Fourth Week of Lent
- · 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
- · Reflection on part of the SFO Rule
Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:
The fourth Sunday of Lent is sometimes called Laetare Sunday. “Laetare” is a Latin word meaning “rejoice.” Traditionally in the Catholic Church, Sundays are named after the first word of the liturgy’s opening antiphon.
Today is the midway point of the Lenten season when we look forward to our celebration of Jesus Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection. On this Sunday, the antiphon is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; Rejoice with her in her joy, all you who mourn over her— so that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink with delight at her abundant breasts!” (Isaiah 66:10-11).
Even as we observe our Lenten requirements, we “rejoice” in anticipation of the joy that will be ours in just a few weeks – – at Easter.
† 417 – St Zosimus begins his reign as Catholic Pope
† 731 – St Gregory III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
† 978 – Death of Saint Edward, the Martyr, King of Anglo-Saxons, murdered at age 15
† 1227 – Death of Pope Honorius III, [Cencio Savelli], (1216-27), (b. 1148)
† 1380 – Birth of Saint Liduina van Schiedam, Dutch “Christ’s bride”
† 1532 – English parliament bans payments by English church to Rome
† 2005 – Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube is removed at the request of her husband, fueling a worldwide debate on euthanasia.
† Feasts/Memorials: Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386); Saint Alexander of Jerusalem; Saint Anselm; Saint Edward the Martyr (d.978); Saint Narcissus; Saint Salvator
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling Nicodemus “the Son of Man will be raised up” in order for those who believe in Him will have eternal life.
(NAB John 3:14-21) 14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Do you recognize the healing power of Christ’s redeeming love for each one of us? Hopefully, today’s Gospel reading will help you understand Jesus’ unique love for each of us individually.
Today’s Gospel reading is from John’s Gospel. It consists of two parts. The first part is the final portion of Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a “ruler of the Jews”, who approached Jesus, at night (the darkness), in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover:
“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.’” (John 3:1-2).
Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus as someone who had come from God and seemed to want to be a follower of Jesus. (Wow, proof that not all the Pharisees were against Jesus.)
Jesus instructs Nicodemus on the necessity of a new birth from above – – from His Father in heaven – – by responding to Nicodemus with an observation: one must be born “from above” in order to see the Kingdom of God.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3).
The dialogue that followed, between Jesus and Nicodemus, was about the meaning of the phrase “from above”. Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus at every point, but there was no hostility in the questions he posed to Jesus.
In the conversation with Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, Jesus referred to an incident reported in the Old Testament (Numbers 21:4-9). When the Israelites grumbled against the Lord during their sojourn in the desert, God sent venomous serpents to punish them for their complaints. The Israelites repented and asked Moses to pray for them. The Lord heard Moses’ prayer [of intercession for the Israelites] and instructed him to make a bronze serpent and “mount it” on a pole. All bitten by a serpent, and then able to gaze upon the bronze serpent made by Moses, were miraculously cured. In recalling and referring this story from the book of Numbers, Jesus alludes to the hope and salvation being accomplished through His death and Resurrection.
(Interesting trivia: the symbol of the medical field is taken from Moses “rod and serpent”. The medical emblem is called a “Caduceus”.)
The second part of today’s Gospel is a “theological” reflection on Jesus’ “Words” spoken to Nicodemus. It seems John is known for this kind of reflection, as is presented within today’s Gospel narrative. The words of John are in continuity with the words of the prologue to John’s Gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5).
Today’s Gospel reading continues John’s description of the self-manifestation of Jesus, concluding in Jerusalem, begun earlier in John 2. This is the first of John’s discourses and we see a shifting from one of dialogue to a monologue format (John 3:11–15) to a reflection of the evangelist, John (John 3:16–21).
“Early and often the LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent His messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 36:15).
When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in the darkness, He prophesied His death on the cross, and His Resurrection, would bring healing and forgiveness – – along with a “new birth in the Spirit”; AND, eternal life for those who believe:
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3);
“Everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).
I love the sound of “eternal life” with God and the entire celestial court, don’t you?
Moses’ bronze serpent pointed to Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross defeating sin and death, thus obtaining “everlasting life” in paradise with God Himself for those who believe and repent. The result of Jesus “being lifted up on the cross” and His rising to God the Father’s “right hand” in heaven, is OUR “new birth in the Spirit” – – OUR adoption as His beloved children. God not only redeems us, but He “fills” us with His own divine life and power so that we might share in His everlasting “glory”. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit in order that we may have His power to be His witnesses, and to spread and defend the Gospel (the “Good News” of God) by OUR words and actions. The Holy Spirit gives us His seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and His ways, and a holy fear in God (cf., Isaiah 11) so that we may live for God and serve Him with, in, and through the power of His strength.
The phrase “lifted up” (verse 14) is a unique and purposeful term used by John. As previously stated, Moses simply “mounted” a serpent upon a pole:
“Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.” (Numbers 21:9).
Here, in today’s reading, John substitutes a verb implying “glorification”. So, Jesus is exalted to “glory” on His “pole”, the Holy Cross, AND, at His Resurrection. In dying for us and raising Himself from the dead, He comes to represent healing for ALL who believe.
In the very next verse (3:15), what was meant by John saying the reward for belief in Jesus Christ would be “Eternal life”. This is the first time John used this term. Used here, in today’s Gospel, “Eternal life” stresses a “quality” of one’s life rather than its “duration”.
This next verse from today’s Gospel, I believe, is one of the most famous verses in Holy Scripture. It is an obviously well-known verse plastered on billboards, signs, pamphlets, scripture tracts, and even a famous football player’s game attire:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God the Father “gave” His Son as a gift in Jesus’ Incarnation. God also “gave” His Son as a gift “over to death” in His Crucifixion:
“He who did not spare His own Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” (Romans: 8:32).
Continuing to the next verse, the Greek root word for “Condemn” (verse 17) means both “judgment” along with “condemnation”. Jesus’ purpose for coming to us in human and divine nature was (and is) to SAVE all who believe in Him. However, Jesus’ “coming” also provokes “judgment”, which means some actually “condemn” themselves by turning from His wonderfully warm and illuminating “light”.
Judgment is not only a future event, the “Parousia”, the second coming, is realized here and now in an incomplete way. The “Judgment” will be finalized at the Parousia, but we are still responsible for our actions, words, or thoughts AT THIS MOMENT in time!!
In John’s reflection, we find an observation about our innate human sinfulness. Jesus is truly the “light” coming “into” the world. However, we oft-times seem to prefer the “darkness” of sin, as Nicodemus was when he approached Jesus. We want to keep our sins hidden from others eyes, and even from God Himself, but we all subconsciously know that it is not possible to hide anything from God, for He knows all. Jesus came into the world to reveal – – to illuminate – – OUR sins so that we can see them and be forgiven. What GREAT and “Good News” for all of us. His coming into this world is the reason for our great rejoicing during this Lenten season, and throughout our entire lives.
To Summarize, how do we know that the Trinitarian God truly loves us and wants each of US, individually, to be with Him forever in paradise? God the father proved His love for us by giving us the best He had to offer – – His “only-begotten” Son – – who freely “gave” Himself as an offering to God His Father, for OUR sake, as the atoning sacrifice for OUR sin and the sin of the world.
Today’s reading teaches us of the awesomely great dimension of God’s love. His love is NOT an exclusive love for just a few, or for a single nation, but is instead an All-embracing redemptive love for the whole world. God’s love is a PERSONAL and INTIMATE love for each and every individual whom He created “in His own image or likeness”.
“Then God said: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.’” (Genesis !:26).
“God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.”
God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love (free-will). Jesus showed us the contrasting paradigm of His love and judgment to come. We can love the “darkness” of sin and unbelief, or, we can love the “light” of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. If our love is guided by what is true, good, and beautiful, we will choose God, loving Him above all else. What we choose to love shows, in reality, what we prefer in (and from) life. Do you love God above all else? Do you give God a priority – – THE priority – – in your life, in your thoughts, in your decisions, and in your actions? I pray that I DO, and that YOU do also?!!
To conclude, today’s story reminds me of my children when they were afraid of the dark in their early lives. I am awed by John’s observation that darkness is preferred to light for many of us “sinful” humans. Is this the way it should be? Hmm … food for thought!!
God made us to live in the warm, bright “light” of His love and mercy. However, the original relationship with God was eternally corrupted by a worldly desire, a sin. Our innate sin STILL causes us to withdraw from Christ, the “light” who has come into the world for OUR individual salvation. During the season of Lent, we try to fight this tendency by remembering God’s great mercy – – His salvation – – which we have received through Jesus Christ. We do not (and should not) fear in confessing our sins personally, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, knowing readily God forgives us. So, during Lent, let us all seek out opportunities to celebrate this great gift, this great grace Jesus Christ has given to us freely – – the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Sit for a time in total darkness. And after a period of time, light a single candle in the room. Think about what it felt like to be in the darkness, and compare this feeling to what you experienced when the candle was lit. What can you know see by the limited glow of the candlelight, which you could not see when sitting in total darkness? John’s Gospel teaches us Jesus was truly the “light” who came into the “darkness” of the world. In this “light” we reveal ourselves to be sinners, but we are not condemned! Instead we have been saved; we have been forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Holy Cross. Thank you Lord for the great gift, the great grace, of forgiveness we have received through your Son, Jesus Christ.
“Act of Contrition”
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I
dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because I love Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.”
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.
“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter …” (Matthew 10:1-2). RSV
“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; …”(Matthew 10:1-2). KJV
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’” (Matthew 16:18-19). RSV
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew. 16:18-19). KJV
A reputation for holiness does have some drawbacks. Public recognition can be a nuisance at times—as the confreres of Salvator found out.
Salvator’s parents were poor. At the age of 21 he entered the Franciscans as a brother and was soon known for his asceticism, humility and simplicity.
As cook, porter and later the official beggar for the friars in Tortosa, he became well known for his charity. He healed the sick with the Sign of the Cross. When crowds of sick people began coming to the friary to see Salvator, the friars transferred him to Horta. Again the sick flocked to ask his intercession; one person estimated that two thousand people a week came to see Salvator. He told them to examine their consciences, to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion worthily. He refused to pray for those who would not receive those sacraments.
The public attention given to Salvator was relentless. The crowds would sometimes tear off pieces of his habit as relics. Two years before his death, Salvator was moved again, this time to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. He died at Cagliari saying, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” He was canonized in 1938.
Medical science is now seeing more clearly the relation of some diseases to one’s emotional and spiritual life. In Healing Life’s Hurts, Matthew and Dennis Linn report that sometimes people experience relief from illness only when they have decided to forgive others. Salvator prayed that people might be healed, and many were. Surely not all diseases can be treated this way; medical help should not be abandoned. But notice that Salvator urged his petitioners to reestablish their priorities in life before they asked for healing.
“Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” (Matthew 10:1).
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)
18. Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.
19. Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon. Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.