Monthly Archives: April 2012

“Let’s ‘Gather’ And Get The ‘Flock’ Out Of Here!” – John 10:11-18†


Fourth Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

My third son made his Confirmation in the Catholic Church today.  I am so proud of him.  I pray he, and all my children, find a love, trust, and hope for our faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1380 – Death of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (b. 1347)
†   1429 – Joan of Arc arrives to relieve the Siege of Orléans
†   1670 – Pope Clemens X elected
†   1863 – Birth of Maria Theresa Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic nun (d. 1922)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Catherine of Siena; Saint Robert (d.1111); Saint Wilfred the Younger; Saint Peter of Verona; Saint Hugh of Cluny

(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: Jesus says that He is the “good shepherd” who knows His sheep.

 

(NAB John 10:11-18) 11 I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.  13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called “Good Shepherd” Sunday.  Unless we consider this 10th chapter in the greater context of John’s Gospel, we will miss the radical nature of the statement Jesus makes when He declares Himself to be the “Good Shepherd”.  Today’s reading follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by the Jewish Pharisees and leaders, who questioned Jesus’ authority to heal.  Jesus responds to this challenge by calling Himself the “Good Shepherd”.  In doing so, He criticized the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders.  The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders became so angry that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (cf., John 10:31,39).  This controversy with the religious leaders will, from this point on, continue and grow in intensity until Jesus’ arrest and public death.

In today’s reading, Jesus describes His relationship with His followers as similar to the relationship between a “good shepherd” and His sheep.  As a good shepherd will risk and lay down his life in order to protect his sheep, Jesus willingly sacrifices Himself for the good and welfare of His sheep.  Jesus contrasts His actions of the “good shepherd” with the actions of the “hired shepherd” who abandons the sheep in the face of danger.  In today’s Gospel reading, we learn the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that Jesus is referring to them when He describes the “hired shepherds”. (he, he, he)

The “good shepherd” figure is allegorical (figurative or symbolic) in origin.  Jesus loved parables, and also loved using allegory to explain the unexplainable.  Like a parent trying to teach conceptual ideas to a toddler, He uses simple words to project a picture in our own minds of what He means to convey.  I believe that even with these simple teaching tools and tricks, there is no way we, as sinful human beings, can ever grasp the true meaning of what Jesus knows, and ties to express to His original audience, and to us.  Only after this existence on earth, when our permanent address changes for the last time (how’s that for allegory), will we truly, completely, and fully know what He knows, and wants to impart to us.  I can sum up my eagerness and desire for the true meaning of Jesus’ “Words” as a present sitting under a tree, anticipating the day it can be opened and revealed to me.  All I can do is have faith, have hope, and have trust!  (And, I do!  I believe in the Gospel of Jesus and in the Jesus of the Gospel!)  

There is truly so much hidden – – in the words of today’s reading.  John loves to use what I call “word gems” to get across a meaning so rich, and having so many layers.  Thus, I truly believe he satiates every bible scholars, and every casual reader’s, interest in delving into the Holy Scriptures.  For this purpose, I will be looking at each sentence individually and sometimes even words individually, in order to peel away as many layers as possible for this short Gospel reflection.  So, hang-on – – for it’s going to be a fun ride perusing both Old and New Testaments, and pursuing the meaning and understanding of both Old and New COVENANTS of our magnificent Lord, Creator, and “Good Shepherd”.

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In the very first verse of today’s reading, Jesus says:

I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).

Jesus, through John, is referring to two “word gems” in the Old Testament book of Isaiah; and at what John would write, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the last book of the Holy Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ:

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:11);

And,

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17).

Jesus Christ is OUR true and loving shepherd, always watching over and caring for us, His flock.  He “laid down His life for us”, and gathers His flock, STILL TODAY, leading ALL to His heavenly pasture.  (The Holy Eucharist Worship??)

The actions of the “good shepherd” are based upon the relationship between the shepherd and each of His sheep.  This IS the core difference between the “good shepherd” and the “hired shepherd”.  The “good shepherd” knows (and cares for) every sheep, every lamb, personally, uniquely, and intimately; therefore he acts out of love.  For Him, this is never simply “part of a job” – – it is “love-in-action”.  This “love-in-action” is truly at the heart of His identity.  Just as the sheep are known by the “Good Shepherd”, so too God the Father knows Jesus, AND, Jesus knows God the Father.  There is an essential unity between the Father and the Son made clearer in John’s understanding of who, and what, Jesus truly was then, and still is today.  The freedom with which Jesus acts when He lays down His life is rooted in the loving unity He shares with His Father.  (That “loving unity” has a title: the Holy Spirit!)

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The first “word gem” verse (John 10:11) reveals the qualities of the “good shepherd”.  Verse 12 reveals the character of a hireling: someone just “doing the job”, without loving or caring for his “flock”.  It also relates to what happens when we trust anyone other than the “good shepherd”: Jesus, the Messiah.  This “bad shepherd” allegory refers to the “Oracle of the Worthless Shepherd” narratives found in the earlier book of Zechariah:

Ah! my worthless shepherd who forsakes the flock!  May the sword fall upon his arm and upon his right eye; His arm will surely wither, and his right eye surely go blind!” (Zechariah 11:17).

Zechariah goes into great detail about the three shepherds and the destruction of Jerusalem.  Please read the entire parable (cf., Zechariah 11:4-17) to learn more.

In our reading today, Jesus is truly the “good shepherd”!  We can be good shepherds as well, by simply following His model of humility and dedication to The “Word”.  Jesus gave us the commandment:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13);

John reiterates this command in His first epistle:

The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus promised a happy life without end.  Death would not be the end; but instead, the beginning.  We would know the glory of His everlasting life.  Jesus, as the “good shepherd”, promised a life which was secure.  Nothing will snatch us out of His hand, not even sorrow and death, since He is everlasting life itself.  Our lives are forever truly safe in His hands.  (That’s even better than Allstate.)

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So what does Jesus mean by saying the following in today’s reading:

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”? (John 10:16)

I believe His reference to “other sheep” is a reference to both the “Gentiles” and to “God’s dispersed children” of John 11:

He [Caiaphas, the high priest] prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (John 11:51-52).

These “dispersed children” were (and still are) destined to be gathered into “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” Church.  These four adjectives are understood to be the four “pillars” of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  It seems these “dispersed children” were at odds with the first century community of the beloved disciple, John – – and may still be, TODAY, at odds with the “eternal” and true “universal” Church – – the Catholic Church.

Jesus is the shepherd gathering all that have strayed back into one flock.  Remember, from a historical view of first-century Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel had split and separated into two distinct “tribes” related to the main “places” of the “Promised Land”.  Jesus came to gather ALL the “tribes”, composed of ten tribes of the north called Israel, and two major tribes of the south called Judah, along with all other Gentiles, thus making a new and glorious “flock”.  This thought of Jesus Christ gathering everyone is foretold by several Old Testament prophets:

Others will I gather to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8);

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jeremiah 23:3);

I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23);

David my servant shall be king over them; they shall all have one shepherd.  They shall walk in my ordinances, observe my statutes, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 37:24);

And,

“I will gather you, Jacob, each and every one, I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in its pasture; the noise of the people will resound.” (Micah 2:12).

In this context of being the “Good Shepherd”, Jesus also refers to others with whom He desires to share a personal, unique, and intimate relationship.  John truly understood the eventual inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian community.  Our modern ears may hear relate part of today’s Gospel as a reference to Christian unity in today’s world.  The work of ecumenism (a movement promoting unity between different Christian churches and groups) is to restore unity among all Christians so that we form “one flock” under “one shepherd”, as God the Father desires.

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Jesus came to gather His “flock” knowing that, as a “good shepherd”, He would have to put His own human life in harm’s way to gather and to protect each and every one of His charge’s, ALL of God’s creations.  Jesus, however, came not only to give His life for others, but also to show that our life can be sanctified, made Holy – – “taken up again” – – through the “love” of God the “Father”:

By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10).

John , in today’s reading, reports Jesus as saying:

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my ownI have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

Within a short period of time, Jesus again will be saying a similar phrase to Pilate, at His trial on false (but true?) charges:

Jesus answered [Pilate], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)

In verse 18, the “power to take it up again”, is a statement which contrasts the role of God the Father as THE capable and competent source and cause of Jesus’ (and ours – eventual) resurrection from the dead to a whole NEW form of eternal life.   This power is testified to by Peter, as Luke reports, in Acts:

God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”  (Acts) 2:24;

And again:

“All of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10).

And, as Paul proclaims to the Roman Christian community that Jesus was:

“…established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4);

Concerning the power of Jesus’ “free choice” to lay down His life as an act of personal love and obedience, John felt compelled to add Jesus saying:

This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

Jesus was truly doing the “will” of His Father.  Hmm, I wonder whether I can follow His “will” to such an end – – and NEW beginning!!

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To conclude, the words Jesus spoke then upset many of the Jewish leaders.  Some asked, “How could He speak with the same authority which God spoke and claim to be equal with God?” The Pharisees probably thought He must either be insane or divine.    We too are faced with the same choice today.  Either Jesus IS who He claims to be – – the divine Son of God and Savior of the world – – or the world’s greatest persuader of untruths!  

We cannot be indifferent to His claim of authority.  For those who accept Him as Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ offers the peace and security of unending, peaceful, life and joy with His (and ours) God the Father.  Do you have and know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to Jesus?  Do you listen attentively to the voice and “Word” of the “Good Shepherd”?  Let’s “gather” and get the “flock” out of here!

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Reflection Prayer:

Prayer for Generosity

St. Ignatius of Loyola

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.  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.

Praying to the Saints

“‘And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living …’” (Mark 12:26-27) RSV.

“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living …” (Mark 12:26-27) KJV.

**

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely . . .” (Hebrews 12:1) RSV.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us …” (Hebrews 12:1) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ.  What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.

She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person.  Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband.  Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.

She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity.  Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious.  An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life.  Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs.  Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ.  She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.

Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope.  She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope

In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides.  Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church.  She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony.  She died surrounded by her “children.”

Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church.  In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy.  Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970.  Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.

Comment:

Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life.  Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions.  Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America.  The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.

Quote:

Catherine’s book Dialogue contains four treatises—her testament of faith to the spiritual world.  She wrote, “No one should judge that he has greater perfection because he performs great penances and gives himself in excess to the staying of the body than he who does less, inasmuch as neither virtue nor merit consists therein; for otherwise he would be an evil case, who for some legitimate reason was unable to do actual penance.  Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing.”

Patron Saint of Europe & Italy

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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Prologue to the
Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule:


 
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Is There Anything To Eat?; This Past Weekend Has Been A Trying One For Me!” – Luke 24:35-48†


 

Third Sunday of Easter

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
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I wish to extend a SUPER happy birthday Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Angelica.  To Octogenarians who are still young in heart ans faith.

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Today in Catholic History:     

 

†   296 – Death of Pope Caius (or Gaius)
†   536 – Death of Agapitus I, Italian Pope (535-36),
†   536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
†   1073 – Pope Alexander II buried/Ildebrando chosen as Pope Gregory VII
†   1164 – Raynald of Dassel names Guido di Crema as anti-pope Paschalis III
†   1610 – Birth of Alexander VIII, [Pietro Ottoboni], Italy, lawyer/Pope (1689-91)
†   1994 – Death of D. Nauta, theologist/church historian/lawyer, at age 96

(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: Jesus appears to His disciples [again] and shares a meal with them.

 

(NAB Luke 24:35-48) 35 Then the two [men on the road to Emmaus] recounted [to the disciples hiding in Jerusalem] what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;43 he took it and ate it in front of them.  44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His Resurrection.  Luke’s Gospel, like each of the other Gospels (cf., Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–15; John 20:19–23), focuses on Jesus appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem and their commissioning for their future ministry.  Luke goes further in having the risen Jesus appear to two men traveling back to their home, probably in or near Emmaus.  These two men, no longer blinded to the risen Christ hurried back to Jerusalem, sought out Jesus’ disciples, and told them of their experience.

Jesus then (as in any good mystery story) miraculously and suddenly appears before all those assembled in this “faith-filled” hiding space.  Standing amongst them, Jesus lovingly states:

Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36).

Their response to Jesus, per today’s reading, was one of “startling terror”, thinking “they were seeing a ghost”!  These are the VERY FIRST words Jesus says to His disciples AFTER they had abandoned Him to His accusers, torturers, and crucifiers.  His first words were one of “peace” and not “What happened to you?” or “Where were you?” or “You abandoned me, why?”

I am sure Jesus’ disciples felt like they had betrayed Him, and knew and felt that they should have had a royal “chewing out” from Jesus, at a minimum.  However, Jesus is God, who is pure love, and responded with a pure love for His disciples.  How relieved and gratified were these startled, terrified men to know Jesus Christ not only DID rise from the dead, but also wished only “peace” for them personally – – AND for all that believed in Him.

Peace be with you.” was a most appropriate greeting for a loving Jesus Christ.  The disciples truly had the experience and shock of the death of someone they loved, and feared for their own safety and lives as well.  “Peace” is what they needed more than anything else.  Along with this greeting of “Peace”, Jesus gave another grace, another gift: “forgiveness”. The inherent linking of “peace” and “forgiveness” is quietly made in the final verses of today’s reading.

They thought they were seeing a “ghost”; yet the figure before them is not a “ghost”.  Jesus invites them to experience His resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch.  The figure standing before them is truly flesh and bone, still bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  Although the disciples cannot forget His suffering and death, “peace” begins to take root in their hearts, with their fears and turmoil turning to feelings of joy and amazement instead.

Jesus was NO “ghost”!!  He is STILL as human NOWTODAY – as He was on that day, and on the day he was crucified.  He is the physical (and scriptural) proof that there truly is a “life after death” (physical death anyhow).  He IS NOT just a divine memory; AND we are disciples of the LIVING Jesus, not just disciples of our memory of Him!

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The disciples last saw Jesus as a weak and beaten man, who died – – as a human – – on the cross in a most humiliating and torturous way.  Jesus seemed to be “powerless” over the events leading to His ultimate death.  He certainly did not meet the expectations of who the Messiah was to be per Jewish tradition.  If He WAS the Messiah, why did He allow this to happen to Him?  Why would He allow Himself to be as humiliated and embarrassed as He was?

As further proof of His identity and of His resurrected body, Jesus eats with His disciples.  The disciples have known Jesus best through the meals which He has shared with them.  Descriptions of these meals are a defining element of Luke’s Gospel.  By eating with his disciples after his Resurrection, Jesus recalls all these meals, and most importantly, he recalls the Last Supper.

Luke’s report of this Last Supper and the meals which Jesus shared with them after His Resurrection unveils for us the uniquely important significance of the Holy Eucharist.  Having shared a meal with His disciples, Jesus Christ now uncovers for them the significance of what was written about Him in the Scriptures.  Our celebration of the Mass is ALSO an encounter with Jesus – – in fact, the same uniquely important encounter as the disciples!!  So, we encounter Him, this same Jesus, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is literally the Sacrament of Thanksgiving.  As Jesus commissioned His disciples to be witnesses to what Holy Scriptures foretold, OUR celebration of the Eucharist ALSO commissions US today.  Like the first disciples, we too are sent to announce the “good news” of Jesus Christ, truly risen from the grave.

With His appearance to them, and eating with them, the disciples were given a grace and gift of a revelation in their individual and communal faiths.  They were now able to believe more fully because they had seen the proof of Jesus’ new resurrected life, which they came to understand Jesus’ victory, thus overcoming sin, Satan, and death!

Luke is the only evangelist to mention Jesus’ eating with His disciples.  Jesus didn’t come solely to be seen, to be touched, or to be heard; He came and ate with His disciples just as He did the night of His arrest.  Jesus, still today, does not wish to be simply seen and heard, He wants to converse with each of us; He wants to share a meal with each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – ALWAYS!!

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We are like the Apostles, especially Matthew; we don’t usually believe unless we see with our own eyes.  The Gospels attest to the true reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to prove to His disciples that He is no mere ghost or illusion – – no trick of the eye.  He shows them the marks of His crucifixion, explaining how Holy Scripture foretold His suffering death AND rising.  (Please read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  It has a “glorious” connection to this last sentence.)  

Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments:

As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them … Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

Jesus, on the Holy Cross, is one of the central aspects of the Gospels, but it DOESN’T JUST STOP there!  Through His death on the cross, Jesus truly defeated our enemies – death, sin, and Satan; and won mercy & pardon for our sin.  Jesus’ cross then, is the bridge to heaven and the way to paradise.  So, the way to glory IS through the cross.

When the disciples saw the “Risen” Lord, they did not react to Him with “joy”; they reacted with “startle” and “fear”!  After all, how can a death lead to life?  How can a cross lead to glory?  Well, only Jesus Christ could reveal to us the “joy” and “glory” of enduring suffering with faith to a new life.  He gives each of us the power to overcome the fear, worry, and even despair caused by sin, Satan, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the “good news” of salvation to ALL the peoples of ALL the nations, both Jew and Gentile alike, so we too are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all among whom we live – – EVERYWHERE and at ALL times.  

Have you truly witnessed to the “joy” of the Gospels personally?  Do you truly witness to the “joy” of the Gospels to those around you?  As the Franciscans say, do you take the:

“Gospel to life and the life to Gospel”?

Hmm, is this something to think about for you?

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To conclude, Catholic Christian life is sustained by God’s “Word” in Holy Scripture and by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  We are especially sustained in our faith through our attendance and PARTICIPATION at our weekly (and hopefully daily) celebration of Mass.  Today’s Gospel should remind us that Holy Scripture and the Eucharist are given to us so that OUR words and deeds of bearing witness to Christ might be strengthened.

Jesus came to His followers, not the inverse (other way around) – – AND He Still does today and will in the future!!  Jesus took (and still takes) the initiative in overcoming sin, Satan, and death with us!  Jesus provided (and still provides) His reassurance and promise of everlasting life!  Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and through the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through each of us personally, intimately, and uniquely.  All we have to do is to receive Him, to allow Him to dwell in us, and to let Him work through us each and every day.  Really, all we have to do is simply to BELIEVE and to be His WITNESS in today’s society!!  How?  Well, as Saint Francis said to his brother friars:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

This week, think about the importance of memories and the importance of the meals you have shared together with family and friends, and will share in the future.  Both, these memories and the anticipation of future meals, will strengthen the love you share for ALL involved.  In a similar way, our Catholic Christian life is also strengthened by sharing God’s Word (memories) and the Eucharist (meal) at Mass.  Recall the “mission” which Jesus gave to His disciples after their shared meal in today’s reading.  The Holy Eucharist also sends us to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.  Pray that you, and each of us, will be strengthened by God’s “Word”, and by Jesus’ “presence” in the Holy Eucharist in order to be more faithful “witnesses” to our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Tantum Ergo 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“With heads bowed let us now worship a sacrament so great;
And let the old teaching give way to the new;
Let faith reinforce our belief where the senses cannot.

To the Father and the Son let there be praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor, virtue, and also blessing;
To the Holy Spirit let there be equal praise.  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.

Honor Due to the Virgin Mary

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-43) RSV.

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“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) KJV.  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 23 & 24 of 26:

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.

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24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups.  It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity.  The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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“Doubting Thomas Came To Believe in Jesus – – AND – – Also In The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus And …!” – John 20:19-31†


    

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

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
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1220 – Death of Adolf of Altena, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1250 – Pope Innoncent III refuses Jews of Cordova Spain to build a synagogue
†   1610 – Death of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (b. 1546)
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church
†   1793 – Death of Ignacije Szentmartony, Croatian Jesuit missionary and geographer (b. 1718)
†   1853 – Protestant church questions king Willem III Roman Catholic Bishops
†   1889 – Death St. Father Damien, Belgian missionary to Hawaii Leper Colony (b. 1840)
†   1902 – Pope Leo XIII encyclical “On Church in US”
†   1942 – Birth of Francis X. DiLorenzo, American Catholic prelate
†   1945 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Communium interpretes dolorum”
†   1949 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Redemptoris nostril”
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox 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:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

 

(NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles.  This detail alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in today’s reading.  This particular Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday Eve) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on an Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  And, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time. 

Thomas, for me, was a bona fide, natural pessimist.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

 “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (as all the Apostles did) to stand with Him, Jesus, during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples, after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and saw the empty tomb; they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, and then commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself, by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same, now and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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 Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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 John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

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).

Now, Mark says:

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and missionThe office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”,  were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, His Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the First (Old) Testament (the first Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God, and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by this particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

Many of us have heard the saying, “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this maxim really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.  It is simply a matter of FAITH!!

In our normal “human” lives there will be presented to each of us many opportunities for conflict.  Jesus did not promise us the absence of conflict in our lives, and on our paths to Him.  Instead, He gave us the grace and gifts of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in order to reduce our personal and unique conflicts.  The measure of a true Catholic Christian is not the absence of conflict, but the manner in how conflict is resolved in our lives.  Filled with the race, the gift, of the Holy Spirit, we ask Jesus to help us to bring peace and forgiveness to situations of conflict in our daily lives.

Today, right NOW, take this opportunity to examine how you resolve conflict.  Recall a recent argument or disagreement and how the conflict was resolved.  Was the conflict resolved peacefully, in the way and spirit of Jesus Christ’s example?  If not, what alternatives might be tried in the future for a proper Christian response to conflict?  We have each received Jesus’ grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit imparted to the first Apostles helps each of us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, to be people who forgive ALL others and seeks peace in their life and their world.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  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.

Purgatory:

“Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) RSV.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) KJV.

***

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey …” (1 Peter 3:18-20) RSV.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient … “ (1 Peter 3:18-20) KJV.

***

But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life..” (Revelations 21:27) RSV.

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelations 21:27) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Caesar de Bus (1544-1607)

 

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life.  After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career.  He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

For a time life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman.  He was confident he had made the right choice.  That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.

He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life.  By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest.  Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places.  His efforts were badly needed and well received.

Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis.  The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops.  Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.

One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, was published 60 years after his death.

He was beatified in 1975.

Comment:

“Family catechesis” is a familiar term in parish life today.  Grounded in the certainty that children learn their faith first from their parents, programs that deepen parental involvement in religious education multiply everywhere.  There were no such programs in Caesar’s day until he saw a need and created them.  Other needs abound in our parishes, and it’s up to us to respond by finding ways to fill them or by joining in already established efforts.

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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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.

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“If Jesus Saw His Shadow On Leaving the Tomb, Would We Have Had Six More Weeks Of Lent?” – John 20:1-9†


    

 

EASTER SUNDAY 

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
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI for seven years, today, of his being elevated to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ.  May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1093 – The new Winchester Cathedral is dedicated by Walkelin.
†   1149 – Pope Eugene III takes refuge in the castle of Ptolemy II of Tusculum.
†   1378 – Bartolomeo Prignano elected as Pope Urban VI
†   1455 – Alfonso de Borgia elected as Pope Callistus III
†   1808 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore was promoted to an archdiocese, with the founding of the dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown (now Louisville) by Pope Pius VII.
†   1974 – Death of James Charles McGuigan, Catholic archbishop of Toronto (b. 1894)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Walter of Pontoise (d. 1099); Saint Constance; Saint Julie Billiart of Namur (d. 1816).

(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 Mary of Magdala finding that the burial stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

 

(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  2 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.”  3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.  4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.  6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.)  Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand, at this point, that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead.

The story of the empty tomb can be found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, who’s is presented today.  However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s.  (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)

I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on a particular “Easter” Sunday morning.  After all, John writes with a poetic, revelational, and “conceptual” thinking and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough-ish sort of approach in creating an image for his audience.  John’s unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.

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The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death.  He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb.  It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for a final internment as soon as the Sabbath was over.

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” on “that” day after the Sabbath in order to finish preparing the body for Jesus’ final burial.  John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”.  However, Mark has the sun already raised, Matthew describes the day as just “dawning”, and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);

And,

At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM or the “first hour”.

All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”.  These women are denoted differently in each of the four Gospels:

Matthew’s Gospel:  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary;
Mark’s Gospel:  Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome;
Luke’s Gospel:  The women who had come from Galilee with Him;
and, John’s Gospel:  Mary of Magdala.

John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples about Jesus’ disappearance from the tomb:

They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).

This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group.  Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.

This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses.  A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities.  In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area.  There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine (then, and still today)!!  So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.

As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”.  Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias.  Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed.  In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (yet, in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty.  My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?”  (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)

Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance?  Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – the stone closing the tomb was extremely heavy!  It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. To move the stone would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin.

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Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the reading at Mass.  (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.)  Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen.  Please keep in mind, at this point Mary of Magdala did not consider that Jesus has been “raised from the dead”.  So, seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she truly trusted.

Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb!  In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an “angel” or “a young man”, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7);

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);

and

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).

I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term, Priests can have friends.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother.  As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed.  Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb.  What an awesome revelation, at least for me.

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When informed of His vanishing, Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance.  The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him.  His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths.  Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? … Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?

John testifies to a special feature about the status of the burial cloths, the way they were found in the tomb, causing “the beloved disciple” [John] to “believe”:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8).

I also see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb.  The burial wraps were discarded without concern.  However, the “cloth” placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe to be His Tallit, Jesus’ prayer garment or robe – – a special and revered item for any pious Jew – – was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.

For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics.  To the dutiful Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.

I believe the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed.  Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen.  Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body.  The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body.  The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body.  And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, thus increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.

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The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:

For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

Today’s reading concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least.  Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand Jesus’ Resurrection had occurred.  In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala actually meets and interacts with the “Risen” Jesus Christ, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener.  How could she mistake a person she had grown to love – – in such a very special and intimate way – – for being a stranger?  Was His physical presence changed that much?!  Obviously, Mary of Magdala was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).

Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for OUR sins and then rise on the third day?  Is it significant that they ALL refuse to accept His “Rising from the dead” until after they saw the empty tomb?  I cannot answer these questions; can you?

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John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, then dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.

John was the only of Jesus’ Apostles who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now distinguish as “Good Friday”.  And finally, John (together with Simon Peter), was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?  It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one.  Instead, it was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe.  In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death merely no more than a tragic event; a conclusion to a remarkable career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker.  When John saw the empty tomb, did he recall Jesus’ prophecies of His rising again after three days, and then to:

rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19).  

Through the grace freely given to us of faith, trust, and love, John realized that NO tomb, NO death, NO anything could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.

In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show each of us how the disciples, over a period of time,  came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection through His various appearances to them, both individually and in groups.  Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus – – in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually, personally, and intimately.

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In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death.  Also told to us is their “not yet understanding” the Holy Scriptures or Jesus’ being truly “raised” from the dead.  Their understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them, and to others.

Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences.  In the weeks ahead, we will see and go in the understanding of how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ.  The first of Jesus’ disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this special and unique gift, – – this special and unique grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.

Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection.  Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples.  If you had been there, and heard the stone covering had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought?  What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?

Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.  So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, throughout this Easter season, we also will learn more about “how to” believe that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.

The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith.  The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord- – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way.  Are you ready to continually grow in that faith?  Remember, from the tiniest seeds of faith can grow a massive tree producing much fruit for all.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Easter Prayer of St. Hippolytus of Rome

 

“Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever.  Amen”

 St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

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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.

Purgatory

“For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:44-45) RSV.

 

The two books of Maccabees are not in the KJV.  It was removed, after 1000 years, by Martin Luther. 

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“Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26) RSV.

 

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:25-26) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816)

 

Born in Cuvilly, France, into a family of well-to-do farmers, young Marie Rose Julie Billiart showed an early interest in religion and in helping the sick and poor.  Though the first years of her life were relatively peaceful and uncomplicated, Julie had to take up manual work as a young teen when her family lost its money.  However, she spent her spare time teaching catechism to young people and to the farm laborers.

A mysterious illness overtook her when she was about 30.  Witnessing an attempt to wound or even kill her father, Julie was paralyzed and became a complete invalid.  For the next two decades she continued to teach catechism lessons from her bed, offered spiritual advice and attracted visitors who had heard of her holiness.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, revolutionary forces became aware of her allegiance to fugitive priests.  With the help of friends she was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart; she spent several years hiding in Compiegne, being moved from house to house despite her growing physical pain.  She even lost the power of speech for a time.

But this period also proved to be a fruitful spiritual time for Julie.  It was at this time she had a vision in which she saw Calvary surrounded by women in religious habits and heard a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.”  As time passed and Julie continued her mobile life, she made the acquaintance of an aristocratic woman, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who shared Julie’s interest in teaching the faith.  In 1803 the two women began the Institute of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists.  The following year the first Sisters of Notre Dame made their vows.  That was the same year that Julie recovered from the illness: She was able to walk for the first time in 22 years.

Though Julie had always been attentive to the special needs of the poor and that always remained her priority, she also became aware that other classes in society needed Christian instruction.  From the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame until her death, Julie was on the road, opening a variety of schools in France and Belgium that served the poor and the wealthy, vocational groups, teachers.  Ultimately, Julie and Françoise moved the motherhouse to Namur, Belgium.

Julie died there in 1816. She was canonized in 1969.

Comment:

Julie’s immobility in no way impeded her activities.  In spite of her suffering, she managed to co-found a teaching order that tended to the needs of both the poor and the well-to-do.  Each of us has limitations, but the worst malady any of us can suffer is the spiritual paralysis that keeps us from doing God’s work on earth.

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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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.