Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Tom, Tom, Tom – – Am I Like You In Not Just TRUSTING in Him? And Tom, Do You Also Know Your Head Is On Fire?!” – John 20:19-23†


Pentecost Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

It’s been a little over one year since I made my solemn profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.  Has it changed me?  It changes me EVERY single day; – – and definitely for the better!  I have loved my journey, my peeling back of many layers of my faith, my relationship with God.  I pray my “journey” continues to be as fruit-filled as the past few years since having my own personal “Pentecost” experience.  Thank You Lord!!

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Have a safe and happy Memorial Day this Monday.  Please take some time to remember the sacrifices our military has made in defending our freedom.  Remember: “freedom is NOT free”.  Please fly the US flag with pride and dignity – – for ALL to see!!

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   735 – Death of “Bede”, English historian and theologian (b. 672 or 673)
†   1601 – Birth of Antoine Daniel, Jesuit missionary and martyr (d. 1648)
†   1651 – Birth of Louis-Antoine, Cardinal de Noailles, French cardinal (d. 1729)
†   1979 – Pope John Paul ordains John J O’Conner as a bishop
†   Feasts/Memorials: Augustine of Canterbury; Venerable Bede; Saint Julius the Veteran; Pope John I; Hildebert; Bruno, Bishop of Würzburg; Eutropius

(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:

“Look for God.  Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.” ~ Quote from book, “Eat, Pray, Love“.

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Today’s reflection:  Jesus appears to His disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB John 20:19-23) 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.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The Easter Season concludes with today’s celebration, the Feast of Pentecost.  On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the “Apostles” gathered together in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church.  The story of Pentecost (with the “tongues of fire” and “speaking in strange languages”) is found in today’s first reading, the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11).  

The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, recounts again, how Jesus personally gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, just in a slightly different way.  Interestingly, this event takes place on Easter Sunday in John’s Gospel.  There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is simply for us to know that after His death, Jesus Christ truly fulfilled His promise of sending to His disciples a “helper”, an “Advocate” – – the Holy Spirit – – who enabled them to be His witnesses throughout the world in their words and actions (and to be ours today).

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The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday) 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 truly human, 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’ resurrected and transfigured 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 a specific 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” as well.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in the 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 also 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) to stand with 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 hearing the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and after seeing 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 and secured.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24 of today’s reading, 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, and together 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, 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, thus 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)

Jesus did something which only love and trust and can do.  He commissioned His weak and timid “Apostles” to carry His Gospel – – His “good news” to the ends of the world.  Jesus fulfilled His mission on earth through His perfect love and perfect obedience given over to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  He called His disciples, AND, He calls us to do the same!  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, so to, He breathes on us (personally, uniquely, and intimately) the same Holy Spirit, furnishing each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – with His power, grace, and strength.

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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 also 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 mission. The 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 also 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 acts 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 this (John 20:28) with 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 complete as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

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

“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 very 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 still now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in our Old Testament (His First Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe a 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 think John actually 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 about 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 John’s particular book (Gospel).

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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 somewhat 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!

In the context of the feast of Pentecost, today’s Gospel reading reminds us about the fundamental, essential, and central connection between the gifts of “peace” and “forgiveness” in and through the action of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus greeted His disciples with a gift of peace.  He then commissions His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus “breathes” the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and sends them to continue His work of reconciliation through the “forgiveness” of sins.

Jesus’ act of breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles mirrored God’s act of breathing life into Adam.  Interestingly, both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”  Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic (Universal) Church is called to be a reconciling – – “forgiving – – presence in the world.  The reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Catholic Church’s “Sacramental” life.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin and become a new creation in Christ.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Catholic Church celebrates the infinite mercy of God the Father through His forgiveness of sins.  This reconciling presence of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us is also to be a way of life for ALL Christians.  When placed in situations of personal and/or public conflict, we are to be agents of peace, forgiveness, and harmony, among ALL His people.

The readings for our celebration of Pentecost remind us of a “transformative event” taking place when His first Christians, His first disciples, “were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1), in union.  Unity in the Body of Christ completely reflects the unity of the Holy Trinity.  Jesus tells His disciples:

Everything that the Father has is mine and the Holy Spirit “will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:15). 

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are ONE in “love” which Jesus personally offers to each of His disciples as “peace”.

As we transition from the consolation of the Easter Season to the daily invitations of Ordinary Time, how can we foster the unity of the Spirit within the Body of Christ, the Catholic (Universal) Church?  This “unity” is a gift, a grace we receive, and NOT a “goal we achieve”; thus, we are responsible for cultivating our desire to respond fully to this magnificent gift from God Himself.  In all of our interactions with fellow members of His body, we should exercise the Holy Spirit’s fruits:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Lord may “be glad in His works” (Psalm 104:31) in, with, and through each and every one of us.

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Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church.  Today’s Gospel, for Pentecost, reminds us that the Church begins with the command “to forgive”.  Within our family and friends – – the domestic church – – we learn how “to forgive” and to “accept forgiveness”.  The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to do both!!

Today is a fitting time to share a celebration of reconciliation with family and friends.  Gather together and sit quietly for a few minutes, inviting everyone to reflect upon their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness.  If there is a situation or issue needing attention, spend some time reflecting on how it might be addressed appropriately and lovingly.  Reflect on how Jesus Christ gave us the gift, His grace, of the Holy Spirit to help us in both, the work of “forgiveness”, and to bring us peace in, with, and through, Him.  Pray together the “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” asking the Holy Spirit to help each of those present. Finish by sharing with one another the Sign of Peace as Jesus did so magnificently in today’s Gospel.

I will end by sharing my peace with you as well:

Peace be with each of you”.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with Your holy gifts.  Let my weakness be penetrated with Your strength this very day that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously, that I may do what is right and just.  Let my charity be such as to offend no one, and hurt no one’s feelings; so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.  Assist me, O Holy Spirit, in all my trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, protect me in temptations and console me in afflictions.  Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit, and pour Your light into my heart, my soul, and my mind. Assist me to live a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace.  Amen.”

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Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Faith and Works

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

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) KJV.

**

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605?)

In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England.  Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome.  Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel.  Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.

Augustine again set out.  This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian.  Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized.  After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see.  He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands.  As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.

Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success.  Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure.  Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors.

Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible.  The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England.  Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”

Comment: Augustine of Canterbury comes across today as a very human saint, one who could suffer like many of us from a failure of nerve.  For example, his first venture to England ended in a big U-turn back to Rome.  He made mistakes and met failure in his peacemaking attempts with the Briton Christians.  He often wrote to Rome for decisions on matters he could have decided on his own had he been more self-assured.  He even received mild warnings against pride from Pope Gregory, who cautioned him to “fear lest, amidst the wonders that are done, the weak mind be puffed up by self-esteem.”  Augustine’s perseverance amidst obstacles and only partial success teaches today’s apostles and pioneers to struggle on despite frustrations and be satisfied with gradual advances.

Quote: In a letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great wrote: “He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps.”

Patron Saint of: England

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 Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS):

Prologue

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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“If Jesus Felt A Need To Pray, Shouldn’t WE Do Likewise?!” – John 17:11b-19†


    

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

My Oldest son’s (Dan, III) last day of school, and his last day at work was this week.  He leaves for boot camp in a month and a half, planning to be a part of Naval Special Operations Group as an “Aviation Rescue Swimmer”.  He’s NOW a man, and I am still concerned for him – – and SOooo PROUD of him!!  It is hard to describe the feelings I have over his “adulthood” and the danger he has chosen to place himself in for OUR protection (He even had a full-ride scholarship and turned it down to serve our country).  I Love him and want to keep him safe – – but can’t. I can only pray for him instead, placing him in God’s hand.  Please pray for him as well.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   325 – The First Council of Nicaea – the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church – is held
†   1277 – Death of Pope John XXI (b. 1215)
†   1444 – Saint Bernardino of Siena, Italian Franciscan missionary (b. 1380) dies at age 63
†   1470 – Birth of Pietro Bembo, Italian cardinal (d. 1547)
†   1571 – Venice, Spain & Pope Pius form anti-Turkish Saint League
†   1825 – Death of Papaflessas, Greek priest and government official (b. 1788)
†   1906 – Birth of Giuseppe Siri, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1989)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Bernardine of Siena; Saint Lucifer; Saint Austregisilus; Saint Ivo of Chartres; Abercius and Helena

(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:

 

“I don’t honestly believe that any man or woman can get all priorities in life straight alone.  We will always have doubts, fears, tensions, and wonderings without prayer.  We will continuously feel as if we are involved in a great juggling act with all the balls up in the air at once, soon to come plummeting to the ground.  But before God in prayer, we can get our priorities in right order and become one: one integrated person in Jesus Christ.” ~ Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., “Appointment with God“, Apostolate for Family Consecration

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Today’s reflection: Jesus prays for His disciples

 

(NAB John 17:11b-19) 11 Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.  12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13 But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.  16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  17 Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.  18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The background of today’s reading – – Jesus’ prayer to His Father – – comes at the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell discourse He delivered to His disciples at the Last Supper.  The entire 17th chapter of John’s Gospel is a prayer by Jesus – – to His Father – – entrusting and committing Himself to His Father and expressing His care and concern for His disciples.  At the end of this prayer, Jesus and His disciples depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus will ultimately be arrested, starting His Passion and Execution. 

In reading this “Prayer of Jesus” at Mass during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Jesus Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we hear Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Since the sixteenth century, this 17th chapter of John’s Gospel has been called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus.  Through this “prayer”, Jesus speaks as OUR intercessor.  He uses words addressed directly to God the Father and NOT to His disciples, who instead, probably overhear Jesus at prayer.  

On the eve of His sacrifice on the cross, and in the presence of His disciples, Jesus made His high priestly prayer: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that they may be one as we are one“.  Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples and for ALL who would believe in Him.  Jesus’ prayer for His people is that we be united with God the Father, in His Son, and through His Holy Spirit; and we will be joined together in unity with all who are members of Christ’s body.

Jesus’ prayer is one of petition, starting with His asking for an “intercession” in the reading just prior to today’s (cf., John 17:6–19), and for the “security” of future disciples immediately after this particular Gospel reading (cf., John 17:20–21).  Many phrases appear to be reminiscent of Jesus’ example of “how” WE should pray: “the Our Father” prayer.  

Although still in this world, Jesus already looked on His earthly human ministry as a thing of the past.  Jesus has, up to this time, stated that His disciples could not follow Him:

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” (John 13:33);

Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, where are you going?’  Jesus answered [him], ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.’” (John 13:36).  

Now, in today’s reading, He wishes them to be with Him “in union” with God the Father:

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”  (John 17:12–14).

Several important themes appear throughout Jesus’ prayer to His heavenly Father.  First, Jesus’ prayer reaffirms the complete “union” between Himself and God the Father.  Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has been presented as the “ONE” who preexisted with God the Father, AND, as the “ONE” sent by God the Father to do His work on earth.  In today’s reading, we hear Jesus include ALL His disciples, all of us, in this “union” with His Father.  We are reminded through Jesus’ prayer, that Jesus Christ IS the source of Christian unity.  Through Jesus Christ, we are united with one another AND with God Our Father Himself. 

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So, who is Jesus talking about when He mentions the “son of destruction” in today’s Gospel?  Is it the same “person” John mentioned in a different “title” a few chapters prior:

“I am not speaking of all of you.  I know those whom I have chosen.  But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’” (John 13:18).

I wonder, is Jesus talking about Judas Iscariot, about Satan himself, or about any of his evil disciples on earth?  I believe the answer is, in a way, “YES” to all three possibilities.  What I also believe is that those who follow Jesus with a certainty of faith, trust, and love, will not be overcome by the “son of destruction”!!  John, in his next chapter, will go on to explain this fulfillment of faith, trust, and love: 

“This was to fulfill what he had said, ‘I have not lost any of those you gave me.” (John 18:9).

The above verse (John 18:9) is also referring to two other places in John’s Gospel:

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.” (John 6:39);

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.” (John10:28).

By following Jesus, by have faith, trusting and loving Him, we become His “trusted friend”, eating His “bread”, and thus allowing Him to dwell IN each of us – – nurturing us with His grace:

“Even my trusted friend, who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me” (Psalm 41:10);

When comparing John 13:18 with Psalm 41:10 verse, “Even my trusted friend…has raised his heel against me”, John is characterizing specifically Judas as a false friend.  However, Jesus had many “false friends”, even still today. 

So, Jesus warns His followers about the danger of betrayal, especially toward Himself, or His Heavenly Father:

The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24);

The enormity of such a horrendous deed is such that it would be better not to exist than to do it.  Judas Iscariot was a close disciple of Jesus and should have realized the enormity of his betrayal of Him.  As stated in Bible’s the book of ACTS, Judas was truly and fully warned:

“My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16).

Judas Iscariot was led into an act of deception by not allowing the Holy Spirit to act in and through him.  Instead, Judas allowed the “son of destruction” to claim him.

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Let’s leave Judas and come back to Jesus.  What motivated Jesus to lay down His life on the cross – – as THE atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world?  Well, it was love – – love for His Father in heaven and love for each and every one of us who are made in the image and likeness of God the Father.  Jesus was sent into this world by His Father for a purpose, and that purpose was a mission of love to free each one of us from the slavery to sin, Satan, fear, death, and hopelessness.  Through His endless and infinite love, Jesus dedicated Himself out of pure JOY.

Jesus, in today’s reading, speaks of the joy that can fill each of us who dedicated themselves to His will:

I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely” (John17:13).

A “complete joy” is an important theme for John to relay to his audience.  He previously mentioned a possessing of a “complete joy” in chapter 15 as well:

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

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In this prayer from today’s Gospel, Jesus describes part of His mission in a language of “protection”.  He has protected those who were given – – to Him – – by God the Father; and we hear echoes of dualism reflected throughout.  Beginning with the opening chapter, John has presents Jesus’ human mission in the context of an immense struggle between good and evil – – represented by light and darkness.  In Jesus’ human and divine presence, His disciples have been protected from Satan.  Now, as Jesus is preparing His return to His Father, He prays that His disciples will continue to be protected from the “evil one”.  We can’t help but note the validation of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “the Our Father”.

In Jesus’ prayer to His (and our) Father in Heaven, He utters a simply complex petition resembling a part of the “Our Father Prayer”.  The petition John is referring to in today’s reading is, “deliver us from the evil one.”  

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world j but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

We know this petition is taught to all His disciples, for it can be found in two of the Synoptic Gospels as well, Matthew and Luke:

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13);

Do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:4).

In all three instances of God the Father’s protection from the “final test”, they refer to Satan rather than to abstract evil.

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13);

In Jewish “apocalyptic” writings, a period of severe trial will come to ALL before the end of the age.  This period has sometimes been called the “messianic woes” by some Jewish people, yet even still today.  The three examples of this petition just mentioned (John’s, Matthew’s, and Luke’s) asks for Jesus’ disciples (including us) to be safe a “final test”.  Even Paul’s Second letter to his Thessalonians, and John’s first letter to his roman Jewish Christians, relays this promise of safety and security from Satan and evil:

“The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3);

We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18).

Also present in this 17th chapter is the distinction between the world and the disciples.  Disciples are in the world, but they do not belong “TO” the world.  Like Jesus, they (and we) are sent INTO the world for the world’s salvation, knowing the world may not accept His disciples with open arms.  Again, we hear reverberations of John’s theme of the cosmic battle between light and darkness; the world PREFERING darkness.  However, His “light” will never be overcome by the darkness – – His light of truth will prevail.

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Jesus asks His Father to “consecrate” His disciples “in the truth”, and that “truth” being His “Word”:

Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

So, what is “consecrate”? – – what is “truth”? – – and what is “word”?   To consecrate is to make holy, to set apart, to sanctify.  In essence, consecration is a purification of oneself through the words and actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.  (It is a great flushing out of the old self and a gaining of a new and improved “self” – – with and in Christ.)  Peter teaches about this “purified selves” in his first letter to the Christian communities in Asia Minor (A peninsula of western Asia between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; generally the same area as Asian Turkey.):

 “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Jesus also said, “Consecrate in the Truth”.  What is “truth”?  Per the dictionary, “truth” is something honest and sincere, corresponding to fact, or to reality.  Purifying oneself in the honest and sincere fact and reality of Jesus as the “Son of God”, – – OUR personal Redeemer and Savior – – IS the ultimate goal for any Catholic Christian.  Consecrating or purifying oneself in “truthIS immersing oneself in His “Word”!!  In wrapping ourselves in God’s “Word”, we are wrapping our “selves” into what has ALWAYS been, and will always “BE”:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to beWhat came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

The “Word” is MUCH more than simply words written into a book.  God’s “WordBegan ALL, Created ALL, Lives through ALL, and Lights the way for ALL.  When the Deacon or Priest holds up the book of the Gospels in procession, or at the Reading of His “Word” (in Mass), he is holding up GOD for all to SEE!!  God’s “Word” burns brightly in each of His disciples.  How bright is your flame?

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In the last two verses of today’s reading, Jesus wraps His “truth”, His “Word”, around each of His disciple, cloaking them in His personal love and protection as He sent them (and us) to continue His work in this world:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (NAB John 17:18-19).

From this day forward, the eleven disciples closest to Jesus were now to be forever called “Apostles” (which means, “those sent”), for they were “sent” out to proclaim His “Word”, love, and peace.  This “sending” of the Apostles (and us – His current disciples) is also the subject of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven:

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);

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

“And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47).

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In summary, Jesus’ aim and mission was to glorify His heavenly Father.  All He said and did truly gave glory to His Father in heaven.  Jesus saw glory in the cross rather than shame.  Obedience to His Father’s will was His glory.  Jesus kept His Father’s word, even when tempted to forgo the cross.  Jesus did not rely on His own worldly human resources and strength to accomplish His Father’s will.  Instead, He trusted in His Father to give Him strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of opposition, trials, and temptation.  We are encouraged to take up our personal crosses (the big ones and little ones), following our Lord Jesus wherever He may call us to go.  Jesus will give us the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to live as His disciples.

Reading today’s prayer of Jesus, as found in John’s Gospel, during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we heard Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” which He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and that Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Jesus prayed that His disciples would be sanctified and consecrated in God’s truth and holiness.  The scriptural word for “consecration” comes from the same Hebrew word meaning “holy” or “set apart for God”.  This word, consecration, also means “to be equipped with the qualities of mind and heart and character for a task or service”.  Just as Jesus was called by His Father to serve in holiness and truth, so are we called and equipped for our task of serving God in the present world as His ambassadors.  

God’s “truth” frees us from ignorance and the deception of sin.  It reveals to us God’s goodness, love, and wisdom; and it gives us a desire for God’s holiness.  The Holy Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness.  As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, He transforms us by His purifying fire, and changes us into the likeness of Christ.  Is your life consecrated to God – – Look in the mirror?

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To conclude, one of the greatest gifts we are given in life is protection from harm.  We personally, in family, and in society, work together to keep one another safe from physical harm.  Think of the effort we parents have taken to make our homes child proof for example.  We, as Christians, also attempt to protect each other from emotional harm as well.  In another example, we attempt to talk to one another in a way as not to hurt one another’s feelings by our words.  And, most importantly, we, as Christians, should work together in protecting each other from what might harm another spiritually.  

When we work together to strengthen God and community, we build a spiritual strength making us able to turn from what would lead us away from God and the Church.  Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in today’s reading is also a prayer for us today.

Jesus left them, and US, with a great blessing along with His sending out message found in today’s reading; a blessing of calm and harmony – – “PEACE”:

 “[Jesus] said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” (John 20:21–22).

I end today’s reflection with the same blessing He gave to each of us, – – “Peace BE With You” as well.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The ‘Our Father’ Prayer

“Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name; Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Scripture and Tradition

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

**

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

Most of the saints suffer great personal opposition, even persecution. Bernardine, by contrast, seems more like a human dynamo who simply took on the needs of the world.

He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following St. Francis of Assisi’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”

Compared with St. Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy.  He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary.

When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown, Siena.  Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital.  Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months.  He escaped the plague but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months.  He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt (her parents had died when he was a child) and at her death began to fast and pray to know God’s will for him.

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later.  For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach.  He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.

Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun.  This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions (for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines).  The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings.  Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation.  Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of a branch of the Franciscan Order, the Friars of the Strict Observance, he strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law.  When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000.  He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.

Comment:

Another dynamic saint once said, “…I will not be a burden, for I want not what is yours, but you…. I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes” (2 Corinthians 12:14).  There is danger that we see only the whirlwind of activity in the Bernardines of faith—taking care of the sick, preaching, studying, administering, always driving—and forget the source of their energy.  We should not say that Bernardine could have been a great contemplative if he had had the chance. He had the chance, every day, and he took it.

Patron Saint of: Advertising; Gambling; Compulsive behavior; Italy; Public relations

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

20. The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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21. On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

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“What’s Love Got To Do With Anything! The Answer: EVERYTHING!!” – John 15:9-17†


Sixth Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Happy Mother’s Day to All!!  What does “Mother” Mean?  It’s an acronym:

M – Messenger, relaying God’s Word.
O – Outpouring of genuine LOVE.
T – Trusts in God.
H – Heart set on things above.
E – Earthly Saint.
R – Rescuer of the Wayward.    

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One year ago today, I made my solemn Profession into the Secular Franciscan Order.  I have had a STUPENDOUS journey so far.  I pray the rest of my journey is as faith filled as it has been for me.  I would like to give a special thanks to a dear friend and confidant, John H.  John, you truly are walking in Christ’s shoes.  God bless you and your family.

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This THURSDAY, May 17th, is the “Feast of the Ascension”, usually a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church (moved to Sunday, May 20th).  In our liturgy of the Ascension of the Lord, we celebrate Jesus ascending to heaven on the fortieth day after Easter.  Those who believe in Jesus will be empowered to do what Jesus Himself has done. During His ministry, Jesus sent His disciples to preach, to heal, and to drive out unclean spirits. Now they are sent again to do these things and more. From His place with God in heaven, Jesus helped His disciples, and He continues to help us as we try to live as His followers.

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 Today in Catholic History:

†     535 – St Agapitus I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†     609 – Pope Boniface I turns Pantheon into Catholic church
†     641 – Eligius (Saint Eloy) becomes bishop of Doornik-Noyon
†     1024 – Birth of Hugh of Cluny, French saint (d. 1109)
†     1314 – Birth of Sergius of Radonesh, Russian saint
†     1497 – Pope Alexander VI excommunicates Girolamo Savonarola
†     1655 – Birth of Innocent XIII, [Michelangiolo dei Conti], Italy,
†     1704 – Death of Louis Bourdaloue, French Jesuit preacher (b. 1632)
†     1792 – Birth of Pius IX “Pio Nono”, [Giovanni-Maria Mastai-Ferretti], Pope (1846-78)
†     1874 – Pope Pius IX encyclical “On Greek-Ruthenian rite”
†     1981 – Pope John Paul II shot, wounded by assailant in St Peter’s Square
†     1926 – Death of Libert H. Boeynaems, Belgian Catholic prelate (b. 1857)
†     1981 – Pope John Paul II shot, wounded by assailant in St Peter’s Square
†     Memorials/Feasts: Our Lady of Fatima; Abban the Hermit; Saint Servatus; Saint Robert Bellarmine; Saint Gerald of Villamagna; Saint John the Silent 

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

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Quote of the Day:

“We may not be able to give much, but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is in love with God.” ~ Mother Teresa “Jesus Is My All in All“, Doubleday

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Today’s reflection: Jesus commands His disciples to love one another.

(NAB John 15:9-17) 9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.  10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.  16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  17 This I command you: love one another.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of Jesus’ discourse on His “union” with His disciples from last week’s “vine and branches” parable.  (Please read John 15:1-8 and my last reflection blog).  Today’s reading continues with Jesus teaching about the most important of virtues: LOVE!!  Its reading extends this teaching discourse by describing the kind of service Christians are called upon to offer to others.

John is a prolific, descriptive, and unique writer throughout the New Testament (with 4 other books associated to him).  He loves to write in such a way that nearly every word he writes is filled with theology and philosophy.  With John’s books, I have a tendency to dissect each verse on their own position or status.  Hold on and let’s have fun reading and dissecting John’s words with JOY and excitement.

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The first verse talks about love in a uniquely special way (Notice the number of times the word “love” is used):

As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.” (NAB John 15:9-17)

We know God the Father is PURE love; thus, Jesus is saying that He also loves each and every one of us with the SAME PURE love.  In the “Prayer of Jesus” to His Father (cf., Chapter 17 of John), Jesus reiterates again His intense, perfect, and pure love He had (and still has) for His Father and all of God the Father’s creations:

I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23)

I am looking forward to the day I will ultimately love all, including God, with this same perfection.

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The second verse of today’s reading (John 15:10) reads:

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love (John 15:10). 

I believe John not only loved Jesus Christ as a person AND a human incarnation of God; he also loved all Jesus said and did.  He truly knew that Jesus was the perfect and complete fulfillment of ALL of the Sacred Scripture (Old Testament) prophesies regarding the Messiah (“Anointed”) Savior.  Throughout John’s Gospel (and other writings), he wrote extensively about Jesus’ love for us, and His continual presence with us for all times. 

Through and by Jesus Christ’s love, and our return of His love, we not only know of His divine presence, but also, we knew that we can keep His commandments, AND by doing so, truly please Him:

The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” (John 8:29);

And,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15).

I, for one, choose to ALWAYS please Jesus in everything I desire, say, and do.

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John talks about Jesus’ (and God the Father’s) unique, special, and PERFECT LOVE for each and every one of us – – even if we don’t return His love!  Well, Jesus is saying that living with perfect love is NOT all we must do.  He is saying, in fact, that the love we have for Him and others will be given with a pure and perfect JOY as well:

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (John 15:11). 

Jesus’ love and JOY is present with each of us, even when we do not feel loved!!  In the darkest of situations and times, when we are at the precipice of terror, turmoil, and anguish, our SAVIOR is there with us:

So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (John 16:22).

How absolutely AWESOME is this revelation.  You can truly find love and JOY in every situation, good and bad, simply because Jesus IS there with you as well!  AND, He is not just there with His disciples; He is present there, and here, with ALL peoples of His kingdom on earth:

But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely (John 17:13).

I cannot help it, but at this moment, I am singing (in my head) the popular song from my youth, “Let there be peace on earth, and Let it begin with me”.  We still song at Mass occasionally.  As a matter of fact, there is a strong Franciscan spirituality in this song.  I even chose this song to be played (and sung) at my Profession as a Secular Franciscan, exactly one year ago TODAY.

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I am surprised Jesus did not say, “Amen, Amen” prior to verse 12:

 “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). 

There are 25 “Amen’s” in John’s Gospel alone (with only 52 “Amen’s” total in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels).  Any time the word “Amen” started a sentence, it was said by Jesus Himself as an “attention getter”.  These initial “Amen’s” are truly unique to Jesus, unparalleled, and otherwise unknown in any other Hebrew writings.  Why, because “Amen” – – at the beginning of a sentence – – does not refer to the words of a previous speaker; Jesus uses the words “Amen, Amen” to introduce a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.

What is the essence of this “new” commandment?  The essence is “true” love is sacrificial; it “gives” ALL to another of God’s “children”.  John, in chapter 13, initiates the new meaning in Jesus’ “new commandment”:

I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34).

Wow!!  By Jesus saying that He is giving us “a new commandment”, He is putting Himself on “par” with Yahweh.  (Now, that’s gutsy for anyone to do in first-century Israel!)  However, in reality, Jesus is only reiterating, and fulfilling a commandment from the Old Testament, found in Leviticus:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18).

Jesus is describing a different attitude (and action) towards one’s fellow Israelites; it’s an attitude and action we must have for ALL people (including one’s enemies) even today AND in the future.  What Jesus Christ said IS-IS-IS THE central commandment in both the Judaic and Christian Religions.

We prove our love for God and for one another when we embrace the way of the cross: OUR sacrifices.  What are the crosses you are to carry in your life: the big ones and the many little ones?  Remember that when your will crosses with God’s will, then God’s “will” should and ought to be done; that’s the sacrifice of our will, to do God’s will rather than our own.  

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Do you know the joy and contentment of a life fully surrendered to God? – – and consumed with His love? – – Do you know the friendship of God? – – One of the special marks of favor shown in the scriptures is to be called a “friend” of God.

However, – – to “love your enemies”!!??  Wow!  Are you ready to be a “martyr” for Christ?  Jesus says you need to be open to this real possibility:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:13)!! 

Paul, in his letter to the first-century Jewish Christians in the Roman empire wrote:

 “For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet [He] died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.   But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8);

In Paul’s world and time period, the “good person” was one who is especially generous and kind to others in the immediate area.  John, in the same world and time as Paul, writes in His first epistle; we ought to imitate what Jesus said and did for ALL of us, in order to be “saved”:

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).

Previously, John wrote:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:13)!! 

Note the very next verse:

You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).

Jesus answers “who” is your friend, and “how” to be MY friend.  It all has to do with what He commands us; and His command is TO LOVE others as “brothers”.  In today’s Gospel reading, John relates by his words, “for one’s friends” (v.13), as being “those whom one loves.”  

Interestingly, the Greeks had several words for “love”, different “kinds” of love.  In the first part of today’s reading (John 15:9–13a), the Greek word for love is “agapaō” (Translated, agape describes a generous, kind, and selfless love).  This word was used to describe the attitude Christians felt for their fellow human beings, both Jew and Gentile.  Agape is the highest and most perfect kind of love:  the love God and Jesus has for ALL creation.  The second part (John 15:13b–15) has the Greek word for “love” as “phileō” (Filial, relating to a child’s relationship with, or feelings toward, his or her parents).  A filial relationship describes an “affection of friendship”.  The root of the Greek word for “friend” comes from the term for love, “philia.  By using this word, Jesus transforms the terms of His relationship with his disciples and redefines for them their relationship with God – – as a “FRIEND”.  This “title” was, in Jesus’ day, the highest and most intimate compliment.

Jesus, the Lord and Master, called (- – and calls – -) His disciples “friends” rather than His “servants”.  Friendship with God certainly entails a loving relationship which goes beyond mere duty and obedience.  This is THE distinctive feature of Jesus’ relationship with His disciples – – His personal love for them as “FRIENDS”.  His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others; His love was – – sacrificial.  He gave the best He had, all  that He had by giving His very life for those whom He loved, thus securing an everlasting life with God the Father for them in paradise!!

To John, to Christ, and hopefully to each of us, the two roots for the word “love” are synonymous, meaning “TO love AS God ‘LOVES’”!!  John also uses “philos” (a child-like faith and love to his parent) again in his 21st chapter:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  He then said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ [Jesus] said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15–17).

In these three verses just read (John 21:15-17), John again uses a variety of synonyms: two different Greek verbs for “love”; two verbs for “feed” and “tend”; two nouns for “sheep”; and, two verbs for “know”.  Essentially, there is no great difference in the meaning for John (and hopefully for each of us as well).   

I believe this “threefold confession” of Peter in the above verses was meant to counteract his earlier “threefold denial” of Christ (cf., John 18:17, 25, 27).  The First Vatican Council actually cited these specific verses in defining that Jesus after His resurrection, gave the Apostle Peter the authority of “supreme shepherd” and “ruler” over the whole flock on earth, as the first Pope.

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Let’s go on with John’s ALWAYS interesting, and multi-layered revelations, as written by him in all his writings of Holy Scripture.  Let me ask you:  Are you Jesus’ friend?, or His slave?  Read carefully what John says next:

You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father (NAB John 15:14-15).  

Slaves” versus “friends” is not a new notion.  In the Old Testament, – – Moses, Joshua, and David – – were called “servants” or “slaves of Yahweh”:

 “So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the LORD, died as the LORD had said” (Deuteronomy 34:5);

After these events, Joshua, son of Nun, servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten” (Joshua 24:29);

I have chosen David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him.” (Psalm 89:21).

Only Abraham was called a “friend of God.”

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham my friend (Isaiah 41:8);

Was it not you, our God, who dispossessed the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham, your friend?” (2 Chronicles 20:7);

“Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’” (James 2:23)

In Hebrew Scriptures, faith in God made one a servant of God.  Jesus teaches that His relationship to His disciples is based on friendship, not servitude.  So, I ask again, are you Jesus’ friend, or His slave?  I would like to say I am BOTH!!  I have surrendered myself to Christ, to do what HE WILLS!  I am not only Jesus’ friend; I am His servant, His slave.  However, this “spirit of slavery” does not bring me fear whatsoever.  Through my surrendering, my self-imposed “slavery” to Christ Himself, I have become HIS!!  Paul, a fellow disciple of Christ, eloquently wrote my feeling in his letter to the Roman Jewish Christians:

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15).

“Abba” was the name of a great 1970’s pop band from Sweden who “went big time” in the United States.  Paul however, used the term, “Abba, Father”, an Aramaic term, as Jesus’ especially unique way of addressing God with “filial intimacy” (a child-like love to his parents).  The word “Abba” does not seems to have been used in earlier Jewish sources to address God without some type of qualifier.  This accentuates Jesus’ new calling to a more intimate “LOVING” relationship with Him and with His Father, – – and with others.  Thus, He taught them (and us) to pray: “Our Father”.

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Ok, let’s get back on track, but in a slightly new direction.  We have been talking about love up to this point.  Now, we are going to discuss “what” to do with this love revealed to us.  Jesus has a mission – – a unique, special, and purposeful mission – – for each and every one of us.  A mission Jesus personally gives to us, whatever we need, to complete His (and our) mission:

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (NAB John 15:16).

 Jesus, in stating that God chooses His people, is a reiteration and a fulfillment of the verse found in the Torah, specifically in the book of Deuteronomy:

 “For you are a people holy to the LORD, your God; the LORD, your God, has chosen you from all the peoples on the face of the earth to be a people specially his own.” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

God chooses you, but, do you answer His calling?!  How often do people (maybe even yourself) fail to “hear” or “answer” His personal, unique, and special “job” He wants YOU to accomplish for ALL in His kingdom on earth?   Lord, please help us to say YES to you, who call us to cooperate in Your divine plan of salvation. 

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John’s final verse in today’s Gospel seems to repeat what he initially wrote at the beginning:

This I command you: love one another” (John 15:17).

John felt SO strongly about expressing this message of giving a filial and an agape “love” to ALL; he continued to express this virtuous command throughout his writings.  In addition to John’s writings about love, already covered, I would like to end with these two verses from John’s first letter to his Christian community:

And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:23);

This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21).

True, pure, “love” is costly.  Those who truly love give the best they can offer and are willing to sacrifice everything they have for others.  God willingly paid the price for our redemption through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.  That’s the nature of true friendship and love – – a willingness to give all without question.  Jesus tells us that He is our friend and He loves us whole-heartedly and unconditionally.  He wants us to love each other just as He loves us, whole-heartedly and without end.  Jesus’ love fills our hearts, transforming our being and soul, and frees us to give ourselves in loving service to others.  If we open our hearts to His love and obey His command to love our neighbor, then we will bear much fruit in our lives, fruit that will last for eternity.

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In conclusion, today’s reading, like last week’s, is part of Jesus’ Last Supper discourse.  These specific words are spoken immediately before Jesus’ arrest, scourging, and Crucifixion.  Jesus Himself gives us the greatest example of the kind of love and service He teaches about to His disciples.  He has, in fact, laid down His life for His friends, for His disciples, and for us.  Through His death and His Resurrection, we have received the grace to “love” – – with “JOY” for others – – as Jesus has commanded.

We have many opportunities to show love in action.  Each time we put off or postpone something in order to help another, to tend to another’s needs, we are on the path to following the example of “love” shown to us by Jesus Christ.  Sometimes, the small sacrifices “of love and service” we are called upon to make for others prepare each of us for the larger choices and sacrifices that we may be called upon to make for others AND for Christ.  If we are people practicing love for others with generosity and joy, we will also be people willing to lay down our lives for those we love.

Speaking of generosity, what is the meaning of the word “generosity”?  To be “generous” is to give freely to others without counting the cost.  Generosity is one of the “Fruits of the Holy Spirit”.  Jesus taught us to be generous in showing our love for one another.  Can you think of examples Jesus gave to us which show this kind of love?  (Examples could include washing His disciples’ feet; accepting His death on the cross, etc.)  Jesus helps us to show this kind of especially unique love to others.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus promised that God the Father will give us whatever we ask for (and need).  So let’s ask for a generous spirit to love others as Jesus did for us.  Seems to be only fair to me.

Well, get up and “love” all you meet, “love” all you do, “love” all you say, and “love” all you hear and see, with a certain “JOY” in all aspects of Christ’s kingdom. 

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Reflection Prayer:

Prayer for Vocations

“Lord Jesus, as you once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men, let your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come, follow me!

Give young men & woman the grace of responding quickly to your voice.  Support our bishops, priests & consecrated people in their apostolic labor.

Grant perseverance to our seminarians & all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally consecrated to your service.  Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.  Lord, Send workers to your harvest & do not allow humanity to be lost for the lack of pastors, missionaries & people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church; the model of every vocation, help us to say ‘Yes’ to the Lord who calls us to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation.  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.

Scripture and Tradition

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

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

**

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Our Lady of Fatima

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three Portuguese children received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon.  Mary asked the children to pray the rosary for world peace, for the end of World War I, for sinners and for the conversion of Russia.  The third visionary, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97.

Mary gave the children three secrets.  Since Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta the following year, Lucia revealed the first secret in 1927, concerning devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The second secret was a vision of hell.

Pope John Paul II directed the Holy See’s Secretary of State to reveal the third secret in 2000; it spoke of a “bishop in white” who was shot by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows into him.  Many people linked this to the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981.

The feast of Our Lady of Fatima was approved by the local bishop in 1930; it was added to the Church’s worldwide calendar in 2002.

Comment: The message of Fatima is simple: Pray. Unfortunately, some people—not Sister Lucia—have distorted these revelations, making them into an apocalyptic event for which they are now the only reliable interpreters.  They have, for example, claimed that Mary’s request that the world be consecrated to her has been ignored.  Sister Lucia agreed that Pope John Paul II’s public consecration in St. Peter’s Square on March 25, 1984, fulfilled Mary’s request.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prepared a June 26, 2000, document explaining the “third secret” (available at http://www.vatican.va).

Mary is perfectly honored when people generously imitate her response “Let it be done to me as you say” (Luke 1:38).  Mary can never be seen as a rival to Jesus or to the Church’s teaching authority, as exercised by the college of bishops united with the bishop of Rome.

Quote: “Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike, play their part in the unfolding of history.  These manifestations can never contradict the content of faith and must, therefore, have their focus in the core of Christ’s proclamation: the Father’s love which leads men and women to conversion and bestows the grace required to abandon oneself to him with filial devotion.  This too is the message of Fatima which, with its urgent call to conversion and penance, draws us to the heart of the Gospel” (The Message of Fatima, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 26, 2000).

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

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14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.  Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

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“Jesus, Take Me, The Barren Branch, And Allow Me To Be Made Glorified And Cherished Grapes In Your Kingdom!” – John 15:1-8†


Fifth 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
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the OFS Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Great news!!!  The PepsiCo Boycott is finally OVER!!  Per “LifeNews.com”, “Pepsi Stops Using Aborted Fetal Cell Lines to Test Flavors”.  After months of pro-life protests and opposition, PepsiCo has indicated it will alter its contract with biotech firm Senomyx Inc., which uses cells from a babies killed in an abortion to provide “materials” in conducting flavor testing. 

 “We are grateful to PepsiCo and especially to all those who sent a loud and clear message to the management of this company. It’s incumbent upon us to closely monitor the situation to be sure that PepsiCo remains true to their word.  There are moral cell lines Senomyx can and should be using — not just for PepsiCo research but for all their customers.”

We are ALL strongly encouraged to take one more important step: write to PepsiCo and thank them — and then go buy your favorite Pepsi products to celebrate.

Contact Pepsico:
Jamie Caulfield, Sr. VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form:
http://cr.pepsi.com/usen/pepsiusen.cfm?time=5189878

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Today in Catholic History:

†   973 – Birth of Henry II, Roman Catholic German king (1002)/emperor (1014-1024)
†   1312 – Pope Clement V closes Council of Vienna (Was the fifteenth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church that met between 1311 and 1312 in Vienne.  Its principal act was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar)
†   1501 – Birth of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italy, humanist/Pope (1555, 22 days)
†   1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, died fighting the forces of Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant’Angelo.
†   1536 – King Henry VIII, orders translated [KJV] Bibles be placed in every church
†   1542 – Francis Xavier reached Old Goa, the capital of Portuguese India at the time.
†   1574 – Birth of Pope Innocent X (d. 1655)
†   1638 – Death of Cornelius Jansen, (was Catholic bishop of Ypres (Belgium) and the father of a theological movement known as Jansenism) (b. 1585)
†   1708 – Death of François de Laval, first bishop of New France (The first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec) (b. 1623)
†   1830 – Birth of Guido Gezelle, Flemish priest/poet
†   1962 – St. Martín de Porres is canonized by Pope John XXIII.
†   1975 – Death of József Mindszenty, Hungarian Catholic Cardinal (b. 1892)
†   2001 – During a trip to Syria, Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to enter a mosque.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Justus; Saint Lucius of Cyrene; Saint Justus; Saint Dominic Savio, patron saint of studying youth; Saint Evodius of Antioch; Saint Gerard of Lunel; Saint Henryk Kaczorowski; Saint Petronax of Monte Cassino; Saint Theodotus; St George’s Day — Ðurdevdan (Serbian), Gergyovden (Bulgarian), Giorgoba (Georgian)

(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 teaches He is the vine and His disciples are the branches.

 

(NAB John 15:1-8) 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  4 Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  5 I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is the middle part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, and is the beginning of a fairly long monologue (15:1–16:4) on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  We need to remember, John tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper differently from the other Evangelists.  In his Gospel, the Last Supper begins with Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.  Jesus then provides them with a series of instructions we call the Last Supper discourse or Jesus’ farewell discourse.  In these chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His followers, His disciples, about the importance of following His example of love and service, about the gift they will receive when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, and about their relationship with Jesus and with the world.  The Last Supper discourse concludes with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (cf., John, Chapter 17).

Today, Jesus speaks about His relationship to His disciples.  In His symbolism of the “vine and the branches”, Jesus is referencing passages from the Old Testament.  In the “Hebrew Scriptures” (the OT), Israel is the vineyard, and “Yahweh” Himself watches over and cares for the vineyard.  One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

Today’s long discourse (15:1–16:4) focuses on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  Jesus’ “Words”, a monologue, goes beyond the immediate crisis of Jesus’ departure: He will still be present with them, even after His physical departure. 

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The first part of this discourse, John 10:1–5, resembles a parable in that he likens Jesus to something they would immediately recognize and understand.  They have seen vineyards in their experiences, and knew they would possibly recognize this imagery from the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 5:1–7 is his prophesy entitled, “The Song of the Prophesy”.  Please read this inspired and inspiring prophesy, especially the last verse:

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry!” (Isaiah 5:7) 

And, a similar vineyard is also described in Matthews Gospel (cf., Matthew 21:33–46), “The Parable of the Tenants”.  (Have you read it yet?  If not, why not do so now.)  Interesting enough, King David and the Prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea, also uses this special image of the vine and vineyard:

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it.  You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land.  The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches.  It sent out its boughs as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.  Why have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?  The boar from the forest strips the vine; the beast of the field feeds upon it.  Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.  Those who would burn or cut it down— may they perish at your rebuke” (Psalm 80:9–17);

I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to me, a spurious vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21);

Son of man, what makes the wood of the vine Better than the wood of branches found on the trees in the forest?” (Ezekiel 15:2);

Your mother was like a leafy vineplanted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.” (Ezekiel 19:10);

And finally,

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth.  The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; the more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.” (Hosea 10:1)?

My question is this: “Is Jesus using this image of the vine for a “special” purpose?”  So, what is that purpose?

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The identification of the vine as the “Son of Man” in Psalm 80, and Wisdom’s description of herself as a vine in Sirach, are further backgrounds for portrayal of Jesus by the figure of the vine and Israel as the branches:

“Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.” (Psalm 80:15-16);

I bud forth delights like a vine; my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit.” (Sirach 24:17).

“The fruit of the vine” symbolism, as described in today’s reading, may have a secondary symbolism for the Holy Eucharistic.  (I believe so, do you?)  Remember what Mark reports in his Gospel:

“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25).

“The fruit of the vine” is a STRONG reference to the blood of Christ – – that is why the Catholic Church proclaims, “body, blood, soul, and divinity” as the core of OUR faith in Jesus being BOTH God and man).

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Verse three of this Gospel refers to God’s “Word”:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15:3).

John uses the word, “Word”, to relate its true meaning of this “word” as being revealed at the very beginning of his Gospel:

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

In the above verse, “In the beginning” is a phrase found the very first words of the first book of the Old Testament (cf., Genesis 1:1).  John uses the verb “was” three times, with three different meanings, in this verse: existence, relationship, and affirmation of identity.  

The “Word” (in Greek: logos) is a term combining God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis), His personified pre-existent Wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (as found in Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of true reality (as found in Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The phrase “with God” comes from a Greek preposition (“meta”) indicating a communication with, and being in the presence of, another.   And, finally, “was God” signifies an affirmation of identify.

However, what does Jesus mean by saying:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you” (John 15:3)?

I think it means: His disciples are saved, nurtured, and given extreme care by hearing God’s “Word”.  The effect of hearing God’s “Word” is to cause Jesus’ disciples to GROW, to be more productive in His kingdom, and giving each of us, through hearing His “Word”, the opportunity to become a pristine fruit (with pristine seeds) in His kingdom as well.  Later on, John will write:

Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’” (John 13:10).

Both “Pruned” and “Bathed” seems to suggest a symbolic reference to baptism for the first century Jewish Catholics.  Through the Sacraments – – especially Baptism, Confirmation, and Reconciliation – – we STILL become the pruned, pristine, fruit and seeds of His kingdom growing yet today.

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The above “Joke of the Day” section refers to verse six about the “withering branch” and being “thrown into a fire”.  I believe Jesus is referring to two specific verses of the Old Testament in regards to the imagery of vine, both from Ezekiel:

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Like vine wood among forest trees, which I have given as fuel for fire, so I will give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I will set my face against them: Although they have escaped the fire, the fire will still devour them; you shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.” (Ezekiel 15:6–7);

The second reference:

Your mother was like a leafy vine planted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.  One strong branch grew into a royal scepter.  So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage.  But she was torn out in fury and flung to the ground; The east wind withered her up, her fruit was plucked away; Her strongest branch dried up, fire devoured it.  Now she is planted in a wilderness, in a dry, parched land.  Fire flashed from her branch, and devoured her shoots; Now she does not have a strong branch, a royal scepter!  This is a lamentation and serves as a lamentation.” (Ezekiel 19:10–14).

In the Old Testament reading, the “vine” is Judah; the “one strong branch” is the Davidic king.  In the above readings from Ezekiel, the allegory describes the deportation of the Davidic dynasty to Babylon and laments the destruction of the house of David.  From Ezekiel’s perspective, the arrogance of Judah’s kings lead to this tragedy. 

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The image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was covered with numerous vineyards.  Jesus is using the “vine” to mean ALL people of ALL nations, especially Israel.  The “one strong branch” is Jesus Himself.  Jesus is leading (and still leads) all who believe in Him on a new Exodus to a great feast in the paradise of Heaven.  Jesus is rebuilding a New Jerusalem in Himself and in each and every one of us.  How great is this to be part of the “City of God”!!

When Jesus calls Himself the “true vine”, He makes it clear no one can claim their spiritual inheritance through association with a particular people or bloodline (ie. the Jewish people).  Rather, it is only through Jesus Christ AND one’s faith in Him and His mission that someone can become “grafted” into the true “vineyard” of the Lord.

Jesus teaches His disciples that His relationship with them will not end after His death; He will remain with them always!  This new and unique unity between Jesus and His followers, His disciples, is the foundation and source of their (and OUR) ability to continue to do the work which He began.  Similarly, Jesus’ presence with each of us – – through the Grace of the Holy Spirit – – enables each of us, individually and personally, to continue the work of love and reconciliation which He began.

Jesus offers true life, an abundant life coming from God the Father and resulting in great fruitfulness for the true disciple.  How does the vine become fruitful?  The vine must be carefully pruned, eliminating the waste, before it can bear “good fruit”.  Vines characteristically have two kinds of branches — those which bear fruit and those which don’t.  The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back in order for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit.  Jesus used this image, well known to all in first-century Israel, to describe the kind of life He produces in those who are united with Him through faith:

 “… the fruit of ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit’(Romans 14:17).

 Jesus says there can be no fruit in our lives “apart from Him”.  The “fruit” He speaks about allegorically here is the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it also was used in Holy Scriptures as a sign of an unhealthy falling apart of the family, the nation, their religion, and their relationship with God.  Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard which “yielded wild grapes” (cf., Isaiah 5:1-7): those choosing not to follow Christ, choosing to live a “worldly” life, will be “branches” surely “cut off”, “dried”, and “used as fuel”.  Sounds pretty ominous to me! (There’s a message in there somewhere!)

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There is a simple truth in today’s reading.  Each one of us is either “fruit-bearing” or “non-fruit-bearing”.  There is NO in-between, NO straddling the fence, on God’s “vine”.  The nurturing and care of healthy fruit requires drastic pruning – – in our own personal and public lives, as well as in God’s kingdom!!  Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him and allow Him to nurture, care for, and feed us!!  So, get out the pruning shears and help God make you a great GRAPE!!

For those of us who remain faithful to God’s “word”, we will be given all we need, according to His will.   John even mentioned this same notion in his last chapter:

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13);

And, also in his first epistle:

 “We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us(1 John 5:14).

Matthew and Mark also talk about God giving His faithful all we ask for, according to His will:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7);

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24);

Simply believe, ask, trust, hope, love, and receive!  Your prayers will be answered; maybe not the way you want, but according to His will and plan for you.

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We “glorify” God the Father by living a true and faith-filled life, with Him always present in what we do, say, and believe.  Our “Words’, our “actions”, and our “decisions” are as important today, as they were with Jesus’, two millennia ago!

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16);

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

How well do YOU glorify God?  Does He shine in your life?  Or, is He a dull and tarnished notion of days past?  Even if so, it is never too late to get the polish out and start “buffing” away the tarnish on your heart out, making room for His heart to shine instead.

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To summarize, Jesus taught His disciples about the importance of “the word”.  Just as Jesus will remain in His disciples, so too will His (and His Father’s) “Word”.  We come to know Jesus through the Holy Scriptures – – the “true, full, and living ‘Word’ of God”.  Our commitment to be Jesus Christ’s true followers and disciples is sustained through God’s eternal “Word”.  This commitment is strengthened, nurtured, and more fulfilled, by our life of prayer, and fed and cultivated by frequent receiving of the Holy Eucharist.  Through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Himself, physical and spiritually dwells personally and intimately in each of us, remaining with each of us, and transforming each of us so that we might bear much fruit in His name.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!

We observe many people who act in ways which show their personal commitment to serve their neighbor with a true love Jesus displayed (and still displays), required (and still requires) from each of us, Catholics, other Christians, and even non-Christians to care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and give alms to the poor.  These decisions and actions become acts of Christian discipleship when they are motivated by our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Whatever the immediate results of this “worldly” act, Jesus promises us that these actions will bear much fruit, in His kingdom, when we do them in His name.

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To conclude, the goal of our life of prayer is to increase our awareness that Jesus lives with each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way – – ALWAYS!  It is much more than a simple dialogue with God.  Prayer is a lifting of our minds and hearts TO the Triune God so that the Triune God might dwell and act IN, WITH, and THROUGH each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way!  The summit of our prayer life – – our personal and public “communion” with the true and physically present Jesus Christ – – is in the Holy Eucharist.  Through this Blessed Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ, we receive Jesus Himself, AND He remains with us.  Our prayer life, AND our personal, unique, and intimate union with Jesus, will naturally lead each of us to “fruit-full service” to others.  (How ‘bout them grapes!)

Jesus talked about His relationship to His disciples using the “vine” and the “branches” as symbols.   Think about the ways in which we are invited to “relate” to Jesus as His disciples in today’s secularized and materialistic world – – prayer, Holy Scripture, Holy Eucharist, and so on.  When we do these things, Jesus promises to remain with us AND to lead us to serve others in a good, effective, way.  Take some time to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you continue to be attentive and always open to Jesus as He works in, with, and through our lives today.  Let’s MAKE ROOM FOR GOD in our lives – – ALWAYS!!

I think I’ll get a glass of great wine now!  Thank you.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

A Prayer About Making Room For God

 

“Most Precious Lord Jesus, Gentle And Wonderful God, Truly Awesome And Ever-present Holy Spirit, Precious Lord Jesus, I love you.  Do not let me be arrogant.  Show me what life is like for the weak.  Help me reach out to help the weak to be stronger.  Never let me boast about the cravings of my heart.  Never let me bless or benefit the greedy.  Never let me make fun of your flock.  Turn my eyes upon you.  Place within me a seeking heart to find you.

Above all, help me always have room for you within my thoughts.  Every hour I take refuge in you.  Wickedness and sinfulness lurk in the shadows ready to devour me.  The more upright I try to be, the more arrows are set against the bows of the wicked to slay me.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me cling to you and cling to your old rugged cross.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me make room in my heart and life for your love and grace.  All these things I humbly pray in the name of my most Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, my Mighty God, and my Ever-present Holy Spirit upon whom I can rely.  Amen”

http://www.findthepower.com/PrayerPages/PrayerPagesMakeRoomForGod.htm

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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, Laying 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.

Scripture and Tradition

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

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

**

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Gerard of Lunel (13th century)

Gerard, born into a noble family in southern France, showed an early inclination to piety—so much so that he received the habit of the Third  Order of St. Francis at the age of five.  When he was 18, Gerard and his brother, Effrenaud, hid themselves in a cave on the banks of a river and began two years of living as hermits.  Both brothers then decided to go on a pilgrimage, in part to discourage the many visitors to the hermitage who had heard of their reputation for holiness.  Making their way to Rome on foot, they spent two years there, visiting its many famous churches and shrines.

They intended to continue to Jerusalem, but Gerard collapsed on the way.  While his brother went to seek help, he left Gerard in a simple cottage near Montesanto, Italy, but Gerard expired before his brother’s return.

Many miracles are said to have taken place at Gerard’s tomb, making it a favorite place of pilgrimage.  People who were afflicted with headaches or subject to epilepsy experienced special relief through his intercession.  The city of Montesanto has long venerated Blessed Gerard as its principal patron.  He is sometimes known as Gery, Gerius or Roger of Lunel.

Comment: Gerard didn’t have much success in reaching his goals, including his hope to visit the holy places in Jerusalem where Jesus walked.  However disappointed he may have been by all these setbacks, Gerard nonetheless managed to walk in Jesus’ footsteps throughout his life.

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 (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 6 & 7 of 26:

06.  They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

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07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

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