Monthly Archives: January 2012

“First Century Headline: ‘Jesus Goes Into the Exorcize Business – AND Cleans Up!’” – Mark 1:21-28†


Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection 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:

 

Last week was the annual “March for Life” in Washington D.C.  The purpose was to mark the 39th anniversary of the ominous ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade.  This ruling legalized the murder of 54 million babies in these few years.  This number equates to 17 percent of America’s current 312 million-plus population – – “17 PERCENT”!!!  Only the “Black Plague” has cost more lives … Not even ALL our countries WARs “combined” can claim this sad distinction!   Let us all pray for those lost lives, for those about to have abortions, and especially for the overturning of this barbaric violation of Natural – and GOD’s – Laws.  Here is a prayer I say daily:

Prayer to St. Gerard

(Patron Saint for Mothers)

“St. Gerard, you worshiped Jesus as the Lord of Life.  I ask you today to pray for my special intentions: For all those about to have abortions, all pregnant women, their husbands, all new parents, & especially _________.  Lift up to Jesus all those who seek to conceive a child, all those having difficult pregnancies, all who have suffered the loss of a child, and all who lovingly lift up their children to God.

Pray that all of us, by caring for mothers, fathers, and children born and unborn may build a Culture of Life, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   904 – Sergius III comes out of retirement to take over the papacy from the deposed antipope Christopher.
†   1119 – Death of Pope Gelasius II
†   1732 – Paris churchyard Saint-Medard closed after Jansenistic ritual
†   1860 – American College established in Rome by Pope Pius IX
†   Feast/Memorials: Valerius of Trèves; Saint Juniper

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing a man with an unclean spirit.  Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Galilee.

 

(NAB Mark 1:21-28) 21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.  22The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.  23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”  25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!”  26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.  27 All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.”  28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

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Gospel Reflection:

Do you believe that God’s “Word” has power to set you free and to transform your life permanently?  Today’s Gospel describes what was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ earthly public ministry.  Jesus, and the disciples who chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel, arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee.  There, Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  The people responded to Jesus’ teaching with “astonishment”, noting Jesus’ “authority”, contrasting His message and teachings with the “Scribes’”.  We are only in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel and we already are finding evidence of tension which will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem on a future Passover Sabbath.

Today’s reading happens, as I said, during a Sabbath, and both inside and outside the synagogue of Capernaum.  His ministry on this day combined teachings and the “miracles” of exorcism and healing.  There is no mention made of Jesus’ words of the teaching in the synagogue in Mark’s Gospel; however, today’s reading DOES cover the “effect” of their astonishment and His authority on the people hearing His “Word” and seeing His actions.  

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The witnesses declare that Jesus “teaches with authority” to ALL the people – – in AND out – – of the synagogue; and witnesses are still declaring His “authority” now, today, as it was then!  Jesus’ authoritive “teaching” provides evidence and witness as to His definite claim over those hearing and believing His “Words”, and over the “unseen spirits” influencing individual listeners.  His “Word” was offered to those present listening to Him in the best tradition of the Old Testament prophets.  His method of teaching was different; not like the “Scribes” who taught and spoke the “Word” (as they believed it to be), yet did not LIVE the “Word” in their daily actions and lives.  

When Jesus taught, He always spoke with “authority”.  He spoke the “Word” of God the Father as NO ONE had spoken before!!  When the Rabbis taught, they supported their statements with quotes from other authorities or from their personal interpretations of the Mosaic Law.  The prophets spoke with God-given, delegated, “authority”, i.e., “Thus says the Lord.”  When Jesus spoke, He needed no authorities, no Temple leaders, or no Rabbis needed to back His “Word” or statements.  He WAS and IS THE “authority” personified (incarnated); Jesus Christ WAS and IS THE “Word” of God the Father made flesh.  When He spoke, God the Father spoke.  Jesus Himself declared:

I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  So what I say, I say as the Father told me.” (John 12:49-50)

Even the demons and “unclean spirits” obeyed when He commanded.  After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happened; a man with an “unclean spirit” approached Jesus and calls out to Him while in the synagogue.  Demons know Jesus.  Demons are not afraid to enter His holy temple.  They have a personal, yet unfriendly, relationship with Him.  So, when someone asks you, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus, do you know Him?”, just remember, so does Satan and all the other fallen angels, and the “unclean spirits”!!

What IS an “unclean spirit”?  Well, it is a spirit who is resistant to, and continues to resist vehemently, the holiness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  This “unclean spirit” is fearful of the Holy Trinitarian Godhead because he (or they) know and fear the absolute power of Jesus Christ to destroy their influence on the people who also attempt to resist the holiness of the Trinitarian God:

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew Him.” (Mark 1:32, 34);

Whenever unclean spirits saw Him they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’” (Mark3:11).

Plus, they, every “unclean spirit”, know Jesus’ divine power is granted to others doing His will:  

They [the Apostles’] drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:13).

As we see in this example (and throughout Mark’s Gospel), the various spirits and demons know Jesus for who He truly is, and are fearful of Him and the overwhelming power He possesses over them.  In fact, they understand Jesus’ identity better than His disciples at this time.  Jesus orders the “unclean spirit” to be quiet, and then drives the “unclean spirit” out of the possessed man.  Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is a true indication of His physical and divine power over ALL evil, and over ALL reality.

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In reality, and in the less scientific era of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness on the person’s part.  Thank the Lord (literally) that our modern understanding of illness is very different and more beneficial for a “sick” individual.  Possession by “unclean spirits” may have been a way to describe what we call mental illness in today’s world.  It may also have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions easily correctable today.  

There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine.  Jesus appears to be similar to these healers; but He heals with a unique authority and connects His healing activities with the “Word” of His preaching and teaching.  However, we are missing the point that Mark is making in this Gospel if we try to explain away the healing work and power of Jesus Christ as simply an act that can be “accomplished” today scientifically.  

This man processed with an “unclean spirit” calls Jesus “the Holy One of God”.  This was not a confession as such, but an attempt by the “demon” to hopelessly defend himself against Jesus’ power over him.  The demon is trying to counter Jesus’ “authority” by declaring that he knows Jesus to be the “Holy One of God”.  By using “Holy One of God” (Jesus Christ), the demon thought and tried to establish control over Jesus, and to impress the congregation.  How wrong and misguided could this “unclean spirit” be in this belief!!  Jesus silenced the bellowing words of the “unclean spirit”, driving him out of the afflicted man, by His authoritive “Word”.  By doing so, the congregation was definitely “stunned” and “impressed”.

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It is clear that the crowds see in Jesus’ deliverance of the possessed man a “declaration”, a “revelation”, and a “affirmation” of His divine “authority” over every authority, those who resist God’s “Word”, those who comply with God’s “Word”, and those who do not know God’s “Word”.  Jesus’ power to deliver and heal gives clear credibility, authority, and support to His teachings as coming from God – – (unlike the Scribes).  Because of the kind of authority with which He healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee like a divine wildfire illuminating the world. 

So awesomely compelling were Jesus’ “Words” and actions that the news about Him and His abilities could not be contained any more than the sun can be contained with the emerging dawn.  Thus, His reputation spread quickly throughout all of Galilee, and spread throughout Israel, even to the High Priests in the very center of Jerusalem.  Today, some two thousand years later, the “good news” of and about Jesus Christ is STILL continuing to spread.  This “illuminating fire” has not been quenched; rather, it is instead growing brighter throughout ALL nations of the world.  We are called to participate – – to be active, not passive – – in sharing the “Good News” of Jesus Christ with others in our personal and public words, and in our personal and public deeds, even here and now.  We must have, and deepen our faith in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, – – and His “Word”.  A true and fully complete “faith, love, and hope” in Him is the key to knowing Him better, loving Him more deeply, and seeing Him more fully.

Remember, faith is powerful; but without love it profits nothing:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 13). 

Scripture continues to tell us that true faith works through love:

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6).

As faith thrives, so flourishes hope:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). 

Our faith is made perfect in love because love orients us to both the supreme good who is God the Father Himself, as well as the good of our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God:

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

Notice: “Hope” anchors our faith in the promises of God the Father and cleanses our desires for the things which will last for ALL eternity.  This is why the “Word” of Jesus Christ has power to set us free from all that would keep us bound in sin, deception, and despair.  

Finally, faith is both a free gift of God the Father AND the free submission of OUR individual wills to the whole truth which God reveals to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  To live, grow, and persevere in the perpetual and complete faith of God the Father, we must nourish and support our faith with His “Word”.  Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds so that we may grow in His “truth” and in our knowledge of His great love for each of us, as I just wrote: personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Thank you Jesus Christ for revealing the power of Your “Word”.

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How does today’s reflection affect you personally, uniquely, and intimately?  Try to name some awesome and amazing things, events, and/or people in your lives which or who bring you closer to the “Holy One of God” now revealed by His “Word”, to be the “Most Holy Trinity”.  

In today’s Gospel, the people who “heard” Jesus were “astonished” and “amazed” in their personal experience with Jesus.  What did these people, who saw and heard Jesus, find so “amazing”?  Per the Gospel reading, the people heard and saw the “power” and “authority” of God actively at work in their personal and public lives, in and through Jesus Christ Himself!!  

We should see the same “power” and “authority” of Jesus at work in OUR personal and public lives.  Can you name any modern examples of people in whom you have seen the “power” and “authority” of God at work?  It could be a priest, a friend, or even a “marginalized” individual.  PLEASE pray that we ALL will experience an awe-inspiring wonder at the work of God in our lives and in OUR world today – – MANY, MANY times.

If we approach God the Father – – and His “Word” – – humbly, with an eagerness to do everything He desires, we are in a much better position to continue seeing God’s presence in our daily lives.  We will be able to learn what the Trinitarian God wants to teach us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, through His personal, unique, and intimate “Word”.  Are you eager to be taught by Jesus Christ as the people “hearing” Him in today’s reading?  Are you willing to mold and model YOUR life according to His “Word”?  We already know the end of the book; so, let’s be on the “winning” side.  AMEN!!

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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.”

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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.

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

 

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). RSV

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58). KJV

*

I and the Father are one (John 10:30). RSV

I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30). KJV

*

For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Roger of Todi

 

Blessed Roger of Todi

Blessed Roger (b. 1216) died at Todi in the Italian province of Umbria, Italy, died on January 5, 1237; cultus (adoration of) approved by Pope Benedict XIV.

Blessed Roger was one of the early Franciscans who was admitted to the Order by the founder himself.  Because of his earnest efforts at perfection, the Seraphic Founder greatly esteemed him, and often chose him as his companion when he set out to preach or to direct souls.  St. Francis appointed him spiritual director of the convent of Poor Clares at Rieti.

Pope Gregory IX, who knew him personally, and who had called him a saint even during his lifetime, at once sanctioned the celebration of his feast at Todi.  Pope Benedict XIV extended his veneration to the entire Franciscan Order.

(Based on info from http://www.franciscan-sfo.org &
http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com websites)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Prayer” – – “Question”

(Answers next week)

How does prayer capture the “double miracle” occurring at each and every Mass?

How does imaging St. Francis’ appeal to each “Person of the Holy Trinity”, AND, the “whole” communion of Saints, in giving blessings to his friars affect you personally, and as a Franciscan?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Hey, Let’s Go Fishing; We Have The Best Hook Possible: ‘J’esus!” – Mark 1:14-20†


 

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote or Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer or Psalm
  • 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:

 

It is less than 290 days till the day we elect President of the United States, and many other Legislative positions for Federal and State offices.  I would like to share a prayer I have been praying daily since before our last election for President, in 2008.

An Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA 

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.

Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.

Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.

Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1588 – Pope Sixtus V decrees “Immense AeterniDei” (Reformed curia): Reorganized the Roman Curia, establishing permanent congregations of cardinals to advise the pope on various subjects.
†   1850 – Death of Vincenzo (Vincent) Pallotti, Italian saint, dies at age 54; He was the founder of the Pious Society of Missions (the Pallotines)
†   1913 – Birth of William Cardinal Conway, Northern Irish clergyman (d. 1977)
†   1922 – Death of Benedictus XV(Benedict XV), [Giacomo Markies D Chiesa], pope (1914-22), dies at 67 (b. 1854)
†   2007 – Abbé Pierre, French priest (b. 1912).  He was a French Catholic priest, member of the Resistance during World War II, and deputy of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP). He founded in 1949 the Emmaus movement, which has the goal of helping poor and homeless people and refugees.
†   Feast/Memorial: St. Vincent, Anastasius of Persia.

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus calling “fishermen”: Simon and Andrew, along with James and John, to be His disciples and “fishers of men”.

 

(NAB Mark 1:14-20) 14 After John had been arrested,Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  20 Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

When a “king” had “good news” to deliver to his subjects, he sent messengers throughout his kingdom making a public announcement.  Examples would include the birth of a new king, the winning of a major battle, or the defeat of an invading army.  God the Father sent His prophets (Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist just to name only a few) to announce the coming of His “Messiah” (meaning “anointed one”) “King”.  After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River – – and “anointed” by the Holy Spirit – – He begins His public ministry: teaching and preaching the “Good News” – – the Gospel – – AND proclaiming the “kingdom of God” was NOW at hand for any and ALL ready to receive it.

Mark’s Gospel begins by reporting on the preaching and ministry of the last “prophet” prior to the Messiah, John the Baptist.  He is “the voice in the wilderness” who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  Immediately after describing the works and “words” of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ “baptism in the Jordan River”, and His “temptation in the desert”.  Mark wants his audience to understand the important connection between the end of John the Baptist’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ own earthly ministry.  We need to remember that Mark’s audience was predominately “Gentile” and unfamiliar with Jewish customs, hence:

The Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves.  And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds]. … Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God).”  (Mark 7:3–4, 11).

Jesus preaches the “Kingdom of Godin continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist.  Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the “kingdom” is a “call to repentance”.  

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Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus called His first disciples.  Today’s reading also stresses the immediacy with which these men dropped everything to follow Him.  We can only begin to imagine what Jesus’ presence must have been like in invoking such a response in these four disciples.  While a few of us might relate to such a radical conversion, many of us would find such a sudden change in ourselves, or in another person, troubling and worrisome (Wow!  Would we say in response to this happening: “He became a ‘bible thumper’”!).  There are very few things for which we would willingly drop everything.  Yet, this is the immediacy with which these first disciples responded to Jesus.  These first disciples were willing to drop everything, making Jesus Christ and the “Kingdom of Godthe most important things in their lives.

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Today’s reading starts with John the Baptist. We are told that he had just been arrested.  In God’s plan, Jesus was not to proclaim the “good news” of salvation prior to the termination of John the Baptist’s “active” mission. (Hmm, think about that one.)  There is very little over-lapping between the two.

The “calling” of the first disciples of Jesus Christ promised them a share in Jesus’ work and entailed abandonment of family, and their former way of life.  Three of the four Disciples, “Simon (Peter)”, “James”, and “John”, are distinguished among all the other “Apostles” in having a closer, more intimate, relationship with Jesus:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1);

And

He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John], and began to feel sorrow and distress.” (Matthew 26:37). 

Andrew is the one disciple from today’s reading not mentioned often in Holy Scripture.  In reality, he is only mentioned three times.  However, when mentioned, Andrew is performing an interesting and especially unique function in his ministry: bringing people TO Jesus, and instituting an important “function” in the Universal (Catholic) Christian Church:

1)  Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, the one to be the leader of the Catholic Church:

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).”  (John 1: 40-42);

2)  At the Multiplication of the Loaves, Andrew brings to Jesus the boy having the bread and fish used in instituting the Holy Eucharist and the first Mass:

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish …” (John 6:9)

And

3) When Andrew and Phillip brought some “Greeks”, who had “come to worship” – – with Jesus – – at the Passover festival.  In actuality, they were probably Gentiles, signifying Jesus’ role of bringing ALL mankind to God the Father, and not just the Jewish “chosen people”.

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. … They asked, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’ … Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” (John 12:20-22)

In today’s reading, the disciples’ response is motivated by Jesus’ personal and direct invitation, an element that emphasizes His mysterious power and divinity.

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The first sentence, the first two verses (14 & 15), have important facts and statements of faith within these few words

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15)   

As I said in my opening, the last “prophet” prior to Jesus Christ: John the Baptist had just been arrested and in prison.  I am sure Jesus was upset, disheartened, and concerned personally for John the Baptist and for His (and John’s) disciples’ welfare.  Both Jesus and John the Baptist were in “Galilee”, the location for the major portion of Jesus’ “public” ministry prior to His arrest, trial, scourging, and death on the cross outside the gates of Jerusalem.  Interesting for me is that John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him.  However, God the Father’s “good news” could not (and cannot be silenced).  As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His testimony in Galilee, His home district.   

Jesus proclaimed the time is “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John the Baptist’s message and mission of “repentance”, calling His disciples to “believe in the gospel” – – the “good news” – – which He came to deliver PERSONALLY!!  

What is the “good news” which Jesus is STILL delivering?  It is the “good news” of:

1)  Peace and restoration of OUR personal relationship with God the Father:

Stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15),

2)  The hope of heaven and everlasting life:

Provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.” (Colossians 1:23),

3)  The truth in God the Father’s “Word” being true and reliable:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.  Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel” (Colossians 1:3-5),

4)  The promise of reward to those who seek Him:

When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:4-6),

5)  Everlasting life:

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10),

And,

6)  The “good news” of salvation: liberty from sin, and freedom to live as children of God the Father:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:13).

The “Gospel” (the “good news”) which Jesus “proclaimed” is God the Father’s “Word”.  It is not only the “good news” from God the Father, but is also “about” God the Father “at work” in Jesus Christ Himself.  

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What did Jesus mean by saying, “this is the time of fulfillment”?  Well, He is expressing the time of “God the Father’s promises” being fulfilled – – in, with, and through – – Jesus Christ, the Messiah Lord.  “Fulfillment” includes not only human obedience to God the Father’s “Word”, but also the triumph of the Godhead over physical and spiritual “evils”; especially over physical and spiritual death.  

Jesus’ preaching is GREATER than John the Baptist’s preaching.  Jesus is beginning the “time of fulfillmentNOW!  The “Kingdom of God” is already here!!  Jesus’ “fulfilling” God the Father’s promises was demonstrated many times by Jesus, both in His “Words” and in His actions.  Jesus’ “healings” and “forgiveness” of sins were (and still are) truly magnificent, exceptional, and revealing signs of the “Kingdom of God”.

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So what is the “kingdom of God”?  The word “kingdom” means much more than a territory or land mass.  It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign”, and the power to “rule”: to employ authority.  The many “prophets” announced that God the Father would establish a “kingdom”, not just for one nation or people, but for the entire world and for ALL peoples!!

Holy Scriptures tell us God the Father’s “throne” is in heaven and His rule and power is over ALL:

Bless the LORD, all you His angels, mighty in strength, acting at His behest, obedient to His command.” (Psalm 103:19).

His “kingdom” is far bigger, greater, and more powerful than anything we can imagine; it is TRULY “universal” (Catholic) and everlasting:

So I issued a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me to give the interpretation of the dream.” (Daniel 4:3).

God the Father’s “kingdom” is full of glory, power, and splendor:

“They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your mighty works, making known to the sons of men your mighty acts, the majestic glory of your ruleYour reign is a reign for all ages, your dominion for all generations.  The LORD is trustworthy in all His words, and loving in all His works.” (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, we are told that His “kingdom” will be given to the “Son of Man (Hmm) and to the saints:

He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.  But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.  Until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived for the holy ones to possess the kingship.  Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High, whose kingship shall be an everlasting kingship, whom all dominions shall serve and obey.” (Daniel 7:14,18,22,27).

Jesus goes on to say, “The kingdom of God is at hand ….”  He is literally meaning, “heaven”.  “Heaven” is a Jewish proxy for the name “God”, which was strictly avoided by devout Jews, out of respect and reverence.  The expression, “the kingdom of God”, in reality, means the effective rule of God the Father over His people.

Per Jewish apocalyptic literature, the “kingdom of God” is to be ushered in by a “judgment” in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was the message of John the Baptist: to repent for the “kingdom of God” is coming SOON!!  The Christian understanding of the “kingdom of God” is seen as being established in stages, concluding with the “Parousia” of Jesus’ return (the Second Coming).

NO ONE knows when this “Parousia” event will happen, including Jesus Christ:

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

So, we must follow John the Baptist’, AND Jesus’ instruction, “RepentNOW, NOW, NOW!!

Repent, and believe in the gospel”  (Mark1:15).

John the Baptist called for a “change of heart” (a daily “conversion”), and also, a change of conduct.  He called for a turning of one’s life from rebellion, upheaval and revolt to a life of obedience, humility, and trust towards, and in, God the Father.  

How do we enter the “kingdom of God”?  The answer is in announcing the “good news”.  Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the “kingdom of God”: repent and believe.  When we submit to Christ’s power and rule in our lives, and believe His “good news” message, Our Lord Jesus Christ will give us His grace and power to live a “new” and specially unique way of life – – as residents of His “kingdom”.  

Through repentance and belief in His power and majesty – – His “Word” – – God gives us the grace to renounce the evil and sad kingdom of darkness, ruled over, and powered, by sin and Satan (the father of lies):

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). 

This is “why” true repentance is the very first step to entering His “kingdom”.  Jesus Christ needs to be the Lord, King, and Master of one’s heart and soul, – – instead of sin, selfishness, and greed.  If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin which is controlling us.  True repentance requires a contrite heart, sorrow for sin, and a firm resolution in order to avoid repeating the sin in the future:

Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” (Psalm 51:17).

Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is: a rejection of His love and wisdom in and for our lives, and a refusal to do what is good in accord with His “will”.  Jesus’ grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything keeping one from His love and truth.  

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In contrast to last week’s Gospel in which the first disciples seek Him out, Jesus takes the initiative in calling His first disciples.  As mentioned last Sunday in the Gospel reading, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for students to “seek out” rabbis, asking to be their disciples.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus breaks with this tradition and “invites” His disciples to learn from Him.  

Jesus is said to have first called four “fishermen”: Simon, Andrew, James, and John (Two sets of brothers).  Jesus promises that He will make them “fishers of men.”  .  Mark does not report Jesus’ words of invitation verbatim, but He does report they left their fishing “immediately”, leaving their father, Zebedee, behind in the boat.  It was obviously an urgent request for these four men to leave everything NOW.  Is it of urgency to you to follow Jesus Christ as well?

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To conclude: to believe is to take Jesus at His “Word” and to recognize that God the Father loves us so much He sent His Only-begotten Son to free us from the dreadful bondage of sin, destructive desires, and everlasting death.  God made the supreme sacrifice of His beloved Son on the holy cross in order to “ransom” us back to a relationship with Him.  

God is our heavenly Father, and He wants us to live as His children.  God the Father loved us first, still loves us dearly, and invites us in, and with love, to surrender our lives to Him.  Do you believe that the Gospel – – the “good news” of Jesus Christ – – has power to free you from the bondage to sin, fear, and death?

When Jesus preached the Gospel message, He “called” many others to follow as His disciples (including each of us).  He gave them (AND US) a mission: “to be ‘fishers of men’ for the kingdom of God”.  

Why did he choose these ordinary people like these fishermen (Smelly, slimy, dirty fishermen!), and even each of us, to be disciples?    In the choice of the first “Apostles”, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He purposely chose very ordinary people!!  These first Disciples of Christ were non-professionals, having no wealth or position in society.  They were chosen from the “common people”, doing ordinary things, having no special education, and with no social advantages in life.  

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well.  He chose (and STILL chooses) individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming with His grace, direction, and power.  When the Lord calls us to serve, we need not think we have nothing to offer.  The Lord takes what we can offer and uses it for greatness in His “kingdom”.  Do you believe that God the Father truly wants to work through, with, and in YOU – – for His glory?

As I just inferred, Jesus Christ is still speaking this same message to us today.  We should strive to “fish”, and “catch” people for the “kingdom of God”.  All we need do is to simply allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine in and through each of us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  God the Father wants others to see the light of Christ in each of us in the way we live, speak, and witness to the joy of the “good news” in our daily lives.  Paul the Apostles says:

Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place.  For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Do you “witness” the joy of the Gospel to those you meet?  Do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives so they may come to know Our Lord Jesus Christ and to grow in knowing of His love?

Jesus calls us to seek the true “good” and “light” of each person, including those complicit in social sin.  Let us testify that God’s justice flowing through and from us with love and joy:

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way” (Psalm 25:8).

Let us turn from sin and invite others to journey with us on the way to the “fulfillment” of, and in, God’s “kingdom”.

For me, Mark’s Gospel is conveyed with a great feeling of urgency and immediacy.  Jesus Christ is a person of “action”, and events in Mark’s Gospel occur in rapid succession.  Time is of essence; the fishermen “immediately” put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ first “Apostles”.  The “Kingdom of God” is here and now!!  The “time of fulfillment” is here and now!!  How might your life be different if you more fully shared this sense of immediacy in God fulfilling His “kingdom” with Jesus’ “Second Coming” (the Parousia)?  (The fuse is lit!  Are you ready for the “big bang”?)

Think of circumstances in which you have had to “drop everything.”  It could be the call to pick up a sick child from school, the cry of a hurt or angry child, or something else.  How did you feel about having to change your plans in each of these situations?  How do you feel when someone asks you to drop everything to help him or her?  For many, it is not easy to drop everything in order to respond to the needs of another.

Imagine what Jesus’ presence and invitation to these first followers must have been like.  Remember, they “immediately” responded by leaving their business, their occupation, and their livelihood, to become one of His disciples.  How might OUR life change if we understood the “Kingdom of God” to be as important and immediate in our lives as did these first disciples?  Let’s ask God to help each of us personally experience and encounter the “Kingdom of God with such immediacy as these first disciples.

Here I am Lord!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Our Father

“Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 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.

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 1:

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah. 9:6). RSV

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6). KJV

*

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-17).  RSV

“Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17). KJV

*

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Vincent (d. 304)

When Jesus deliberately began his “journey” to death, Luke says that he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  It is this quality of rocklike courage that distinguishes the martyrs.

Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius.  His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler.  But St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on St. Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him.  We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.

According to the story we have (and as with some of the other early martyrs the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life), Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend St. Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain.  The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity.  Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia.  Hunger and torture failed to break them.  Like the youths in the fiery furnace (Book of Daniel, chapter three), they seemed to thrive on suffering.

Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound like those of World War II were tried.  But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself.  He had the torturers beaten because they failed.

Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict?  He would not.  Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself.  Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer.  Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.

Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest.  When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.

Comment: The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do.  It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful.  But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering.  God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments.  God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.

Quote: “Wherever it was that Christians were put to death, their executions did not bear the semblance of a triumph.  Exteriorly they did not differ in the least from the executions of common criminals.  But the moral grandeur of a martyr is essentially the same, whether he preserved his constancy in the arena before thousands of raving spectators or whether he perfected his martyrdom forsaken by all upon a pitiless flayer’s field” (The Roman Catacombs, Hertling-Kirschbaum).

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:

 

Prayer

Create an image, in your mind, of St. Francis in prayer.  What is he offering in prayer in your image?

St. Francis does not picture himself alone in loving God.  He sees himself as a partner with all the members of the whole “Communion of Saints”.  Is this a wholesome way to approach prayer and living the Christian faith?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 22 & 23 of 26:

 

22.  The local fraternity is to be established canonically.  It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

“Pass the Lamb, and Grace Me with a Little Mint Jesus!” – John 1:35–42†


 

Second Sunday of Ordinary

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:

 

Congrats to Cardinal-Elect Timothy Dolan, a St. Louis Native.  I knew him when he was in St. Louis, and believed then he was destined for this position and honor.  Maybe, with God’s grace, he could become the first American-born Pope.

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I received this from a Facebook friend, Ray Sullivan, and simply had to pass it on to you.

We are the Cup:

The “empty cup is our “soul” before baptism; lacking Sanctifying Grace.  “Water” represents God’s “Sanctifying Grace”.

The act of pouring water into cup is the infusion of Sanctifying Grace through the “act of baptizing” the person.

 Commission of a “Venial Sin” causes the waterin our cupto become “dirty”.

 Commission of “Mortal Sin” causes the water to be poured out of our cup.

The “Act” of True Repentance via the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” allows pure water to be poured back into our cup.

In “Purgatory”, our water is poured through a heavenly-divine “filter” and “cleansed” (purified).

Finally, our “purpose” in life is to let Jesus’ water be in our cup.  If there is no water in our cup”, there is NOSALVATION”.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   570 – Death of Saint Ita, Irish nun (b. 475)
†   708 – Sisinnius begins his reign as Pope (dies 20 days later)
†   1535 – Henry VIII declares himself head of English Church
†   1844 – University of Notre Dame receives its charter from the state of Indiana.
†   1909 – Death of St. Arnold Janssen, S.V.D., missionary (b. 1837).  He is best known for founding the Society of the Divine Word.
†   1918 – Birth of Édouard Gagnon, Canadian Roman Catholic Cardinal (d. 2007)
†   1920 – Birth of John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, Philadelphia, Roman Catholic Archbishop of NY
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI has an audience with Golda Meir at the Vatican
†   2000 – Death of Georges-Henri Lévesque, Canadian Dominican priest and sociologist (b. 1903)
†   Feast/Memorials: St. Abeluzius in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

(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:

 

“Remember that God, under the Law, ordained a Lamb to be offered up to Him every Morning and Evening.” ~ Thomas Ken

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.  Jesus also receives His first followers (Apostles).

(NAB John 1:35–42) 35 The next day John [the Baptist] was there again [Bethany across the Jordan] with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”  They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).  42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from John’s Gospel immediately follows John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.  Having been baptized by John [the Baptist], Jesus begins to gather His followers.  The first followers actually “sought out” Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we also learn about a “sibling” relationship appearing among Jesus’ first disciples.   Andrew was the brother of Simon, whom Jesus renamed “Cephas” (meaning “Rock” or “Peter”).  In next Sunday’s Gospel, we will learn about another sibling relationship between the brothers “James” and “John”, the sons of Zebedee.  We know from the letters of Paul (and other sources) that it was a common occurrence for an entire household to be “baptized” together.  From the very beginning of the Christian Catholic Church, families helped one another to know and follow Jesus Christ.  WOW, I hope and pray that this virtue of helping others to find Christ in their lives continues to be true in your personal life, personal mission, and personal avocation.

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We are familiar with the “title” John the Baptist used for Jesus Christ – – the “Lamb of God” (verse 36).  We hear it weekly at the “breaking of the bread” at Mass, just after the “sign of peace”.  The title, “Lamb of God”, recalls key themes from Old Testament Scripture.  It alludes to the “paschal lamb” offered as a sacrifice when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the event commemorated at, and by, the Jewish Passover celebration.  The designation, “Lamb of God”, also recalls the prophet Isaiah’s description of the “suffering servant” of Israel (cf., Iasaih 52:13 – 53:12):

“… It was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.  We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted …” (Isaiah 53:4).

Let’s put this into perspective.  The blood of the “Passover Lamb” rescued the Israelites – – in Egypt – – from death (cf., Exodus 12).  Today, the blood of Jesus, the “true Passover Lamb” rescues US from everlasting death and destruction:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” (John 1:29). 

In using this “title” for Jesus, John the Baptist predicted Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the Cross.  John the Baptist also foretold a new interpretation and understanding of “Passover”, beginning with Jesus’ “Last Supper”.

John the Baptist was eager to point beyond himself – – to Jesus Christ.  He did not hesitate to direct his disciples to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, the true “Messiah”.  When two of John’s disciples began to seek Jesus out, Jesus took the initiative to invite them into His personal company and fellowship.  Jesus did not wait for “Andrew” and “the other disciple” to come to HIM; Jesus actually met them halfway. 

It is significant that John the Baptist was the son of a priest, “Zachariah”, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (cf., Exodus 29).  In Jesus Christ, John the Baptist saw the “true” and “only” sacrifice delivering us from the death of sin. 

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Who were The two disciples” referred to in verse 37 of today’s reading:

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” (John1:37) 

We know the one disciple was “Andrew” (John 1:40).  Traditionally, the other disciple was “John”, son of Zebedee.  “John” (the other disciple) is also the disciple believed to be the one whom “Jesus loved” throughout John’s Gospel:

One of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.” (John 13:23).

This same person, “John”, is mentioned through the Gospel of John as “the other disciple” or “another disciple”:

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.” (John 18:15);

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’” (John 19:26);

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’” (John 20:2);

And,

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.” (John 21:7).

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Jesus asked Andrew and John the fundamental question concerning themselves and everlasting life: “What are you looking for?”  What were they looking for – – in Jesus Christ, and, what were they aiming to get out of their (and His) personal life?  Do you realize Jesus asks each of us the very same question: “What are you looking for?”  So, what are you aiming for in your personal life; and what are you trying to get out of life?

Besides the statement, “What are you looking for?”, why did John stress “the time” in today’s reading:

Four in the afternoon” (John 1:39).

Well, “four in the afternoon” is literally the “tenth hour” of the “day”, when daytime starts at 6 am.  Sunset was considered the start of a new day – – the common way of determining when a day started and ended during Jesus’ time period.  So, with this in mind, the next day – – Saturday beginning at sunset (at 6 pm) – – was the Jewish “Sabbath day”, making travel impossible for the devout and pious Jew.  Thus, Andrew and John would have stayed with Jesus in order to avoid breaking Jewish law by travelling on “the Sabbath”.

Jesus invites each of us to “come and see” (verse 39) for ourselves that His word is true and everlasting.  “Come and see” is God’s personal invitation to each of us, for coming together and being in communion with the “One” who created us – – in love – – for love itself!!  It is God the Father who initiates contact with us, regardless of our disposition to His invite.  It is God the Father who wishes to draw us to Himself.  Without His grace, mercy, love, and help, we cannot find Him!

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When we discover something very important and valuable, it is natural to want to share it with those closest to us.  Andrew immediately went to his brother, “Simon”, telling him the “good news” of his discovery, Jesus, the true “Messiah”.  It didn’t take much to get Simon to “come and see” who Jesus was.  Jesus reached out to Simon in the same way he did to Andrew earlier.  He not only addressed Simon by his personal name, but also gave Simon a “new” name which signified the “call” and “covenant” God the Father had for Simon himself. 

Andrew, in today’s reading, tells his brother, “Simon Peter”, that he had found the “Messiah” (John 1:41).  What was he actually saying by this “word”?  “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for the “anointed one” promised in Holy Scripture:

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:11),

Among some first-century Palestinian Jewish and Christian factions, the title “Messiah” was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel:

When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (see Acts 1:6).

In John’s Gospel, the word “Messiah” appears only here and in John 4:25:

The woman said to him, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” (John 4:25).

Elsewhere, John uses the Greek translation “Christos” (Christ) instead.

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“John” is Hebrew for “God is Gracious”.  However, Jesus changes “Simon’s” name to the Aramaic, “Cephas” (Peter), which translates to “the Rock”:

So I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Interesting for me is that neither the Greek equivalent “Petros” (Peter), nor “Cephas”, is used as a personal name prior to Jesus Christ’s time.

Cephas” or “Peter” literally means “rock”.  To call someone a “rock” was one of the greatest compliments in Jesus’ earthly time period.  An ancient rabbinic saying declares that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  Through Abraham, God the Father established a “chosen nation” for Himself.  Through faith, love, and hope “Cephas” understood who Jesus truly was – – the “Anointed One” (Messiah and Christ) AND the Only-Begotten “Son of God the Father”. 

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How did John know the true identity of Jesus as the “Messiah”?  The Holy Spirit revealed to John Jesus’ “true nature” as being the literal “Son of God”.  How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the “Christ”, the “Son of the God”?  The Holy Spirit makes Him known to us through the same gift of faith, hope, and love which He gave to John, Andrew, and the other “Apostles”.  God the Father gives His Holy Spirit freely to us, so that we may know and understand the “great mystery” and plan of God the Father in uniting ALL His creations in, with, and through His Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament describes the Catholic (Universal) Church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as “living stones”:

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into “living” rocks or spiritual stones.  The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith, love, and hope to know, understand, and realize Jesus uniquely, personally, and intimately.  The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live the “Good News” of Jesus Christ – – the Gospel – – faithfully.  The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the Jesus’ “Good News”. The Lord Jesus Christ is ever and always ready to draw us near to Himself.  Do you seek to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus OUR Lord?  I know “I DO”!!!  I believe YOU do as well!!

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In conclusion, we learn in today’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered.  The first two, “Andrew” and “another man” (Simon Peter), were initially followers of John the Baptist; but after hearing John’s [the Baptist] testimony, they became disciples of Jesus Christ.  

If you heard Jesus cal your name today, would you respond, “Here I am“?  Would you say, “I’m listening“?  Would you be able to answer clearly and readily if Jesus asked you: “What are you looking for?”  Would you try to pretend you didn’t hear Him?, or respond: “I’ll get back to you later!”?

The two disciples (Andrew and John) in today’s reading did not respond directly to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?”:

 “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘”Rabbi”, where are you staying?’”  (John 1:38).

However, they did accept Jesus’ personal invitation to “Come and you will see“:

He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.” (John 1:39).

They were so attracted by what they saw and heard, Andrew hastened to his blood-brother, “Simon”, declaring he had found the true “Messiah”.  He took Simon directly to Jesus, who recognizing Simon as a leader, changed his name to “Cephas” (Peter).  This was a life-changing event for these disciples who listened, who responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”, and who found what their hearts, minds, and souls were looking for.

During their time with Jesus, “Andrew” and “the other follower” realized and truly believed that Jesus was the prophesied “Messiah”.  Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  This makes three disciple followers: Andrew, John, and Simon).  Immediately upon meeting Simon face-to-face, Jesus gave him a new name, “Cephas”.  This renaming of “Simon” to “Cephas” (Rock, or Peter) is reported in all four Gospels (A true rarity indeed!).

In the dialogue between the first two “Apostles” (“Andrew” and “the other disciple” [John]) AND Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, we see an example of the usual “pattern” for first-century Jewish Rabbinical schools.  In this pattern, Jews sought out Rabbis they “connected with”, and established themselves as disciples of this particular Rabbi.  Jesus appears to have been truly “unique, noticeable, and distinctive, for He “sought out” individuals as well, inviting them to be His followers – – again, another “opposite” to the established “tradition”.  In the passage following today’s reading, John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus took the initiative in calling Philip and Nathanael (Apostles to be: five and six).

In verse 3 of today’s Gospel Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?”  I have already written that this is a “fundamental” question.  I now also see it is also a significant and revealing question: one which we might often ask of ourselves.  John the Baptist testified to Jesus’ identity, the “Lamb of God”, using the framework of the Old Testament to do so.  Andrew, Simon, and the other four disciples were looking for the true “Messiah”, whom they also came to know as the “Son of God the Father”.  What do you look for and what do you find in Jesus Christ, the true “Son of God”, OURMessiah”?

Look around your house and gather some items reminding you of your faith.  Perhaps you have a cross or crucifix displayed in your home, a statue of Mary, other statues, or other art depicting saints.  In today’s Gospel we learn about how Andrew led his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  In a true Catholic family life, we also help to lead one another to find and keep Jesus Christ in our hearts, minds, and souls continuously.  Look at the items you have just gathered.  What do these items mean to you?  How might you use them in your personal prayer life?  Pray that you will continue to help all you meet to grow in hope, love, and faith, in and for Jesus Himself!

Since we are human, therefore imperfect and sinful, it may take us some time to get the right message into our “closed” minds.  However, as Paul reminds each of us:

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Both our body and soul are magnificent gifts from God the Father.  Saint Francis is accredited with the following:

Consider, O man, how great the excellence in which the Lord has placed you because He has created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son according to the body and to His own likeness according to the spirit.” (Saint Francis of Assisi, “The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi” [1906], Admonition #5)

As we reflect on today’s readings, we ought to use our “ears” for listening to God’s voice present in our hearts.  We should hear His “voice” in the cries of the poor and marginalized.  We should use our eyes for seeing Jesus in the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, the violated, and the oppressed.  May the Holy Spirit – – present within us – – inspire us to cry out loudly, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will, and to serve you always!!”  May our hearts continue to grow to learn, to understand, and to know the following:

We have already found – – what we seek!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Grant us Peace.

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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.

The Trinity:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ...’” (Genesis 1:26). RSV

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … (Genesis 1:26). KJV

*

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). RSV

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19). KJV

*

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians. 13:14). RSV

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” (2 Corinthians. 13:14) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Paul the Hermit (c. 233-345)

It is unclear what we really know of Paul’s life, how much is fable, how much fact.

Paul was reportedly born in Egypt, where he was orphaned by age 15.  He was also a learned and devout young man.  During the persecution of Decius in Egypt in the year 250, Paul was forced to hide in the home of a friend.  Fearing a brother-in-law would betray him, he fled in a cave in the desert.  His plan was to return once the persecution ended, but the sweetness of solitude and heavenly contemplation convinced him to stay.

He went on to live in that cave for the next 90 years.  A nearby spring gave him drink, a palm tree furnished him clothing and nourishment.  After 21 years of solitude a bird began bringing him half of a loaf of bread each day.  Without knowing what was happening in the world, Paul prayed that the world would become a better place.

St. Anthony of Egypt [January 17] attests to his holy life and death.  Tempted by the thought that no one had served God in the wilderness longer than he, Anthony was led by God to find Paul and acknowledge him as a man more perfect than himself.  The raven that day brought a whole loaf of bread instead of the usual half.  As Paul predicted, Anthony would return to bury his new friend.

Thought to have been about 112 when he died, Paul is known as the “First Hermit.”  His feast day is celebrated in the East; he is also commemorated in the Coptic and Armenian rites of the Mass.

Comment: The will and direction of God are seen in the circumstances of our lives.  Led by the grace of God, we are free to respond with choices that bring us closer to and make us more dependent upon the God who created us.  Those choices might at times seem to lead us away from our neighbor.  But ultimately they lead us back both in prayer and in fellowship to one another.

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:

 

Preaching

 

What topics did Saint Francis tell his “friars” to preach about?

(Poverty, Obedience, the Gospel, Love, etc.)

Are these topics foundational for the “universal call to holiness”?

Is our generation in need of such “Words”?  WHY?

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 Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives.  Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

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

 

 

“FedEx or UPS May Have Been Easier, But Not As Fulfilling!” – Matthew 2:1-12†


 

The “Epiphany” of the Lord

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:

 

Blessing of a Home at Epiphany

 

Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who live here.

Leader: Bless, O Lord, this household and family, and allow all of us who live in this home to find in it a shelter of peace and health.  Inspire each of us to develop our individual talents and to contribute wisdom and good works for the benefit of the whole family.  Make our house a haven for us all, and a place of warmth and caring for all our friends who come to visit us.  Enlighten us with the brilliance of your Epiphany star, so that, as we go into the world, we might clearly see our way to You and discover You in our work and play.  This we ask to your glory and in the power of your kingship. All: For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever, Amen.

Then, bless the house with the sign of the cross.

After the blessing, the initials of the Magi (traditional names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) are written with chalk over the main door way of the house, like this: 20 + C + M + B + 12 (the + is a cross; the “12” stands for 2012; change the year accordingly).

Adapted from commonly used parish prayer

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Today in Catholic History:

†   482 – Death of Severinus, German monastery founder/saint, dies
†   1100 – Death of Antipope Clement III (b. 1029)
†   1198 – Death of Coelestinus III (aka, Pope Celestine III), [Giacinto Bobo], pope (1191-98)
†   1198 – Lotario di Segni elected Pope Innocentius III
†   1456 – Death of St Lawrence Justinian, Italian bishop and first Patriarch of Venice (b. 1381)
†   1635 – Birth of Luis Manuel Fernández de Portocarrero, Spanish Archbishop of Toledo (d. 1709)
†   1735 – Birth of John Carroll, American Roman Catholic archbishop (d. 1815)
†   1892 – Death of John Heykamp, old-catholic archbishop of Utrecht, dies at age 67
†   1894 – Birth of St Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (d. 1941)
†   1904 – Pope Pius X banned low cut dresses in the presence of churchmen
†   1905 – Birth of Franjo Cardinal Seper, Croatian Catholic cardinal (d. 1981)
†   1932 – Death of Eurosia Fabris, Italian Catholic (b. 1866) †   Feasts/Memorials: Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the Roman Catholic Church.

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Magi seeking out the child Jesus and doing Him homage

 

(NAB Matthew 2:1-12) 1When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the “official” Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, His baptism by His cousin John, and His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

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In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the “Magi” occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  It is apparent Matthew tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the infancy narrative – – covering the actual birth of Jesus Christ, – – Matthew barely tells us little more than:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod.” (Matthew 2:1)

Other differences in covering Jesus Christ’s infancy event, between Matthew and Luke, are found in the:

(1) Census being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and
(2) Visit of the “Magi” only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel (today’s reading).

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; AND Jesus’ acceptance by the “Gentiles” (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (actually, retrojected) into the scene and circumstances of today’s reading.

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If Jesus truly is who He claims to be, “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, and ‘Savior’ of the world”, then why was He not recognized by everyone who hears His “Word” and sees His works?  John the Evangelist states that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew him not and His own people received him not.” (John 1:10-11)

 Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only the lowly shepherds recognized Him at His birth.  However, some “Magi” also found their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn “King” of Israel.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the “great” Messianic King when He appeared.  

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge” (Hence, the term the term frequently used for them: “Wise Men”).  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly – – and apparently – – quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi.  We know they came from “the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the star) which was of some type of “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening” across the desert to the little town, Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  In their diligent search these “three Kings” were led to the source of true knowledge — to Jesus Christ, the Light and Wisdom of God the Father.  When they found the newborn King they humbly worshiped Him and gave Him gifts fitting for a “King”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this Messianic King?  It was a confident and assured faith in the promise God the Father gave to send a Redeemer, a “King” who would establish God the Father’s reign of peace and righteousness:

“Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

 

We base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the “three gifts”, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of “strange landsto represent the Gentiles’ search for a Messianic Savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses which may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.” (Psalm 72:10, 15)

And,

Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.” (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: be it secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the Messiah King Himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the “Word” being written in the heavenly stars.  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the “Magi”.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge AND getting no preemptive warning about this “NEW” king in “his” territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare, prestige, and life, with a “Messiah” king, again, in “his” territory.  So, he immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his personal presence. (Hmm, Biblical pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and scientists of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh king makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

The “three kings” travel to Bethlehem, from King Herod’s presence, in response to prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, which the “chief priests and scribes” also shared with these first Gentile believers through an unlikely envoy: Herod:

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the childWhen you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Let’s Continue.  Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.(Matthew 2:11)

These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for knowing this “heavenly” announced “God”.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their personal quest of discovering and knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.   (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it in Hollywood or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their activity, the three “Magi” serve as a model for contemplative listening.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, their action flowed directly from their personal – – and focused – – discernment of divine guidance.  The “Magi” set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in the star which announced:

The newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts the “Magi”, brought to the Holy Family, as being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” (representing the spirit, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) in character, and as found in nature.  “Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus offered in anticipation of Jesus’ deathJesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold”, “frankincense”, and “myrrh” are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” (those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures) were the first to acknowledge “who” Jesus was [from birth]: our Savior KING!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Godhead (Divine Trinity) personally.  In the story of the “Magi” encountering the infant Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to ALL nations and ALL peoples.  This divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave to us His truly and fully – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere.  

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, they made a gift of their individual, unique, and personal “lives” with each step of their journey in search for the “Messiah King”.  Matthew’s account of this event eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” search and quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires to meet this singular “King of Kings”.

 

And, after giving homage and gifts to the newborn infant “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them, in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod and “they departed for their country by another way“:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:12).

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Faith is an entirely free gift that God the Father makes and imparts to us.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – who moves the individuals heart and opens the individuals soul and mind – – that we are able to understand, to accept, and to believe the real divine “truth” which the Godhead reveals to us personally, and uniquely.  With “trust”, “love”, and “faith”, OUR human will and intellect cooperate with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace(Thomas Aquinas).

To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  In the encounter of the Magi “Wise Men” “Kings” – – with and towards Jesus Christ – – we see the divine plan of God the Father giving His only-begotten Son as the Messiah King and Savior, – – not just for the Jewish people – – but for ALL the nations and ALL peoples.  Jesus Christ came so both Jew and Gentile might find true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND each other.  

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In conclusion, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the “Magi”.  For this reason, in many cultures, even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on Christmas Day.  This makes me think, we should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES”!!  Our three “special” gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do in our lives!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  Interiorly (and exteriorly), how can we offer our very “selves” more fully to God the Father’s love and personal plan He has for each of us, personally and collectively?  

My question to each of you: Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your personal path of life?  Do you actively “LOOK” for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak “Words” of love, and perform acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you to OTHERS!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift giving”.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that making it special, was it the thought that went into it, or even the person who gave it to you making it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress.)  Do you bring the “light of Jesus Christ to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impart” to others throughout your personal and public path in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of their personal journeys path of life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” in search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

“Father,
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen”

The Liturgy of the Hours

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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

 

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James. 2:17). RSV

So faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.(James. 2:17). KJV

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 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (James. 2:20). RSV

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James. 2:20). KJV

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 “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James. 2:24). RSV

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James. 2:24). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Kolbe

OFM Conventional (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)
Feastday: August 14

 

Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan.  He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady.  After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled “The Knight of the Immaculata” and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.

Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement.  In 1936 he returned home because of ill health.  After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time.  But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father.  And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14th.

from Wikipedia:

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.  Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.

In Italian he is known as “San Massimiliano Maria Kolbe”; his given name in Polish is “Maksymilian”, in French, “Maximilien”.

Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

From “Catholic Online” Website
http://www.catholic.org/saints

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Our Mother Mary

Reflect on the following Franciscan prayer”

Antiphon to Mary

“Holy Virgin Mary, among women there is no one like you born into the world: you are the daughter and the servant of the most high and supreme King and Father of heaven: you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us with Saint Michael and the Archangel and all the powers of the heavens and all the saints to your most holy beloved Son, the Lord and Master. Amen”

 

What points of honor does Saint Francis call our attention to in his esteem of Mary? … And, in this antiphon?

Do you know how often this Antiphon to Mary was indicated to be used by the friars?

What does our SFO Rule, article 9 tell us?

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

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