Sixth Sunday of Easter
- · 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
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.
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.
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.
† 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
“Today in Catholic History”
“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
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.
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.
“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.
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);
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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).
“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.
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”.
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:
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.
“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);
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.
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.
“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”
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
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)
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.
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.