’s promises, which we also may receive through Jesus Christ Himself.

The birth of the “Messiah Anointed Savior”, Jesus Christ is the key event in the history of mankind; but God the Father wanted it to take place so quietly that the world went about its business as if nothing had happened.  The only ones told, via an angel messenger, were a few lowly shepherds.  Interestingly, it was also a shepherd, named “Abraham”, to whom God the Father gave His promise to save mankind.

Т

The shepherds “went in haste” to Bethlehem because they were full of joy at seeing the angel and hearing his message.  They were eager to see the Messiah Savior of their people and nation.  I expect their elated attitude was an appropriate response for the situation they experienced.  After all, wasn’t it Saint Ambrose who said, “No one seeks Christ halfheartedly“!!  

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Luke himself reported that our Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Annunciation, event also “went in haste” to see Elizabeth:

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah” (Luke 1:39).  

Any one, any soul, who allows entry to the Trinitarian God, obviously will rejoice in God Himself visiting his meager and marred soul; and, in doing so, acquire a new energy (Sanctifying Grace) for his life with, in, and through God Himself.  This is how God makes us a “new creation” as sons and daughters of God.

Т

Besides the shepherds’ interaction with the angel, and then with the infant Jesus Himself, this reading also focuses on Mary as the “Mother of God,” “Theotokos” (God-bearer).  Today’s reading tells us at least three details about Mary as a mother.  First, our Blessed Mother Mary is described as an insightfully reflective woman, keeping the testimony of the shepherds in her heart.  Second, we are reminded of how completely obedient Mary was to God the Father when she named the baby “Jesus” (His name means “God saves” in Hebrew) as the Archangel Gabriel had directed her at the Annunciation event.  Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing, and faithfully practicing, their Jewish faith and traditions by having Jesus circumcised on the eighth day.

Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father is unmistakable and is manifested in all three of these details.  Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of deep prayer, deep faith, and deep love.  Her prayer life, her faith, and her trust made possible her complete and full obedience to God the Father – – and His will and intention, – – even if the outcome was not made clear to her.  Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God the Father and enabled her to participate in His plan of salvation for her personally, and for ALL mankind as well.

Because of Mary’s absolute and total faithfulness to God the Father, she was able to receive the grace and gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Because of her absolute and total faithfulness, she accepted her role in God’s plan for her and ALL mankind’s salvation.  By doing so, she models for us the true path of Catholic Christian discipleship, and is thus called the “Mother of the Church”.

Т

From today’s reading about Mary’s role, I believe one of the most important verses is:

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) 

In these few words, this verse tells us a great deal about our Blessed Mother Mary.  In this one simple verse, we can see the peacefulness, tranquility, and contentment with which Mary contemplates and reflects upon the wonderful things known to her, and coming true through her – – and to fulfillment in and with her – – with the birth of her divine Son, Jesus Christ.  She studied, pondered, and “kept” all this knowledge, these observations, and events in the silence of her humble heart.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:34-35) 

There is a truly divine purpose for Mary.  Reflect on two words in the above verse: “so that”.  Let me know what you think.

Т

Mary is a true teacher and perfect model for prayer and personal reflection.  If we emulate our Mother Mary, if we “keep” and “reflect” in our hearts what Jesus says to us and He what does “in” and “through” us, we are well on the way to true holiness.  If we emulate Mary, we shall never lack God’s grace!!  And finally, by reflecting and praying as Mary did on what Jesus has given us, we shall obtain a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ Himself.  Vatican II says the following about contemplation, meditation, and reflection on the “Word” of God:

There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.  This comes about in various ways.  It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience.” (Vatican II, “Dei Verbum“, 8).

 

Today, we take notice of the Blessed Virgin Mary honoring her commitment and promise to God the Father by naming her child “Jesus”.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is also told (in a dream) to name the child “Jesus” because He will save the Jewish (and ALL) people.  As I wrote earlier, “Jesus” in Hebrew means “God Saves.” – – And, indeed He has, and is, and will continue to do so.  He has – – in us – – ALREADY!!!

Wow, even in His personal name “Jesus”, He Himself announces the mission He came to accomplish.  This reveals that personal names are important to God; so they should be important to us.  So, – – Think about your name, and the names of families and friends.  Reflect on these names; Ponder what each name means? – – And ask: Why was each person given their specific name? 

Т

Just as John the Baptist was given his name by an angel and had been incorporated into the people of Israel through his circumcision, so too is the infant Jesus.  Jesus, whose name was revealed to His mother and His foster-father by the same angel messenger, was circumcised per Jewish tradition on the eighth day (Octave) of His birth.  On that day, Jesus was incorporated into the “chosen people” of Israel and was to be by a “sign of fulfilling the covenant”.  This circumcision rite was instituted by God the Father as an outward sign to Abraham to single out those who will belong to the “chosen people”.  It was an external sign of the covenant agreement that God the Father made with Abraham and for all Abraham’s future generations:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. … God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.  This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including house born slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

 

So, for the Jewish people, circumcision and the giving of a name had great importance, and was done at the same time.  When a name was given, it represented what that unique person should be in the future.  A person’s name expressed the reality of his or her “being” at its deepest, most intimate level.  From His circumcision till His death, Jesus would be forever known by the name given Him at His circumcision!!  “Jesus“, means “God Saves”, thus, “Savior”.  His name was given to Him – – not as the result of any human decision – – but in keeping with the “command” of God the Father, which the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Blessed Virgin, Mary, and her betrothed, Joseph:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31);

And,

The angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Ponder this: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten “Son of God”, became “incarnate” (made human) in order to redeem and save not only ALL Israel, but also ALL mankind.  Remember, in our Creed, it says:

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” (Nicene Creed)

So, it is not only appropriate, but also very fitting that He is called “Jesus”, Messiah Anointed Savior.  AND He IS!!

Т

In the birth and naming of Jesus we see the wondrous design and salvation plan of God the Father in giving us a “Messiah Savior” who would bring us grace (new life), mercy, and freedom from the power of sin and from the fear of eternal death.  He also brought us the freedom for serving others, i.e., for doing unto others as you would like them to do towards us.  The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God the Father is present in the person of His Son who became “man” for OUR salvation.  

Saint Peter, the Apostle, cried out:

There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

In the name of “Jesus”, the “fallen angels”, Satan, and other demons tremble and flee; the maim walk; the blind see; the deaf hear; and the physically and spiritually dead are raised to new life again:  

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus’ name is exalted, praised, and acclaimed far above every other name.

There were (and still are) many who were (and still are) called by the name “Jesus”.  However, isn’t it more appropriate to call our Savior by this name?  Jesus Christ brought light, freedom and salvation, – – not to one only person, – – but to ALL mankind of ALL ages.  To those oppressed, not only by starvation or tyranny, but also by lack of knowledge, Jesus Christ brought light, freedom, and salvation by coming and living with us in the shadow of death and the confinement from the frustrating and restricting “chains” of Satan, sin, and eternal death.

Т

Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God Himself, in His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, – – made man – – who:

will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

The name Jesus is at the center of all Catholic Christian prayer.  It is with, in, and through Jesus Christ that we pray to God the Father, – – with, in, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many Catholics and other Christians have died with this one single, simple to say, “Word” on their lips, “Jesus”!!!  Do YOU praise, extol, and hail His name – – “Jesus” – – AND pray with confidence in, with, and through HIS NAME?

Т

To conclude, bear in mind that the name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  Reflect on how Jesus Christ fulfilled the mission that His name still suggests.  Pray that you will fulfill your “personal and unique mission” to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, in whom you (and we ALL) find our salvation – – even NOW, TODAY!!  Pray for our Mother Mary’s help in being faithful to Jesus Christ in all we do, say, and think – – ALWAYS!!

Our personal call to discipleship includes three aspects, just as Mary’s did two thousand (or so) years ago: first, discipleship means faith, prayer, and reflection on the events of our lives; through faith, prayer, and reflection, we come to see God’s true presence, action, and work in our lives; second, discipleship means a complete and total obedience to God and His will; and third, discipleship includes loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness to a community of faith, the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”.  This IS our faith; this IS our path.  Thanks for walking with me!  Pax Christi!  

Have a happy and grace-filled New Year.

ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

The Hail Mary

“Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
‘Jesus’.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.”

ТТТ

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

 

Faith and Works, Part 2

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans. 2:13). RSV

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) KJV

*

 “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments …” (Hebrews 10:26-27). RSV

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment … ”  (Hebrews 10:26-27). KJV

*

 “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” (James. 2:14). RSV

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? (James. 2:14). KJV

ТТТ

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Waldo (d. 1320)

Waldo (also known as Vivaldo or Ubaldo) was a disciple of a saintly priest, Bartolo, both of them natives of northern Italy.  When Bartolo contracted leprosy and entered a hospital, Waldo accompanied his friend and nursed him until Bartolo died 20 years later.  In return, Waldo’s religious education was enriched by instruction from the holy priest.  It was at his suggestion that Waldo joined the secular Franciscans.

Following the death of his spiritual father in 1300, Waldo determined to withdraw from the world altogether and to devote himself to conversing with God and focusing on heaven.  Accordingly, he set out for a large forest not far from his birthplace and found a large hollow chestnut tree.  The cavity of the tree offered barely enough room for him to kneel, but it became the hermitage in which he spent the next 20 years in complete solitude.

It is said that one day in May in the year 1320, the bells of the church from the adjacent village began to ring of their own accord.  As local residents ran to the church seeking to unravel the mystery of the bells, a hunter emerged from the forest.  He reported to the assembled crowd that his hounds had circled a hollow chestnut tree nearby and that they began barking excitedly.  When the hunter approached the tree to investigate the matter, he found a recluse in the cavity of the tree, dead on his knees. Just as the hunter finished recounting the story, the bells ceased ringing.

For the inhabitants of the town, it was utterly clear that their humble, solitary neighbor was indeed a holy man.  They processed to his cell, brought his body back to the church and laid it to rest beneath the high altar.  As years passed, many miracles occurred at the tomb of Waldo, while his former cell in the chestnut tree was converted into a chapel in honor of the Blessed Mother.

Comment: Waldo would be considered a strange fellow in our world.  He was a total misfit by modern standards!  Yet his prayers bound him to the rest of the world.  His neighbors realized at his death how much they depended on his prayers; perhaps they even provided him with food and water for those 20 years he spent in his chestnut tree.

However little we understand his chosen lifestyle, he reminds us we also serve when we spend time alone with God.

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)

ТТТ

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues

 

Meditate on each of these virtues:

  • The Theological Virtues: Love, Hope and Faith
  • The four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice.
  • The Seven Heavenly Virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence.

How do you see yourself using them?

As a layperson (and SFO member) how much do you treasure these virtues?

How much effort are you making to embrace these virtues more completely?

ТТТ

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

01.  The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

Т

02.  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.

“Happy Birth Day To Jesus Christ!” – John 1:1-18†


The Nativity of the Lord
(CHRISTinMASS)—
Mass During the Day

 Today’s Content:

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

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

ТТТ

            

Today in Catholic History:    

†  1 AD – First Christmas, according to calendar maker Dionysus Exigus.
†  795 – Death of Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95)
†  800 – Pope Leo III crowns Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Roman emperor
†  1046 – Pope Clemens VI crowns Henry III Roman Catholic-German emperor
†  1048 – Parliament of Worms: Emperor Henry III names his cousin count Bruno van Egisheim/Dagsburg as Pope Leo IX
†  1130 – Anti-pope Anacletus II crowns Roger II the Norman, king of Sicily
†  1156 – Peter the Venerable, Benedictine abbot of Cluny (b. c. 1092)
†  1223 – St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene.
†  1717 – Birth of Pius VI, [Giovanni A Braschi], Italy, Pope (1775-99)
†  1775 – Pope Pius VI publishes encyclical on the problems of the pontificate
†  1916 –  Death of St. Albert Chmielowski, Polish Catholic saint (b. 1845)
†  1955 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical on sacred music & popular music

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

ТТТ

Joke of the Day:

 

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about John’s announcement that, in and through Jesus Christ, the “Word” became flesh and dwelt (dwells) among us.

 

(NAB John 1:1-18) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning with God.  3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 5 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  6 A man named John was sent from God.  7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  11 He came to what was his own, but his own peopledid not accept him.  12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  15John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

ТТТ

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Christmas Feast Day, four Masses are celebrated; they are the vigil Mass, the Midnight Mass, the morning Mass and the Mass during the day.  Each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate aspects of Christ’s birth.  The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.  The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Luke’s Gospel.  The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth through the shepherds’ visit to the infant Jesus.  The Mass during the day is from John.  However, in each of these Gospel readings, we hear different portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel reading for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John’s Gospel.  This reading is not an infancy narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Instead, John’s Gospel begins at “the beginning”, and presents the “Creation story” as the basis for announcing Jesus’ Incarnation.  This is the subject matter of my reflection today.

 

John’s prologue (introduction) states the main themes of his Gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate “Logos” (the “Word” of God) who reveals and brings to light God the Father.  The essence of John’s Gospel today (John 1:15, 1011, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by a “stair step parallelism,” in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next.  Here’s an example:

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

This single verse, in its “stair step” design, the Holy Spirit invites us to view Jesus’ birth from God the Father’s perspective.  Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ birth was the result of God the Father’s initiative.  However, John’s Gospel also highlights that His incarnate birth was His own divine intention from the very beginning as well – – from the very first moment of Creation.  Notice that from this single verse, in this stair step form, theologians have discovered a great very deal of theology, philosophy, and poetic form.  Also notice that John begins his testimony with the very first words of the Old Testament:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … (Genesis 1:1).

Genesis 1:1 AND John 1:1 are intentional parallels in content, chapter, and verse.  SO COOL!!

 

I find the verb, “was”, following the phrase “In the beginning”, in today’s reading, extremely interesting and deeply theological.  This verb (“was”) is used three times with three different meanings in just this one verse:

First, existence (subsistence, being, life, reality, way of life);
Second, relationship (association, connection, and affiliation);
and,
Third, predication (something affirmed, rather than identification or recognition).

 

The “Word” (the meaning of the Greek word, “logos”) is a term combining three specific aspects:

1) God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis);
2) Personified preexistent “wisdom” as the instrument of God’s creative practical counsel (such as is found in Proverbs);
And,
3) The ultimate intelligibility (meaningfulness) of reality (from Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The term “Logos” (“Word”) is borrowed from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought.  “With God” is a prepositional phrase connoting both a relationship and a communication with an other: OUR Father expressing Himself (His “Word”) in heaven, on Earth, and within each of us.  In Greek (Hellenistic) thought, the “logos” was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity.   In Jewish thought, this phrase also describes God the Father taking “action”, such as in the Creation story.  John, and others in the early Church, adopted this active language to describe God’s incarnation in Jesus (his “Word” becoming flesh).  The term (logos) was then used to express the mystery of a Trinitarian faith as one God in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  The “Word” – – “Logos” – – was to be equated with the Second Person, Jesus Christ Himself.  John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving “Word” which has come to earth in human form.  Jesus is the wisdom and power of God the Father, who created the world and sustains it; and who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in, with, and through Himself.  

Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God:

What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed.” (from an early church antiphon used during Morning Prayer). 

The “’Word’ of God” was a common expression among the Jewish people.  God’s “Word” in the Old Testament is truly an active, creative, and dynamic “Word”.  Many Old Testament examples extol His presence WORKING in, with, and through His creations:

By the LORD’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6);

He sends forth his commands to the earth; His word runs swiftly(Psalm 147:15);

“God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy, you who have made all things by your word” (Wisdom 9:1);

 “Is not my word like fire — oracle of the LORD — like a hammer shattering rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

Finally, God’s word is also equated with His wisdom:

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding.” (Proverbs 3:19).

In addition, the Book of Wisdom describes “wisdom” as God’s eternal, creative, and illuminating power.  Both “Word” and “wisdom” are seen as one and the same:

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne leapt into the doomed land, fierce warrior bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree, and alighted, and filled every place with death,** and touched heaven, while standing upon the earth.” (Wisdom 18:14-16).

** I believe this really refers to Jesus’ life-producing death, and His Resurrection enabling Him to “touch heaven, while standing upon the earth.”  

Т

Verse six of John’s reading today is:

“ A man named John was sent from God.  ” (John 1:6).

John talks about John the Baptist, who was sent – – just as Jesus was “sent” – for a divine mission.  After this reading, other references to John the Baptist in John’s Gospel will go on to emphasize the differences between John the Baptist and Jesus, as well as John the Baptist’s subordinate role to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist “came for testimony”.  John the evangelist’s testimony portrays Jesus Christ as if on trial throughout His entire ministry.  John’s theme is Jesus, in His entire ministry, testifying to the acting out in the actions of John the Baptist, the freeing of Samaritan woman, His acting out the Jewish Scriptures and the works of the “Messiah”, the desire of the crowds following Him, the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and even upon us.

Т

Let’s go on to another verse: 

He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11).

What do we think is meant by this verse?  “What was his own, but his own people” literally means “His own property/possession” (meaning ALL Israel), “His own people” (the Israelites).  So, reading it this way, it says.”He came to Israel, but the Israelites did not accept Him.”

Т

Verse 14 is another inspired sequence of ideas expressing a great deal of theology, philosophy, and poetry:

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The ‘Word’ became flesh” indicates the “whole person”.  John used this phrase in today’s reading to refute a “docetic” tendency which was a first century heresy asserting that Jesus was not fully human.  The Apostles’ complete belief is expressed in the following verses:

This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God” (1 John 4:2),

And,

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7).

So, the phrase “come in the flesh, coming in the flesh” meant for John that Jesus of Nazareth was truly and fully human.

 

The second idea expressed by John, “made His dwelling among us”, literally means to “pitch His tent or tabernacle” in the very midst of us.  God’s presence was the tabernacle or tent of meeting in the desert described in the Old Testament; the place of God’s personal presence among His people:

They are to make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst.  According to all that I show you regarding the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of its furnishings, so you are to make it.” (Exodus 25:89).

Today, the “Incarnate Word” – – JESUS CHRIST – – is the NEW mode of God’s personal presence within, and among His people.  

 

John’s third idea is expressed in the single “Word”, “Glory”.  Glory” is God the Father’s visible manifestation of magnificence and splendor in power.  His “Glory” filled the tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34).

And, His Glory also filled the temple at another time:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:1011).

God’s “glory” is now centered in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  The phrase, “the Father’s only Son” not only means “Only One” but also includes a filial (child to parent) relationship with God the Father. 

If we are going to behold the “glory” of God we will do it through Jesus Christ:

 “Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of His divinity” (2 Peter 1:4).

The “Logos” (the “Word”) is thus “only SonAND God, but NOT Father/God.

Т

Verse 15:

John testified to him and cried out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, “The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me”’” (John 1:15)

is interposed between John 1:14 and John 1:16 in order to link His incarnation and ministry to “His Grace”, surpassing the grace given to the Israelites. Thus, through Jesus Christ, His grace (and His Father’s) becomes visible and available for ALL peoples, ALL nations.  John the Baptist thought so highly of the human/divine Jesus that He even said in today’s reading:

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” (John 1:30)

Jesus’ coming initiates “grace in place of grace”.  What verse 16 signifies is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant (cf., Jeremiah 31:31-34, in which God promises a new covenant.)  John recognizes that Jesus Christ brought truth and grace of God’s promises to Jeremiah in His very own person:

“While the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).

Т

In this “prologue” (beginning introduction) of John’s Gospel, the main themes of his Gospel are introduced and presented in dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief.  

We also see in John’s prologue a unique aspect of his Gospel; the theme of “testimony”.  John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light.  Others in John’s Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus.  We are invited to accept and believe this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God.  But even more directly, Jesus’ own actions and words will themselves testify to His identity with God the Father as God’s “Incarnate Word”.

Thinking about Jesus’ birth in these dual theological and worldly terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the “darkness” of winter.  At this time, nature itself seems to be suggestive to us of our darkness through sin.  Into this darkness – – in the midst of our sinfulness – – God comes to dwell among us in the human AND divine Son, Jesus Christ.  John’s Gospel reminds us that, through Jesus’ Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us His special, chosen children.

Т

To summarize, every Christmas we celebrate the greatest of “mysteries”: God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  We call this mystery the “Incarnation” (the word means “to take on flesh”), and it changes everything and every one of us.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we can also look upon the Nativity from God the Father’s perspective, better appreciating the significance of His Incarnation.  The mystery we proclaim at Christmas is one of God – – the very God who created all things from nothing and who is light Himself – – taking on OUR humanity in order to transform and save us from the darkness of sin.  Through His birth among us, we see the face of God and become His own children.  This awesome mystery is one we surely should adore, and not just at the end of the year, but each and every day.

As you look at your Nativity set, think about how familiar you are with this beautiful scene.  Recall the details of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Realize and understand that the Gospel of John invites us to consider Jesus’ birth from a different perspective, God the Father’s.

Today’s reading reminds me (and hopefully you) that the image we see in our Nativity set is a remarkable sight, event, and experience.  God the Father made Himself at home with us by sending His “Word”, taking on flesh and becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ.  Reflect on some of the events from today’s Gospel reading which happened – – for our sake – – because Jesus came to dwell among us: Light overcame darkness; truth revealed falsehood; life conquered death; and belief replaced unbelief.  We can see God’s “glory” in Jesus; and believing, we become as children of God because, through our faith in Him, we have become like Him, children of His Father.  

Please thank God for this mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation that we received, solely because Jesus was born among us.

MERRY CHRISTinMASS!!

ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Glory Be to the Father

(Doxology)

“Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.”

ТТТ

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Faith and Works, Part 1

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

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew. 7:21) KJV.

 

“Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) RSV.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46) KJV.

 

 “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans. 2:6-8) RSV

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans. 2:6-8) KJV

ТТТ

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord

On this day the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek.  We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-Son, help round out the scene.

But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill.  A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.

On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “un-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith.  And, like Mary and the shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.

Comment: The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism.  If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point.  It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David.  It climaxes with the birth of Jesus.  From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people.  Praise God!

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)

ТТТ

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues and Poverty

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

Why did Saint Francis call poverty a royal virtue?

In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where is poverty described or listed as a virtue?  And, what does this tell us?

Which virtues were the special gifts given to you at your Confirmation? … At your Baptism?

ТТТ

 

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

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

Т

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

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

ТТТ

 

♫“Mary, Did You Know …!”♫ – Luke 1:26-38†


 

Fourth 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
  • Catholic Apologetics
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day.  Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue.  I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.

ТТТ

            

 Today in Catholic History:    

†   821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
†   1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI †   1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
†   1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
†   Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr

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

ТТТ

 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

ТТТ

Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.

 

(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

ТТТ

 

 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus.  This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.  

On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent.  They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ.  Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized.  This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father.  These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.

Т

I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons.  Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends.  The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.  

Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home.  What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

Т

Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:

(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.

(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”

(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used.  This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)

(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.

And finally,

(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Т

Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation.  She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately!  I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus.  In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind.  Now that is “awesome” indeed!!

Т

The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!

But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)

Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)

And, after his announcement he declares:

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:

Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)

Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:

But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:20)

Т

Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father.  Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.  She believed God!  We should believe God!  She learned to “have no fear”!  We should learn to “have no fear”!

 

Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of DavidANDSon of God”.  In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).  You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

Т

In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!

I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t!  I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind.  Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”)  What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  

She was a young girl of about fifteen.  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.

I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.  (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary.  It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.

This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)

Т

Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience.  Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us.  Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan.  On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well.  We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father.  AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.

Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you.  In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others?  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!

Т

To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time.  It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ.  The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe.  She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child.  In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son.  Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s).  Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something).  Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.

For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history.  God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation.  Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine.  This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human.  In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!

What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS?  How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation?  The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth.  What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God?  Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God.  This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.

ТТТ

 

 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  Amen”

ТТТ

  Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV

 

“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV 

ТТТ

 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?

ТТТ

 

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

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

Т

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

“‘I’m Back’ – An Update On Dan’s Hospitalization”


As Randy Quaid said in the movie “Independence Day” – – “I’M BACK!!”

It has been an interesting week for me and my family.  I was jolted from my sleep at 4 am Tuesday morning with a tearing type pain in my mid- and left upper “belly”, radiating to my back.  This pain would not subside, and only increased with any deep breathing, movement, and ingestion of water, food, meds, etc.

So, at 7 am, my wife took me to our “local” Emergency Department.  From there I was transported by ambulance to Barnes Hospital’s Emergency Department, still in bad pain, even with ‘majorly strong’ narcotic pain meds (barely cut the edge off the pain – never got rid of the pain).

In total, I was in two hospitals; had one ambulance trip; many, many, many blood tests, including blood cultures; probes shoved up my nose into the sinuses (I don’t know why, either, if you’re asking); several EKG’s; a few X-rays; CT scans; and was even “scoped” (A tube with a camera placed down my throat, looking at my Esophagus (food tube), Stomach, and Duodenum (connects the stomach to the intestines).  I also had about six separate IV’s; and only God knows how many needle sticks for blood work, IV tries, and heparin shots.

I was NPO (No food or liquids from Monday afternoon to Friday afternoon, and I really did not care because of the pain I was experiencing.  At one point, I was given so much “pain meds”, my blood pressure literally dropped down to 68/30, which isn’t good for a person who is on meds for HIGH blood pressure.  At this point, I felt like I was going to be with Sister Death (a Franciscan thing), yet, I was not upset or concerned for myself, but only for my family being without me.  During this time, I was calm, relaxed, and warm; it actually felt nice, and I perceive this feeling as a sort of “refuge” amidst all the pain and discomfort I was experiencing.   

This entire time, the only prayer I was continually repeating was “your will be done”.  I asked for a Catholic Priest that night THREE times, and three more times throughout my hospitalization.  Sadly, I never saw a priest or anyone from “Pastoral Care” at any point in my hospitalization.

I started having some relief in the intensity of the pain (why?) on Friday, and all test results came back negative.  All involved in my care (Internal Medicine, Hospitalists, Gastroenterology, Urology, and Radiology) could not find a cause for my pain.  With an unknown source of pain, but with my pain being controlled reasonably with medications, I was discharge home to follow up with my Primary Care Doctor this week.

Yes, I am still in considerable pain – -STILL (Never totally left), – – but it is manageable.  I know what it ISN’T, which is good because there are a lot of really bad things that have been ruled-out.  I would just love to know what it IS, but “God’s will be done”. 

I thank you all for the prayers and thoughts; they worked.  Please keep up the prayers for me and my family, for I see this possibly being a long-term event.  All I can say is there possibly are many souls no longer in purgatory as I have been offering up all my pain, and every beat of my heart, as a continuous prayer for their souls.  So, maybe there is a good thing resulting from my illness afterall.

There will be no Gospel reflection for this week.  I am still not up to the challenge and time of writing one.  I will have everything back in place for next week however.  Sorry for any inconvenience.

God Bless and Pax
Dan Halley, SFO

♫”Oh, Johnny Boy, the Holy Spirit Is Calling You!”♫ – Mark 1:1-8†


    

 

Second Week 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
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule 

ТТТ

 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations: 

Do not forget that “St. Nick’s day” is this week (Tuesday, December 6th).  In many places of the world, it is St. Nicholas (and not Santa) who is the main gift giver.  Put out your children’s shoes and they find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. Remember though, St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.

Т

My wife’s surgery (foot surgery) went well, and she is cooperating.  Hopefully, she will be back at work within a few weeks.  Thank you for all the prayers.

ТТТ

 

 Today in Catholic History:

†   1075 – Death of Archbishop Anno II of Cologne
†   1110 – First Crusade: The Crusaders conquer Sidon.
†   1259 – Kings Louis IX of France (A Third Order Fransican and Patron Saint of the SFO Order) and Henry III of England agree to the Treaty of Paris, in which Henry renounces his claims to French-controlled territory on continental Europe (including Normandy) in exchange for Louis withdrawing his support for English rebels.
†   1334 – Death of Pope John XXII (b. 1249)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II, (1503-13), patron of Michelangelo, Bramante, and Raphael
†   1563 – The final session of the Council of Trent is held (it opened on December 13, 1545).
†   1674 – Father Jacques Marquette founds a mission on the shores of Lake Michigan to minister to the Illiniwek (the mission would later grow into the city of Chicago, Illinois).
†   1786 – Birth of John LA Luyten, Catholic Member of Dutch 2nd parliament [or 12/14]
†   1963 – Pope Paul VI closes 2nd session of 2nd Vatican Council †   1997 – Death of David Abell Wood, priest, at age 72 Memorials Feasts: Saint John of Damascus; the Great Martyr Saint Barbara, St. Ada (feast day)

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

ТТТ

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“’Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ is an action of the risen Savior.  The Holy Spirit reveals to the spirit of the believer the true reality, majesty and saving power of the Son of God.  We are enabled to surrender our lives in a deeper way to God’s saving work.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to die to sin and live to God.” ~ Fr. Francis Martin, “The Life Changer”, St. Bede’s Publications

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist preaching repentance and baptizing people, in preparation for the “One” who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB Mark 1:1-8) 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].  2a As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”  4 John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  6 John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.  7 And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

ТТТ

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday’s Gospel was taken from the end of Mark.  Today’s Gospel is taken from the beginning of Mark.  Unlike Luke and Matthew, Mark does not include any details of Jesus’ birth.  Instead, he begins with Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, and with the appearance of John the Baptist in the desert wilderness.  We are invited today to reflect upon the role of this last great prophet, John the Baptist, who ‘prepared the way’ for Jesus and for the Salvation that Jesus Christ would bring to us then, now, and in the future.

Many scholars believe that the Gospels reflect the personal and group tensions that likely existed between the followers of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Each of the four Evangelists report on John’s preaching and baptizing, and each also emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ baptism by John.  The four Gospels go on explain that John the Baptist was sent to preach in preparation for another.  

Т

Holy Scripture tells us that John (the Baptist) was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb:

He [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”  (Luke 1:15).

When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the son in her womb, John, leapt in her womb as they were both “filled” with the Holy Spirit:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).

The passion and fervor of the Holy Spirit dwelt in John, and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah and Savior.  John was divinely led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness – – prior to his “prophetic” ministry, – – where he himself was tested and grew in the “Word” of God.  

Т

Although Mark attributes Jesus’ prophecy to Isaiah, the text is a combination of several passages from several books of Holy Scripture:

See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20);

 “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3);

 “Now I am sending my messengerhe will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1);

“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’” (Matthew 11:10);

And,

“This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’” (Luke 7:27).  

John the Baptist’s ministry is seen, and presented in this reading as God’s prelude to the saving mission of God the Fathers “Son”.  John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.

Т

John broke the prophetic silence of several centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God to the people of Israel.  His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who also reproached the “chosen people” of God for their unfaithfulness and who also tried to awaken true repentance in them.  

Among the Jewish people – – who became unconcerned with the things of God, – – it was John’s work and mission to awaken their interest, to unsettle them from their complacency, and to arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive Christ when He came.  

Why did Jesus say John the Baptist was more than a prophet as reported in Luke’s Gospel:

Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” (Luke 7:26)?

He was more than a prophet; he was the “voice” making straight the “way of the Lord”.  John the Baptist became “the voice” who is coming:

 “He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23).

 And what exactly did the prophet Isaiah say about this “voice” of the “one crying out in the desert”:

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, that she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.  A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:1-3).

Т

Can you picture a man “clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (verse 6).  Was he thought of as a “wild” man, with “crazy” ideas, OR, was he looked at as the prophesized “prophet”?  Remember, he did have a large following, and was watched, with “some concern”, from religious and political figures of the area.  They all knew the Old Testament prophesies of Isaiah.  John the Baptist’s clothes and dietary habits recalled that of the prophet “Elijah” from the Old Testament:

They replied, ‘He wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist.’  ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.” (2 Kings 1:8).

Jesus Christ Himself even speaks of John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who has already come:

 “Then the disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’” (Matthew 17:1012);

Then they [Peter, James, and John] asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He told them, ‘Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” (Mark 9:1113);

And,

He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17).

 

John the Baptist truly completed the cycle of great prophets begun by Elijah:

“All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Matt. 11:13-14).

John’s baptismal ministry was for repentance, for turning away from sin, and for taking on a “new way” of life according to God’s “Word”.  Our baptism in, with, and through Jesus Christ – – by flowing water and the Holy Spirit – – results in a “new birth” and a glorious entry into God’s kingdom, as His beloved children:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5).

Т

Jesus will create a “new” people of God through the life-giving baptism with the Holy Spirit:

I [John the Baptist] have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1-8).

However, first Jesus will identify Himself with the “chosen people of Israel” in submitting to John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance:

John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4),

AND, in bearing on their (and our) behalf the burden of God the Father’s decisive judgment, was baptized for the “chosen people of Israel”:

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.” (Mark 1:9).

As in the desert of Sinai at the Exodus, so here, in the wilderness of Judea (at the Jordan River also associated with Elijah and Elisha), Israel’s Son-ship with God the Father is to be “renewed” through the living waters AND Holy Spirit of Jesus’ baptism.

Т

In conclusion, Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s appearance highlights John’s connection and permanence with Jewish prophetic tradition.  Mark, in today’s reading, combines quotations from the Old Testament books of Exodus, Isaiah, and Malachi.  Mark’s description of John the Baptist as an “ascetic”, living in the desert and “clothed in camel hair”, eating “locusts and wild honey”, is reminiscent of the description of the prophet “Elijah” found in the book, “Second Kings”.  The people of Judea and Jerusalem flocked to John the Baptist, longing for and listening to his message of repentance and forgiveness.  Many came to John to be baptized in the Jordan.  Mark’s Gospel is direct and clear; John the Baptist’s role is onlyto prepare the way” for another to come, “one who is greater” than John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate.  John says that he has baptized with water, but that the “one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit” as well.  John the Baptist’s baptism was not yet a Catholic Christian baptism.  It was a “preparation” for the Sacrament of Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

John the Baptist is presented to us as a model for preparation during Advent.  We, too, in this day and time – – some two millennia later, – – are still called upon to “prepare a way for the Lord”.  Like John the Baptist, we ARE messengers in service to the “One” who is greater than any on earth.  Our Baptism commissions us to call others to life as disciples of Jesus.

Think about ways in which the example of others around you have “called” you to be a follower of Jesus Christ; who have been examples to you of Christian discipleship.  What are the characteristics they posses that you have tried to (or can) emulate?

Jesus is ready to give us the “fire” of His Holy Spirit so that we may “glow with” the light, joy, and truth of His Gospel to a materialistic and secular world, so desperately in need of God’s light, joy, and truth.  Jesus Christ’s “Word” has power to change and transform our lives so that we may be lights pointing others to Him.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light, the truth, and the way of Jesus Christ.  The question is: “Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and communicate? 

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ, the Sacrament of Baptism “commissions” us to also prepare the way of the Lord.  The grace of the Holy Spirit leads us to continually renew our lives so that we might lead others to Jesus.  Can you identify at least one action that you will take this week to try to be a more faithful follower, a more faithful disciple, of Jesus?  Pray that God will receive this action you have just identified, and use it to lead others to his Son.

The season of Advent invites us to renew our lives in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Some of the first-century people who heard the message of John the Baptist repented for their sins and were then baptized.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, our sins are truly forgiven, and we also receive the grace (the gift) of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our life of discipleship.  Led by the Holy Spirit, we should use this Advent season time to renew our lives in “preparing the way” for Jesus.

ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.” 

ТТТ

 

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

The Roman Catholic Church bases her teaching upon one source: The “WORD” of God.  This revelation is communicated to us in two divine ways: Holy Scripture and apostolic “Tradition”.  Many people (including most Protestants) believe in only the writings found in the bible are the word of God.  However, Oral transmission of the faith is also the word of God as Peter reported:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) RSV

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) KJV

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Instead, it is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through the “Tradition”, the “Word” is truly inspired from the Holy Spirit.

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible, and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

 

Tradition Found in Holy Scripture, Part 1

 

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  RSV

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  KJV

 

“Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us(2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  RSV

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  KJV

 

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  RSV

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  KJV

Information from
“Catholic Answers” Website
www.catholic.com

ТТТ

 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

Where can you find the virtues in the SFO Rule?

How would you paraphrase what Saint Francis thought about each of the virtues? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How have you been living the virtues?

ТТТ

 

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

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

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

Т

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