“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 

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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? 

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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!!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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 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

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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)

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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?

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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.

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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.

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