Monthly Archives: November 2012

“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!” – John 18:33-37†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ the King

 Today’s Content:

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The Five Stages  of Persecution

by Dan Halley, OSF

This article is strongly based on a web-blog posting by Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington [State].  Here is the link to his article:

http://blog.adw.org/2012/11/some-thoughts-on-the-five-stages-of-religious-persecution.

It is a mystery for me to see how once respected segments of American life – – Catholics and other Christians – – are becoming vilified and hated, almost overnight.  The Catholic Church, along with many Protestant denominations, have become increasingly “marginalized” and out-right “hated” by many in society today.  I believe things are only going to get more difficult for the Catholic Church in, at least, the near future. 

This is a significantly rapid, and scary, transformation.  Usually, the time for transformation – – from “respect” to one of “vilification” – – moves in stages over long periods of time, growing in intensity as it follows its destructive path. 

There are five general or basic stages of persecution.  The first is “stereotyping”.  Not everyone engages in stereotyping to the same degree, but there are basic catchphrases of stereotyping to look out for when talking to, or observing others.  The general environment, conditions, and perception of stereotyping set the foundation for each of the next four stages which follow.  They are at the heart of all stereotyping, and then feed off of the stereotyping dynamic building upon each step. 

These “Five Stages of Religious Persecution” originated with a talk given to a group in Washington DC, by Johnette Benkovic of the “Women of Grace” show (shown on EWTN).  Ms. Benokovic puts across a sober vision of how we have come to this current place wherein our Countries culture is increasingly, and overtly, “hostile” to Christians – – and to Catholics particularly.  These stages are from her talk:

1. Stereotyping the Catholic Church & other Christians, individually, & as a group

  • We are exaggerated in the media as “Bible thumpers”, haters of science, hypocrites of others, self-righteous, old-fashioned, and many other negative metaphors;
  • We are accused of harboring a phobic guilt, a hatred and an aversion to sexuality” and, of being part of a “sexist tradition”; 
  • Catholics are “stuck in the past”, having too many rules, being rigid, controlling, and even dictatorial in the “rules”; Catholic clergy are categorized as sexually repressed; and are further stereotyped as ALL being homosexuals or pedophiles;
  • We are seen as a sad, angry, boring, backward, and repressed group.  Moreover, we are seen as a laughable group who are tragically caught in a superstitious mindset and an out-dated past, incapable of throwing off the shackles of an “old and antiquated” faith.

Sounds bad already; and we just started!  From here, we go to the second step: “vilification”:

2.  Vilifying the Catholic Church with alleged crimes and/or misconducts

  • Catholics are described as “close-minded” and “harmful” to others’ dignity and freedom; 
  • We are labeled as “intolerant”, “hateful”, “bigoted”, “unfair”, “homophobic”, “reactionary” – – and just plain “mean”;
  • The Catholic Church’s past actions, such as the crusades and inquisitions, are constantly brought-up in conversations, intended to demean the Church, while forgetting about ALL the good works produced by people of the Catholic Church; 
  • We Catholics supposedly “feared” and “hated” Galileo – – and ALL of the physical sciences. 

After “stereotyping” and “vilifying” the Catholic Church and its members, it is a very easy step to “push” us out of the way – – leading to disconnecting and separating the Catholic Church from public intervention.  This leads us to the third step, cited by Ms. Benokovic:

3.  Marginalizing the Catholic Church’s role in society

  • Society (Government, other groups, and/or individual people) will only allow us to have our hymns, worship, rituals, etc. – – as long as they are hidden within the four walls of our own Church buildings, PERIOD!  Displays of any kind of faith must be banished from the public square, and from the public’s eye; 
  • We are told that nativity sets must go; we must remove Christmas trees from the public view; some schools and government buildings even bar the colors green and red at “holiday time”; 
  • In many public schools, students are not allowed to say the words “Christmas” or “Easter” anymore; 
  • Mentioning Jesus, or publicly thanking Him in a valedictorian address, could very well have a Circuit Court Judge forbidding, even penalizing the Catholic Christian for doing so – – BY LAW; 
  • Thanking the “Madonna” is fine, as long as you are referring to “the singer”, a cultural “role model” who publically exhibits approval for sexual promiscuity, public nakedness, pornography, adultery, and so on;
  • Catholic and Christian groups and clubs are forbidden from high schools and colleges, but a “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) group or club is welcomed;
  • These organizations are allowed to set up displays and pass out “rainbow colored” condoms; in contrast, Christian groups are FORBIDDEN to pass out bibles, rosaries, crosses, or any other “Propaganda”; 
  • Here’s a fact!  NO Bibles or Christian pamphlets can see the light of day anywhere in public schools or other government buildings.  Walter Reed Military Hospital had BARRED Bibles and other Christian reading materials and artifacts (for a short time) from the property, not even allowing items to be given away or used during a visit. (This rule was rescinded after a major outrage and protest was made public by veterans groups, citizens, and military clergy – – during an election year!)

The hair on my neck is now standing up.  We have now gone from “stereotyping”, through “vilification”, to “marginalizing”, to an increasingly serious step of not just pushing followers of Christ out of the way, but actually “criminalizing” aspects of our faith:

4.  Criminalizing the Catholic Church and its works

  • The HHS mandate (Need I say any more!);
  • Local governments and courts are attempting to COMPEL Catholic hospitals and “pro-life” clinics to provide information and/or referrals for abortions, even going further, actually demanding these organizations to provideemergency contraceptionupon request; 
  • Catholic Charities throughout the United States have already been “de-certified” by various State and US authorizes.  They are no longer allowed to perform adoption work because these Catholic organizations will not allow children to be adopted by single-sex “couples”; 
  • The State of Connecticut, in 2009, sought to regulate the organization and administration of Catholic parishes itself.  (Is that “separation of Church and state?!  I think not!!  Luckily, the attempt was unsuccessful.); 
  • Recently, a number of Christian valedictorians in various States of the Union were presented with legal “injunctions” – – court rulings and court orders – – when it was discovered that they intended to mention God and/or Jesus specifically in their talks.  These legal injunctions banned them from doing so under severe penalty of law!!

Not only are Catholics and other Christians being “stereotyped”, “vilified”, “marginalized”, and “criminalized” for being “seen” displaying our faith, but also, Catholics can be (and are) sought out specifically FOR persecution by the government and the larger society.  This leads us to our last step:

5.  Persecuting the Catholic Church out-rightly and overtly, as a single religious group, as well as independent individual citizens of faith

If current trends continue:

  • Catholics and other Christians, especially the religious leaders – – out-spoken Priests, Bishops, and even the Pope – – will be straining under their personal cross of heavy fines and incarceration for their faith, and for their “sheep”. 
  • Already, in Canada and parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic Doctrine and other teachings on such topics as homosexual activity.
  • Individuals in St. Louis, Washington DC,  and or cities have been arrested and charged with various trespassing, loitering, and “hate crimes” for “praying, and witnessing” – – PEACEFULLY – – at abortion clinics, and in front of the White House and other government buildings as well.

There are more examples for each of these progressive steps.  After reading this SHORT list of anti-Christian, anti-Catholic stages of persecution, I feel disheartened about our current societies’ (and politicians’) approach in scrutinizing and segregating the Catholic Church as a societal and political ENEMY of the American society at-large.  Many believe true Christians and Catholics are an “out-dated” group no longer needed – – or wanted – – in America today.  Even supposed “Catholic” politicians – – and not just Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden – – have decided to “pick and choose” which tenets and Catholic beliefs to follow within the changing culture of America.

In closing, let’s keep always on our lips the following prayer, given to us by an angel who appeared to three children of Fatima (Portugal) in 1916, just before the outbreak of WWI in 1917:

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the OUTRAGES, SACRILEGES, and INDIFFERENCES by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

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 Joke of the Day:

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 Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by Pilate about the charge brought against Him – – that He is “King of the Jews”.  So, who’s the true “Royalty”?

(NAB John 18:33-37) 33 Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”  35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?”  36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”  37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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  Gospel Reflection:

Today is the last Sunday of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year. On this specific Sunday, we celebrate (and reflect on) the “Solemnity of Christ the King”.  On this day in the Church year, we read a portion of the “Passion” from John’s Gospel, the very same reading proclaimed each year on Good Friday.

In today’s reading, Pilate questions Jesus about the accusations brought against Him by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish “Supreme Court” that He is a “king”.  Caiaphas, the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest, and Jesus’ major antagonist, along with the other high priests, have charged Jesus with a religious and political crime – – a crime requiring a death penalty.  

Pilate, in his words and actions, seems to be attempting to distance himself from the Jewish leaders who are accusing Jesus of a very heinous crime: blasphemy.  Pilate is a Roman and not a Jew.  In reality, he probably wanted very little to do with this Jewish affair, but was forced to participate over a fear of rebellion.

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Pilate asks THE question many in Jerusalem were asking to themselves or under their breaths:

Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33)

In response, and in knowing of the “rumors” and accusations rampantly spreading among the populace, Jesus answers by asking:

Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” (John 18:44).

Pilate, a proud Roman, in saying he is “not a Jew”, is relating to Jesus that he had even heard the talk about Jesus’ claim of being a “king” in His own right.  Pilate also wanted to make clear to Jesus that His OWN people – – Jewish people – – have brought the Roman government’s wrath upon Him, for execution purposes:

“I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?” (John 18:35).

I love Jesus’ response to Pilate’s finger pointing; his putting the blame for Jesus’ arrest (and future crucifixion) on others of His “clan”:

My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here” (John 18:36).

Jesus is identifying a final proof that His kingdom is not of this world.  If His kingdom were of this world, then there would be people fighting to save Him (and winning).  In this regard, we hear echoes of John’s “theme” – – salvation is worked out through a cosmic battle.  It is helpful to return to the first chapter of John’s Gospel to understand the context for Jesus’ words to Pilate:  

He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him” (John 1:10).

I personally believe this statement in today’s Gospel, about being “not of this world”, had to throw a bit of mental confusion into Pilate’s thinking.  For me, and probably for Pilate as well, this statement from Jesus was a verbal puzzle, a divine “head trip” of sorts.  In reality however, Jesus is simply speaking the truth.  John reiterated this fact of faith twice before: the aforementioned verse (John 1:10), and this verse from chapter eight of his Gospel:

 “He said to them, ‘You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above.  You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world” (John 8:23).

In John’s symbolic language, the “world” he mentions prefers the darkness, and that the light will not be overcome by the darkness:

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 1:4-5).

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I believe Pilate tired of the “head games” and the humbleness being presented to him by Jesus while questioning Him.  Pilate wanted a simple “yes or no” answer to his questions.  He also perplexed about the accusation being brought against Jesus by His fellow Jews and Temple leaders.  So, Pilate sarcastically concedes, inquisitively, to Jesus:

Then you are a king?” (John 18:37).

However, Jesus is not done with His teaching of the faith through this unique moment of opportunity graced to Him by His Father in heaven.   He does not actually say He ISthe king”, but this verification is inferred and hinted to in His word dynamics:

You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37)

By saying, “You say I am a king”, Jesus is, in a way, offering a veiled affirmative answer to Pilate’s (and many others) inquiry about Him and His “nature”.

Jesus also states another revelation, to Pilate, along with His “vague” “yes” answer during this dialogue:

“You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truthEveryone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37)

Jesus Christ is testifying to His truth, AND to the “truth” found in “hearing” and following Him, belonging to Him in every way possible:

Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God” (John 8:47);

John is not the only one in Holy Scripture to write about “truth”.   Paul writes in His awesome first letter to Timothy, warning against “false teachers” who stress knowledge, teaching Timothy to focus on the persistent “hearing” of Jesus’ truetruth”:

I charge [you] before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:13).

How good are YOU doing at following His true “truth”?  Personally, I find it very difficult quite often; but then I ask Him for help.

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In Jesus’ responses to Pilate’s questions, Jesus distinguishes His kingdom from the political powers of this world.  “King” and “kingdom” may be appropriate terms for Jesus’ mission and promise, but only by similarity.  Jesus ISking”, but not the kind of king we typically imagine or expect!  And, He certainly was not the kind of “king” Pilate worried about or feared.

 Jesus submits to Pilate His [Jesus’] “kingdom” is “not of this world”.  Recall, in His prayer during the Last Supper discourse (cf., John 17:6-18), Jesus prayed for His disciples who are in the world – – but do not belong to the world: His faithful believers.  However, like Jesus, they also were (and are) sent into the world – – for the world’s salvation.  (I feel humbly important now, um, I think?!)

OK, let’s go on.  “Truth” is an important theme in John’s Gospel.  We see it emphasized in today’s conclusion during the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate.  Those who “know the truth” will recognize Jesus as “king” and will know how to interpret this truthful perception and self-awareness given to us by Him personally.  However, Jesus’ kingship was hidden from many of His contemporaries, even His own disciples and Apostles.  His kingship is still hidden to many even today.  Only the “chosen”, those who have the “eyes” and “ears” of faith, are able to see and hear the “truth”.   As contemporary disciples of Jesus, we also struggle at times to recognize Jesus as “MY” “king”, personally.  We are being invited to “see” and “hear” with eyes and ears of faith so that we might recognize that Jesus, through His crucifixion and death, truly is indeed the true “king” of me, and for me, and the “Messiah Savior King” of ALL mankind.

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Understanding today’s “Feast of Christ the King” may be particularly challenging for some of us “faithful”.  While most of us do not have a direct experience with kings or royalty (such as me), we possess a sense and image of kings and royals (again, such as me).  We know that royalty have sovereignty (rule and power) over their “kingdoms”.  We know that those who are subjects (someone ruled) to royalty offer them allegiance and honor.  (Who hasn’t seen a knights and damsels in distress movie?  That’s the way it works – – in this world!)  

To understand how Jesus Christ is “our king”, we need to extend and magnify – – amplify – – what we know to be proper and “true” from the best of human royalty.  Jesus Christ’s kingship extends to ALL places, ALL people, and ALL times – – past, past, and future.  Jesus manifests His kingship through His death on the Holy Cross, a death He offered to us for redemption and salvation to EVERYONE who believes and hears Him.  Those who can see and hear with eyes and ears of faith truly recognize Jesus Christ to be the proper and “true” heavenly king we need.

As you celebrate today the “Feast of Christ the King”, let’s ask, what does it mean to be a king or queen – – royalty (such as me)?; How do those who are subjects behave toward royalty?; Does Pilate treat Jesus like royalty? [Nope.]; What does Jesus say about His kingdom? [It is not of this world.].  

So, how then do you honor and obey our “king”, Jesus Christ?   (Yea, I can improve as well.)  Let’s ask God the Father to help us act in ways which show we do truly recognize and honor His Son, Jesus Christ, as “King”, as our “King”,  and as “MY Personal King”.

P.S. – – Re-read the title of today’s blog posting:

“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!”

What was your FIRST impression of this title?  Has it NOW changed? 

Please let me know

I would like to know for a special reason.  Remember, I feel there is basically NO wrong answer because it comes from the Holy Spirit working though YOU, if reflected on, and answered, sincerely.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Prayer To Christ The King

Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the universe.
All that has been created has been made for You.
Make full use of Your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism,
when I renounced Satan
and all his pomps and works,
and I promise to live a good Christian
life
and to do all in my power
to procure the triumph of the rights of God
and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus,
I offer you my efforts
in order to obtain that all hearts
may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,
and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace
may be established throughout the universe.

Amen.”

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“Happy Turkey Day – – and Feast of the Presentation of Mary – – From the Great Turkey!” – †


33rd Wednesday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Happy Thanksgiving to ALL!  I pray everyone has a good day with family and friends.  Please remember those who have “no one” in their lives, and for those unable to be with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day; keep them in your prayers.

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In this next Sunday’s blog, November 25th , I will be presenting “the Five Stages of Religious Persecution” originating with a talk to a group in Washington DC, given by Johnette Benkovic of the “Women of Grace” show (EWTN):   

1.  Stereotyping the Catholic Church, individually & as a group
2.  Vilifying the Catholic Church with alleged crimes and/or misconducts
3.  Marginalizing the Catholic Church’s role in society
4.  Criminalizing the Catholic Church and its works

5.  Persecuting the Catholic Church outright and overtly

There are many examples for each of these progressive steps.  I feel disheartened in our current societies (and politicians) approach to scrutinizing and polarizing the Catholic Church as an “out-dated” organization which is no longer needed, or wanted, in America today.  Even supposed “Catholic” politicians have decided to pick and choose which tenets and beliefs to follow.  Let’s keep the following prayer, given to us by an angel who appeared to three children of Fatima in 1916

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the OUTRAGES, SACRILEGES, and INDIFFERENCES by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

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 Today in Catholic History:

 

†   235 – [Saint] Anterus begins his reign as Catholic Pope

†   496 – Death of Pope Gelasius I, Catholic Pope, of Berber extraction

†   695 – Pope Sergius names Willibrord as Archbishop Clemens of Friezen

†   1567 – Birth of Saint Anne de Xainctonge, French saint (d. 1621)

†   1854 – Birth of Benedict XV, [Giacomo PGB marques della Chiessa], 258th Pope (1914-22)

†   1964 – Pope Paul VI signs 3rd sitting of 2nd Vatican council

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

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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 who 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 for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination. 

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

Faith and Works

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Presentation of Mary

 

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century.  A church was built there in honor of this mystery.  The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century.  Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.

As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the temple only in apocryphal literature. In what is recognized as an unhistorical account, the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old.  This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless.

Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose.  It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary.  It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Comment:

It is sometimes difficult for modern Westerners to appreciate a feast like this.  The Eastern Church, however, was quite open to this feast and even somewhat insistent about celebrating it.  Even though the feast has no basis in history, it stresses an important truth about Mary: From the beginning of her life, she was dedicated to God.  She herself became a greater temple than any made by hands.  God came to dwell in her in a marvelous manner and sanctified her for her unique role in God’s saving work.  At the same time, the magnificence of Mary enriches her children. They, too, are temples of God and sanctified in order that they might enjoy and share in God’s saving work.

Quote:

“Hail, holy throne of God, divine sanctuary, house of glory, jewel most fair, chosen treasure house, and mercy seat for the whole world, heaven showing forth the glory of God.  Purest Virgin, worthy of all praise, sanctuary dedicated to God and raised above all human condition, virgin soil, unplowed field, flourishing vine, fountain pouring out waters, virgin bearing a child, mother without knowing man, hidden treasure of innocence, ornament of sanctity, by your most acceptable prayers, strong with the authority of motherhood, to our Lord and God, Creator of all, your Son who was born of you without a father, steer the ship of the Church and bring it to a quiet harbor” (adapted from a homily by St. Germanus on the Presentation of the Mother of God).

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 21 & 22 of 26:

 

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

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♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign, Blockin’ Out the Devil, Freein’ My Mind. Do This, Don’t Do That, Can’t You Read the Sign?!”♫ – Mark 13:24-32†


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

A friend wrote something he believes the Holy Spirit told him to write down.  I found it very moving, and would love to share this beautiful piece of work with you:

A Conversation with God

By Gene Eller

One day I started to pray, “Please Lord, can you help me, I’m so angry?”

The Lord said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

I alleged, “Lord, this guy over there has an important job.  He’s in charge of a lot of people.”

The Lord come back with, “Did I not provide you a job?”

I said, “Yes, but Lord, he owns a big house with a lot of rooms and I rent this tiny house with very few rooms.”

The Lord said back to me, “Did I not provide you with a roof over your head and a place to sleep, for you AND your family?”

Again, I replied, “Yes, you did.”  I then said to the Lord, “He has lots of money and I have so little.”

The Lord answered, “Did I not provide him with enough money so that he can help the poor?”

Again, I could only answer, “Yes, I suppose so; but Lord I and my family barely have enough food to eat.”

The Lord then asked, “Didn’t I provide you with enough food so you would NOT go hungry?”

I said, “Yes, you did.”  Then the Lord asked me, “With all that I have provided you, how can you be so angry?”

I sheepishly whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  He countered with, “I did, but you did not listen to me!”

We all need to stop, ask the Lord if we have not heard Him, and then, LISTEN!!

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Next week, I will be discussing the “five stages of religious persecution” which I learned from an on-line article written by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdioceses of Washington.  The subject matter is directly related to the importance of our Catholic Faith TODAY!!  The author highlights the direct effect of the HHS mandate on religious freedom, specifically impacting the Catholic faithful and the Church itself.  He also highlighted his perception of a greater degree of indifference on the part of many Catholics, in particular, those serving in public office.    

With this not so subtle – – in fact, overt – – inconsistency and public deviation from foundational Catholic Doctrine concerning life, marriage, and religious liberty, I am inspired to recommend to you, all my readers, the following three prayers given to us from the “Guardian Angel of Portugal” who appeared to the three children of Fatima in October 1916.  The angel prayed and taught these prayers to the children who learned to pray them daily:

The Pardon Prayer:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you!  I ask forgiveness for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.”

The Angel’s Prayer:

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

The Eucharistic Prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you!  My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Please say these Prayers on a daily basis.

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  Quote of the Day:

“The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They simply are the ones who care the most.” ~ Charlie Schulz (is alledged author, but Scopes says author is unknown)

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.  Hey, what’s YOUR sign?

(NAB Mark 13:24-32)  24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.  28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

We are nearing the end of this liturgical year in the Catholic Church.  Today is the second to last Sunday prior to the start of the new Church year which is the beginning of the Advent Season, that of expectation and preparation for the coming infant “Messiah”.  So, as we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel is inviting each of us to consider Jesus’ foretelling “predictions” and teachings about the end of the world – – as we know it.  Jesus’ “Words” about the “end times” are spoken to prepare His disciples for His passion and death in Jerusalem at the time of Passover (but they do not know the time of His passion and death yet).

Before we consider Jesus’ “Words”, it is important to note the reason Mark writes his Gospel, the political backdrop in which it is written.  It is strongly believed that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus on the Holy Cross (circa, 60-75 A.D.).  This was a time of political turmoil in Rome and throughout the Middle-east.  At this time Christians in the area were experiencing persecution by the Romans.  Jewish revolutionaries, in response to this persecution on their people and their religious beliefs, rebelled against the Romans.  In response to their attacks, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., murdering a major portion of the Jewish leaders and populace.  Many in Mark’s community of believers, during this time of political turmoil and persecution, most certainly wondered if the “end times” envisioned by Jesus were quite near to coming to fruition.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the Temple treasury.  Jesus commented on the example of sacrificial giving, inspired by her total trust that God would protect and provide, which He saw in the poor widow’s offering (cf., Mark 12:38-44).  Placed between last week’s reading at Mass and this week’s reading at Mass is Jesus’ prophesy of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, His teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the “woes” that will accompany the “end times”.  In a warning to His followers, and to balance the potential despair implied in His prophecy, both then and now today, Jesus offers hope by instructing His disciples for the need of watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment – – the Parousia – – His Second Appearing.

In this rather abstractly-bizarre discourse about the coming of the “Son of Man”, Jesus is referring to specific “Words” (and images connecting words) found in their most sacred of Jewish religious Scriptures, the “Torah”, the first five books of today’s Old Testament:

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its stars” (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10).

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The people of Jesus’ time expected that the coming of the Messiah – – “the Son of God” – – would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders which can be anticipated if we watch for the signs.  Signs of wonder and mystery have always revolved around Jesus.  Let’s remember that Jesus’ first coming was “clouded” in mystery and wonderment:

  • A “son of David” was born in a cave at Bethlehem as was prophesied;
  • Magi from “the East”, guided by a star, travelled to worship the newborn king of Israel;
  • He was a miracle-worker who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead,
  • He was a “Suffering Servant” who bore the sins of many upon the Holy Cross, and
  • He IS the Risen Jesus Christ who stormed the gates of Sheol to release its captives.

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  

Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man.  When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

(Remember now, Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”!).

Daniel’s vision is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on, in verse 13:26, saying the following of His return:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing verses from Deuteronomy:

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

(* “Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author.  It translates to, “the dear upright people“.  This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.)

Jesus repeats this text again later, referring to the “Son of Man and riding in the clouds of heaven”, in His response to the question from the high priest, “Are you the Messiah?”:

Again the high priest asked him and said to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?’  Then Jesus answered, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” (Mark 14:61-62).

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of the divinity.  Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “heavenly being” who will come in power and glory (as well as being the “human” king).  The image of the “cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is significantly found throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him.  Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

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Jesus continues His teaching by offering His disciples “signs” to look for, indicating that the “coming of the Son of Man” is near.  His “Words” and its images draw upon similes found in the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament).  

Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the “fig tree”, a parable which teaches that if one knows how to read the “signs”, one can be prepared for the “end times”.  However, Jesus also makes exceedingly clear to His disciples that NO ONE knows when the “end time” will come, EXCEPT God the Father.  

The last verse from today’s Gospel reading is very revelational and significant for me:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 12:32).

This statement seems to counterbalance today’s reading by declaring that the exact time of the Parousia is known only to God the Father; and God the Father IS PURE LOVE!!  The Father IS the architect, designer, and the ultimate cause and effect intended in the Parousia!  This last verse is a warning for the disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, at the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an acknowledgement of the Final Judgment, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us. 

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As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” with the “12 Legions of Angels” surrounding Him NOW!!  How do we prepare for His return?  Here is a set of “To Do’s” taken from a website I found, cited at the end: so,

  • Live holy lives abiding in Christ (1 John2:28) and perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
  • Rejoice in hope knowing that we have a Savior who will certainly appear and all our work for Christ will not be in vain, but abundantly rewarded ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • Be alert to the various deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days (2 Thessalonians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:11).  (These Days!!)
  • Engage in radical simplicity knowing that all our material possessions will be just fuel for the fire on that day (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10-14).
  • Be awake to God, and not “asleep in the light” (Matthew 25:1-13).  This means we are to have a sense of perpetual readiness and anticipation, and being in constant personal spiritual growth.  The attitude that “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back” is “foolishness”, imperiling the joy the believer can enter into with Christ.
  • Wait patiently for the coming of the Lord without giving in to skepticism about an apparent delay (James 5:7-8, 2Peter 3:3-4) or alarmist panic (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2), or concluding that He has already returned.
  • Hasten the day of His return by engaging in the world mission and and other activities of His Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, 24:14, 2 Peter3:12).
From http://www.globalchristians.org/articles/parousia.htm

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Jesus’ prophetic description of the Parousia, the “end time” and the “day of judgment”, was not new to the people of Israel.  The prophets had foretold these events for many centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Please look up these references (cf., Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; and Zephaniah 1:14-18).  Jesus speaks of the “Second Coming” as a well-known fact among the pious Jews, an expected event which was certain to take place.  This “Second Coming” will be marked by “signs” ALL will be able to recognize, signs which will strike terror in those unprepared, and wonder and awe in those who are ready to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face.  When Jesus Christ returns He will establish “justice and righteousness” and He will justify all who have been faithful to Him.  His return and judgment is a sign of hope for those who TRUST IN HIM!!

Jesus wants each of us to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  Fig trees were common in the area, and an important source of food for the Jews and others living in the area.  A fig tree produces fruit twice a year, once in the early spring and again in the autumn.  The prophet Joel mentions it’s fruit-bearing ability as a “sign” of favor from “the Lord”:

“Do not fear, you animals in the wild, for the wilderness pastures sprout green grass.  The trees bear fruit, the fig tree and the vine produce their harvest” (Joel 2:22).

Jewish Scripture says that the “first fruit” came the day after Passover:  

“When you come into the land which I am giving you, and reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, who shall elevate the sheaf before the LORD that it may be acceptable on your behalf.  On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall do this.  On this day, when your sheaf is elevated, you shall offer to the LORD for a burnt offering an unblemished yearling lamb” (Leviticus 23:10-12)

For faithful Jews, it was widely believed that when the “Messiah” came, He would shepherd in the kingdom of God at Passover time.  This story foretells the joy of God’s kingdom, the joy of new life, and the promise of a new age of peace and blessing.  WOW – – this is absolutely AWESOME!!   

The “budding” of God’s kingdom begins first “in the hearts of those who are willing and receptive to God’s “Word”.  Those who trust in God’s “Word” will bear the fruits of His kingdom: righteousness, peace, and joy – – in and through the Holy Spirit:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

We do not know the day or hour when the Lord will return again in glory.  But Jesus does give us “signs”, not only to warn us, but also to “rouse our spirits”, readying and inspiring our individual eagerness to see His kingdom come in all its “power and glory”.  Our Lord God wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for Jesus’ coming again (His Second Advent).  As He promised, Jesus Christ will surely “come again in all His glory”.

Jesus referenced the Book of Daniel in offering “Words” of warning and encouragement.  The warning to us is o LIVE TODAY as if it were your LAST DAY on earth: IT COULD BE!!  However, Jesus reminds us that our God in Heaven – – our heavenly Father – – is a loving God who sent Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – – Jesus Christ – – to save us!  Through Daniel, our Lord God proclaims that:

those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3).

Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten His disciples, nor should they frighten US!  Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times – – the Parousia “event”.  Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ “Words” and God the Father’s ever-lasting, ever-enduring love for each of us.  Hey, what’s HIS sign?!

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The storm “of the century” this past October is not the “end-time” prophesied by Jesus; but it may have seemed so to the multi-thousands of people beaten down by the wind, water, flying objects, and even lack of heat, light, and gas.  The Atlantic coastline is changed forever.  Gas is being rationed for the short-term.  Recovery will be a monumental task, both physically and emotionally.  And, on top of this, the autumn “super-storm” on the East coast followed a summer inundation of drought in the Midwest and massive forest fires in the Western states. 

Many things in our lives and our world are subject to change.  However, each and every one of us obtains personal security and refuge in our personal relationships and values which endure over time.  Chief among these are our family and extended family relationships.  We can accept change if we know that we will continue to be loved by our family, by our friends, and by our Trinitarian God.  We also help impart this sense of trust, confidence, and love in our children, spouses, and others with our daily assurances to them that nothing can change our love for them.

So, grab a soda or cup of coffee, sit down, and look through several family photo albums.  Observe the things that have changed in your family life and other relationships over the years (like hair styles).  Think about the things that have stayed the same.  We do not need to fear changes in our personal lives because we know the most important aspects of our family life and strong friendships do not change, such as our love for one another.  Well, guess what; the same is true with God and His love for each and every single one of us.  Jesus is teaching us that things in our world will change and that the world itself will one day end!!  We don’t need to be “fearful” of the Parousia because God’s love for us will never end – – EVER!!  Pray to God, thanking Him for His ever-lasting and ever-enduring love for us.  Praise be to God!!

Our challenges of becoming aware and preparing for the Parousia are both dauntingly comprehensive and strikingly universal.  If we are inattentive or remiss in regard to the “end time”, we may miss our opportunity to be “ready” for Christ’s return.  If we remain alert and aware, if we take action and prepare, we “shall be like the stars forever“.  Doesn’t everyone want to be a “STAR“?!  (Oh, by the way, see what Jesus says about His “star-self” in Revelation 22:16 – – you will be surprised.)

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Luke 23:42

“Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom.
Amen.”

 

 

 

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Fatima Prayers; Faith and Works; Saint Nicholas Tavelic & Companions; Fraternity; and Justice


 

32nd Wednesday in Ordinary Time

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I believe that we as a Catholic faith should pray these three prayers daily – – for our country – – during this time of tribulation affecting the Church’s pro-life and religious freedom status:

 

The Fatima Prayers

 

The Pardon Prayer: (This prayer was taught to the three children in the initial Fatima apparition in the spring of 1916, by an angel who called himself “the Guardian Angel of Portugal”):

 

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you!  I ask forgiveness for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.”

 

The Angel’s Prayer: (In the autumn of 1916, Lucia and her cousins saw the same angel again, and he taught them a second prayer.  At the same time the three saw a vision of the Blessed Sacrament suspended in the air with the Angel prostrating himself, praying:

 

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

(The Angel’s Prayer is an Act of Reparation to The Holy Trinity.)

 

The Eucharistic Prayer: (On May 13, 1917, the three children saw a woman clad in radiant white, whom they later realized was the Virgin Mary.  Her primary message at first was the importance of praying the Rosary.  She also asked the children if they would be willing to offer sacrifices in reparation for the sins of the world, and they agreed; she then said “You will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”  When she said “the grace of God” she held out her hands and the children experienced a great light surrounding and penetrating them.  Without thinking about it, they found themselves saying these words):

 

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you!  My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1359 – Death of Gregorius Palamas, Byzantine mystic/archbishop/saint

†   1391 – Death of Nikola Tavelić, First Croatian saint (b. 1340)

†   1550 – Pope Julius III proclaims new seat on Council of Trente

†   1601 – Birth of Jean Eudes, French missionary (d. 1680)

†   1675 – Pope Clemens X declares Gorcumse martyrs divine

†   1907 – Birth of Pedro Arrupe, Spanish priest/Jesuit

†   1971 – Enthronment of Pope Shenouda III as Pope of Alexandria

†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Josaphat Kuncevyc on the General Roman Calendar as in 1954; Barlaam of Kiev; Saint Philip, celebrated in Eastern Orthodox Church

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

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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 who 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 for 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, Part 3

For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans. 2:6-8) RSV

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans. 2:6-8) KJV

***

 “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” (James. 2:14). RSV

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? (James. 2:14). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Saint Nicholas Tavelic & Companions (d. 1391)

 

Nicholas and his three companions are among the 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since the friars became custodians of the shrines in 1335.

Nicholas was born in 1340 to a wealthy and noble family in Croatia.  He joined the Franciscans and was sent with Deodat of Rodez to preach in Bosnia.  In 1384 they volunteered for the Holy Land missions and were sent there.  They looked after the holy places, cared for the Christian pilgrims and studied Arabic.

In 1391 Nicholas, Deodat, Peter of Narbonne and Stephen of Cuneo decided to take a direct approach to converting the Muslims.  On November 11, 1391, they went to the huge Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and asked to see the Qadi (Muslim official).  Reading from a prepared statement, they said that all people must accept the gospel of Jesus.  When they were ordered to retract their statement, they refused.  After beatings and imprisonment, they were beheaded before a large crowd.

Nicholas and his companions were canonized in 1970.  They are the only Franciscans martyred in the Holy Land to be canonized.

Comment:

Francis presented two missionary approaches for his friars.  Nicholas and his companions followed the first approach (live quietly and give witness to Christ) for several years.  Then they felt called to take the second approach of preaching openly.  Their Franciscan confreres in the Holy Land are still working by example to make Jesus better known.

Quote:

In the Rule of 1221, Francis wrote that the friars going to the Saracens (Muslims) “can conduct themselves among them spiritually in two ways. One way is to avoid quarrels or disputes and ‘be subject to every human creature for God’s sake’ (1 Peter 2:13), so bearing witness to the fact that they are Christians.  Another way is to proclaim the word of God openly, when they see that is God’s will, calling on their hearers to believe in God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all, and in the Son, the Redeemer and Savior, that they may be baptized and become true and spiritual Christians” (Ch. 16).

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 14 & 15 of 26:

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

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Jesus, Franciscan, Catholic, Reflection, St. Francis, love, Heaven, Sin, Words, Teach, Knowledge, Holy Spirit, Prayer, Journey, Frustration, OFS, Saint, Death, Intercession, life, OFS Rule, Worthy, Sorrow, God, kingdom, Lord, Father, Bible history, apologetics, formation, history, apologetics, Franciscan, rule, Fatima, Prayers, Faith, Works, ; St. Nicholas Tavelic and Companions, Fraternity, Justice

“Love Doesn’t Calculate; It Spends Lavishly Instead – – And Boy, Does My Wife ‘LOVE’ Spending!” – Mark 12:38-44†


32ndSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Now that the elections are over, it is our duty as Catholic Christians to help bring all people – – all our brothers and sisters in Christ together in peace and HARMONY.  Let us all pray for our country’s leaders, for our country itself, and for each of US. 

A friend gave me the following intentions for prayer during the election period; however, I tweaked it to be used as a way of praying daily.  Please let me know what you think about the following set of various bible verses:

SCRIPTURE VERSES TO PRAY FOR OUR NATION

It is critical that Christians pray for our nation.  There is amazing power in united prayer.  Pray with others whenever possible.  The power of prayer can overcome any obstacle or ungodly influence and, indeed, do great things!

II Chronicles 7:14– If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, will heal their land.
Acts 17:30 – Pray for repentance for yourself and for our nation.

Psalm 32:6-7
– Pray that Christians will be motivated to pray faithfully for our nation and that the Lord would deliver us from the wrong leaders.
Proverbs 16:13
– Pray that our nation will listen to the truth and not be led astray.
Psalm 125
– Pray that those who trust in the Lord will not be shaken.
Psalm 86:14-17
– Pray that the Lord would defeat those who have no regard for Him in this election.
II Kings 13:16
– Pray that the Lord would put His hands on the president (and his team) and guide them.
Daniel 2:20-22
– the Bible tells us that God sets up kings and God deposes kings. God is in control.
Luke 12:54-57
– Pray that our nation will do what is right.
Psalm 16:7-8
– Pray that the Lord would give wise counsel and guidance to the president.
Proverbs 1:5-6
– Pray that the President will listen with discernment, add to his knowledge, and receive wise counsel.
John 16:33 – Pray that the President would be given wisdom and ability from the Lord to overcome any obstacle or difficulty.
Philippians 4:13
– Pray that the President will have special strength and unusual ability from God.
Psalm 18:32-36
– Pray that the Lord would arm the President with strength; would guide him in battle; and would sustain him and give him victory.
2 Corinthians 12:9
– Pray that the Lord would empower and enable the President in any area of weakness.
Habakkuk 1:5 and 3:2
– Pray that the Lord would do something that would utterly amaze us and grant the country true freedom.

 Please print out this prayer guide and pray daily.  Please forward this to every Christian you know!

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 Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus notices a poor widow’s offering and commends her great sacrifice.  What’s your commitment to “tithing”?

(NAB Mark 12:38-44)  38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.  43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for today’s Gospel continues to be one of mounting tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.  In today’s reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ teaching specifically in the Temple area where He could observe His Jewish brethren putting in their offering to the Temple treasury.  

Today’s Gospel reading is what my children call a “twofer”: the denunciation of the Scribes, and the poor widow’s contribution, combined into one teaching.

In the first part, we hear Jesus warn the crowds to not follow the example of the Scribes in seeking honor and coveting attention from others by their actions and religious behavior.  It is important for us to recall that Jesus taught these things while in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Scribes “home court” territory.  Mark, in this first part of his Gospel today, is setting the stage for Jesus’ arrest, passion, and crucifixion.  While the tradition of a deep hostility between the Pharisees and Jesus is well founded, this reading reflects a growing animosity which goes beyond that of Jesus’ personal ministry to that of the bitter conflict between Jesus, His followers, and the Temple leaders, in their religious practices.  

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Jesus’ first teaching is about the Scribes (and, I am sure, the Pharisees and Sadducees as well), and their very public and overt attention which they purposely bring onto themselves.  The Scribes’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of public worship, and observance of the commandments, with their own interpretations, places them in opposition to Jesus’ teaching of the TRUE moral intent of God the Father’s divine law.   

Per Jesus and divine law, the following practices and tradition of the Temple leaders are dubious, questionable, and untrustworthy:

    •  going around in long robes
    • accept greetings in the marketplaces,
    • having seats of honor in synagogues, and
    • holding places of honor at banquets”.  

So, Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes for their lack of humility.  In their misguided zeal, the Scribes desired and sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”.  They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and religious “rulers”.  They unfortunately made the practice of their faith one of a place of honor rather than “humbly serving” the “chosen people” of God.

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues (humility and piety) actually leads one to increased greed and further separation from God the Father.  Mark actually warns of the consequences of greed and arrogance in today’s reading:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40).

The Scribes are “acting” in order to impress others and earn praise.  Their actions were solely for the purpose of making their “piety” more noticeable.  The hypocrisy of the Scribes (and the Pharisees and Sadducees) is in their “long prayers” and public actions – – in their purposeful, very public demonstrations of “piety” – – having no other purpose than to enhance their ego’s and reputations as the paramount and BEST religious persons in the area (and beyond).

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The Scribes “place of honor and worship” was the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the center of Jewish worship from the time Solomon built it in 957 BC – – and rebuilt after its first TOTAL destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC – – until shortly after the time of Jesus when it was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 A.D. and never rebuilt.  Jesus observed how Jewish “pilgrims” were making their required contributions to the Temple treasury.  It was expected that observant Jews would make pilgrimages to the Temple to offer prayer and sacrifices.  These visiting pilgrims also were expected to make a financial contribution to the Temple treasury.  (See, Catholics aren’t the only ones who are expected to contribute financially to their “parish”!)

As we would expect, Jesus observed that those who were rich contributed large sums to the treasury, while those with less funds made smaller contributions.  A similar situation exists in most of our parishes as well today, especially in our financially depressing times which we are currently experiencing now.  

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Jesus, in His second teaching from today’s reading, calls attention to a “poor widow” who makes the smallest of contributions – – a paltry sum of money, just two coins of very little value.  Jesus give His approval to the poor widow’s offering, commending her because her small offering was an act of profound love and generosity.  She was giving from “her livelihood” rather than from her surplus.  WOW!!  Do you trust God enough to do such an act?  I admit, I have difficulties in doing this quite often.  (This is something to truly work on for me.)

Jesus says of her that she is “blessed”, not only for her actions, but especially for her attitude, intentions, and because she gave “from her poverty”.  This “poor widow” had “contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”.  This “widow” is an example of the poor ones – – such as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi – – who detached from material possessions, showed her dependence on God; which led to her (and their) blessedness (and the wonder & admiration from Jesus Himself):

Calling His disciples to Himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43).

Her simple offering provided a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the Scribes who were “censured” by Jesus in the preceding verses (Mark 12:38-40).

Jesus is extolling the fortunate condition of this poor woman who is, at the same time, favored with the blessings of God the Father because of her true, deep faith.  She was a REAL disciple of Christ who appreciated the real values of God’s kingdom.  The present condition of this “poor widow” will ultimately be reversed in God’s kingdom.  She will inherit the riches of eternal life – – in the everlasting presence of God – – at the bountiful and eternal banquet in heaven.

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In Jesus’ denunciation of the Scribes, He warns against three things: 

  • the desire for prominence rather than selfless service;
  • the desire for admiration and recognition (seeking esteem from others) rather than seeking to promote the good of others through humble service and love;

and thirdly,

  • attempting to use one’s position (even a religious position) for self-gain and self-advancement.

True faith means relating to God – – and to one’s “neighbor” – – with love, honor, and reverence.  God places the Holy Spirit within each of us, filling us with the joy of His presence, the joy of true worship, and the joy of selfless giving and love for, and to, others.  This true love, honor, and reverence for God frees our heart to give freely, generously, and abundantly both to God AND to neighbor.

To give from our livelihood is not only an act of love and generosity, it is also an act of trust in God’s mercy, love, and providence.  We can only give from our need if we trust in God providing for us.  Jesus Himself demonstrated the ultimate act of loving generosity and trust in God when He gave His life – – for US – – on the Holy Cross.

Jesus, through His Passion and death, taught His disciples a dramatic lesson in giving with love.  Love doesn’t calculate; it spends lavishly instead!  (And boy, does my wife “LOVE” spending!!)  Jesus drove this point of “love giving more than it takes in” home to His disciples while sitting in the Temple, observing and commenting on the people offering their contributions to the Temple treasury.  

Jesus’ teaching seems to be very simple: this “poor widow” trusted with all she had, believing God would provide for her.  Jesus reveals to her that love for God is more precious than any amount of money!  Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart.  A “gift” which is given – – for show or with conditions – – loses most of its value.  However, Jesus reveals that He is impressed by a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is truly invaluable – – priceless – – in God’s eye and His kingdom.  

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The amount or size of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the cost to the giver.  The “poor widow” could have kept one of her coins, but instead she gave away ALL SHE HAD!!  Jesus praised this person who gave the Temple barely anything of monetary value, solely because it was everything she had in life, “her whole living”.  

What we have in life to offer to God and neighbor may look very small and not worth much in our eyes, and even in others’ eyes; but if we put ALL we have towards God’s will and plan, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you and others, God will certainly do with it – – and with us – – what is beyond our feeble consideration and understanding.  

Today’s Gospel leads us to think about our family’s financial contributions to our personal parish communities, the diocese we live in, other Church-sponsored organizations, and even other charitable groups.  Good stewardship (the way in which someone organizes and takes care of something) invites us to share our time, talents, and treasures.  

Sometimes, our decisions about charitable giving are made without the knowledge of others in our family.  However, we need to remember that we can teach a valuable lesson when we make family members aware of HOW we are contributing to our Church and to other charitable organizations.  We can pass on our knowledge of God’s gifts for others imparted to us in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.

Think about your family’s financial contributions to your parish and to other Church functions and activities, as well as other charitable organizations.  Think about why it is important for you to share your resources with these organizations.  Finally, reflect on what Jesus observed in the generosity of the “poor widow”.  In what ways might you make a sacrificial gift to support your parish or other charitable organization through a donation of time, talents, or treasures (it does NOT have to be money!).  Then, participate in the action you choose to take for the organization you chose to support.  Finish your reflection on the generosity of the “poor widow” with a prayer, asking for God’s help to be “generous” like the generous “poor widow” in today’s Gospel.  Thank you.

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 Reflection Prayer:  

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER

Generous God, I give thanks to you for the gifts you have given me: my life, my family, my friends; my time, talents, and material possessions.  All that I have comes from you. Help me to remember this and rejoice in your goodness.

Walk with me, my God. Help me on my spiritual journey, so that I may constantly renew my relationship with you and all the good people in our parish and throughout the world.

Renew in me your Spirit.  Give me the strength and courage to become a better follower of Jesus, to be a disciple.  Help me hear the call to “Come, Follow Me.”

I give glory to you, my God, as I make stewardship a way of life.  Amen.”

http://www.stewardshipli.org/main/prayer.html

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Election; Dave Kauffman; FAN; Faith; Works; St. Didacus; Conversion; Sacraments; Prayer – †


31st Wednesday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
·        Today in Catholic History
·        Catholic Apologetics
·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
·        Reflection on article  of  the OFS Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As I post this blog entry, we still do not know who the President of the United States will be, as voting is still going on.  Whatever the outcome, I pray that we heal and come together as a nation of faith.  It is now a time to stop the feuding and “politicking”, and start demanding that our politicians work TOGETHER for the good of the country.

I wish to share a prayer I say every day:

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

 

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.  Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Over-whelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts & seek refuge in your motherly protection.  Look down with mercy upon us & touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.  Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death & the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen.”

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This week is the fifth anniversary of the Franciscan Action Network (FAN).  They are holding a celebration on November 9 (this Friday) at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.  The event will honor “FAN” Board President Sr. Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF, for her dedicated service.  If interested in going, further information and tickets can be obtain by email at:  reception@franciscanaction.org. Tickets are $50. We hope to see you there.

The Franciscan Action Network is a worthwhile organization to follow and belong to.  They work diligently in the areas of immigration, global warming, and civility in discourse.  I only wish that along with these needed social programming that they would be as diligent in working for the reduction and eventual elimination of abortions and euthanasia.  Prolife issues in general are rarely discussed or approached by “FAN”.

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If you have ever been to a David Kauffman concert, you were rewarded with a spiritual treat.  David is in the process of appealing for funds for a movie he is working making and attempting to get into production.  You can be a part of this – – for any donation of $1 or more!  This is being done through an organization called “Kickstarter”, which is a funding vehicle for great ideas.  Though “Kickstarter”, you make a pledge, but are only charged when they hit their specified goal by a specific date.  In David’s case, this is a total of $250,000 by December 4th.  You don’t get charged if they don’t make this goal – a goal they can only obtain with your help! 

I encourage you to click on the link www.thesongmovie.net and take a closer look.  There are even “rewards” for different levels of funding.  Please pass this message on to others!  Become a “producer” of sorts.

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   739 – Death of Willibrord, [Clemens], 1st bishop of Utrecht/saint 695-739, dies at 81

†   1225 – Death of Engelbert I, the Saint, archbishop of Cologne, murdered at age 40

†   1550 – Death of Jon Arason, the last Roman Catholic bishop of Iceland prior to the reformation, beheaded in Skalholt with his two sons Are and Bjorn. (b. 1484)

†   1881 – Death of John MacHale, Irish Archbishop (Tuam) and writer (b. 1791)

†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Willibrord, Prosdocimus, Herculanus of Perugia, Vicente Liem de la Paz

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

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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 who 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 for 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, Part 2

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans. 2:13). RSV

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) KJV

***

 “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments …” (Hebrews 10:26-27). RSV

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment … ”  (Hebrews 10:26-27). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Didacus (1400-1463)

 

Didacus is living proof that God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit.  After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways.  His penances were heroic.  He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity.

Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and labored there energetically and profitably.  He was also the superior of a friary there.

In 1450 he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena.  When many friars gathered for that celebration fell sick, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them.  After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time.  He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways.

As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: “O faithful wood, O precious nails!  You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven” (Marion A. Habig, O.F.M., The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834).

San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.

Comment:

We cannot be neutral about genuinely holy people.  We either admire them or we consider them foolish.  Didacus is a saint because he used his life to serve God and God’s people.  Can we say the same for ourselves?

Quote:

“He was born in Spain with no outstanding reputation for learning but was like our first teachers and leaders unlettered as men count wisdom, an unschooled person, a humble lay brother in religious life.  [God chose Didacus] to show in him the abundant riches of his grace to lead many on the way of salvation by the holiness of his life and by his example and to prove over and over to a weary old world almost decrepit with age that God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness is more powerful than men” (Bull of Canonization).

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 07 & 08 of 26:

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

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

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♫“All We Need is (fill in the blank), Dah, Da, Da, Da, Dah ?!”♫ – Mark 12:28b-34†


31stSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2012

 

General Intention: For ministers of the Gospel.

That bishops, priests, and all ministers of the Gospel may bear the courageous witness of fidelity to the crucified and risen Lord.


Missionary Intention: For the Pilgrim Church.

That the pilgrim Church on earth may shine as a light to the nations.

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Next Tuesday, November 4th, is “Election Day”.  I believe this is probably one of the major events of Christendom.  This date will literally effect how are community of faith will be allowed to identify itself, and how we, as individuals, will be able to practice our faith in our private and public lives. 

I fear for my Church and my ability to show my faith!!  It is being attacked overtly and covertly from many fronts today – – both secular and political.  There are two things we all MUST do for our own sakes, and for the sake of our Catholic faith: we need to pray (especially the Holy Rosary), and we need to vote with true Catholic values, virtues, and faith in mind.

Remember, are you saying to God, “Thy will be done” when it really means, “My will be done“?

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by a Scribe about the greatest commandment.  How well do you know – – and LIVE – – this “greatest of commandments”?

(NAB Mark 12:28-34) 28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whoa, last Sunday, we were reading about the “blind man” who receives his vision through his faith, from the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  And now, today, we have jumped way over to the end of the twelfth chapter.  If we were to read Chapters 11 and the first part of Chapter 12, we would hear about:

  • Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem;
  • His cleansing the Temple of merchants; and,
  • Previous questions of His “authority” and interpretations concerning “paying taxes” and “resurrection of the dead” by the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders. 

The context, therefore, for today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ growing exposure and popularity with the pious Jews before the Jewish Temple leaders.  Thus, Jesus is being questioned and tested by the Jewish authorities, attempting to find a weakness to exploit in Jesus’ teaching of faith.  Surprisingly, the Scribe who addresses Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be (or has become) an admirer.

Jesus’ “Words” are very simple and beautiful.  He tells us we should have a faith of inclusivity and welcome, not that of rules and regulations – – EVERYONE should be welcome!!  We are told in today’s reading of Jesus’ teaching on two commandments: loving God and each other.  How hard is Jesus’ “Words” to truly abide by?  Well, I sense that many times in our lives, our faith is based NOT on loving each other as God loves us, but instead, on deciding who is IN and who is OUT of our lives.

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Today’s Gospel reading is a dialogue between Jesus and a Scribe who is impressed by the way in which Jesus has conducted Himself in answering the question asked of Him:

Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mark 12:28).

This devoutly pious Scribe (a “scholar [or interpreter] of Mosaic Law”) compliments Jesus for the answer He gives him (Mark 12:32).  This Scribe is said by Jesus to be “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

The Temple Leaders prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament), along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries THEY created.  I believe this particular Scribe – – this inquisitor – – was on a mission from the Pharisees, testing Jesus by asking his specific question, a question the Pharisees believed would be impossible to answer correctly.  However, Jesus’ response or answer, by repeating Moses words, caused NO conflict whatsoever with the Scribes’ Jewish religious teaching.  The Scribes reaction to Jesus’ is one of praise for Him.

Why would the question asked by the Scribe be impossible to answer correctly?  Well, for the devout Jew, ALL the commandments (and there were 613 of them) were to be kept with equal obedience and care.  There really is NO “first of all commandments” for the pious Jew.  This question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses.  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments, numbering 613 precepts or laws.  For a devout Jew, adherence to the Mosaic Law is a continuous, life-long attempt at expressing one’s faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel through very specific behaviors.  The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of Mosaic Law: but ALL laws were treated as equal in observance.

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Jesus startled the Pharisee with His profoundly simple answer; and, with His obvious mastery of Mosaic Law – – Jesus’ answer revealed its true purpose.  So, Jesus is revealing that God simply requires of us to love as He loves, and that God is pure love; and that everything He does flows from His love for us!  God loved us first and our love for Him is a response to His personal, uniquely intimate way of expressing His exceeding mercy, grace, and loving kindness towards each of us. 

Interestingly, Jesus was not the only Jewish religious teacher – – rabbi during this time – – to connect these two commandments: first, the “love of God”, and second, the “love of neighbor”.  Both of these commandments were (and are) central elements of Jewish religious tradition from which Jesus learned in His youth, from His foster-father and the rabbi of Nazareth.  So, Jesus, along with ALL observant Jews (and still today), were educated on this specific precept from Deuteronomy regarding the love of God:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

Since the “Lord alone” is God, “Israel” (the Jewish “chosen” people) need to love Him with an undivided heart, being, and strength.  Indeed, even still today, this commandment (and the other love commandment) continues to be the central aspect of contemporary Jewish religious understanding.  

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The second commandment, “love of neighbor”, is a precept from 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’ response to His questioners proposed a fundamental and vital connection between these two precepts from Mosaic Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression IN OURlove for neighbor”.  I suspect however, that this integral linking of these two commandments was perceived in a newly rejuvenated and fresh way when Jesus taught on this issue in today’s reading.  There had to have been at least one “Ah-ha” moment for this Scribe during this discourse with Jesus.  The “love of God” comes first, and the “love of neighbor” is firmly grounded IN the “love of God”.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what He loves   and reject what is harmful, hateful, and contrary to His loving will and plan for each of us.  

For this curious and discerning Scribe, Jesus illustrated, through His answer, the superiority of love over legalism from God’s (and from Moses’) point of view.  The “love of God” must engage the total person (heart, mind, and soul).  However, Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him, joining to the greatest and first commandment, a second commandment, that of “love of neighbor”:

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).

The double commandment is the source from which the “whole law” flows.

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A part of the Scribe’s reply to Jesus puzzled me:

“‘To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

I believe the Scribe was alluding to Psalm 40:

Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, ‘See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!’ (Psalm 40:7–9).

Obedience to God’s law of love is far better than any “burnt offering and sacrifice”.  I believe that Saint Paul understood this law of love taking precedence over the laws of “burnt offerings”.  Here is what he writes:

 “For this reason, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.  Then I said, “As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”’  First He says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.’ These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’  He takes away the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:5-9).

Notice, Jesus identifies Himself as the “ONE” “written” about “in the scrolls”; Jesus reveals the primacy of loving God (and neighbor) over the value of “holocausts and sin offerings”, which (Jesus reveals) God really “did not desire” nor “delighted in”.  So, Paul understood God, through Jesus Christ, was taking away the first laws of legalism to establish the NEW law of LOVE!!

Therefore, Jesus Christ is taking away the “burnt offering and sacrifice”, establishing Himself as the new “Sacrifice”, redeeming ALL from the sin of this world!!!  This is AWESOME!!!

No wonder then that with the last verse in today’s dialogue, the debate with the Jewish authorities comes to an abrupt end:

No one dared to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).

Were the Temple leaders finally humbled by Jesus’ “Words”?  I don’t think so.  Envy still had a tight grasp on many of the Pharisees and Scribes, as we will see when Jesus is arrested after the “Last Supper”.

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The Scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel engaged in a positive dialogue with Him, giving Jesus the opportunity to express an important – – the MOST important – – precept or law of, from, and about God!.  What is interesting for me is that most Catholics (and other Christians) today believed Jesus was hated by all the Temple leaders; absolutely NOT TRUE!!  I suspect Jesus had MANY friends and advocates among the three groups of Temple leaders: the Pharisees, the Scribes (who were the interpreters and lawyers for the Pharisees), and the Sadducees.

This Individual Scribe agreed with Jesus’ teaching about “loving God” and “loving neighborbeing the first and greatest of commandments.  He agreed with Jesus that these two “connected” laws or precepts even surpass the 613 commandments having to do with certain behaviors for surviving in the desert and other laws pertaining to animal and other sacrifices in the Temple.  

From Jesus’ response to the Scribe’s question, we learn that faith in God – – and hope in His promises – – strengthen us in expressing our “love of God”, for God, and for our neighbor (and even for ourselves). Faith, hope, and love are essential for a good and proper relationship with God.  Faith, hope, and love unites each of us with Him in a unique and intimate way.  The more we know of God – – the more we love Him – – and the more we love God, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

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Jesus Christ, through the grace and actions of the Holy Spirit, gives to each of us a new freedom to love as He Himself loves!!  Is there anything keeping you from the “love of God” and the JOY of serving others with a generous heart?    If so, remove it for your existence, for nothing is more important than the “love of God”.  Let us remember what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5

As Catholic Christians, our moral behavior should be guided by the two-part commandment taught by Jesus in today’s Gospel: “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I believe many of us use this “love” framework within the “greatest of the commandments” as an examination of conscience each night and during each Sacrament of Reconciliation.   By examining our lives through the auspices of these two universal commandments, we learn of the challenges in following these precepts as well.  We often desire to NOT follow these coupled laws; but in our capacity as faith-filled Catholic Christians, we need to attempt at consistently honoring these commandments in our daily lives, renewing this commitment DAILY, and sometimes even moment-to-moment.

So, here is a challenge for each of you; let me know how successful you are in executing this challenge.  For one week, identify and collect news reports of how Christians (not just Catholics, but ALL Christians) show their love for God by loving and serving their neighbor.  (This will definitely be a challenge with our present secular news agencies and their anti-religious bias.) 

Think about ways in which you might contribute to the examples of “Christian service” which you hopefully found in the news reports.  Choose one of the actions you came up with or discovered in your search, and do the action yourself.  Let me know what action you came up with, and how you executed that action in your life and area. 

Finally, let us pray together in asking for God’s help in showing our love to our family, friends, and others we meet.  IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

Act of Love

“O my God,
I love you above all things
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good
and worthy of all my love.
I love my neighbor as myself
for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon
of those whom I have injured.
Amen.”

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