Category Archives: SFO Prologue

“If Jesus Aint’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!” – Mark 6:1-6†


Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I came across the following document while listening to Patrick Madrid on a CD. I loved it for its simplicity and its beauty.  This is my personal pledge, and I mean every word!!

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1099 – First Crusade: 15,000 starving Christian soldiers march in religious procession around Jerusalem as its Muslim defenders look on.
†   1153 – Death of Eugene III, [Bernardo], Italian Pope (1145-53).
†   1579 – Our Lady of Kazan, a holy icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, was discovered underground in the city of Kazan, Tatarstan.
†   1623 – Death of Gregory XV, [Alessandro Ludovisi], bishop of Bologna/Pope, dies at 69.
†   1948 – 500th anniversary Russian orthodox church celebrated in Moscow.

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Faith is knowing God, committing our lives to God, and basing our lives on what He says.” ~ Fr. Francis Martin, “The Life Changer“, St. Bede’s Publications

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is rejected in His hometown, Nazareth; the Who, What, Why, and the repercussions! – – AND, the “So What”!

 

(NAB Mark 6:1-6) 1 He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.  2 When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.  They said, “Where did this man get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given him?  What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!  3 Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.  4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”  5 So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.  6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

This Gospel immediately follows last week’s stories of the raising of Jairus’s daughter and the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage; It frames the context of our Gospel readings for the next two weeks, in which Jesus will extend the work of His ministry to His disciples.  Today’s reading describes what many believe to have been the typical pattern of Jesus’ ministry: teaching in the Synagogue, followed by acts of healing.  He left the place of two miraculous signs (probably Capernaum, but this is uncertain), to return to His home town, Nazareth:

 His native place (Mark 6:1).

In the original Greek, the word “patris”, originally meaning is “the fatherhood; However, in this case, “patris” refers to Nazareth:

 “It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.” (Mark 1:9);

However, generically, it could also simply mean a “native land”:

“He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.  He stood up to read.  He said to them, ‘Surely you will quote me this proverb, “Physician, cure yourself,” and say, “Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.”’  And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.’” (Luke 16: 4:23–24).

(Notice: The above quotes are reported by Luke.)

In His hometown of Nazareth, the people are amazed by what they hear, but they also cannot comprehend how someone they know so well since His birth might move them so powerfully.

Wow, what a surprise Jesus had waiting for Him; what a surprise Jesus had to them!  Following the success of the Sermon on the Mount, and the two “cures” He just dispensed, the crowds are in an awesome, admiring, astonishment at Jesus’ teaching and healing abilities:

“When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching.  (Matthew 7:28).

However, back in His “native place”, Jesus is surrounded by those who take offense at Him:

“’Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3).

It seems that our most severe critics are often people very familiar to us, a member of our family, a relative, or neighbor we rub shoulders with on a regular basis.  Jesus faced a severe testing when He returned to His home town, not simply as the carpenter’s son, but now as a miracle-working “Rabbi” – – with devoted disciples in-tow.  Familiarity with Jesus’ background and His family life from infancy to boyhood, and then to adulthood, led them to regard Jesus as being pretentious – – exaggerated, pompous, and perhaps conceited – – in attitude and abilities.  

Matthew seems to have amended Mark’s narrative slightly, stating that Jesus is NOT the carpenter, but the carpenter’s son:

 “Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55).

Also, “and among his own kin” is omitted from Matthew’s account:

“And they took offense at him.  But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.’” (Matthew 13:57).

And, in Matthew’s account, there is no mention of Jesus’ amazement at His townspeople’s “lack of faith

He [Jesus] was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6).

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Unlike Matthew, Mark actually claims that Jesus is a carpenter:

Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary” (Mark 6:3)

No other Gospel calls Jesus “a carpenter”.  

Have you noticed what else Mark claims in this specific verse?

Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary” (Mark 6:3)

What is so interesting or surprising about calling Jesus the “Son of Mary”?  After all, He was (and IS) the “Son of Man”!!  Well, it is contrary to Jewish custom which ordinarily calls a man “the son of his father”.  I believe this “turn of phrase” may reflect Mark’s own true personal and public faith of God the Father being the true Father of Jesus Christ.  Mark expresses his fact of faith four other times in his Gospel:

“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].  And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:1, 11);

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38);

“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32);

And,

He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.’” (Mark 14:36).

It is unknown to us today how crude the comment was, which was directed at Jesus, calling Him the “son of Mary” (Mark 6:3), when every man at the time would have been called the son of his father.  It seems that many of the townspeople believed Joseph was not Jesus’ real father, just his step-father; some scholars say this passage records Jesus as possibly being called something as demeaning as “Mary’s bastard” in today’s terms.  Jesus, at least in His hometown, almost certainly carried a stigma as the probable illegitimate son of a peasant woman.

You want to know something?  For me at least, experiencing shame, embarrassment, and ridicule is the way for discovering God in my life.  It was from the margins of life and society that the prophetic “Word” of God shown fullest.  It was from the undistinguished town of Nazareth that the personal “Word” of God Shone forth through the hometown “nobody”; the carpenter’s son, Jesus.  So, from this, I am reminded of Paul’s words from Second Corinthians regarding the power of Christ dwelling in them because:

 “My power is made perfect in weakness(2 Corinthians 12:9). 

Those closest to the “prophets” often did not recognize them as prophets.  Just so, the people of Nazareth did not recognize the grace of Jesus flowing from God through Jesus’ teaching and healing power.  Because of their familiarity with Jesus’ step-father and mother, the people of Nazareth could not recognize Jesus as the authentic interpreter of the divine will of the God of Abraham.  As the Lord says in Ezekiel:

Whether they hear or resist—they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2:5).

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There is another, and more surprising, claim in the same verse in Mark’s Gospel:

“’Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?   And are not his sisters here with us?’”  And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). 

Whoa!!  Wait a minute here!!  Jesus had brothers and sisters?  He was supposed to be Mary’s only son: She is ever-virgin, isn’t she?!  We can all settle down and sit back in our pews; there is NO heresy here, only a translation problem.  You see, in the Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic) language, the use of the terms “brother” and “sister” refer to not only the children of the same parents, but also for nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters, and so on, as recorded in the following: 

“He recovered all the possessions. He also recovered his kinsman Lot and his possessions, along with the women and the other people.” (Genesis 14:16);

“Laban said to him: ‘Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine?  Tell me what your wages should be.’” (Genesis 29:15);

And again,

“Then Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, with the order, ‘Come, carry your kinsmen from before the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.’” (Leviticus 10:4).

The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures by Greek-speaking Jewish Scribes) often translates the Hebrew “’āh” by the Greek word “adelphos”, meaning “brother” and any “relative” by blood, marriage, or acquisition.  Revealed in the cited passages, this fact that may make a claim for a similar and broader scope, of meaning for “relative” in some New Testament passages.  However, on the other hand, Mark may have understood the terms, “’āh” and adelphos” to be, in fact, literal in translation:

His mother and his brothers arrived.  Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.  A crowd seated around him told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.’” (Mark 3:31–32);

“While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him” (Matthew 12:46);

“Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?  Are not his sisters all with us?  Where did this man get all this?” (Matthew 13:55–56);

“Then his mother and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd.” (Luke 8:19);

And,

“So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing.’  For his brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:3,5).

The question of whether Jesus had familial brothers and sisters would not be of issue, and controversial to some “believers”, except for our Catholic faith and belief in the perpetual virginity of His mother, Mary.  I believe the controversy of Jesus’ family; “brothers” and “sisters”, is proven to be OTHER kinds of “relative” is in a verse from Jesus’ crucifixion story.  In it, Mary is at the foot of Jesus hanging on the Holy Cross, and other women are “looking on from a distance”:

 “There were also women looking on from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.” (Mark 15:40).

This above “Mary” is a relative to Mary the mother of Jesus; and her children are also relatives to Jesus Himself.

These names in Mark 15:40, “James and of Joses” are identical to those in Mark’s reading today:

“’Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?   And are not his sisters here with us?’”  And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). 

Even today, I often say to my fellow Brothers-in-Christ, “hello”, by calling them, “My brothers from other mothers”.  In fact, St. Francis perceived a deeper insight about the “relatedness” of ALL creation: Sun, moon, fire, water, animals, and so on, as truly being relatives to God, their and our Creator.  St. Francis understood the deeper truth which Jesus revealed when he redefined and broadened the “relative” meaning of the “the words “brother” and “sister” in his famous song of praise:

The Canticle of Brother Sun

 

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,

Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,

and all blessing.

 

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

 

Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon

and the stars, in heaven you formed them

clear and precious and beautiful.

 

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,

and through the air, cloudy and serene,

and every kind of weather through which

You give sustenance to Your creatures.

 

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,

which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

 

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,

through whom you light the night and he is beautiful

and playful and robust and strong.

 

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,

who sustains us and governs us and who produces

varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

 

Praised be You, my Lord,

through those who give pardon for Your love,

and bear infirmity and tribulation.

 

Blessed are those who endure in peace

for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

 

Praised be You, my Lord,

through our Sister Bodily Death,

from whom no living man can escape.

 

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessed are those whom death will

find in Your most holy willl,

for the second death shall do them no harm.

 

Praise and bless my Lord,

and give Him thanks

and serve Him with great humility.

AMEN.

St. Francis also understood the deeper truth which Jesus revealed when he redefined and broadened the “relative” meaning of the “the words “brother”, “sister”, “father”, “mother” in his prologue to the rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS), known as the “Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance”:

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe St. Francis truly understood “relationships”!!  However, I may be slight impartial to his way of following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps.

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At His hometown people’s reaction of unbelief, Jesus appears not to be happy.  – – And “if Momma Jesus aint’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”!!  Jesus knew His own hometown people did not see Him as the promised Messiah Savior – – which He is, truly and fully!  In fact, Jesus revealed that He knew Himself to be the “prophet” Moses spoke about.  They couldn’t see Him even as a prophet:

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” (Mark 6:4)

This above saying from Jesus finds parallels in other literatures, especially Jewish and Greek, but without reference to a prophet which Jesus adds to this well-known saying of the time (and you know Jesus doesn’t add or say things without a reason).  By comparing Himself to previous Hebrew prophets – – whom the people also rejected – – Jesus associates and links His own eventual rejection by “the nation”, especially shown in view of dishonor and “offense” His own relatives had shown Him in Nazareth.  This family disloyalty is already shown earlier in Mark’s Gospel:

When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mark 3:21).

Now, His own townspeople are rejecting Him as well:

Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.” (John 4:44).

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What was (and still is) the result of those around Him having no faith?

He was not able to perform any mighty deed there” (Mark 6:5).

According to Mark, Jesus’ power could not take effect because of a person’s lack of faith in Him – – or in themselves.  How often do we have trust in others, but lack the same trust in ourselves?  “Trust” and “faith” make up the “two-faced” coin of “hope”!!  We need to have trust, and have faith, in God’s providential and saving abilities in order to have the essential hope (trust and faith) needed to survive this short exile from God’s eternal heavenly paradise.  We need to believe there is absolutely nothing which God cannot do!!

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).

Do you have the proper trust, faith, and hope to truly and fully believe in Him doing anything (?) – – possible and/or impossible (?) – – for YOU?  I do!!

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In summary, in today’s Gospel, we learn some interesting details about Jesus and His early life.  Jesus’ kinfolk know Him to be a carpenter, an artisan who works in wood, stone, and metal.  He probably learned this trade from His guardian-father, Joseph.  

Since “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus are named in this reading, scholars are divided on how to interpret this verse.  As Catholics, we believe that Mary was – – and remains – – always a virgin.  Thus, we do not believe that this Gospel refers to other “natural children” of Mary.  Some have suggested that these family members might even be Joseph’s children from a previous marriage; but there is difficulty in supporting this interpretation as well.  (We know Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus among other travelers and relatives when returning from Jerusalem after a Passover feast, finding Him three days later in the Temple (cf., Luke 2:41-52).

It would have been customary for Jesus to go to the Synagogue each week – – during the Sabbath – – and when His turn came, to read from the Holy Scriptures during the Sabbath service.  His hometown folks listened with captivated and spellbound attention on this occasion because they had heard about the miracles He had performed in other towns.  After all, Jesus was a local hero, a Tim Cardinal Dolan sort of figure, in first century Galilee and beyond.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is hampered from performing miracles in Nazareth because of the people’s lack of faith.  Jesus is said to be surprised by this lack of faith manifesting itself in His OWN hometown folks and relatives.  He did not predict or foresee this rejection of hostility.  However, in this detail of unbelief from those familiar to and of Him, we find a profound description of the very human side of the divine Jesus, and of human society as a whole. 

So, what sign would (could) Jesus do in His hometown?  The only sign Jesus performed was a couple of instances of “laying on of hands”, curing a few people – – and then, startling them with a glaring rebuke about no prophet or servant of God receiving honor among his own hometown people.  The people of Nazareth took this as an offense to them, and refused to believe in Him, and not even to listen to Him.  These hometown “fans” and kin actually despised His preaching.  To them, Jesus was “only” a working man, a simple carpenter.  He was just a mere layman – – not a teacher and healer – – and some of Jesus’ hometown folks despised Him, even making efforts to kill Him by “hurling” Him from “the brow of a hill”:

“When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.” (Luke 4:28-29). 

Today’s reading unfolds a continuing theme of Mark’s Gospel: Who is Jesus Christ? His kinfolk in Nazareth might know Him as the carpenter, and the son of Mary; yet, they do not know Jesus as the Christ – – the divine “Son of God” to come.  By recording their unbelief, Mark is foreshadowing Jesus’ rejection not only by His own people, but also the key leaders of the people of Israel.  

Mark is also reflecting on, and trying to explain, the situation of his community, written in the later years of the first century, for which he wrote this specific part of his Gospel.  While many of the first Christians were Jewish, Christianity took hold and flourished in the Gentile communities as well.  (Oh NO!! – – um – – Oh YES!!)  Mark’s community was mostly a Gentile community, a community experiencing persecution at the time Mark was writing his Gospel.  By showing that Jesus Himself was rejected, Mark was consoling and reassuring his first readers, his first audience, who received and heard this divinely inspired book.  He is also preparing ALL OF US to accept the possible consequences of Christian discipleship: ridicule, offense, rejection, and possibly – – even a Martyrs death!!  Can you truly and fully say that you would be a Martyr for your trust, faith, and hope in Jesus Christ?  For me, the answer is definitely “YEP!!”

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To conclude, let’s reflect on the “so what” about the descriptions of Jesus, and His relationships with others, especially including “relatives”.  Our families play an important role in shaping us and forming our self-identity – – and our role in life.  In family life, we find a safe place to discover “who we are” and the “who God calls us to be” in this earthly life.  However, sometimes the influences from outside and inside our family can make us “unrecognizable” – – “hidden” – – to those who know us best: our personal and intimate family and friends.  These influences can lead us away from God, OR, they can lead us toward a deeper understanding and relationship with God.  (I want to give a personal thanks to John Hough for this latter part in my life.)

Familiarity with another can often breed a mistaken contempt easily.  Jesus could do no “mighty works” in His hometown because the people were closed and disbelieving towards Him.  These people came together to “question”, not “to listen” with faith in fact, then actively refused to understand, trust, and believe in Him.  They saw no other point of view than their own; they refused to love and accept another’s viewpoint, belief, and insight from Holy Scriptures.  They took offense at Jesus and His implications.  Do you take offense at others easily?  Do you routinely cement “first-impressions” into your beliefs, never changing your viewpoint?

God’s power alone, His grce only, can free us and save us from emptiness and poverty of spirit, from confusion and error, and from the fear of hopelessness and death.  The Gospel of salvation is “good news” for us today.  I hope and trust you are growing in “seeing” the beauty, joy, and freedom of the Holy Gospels (!) – – our Holy Scriptures!!

Today, we learn that the people of Nazareth could not recognize Jesus as the Son of God because of their unwillingness to believe that God would favor on of their own.  They could know Him only as the “son” of the carpenter, Joseph, and the “son” of Mary – – not as the “Son” of God through Mary, the chosen “handmaid of the Lord”:

“Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.’  Then the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38).  

We hope that through our own family life and experiences, we will be encouraged to filter the many influences affecting our lives through the lens of faith, hope, and trust.  In doing so, we are assured of becoming the unique person which God is calling us to be – – in His kingdom – – both, in heaven and on earth – – NOW!!  Think about the people and events which were (and are still) influential to you.  Many of these people and events had positive influences, helping you to be a better person, leading to a deeper understanding and relationship in, with, and through Jesus Christ.  However, there have certainly been negative influences in your life as well, risking a pulling away from God.  

Jesus was a person who allowed His relationship with God to be the most important thing in his life!  This led many people to have trust, faith, and hope in Him as the true “Messiah”, “Son” of God.  However, not everyone could (or can) recognize this in or about Jesus.  Ask yourself this question: Who might not recognize Jesus as God’s Son in this Gospel?  The correct answer from today’s reading would be some of His closest neighbors and intimate relatives in Nazareth.  However – – could the correct answer also be in pointing to you personally as well?!  I pray that you are already – – or soon to become – – a member in the “Fellowship of the Unashamed!!” (See the beginning of today’s reflection, under the section, “Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations”.)

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Reflection Prayer:

 

A Christian Family Prayer of Faith and Hope

Lord, I believe that You can do all things.  I believe that I cannot understand Your workings, but I trust that in all things there is meaning and purpose.  I believe in Your infinite compassion and love.  I believe that you can heal the sick and raise the dead.  I believe that you fill my heart with your purpose and that I am unworthy of this gift, but I accept it gladly.  I ask for humility.  I ask for the wisdom to serve you in all things.  I believe in You and I pray that my loved ones feel Your Grace.  Amen.”

Adapted from:

http://www.choosehelp.com/christian-recovery- prayers/a-family-prayer-of-faith-and-hope

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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.

The Trinity

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). RSV

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19). KJV

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“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians. 13:14). RSV

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” (2 Corinthians. 13:14) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gregory Grassi and Companions (d. 1900)

 

Christian missionaries have often gotten caught in the crossfire of wars against their own countries.  When the governments of Britain, Germany, Russia and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898, anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people.

Gregory Grassi was born in Italy in 1833, ordained in 1856 and sent to China five years later.  Gregory was later ordained Bishop of North Shanxi.  With 14 other European missionaries and 14 Chinese religious, he was martyred during the short but bloody Boxer Uprising of 1900.

Twenty-six of these martyrs were arrested on the orders of Yu Hsien, the governor of Shanxi province.  They were hacked to death on July 9, 1900.  Five of them were Friars Minor; seven were Franciscan Missionaries of Mary — the first martyrs of their congregation.  Seven were Chinese seminarians and Secular Franciscans; four martyrs were Chinese laymen and Secular Franciscans.  The other three Chinese laymen killed in Shanxi simply worked for the Franciscans and were rounded up with all the others.  Three Italian Franciscans were martyred that same week in the province of Hunan.  All these martyrs were beatified in 1946 and were among the 120 martyrs canonized in 2000.

Comment:

Martyrdom is the occupational hazard of missionaries.  Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, five bishops, 50 priests, two brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed.  The 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 had grown to 303,760 by 1924 and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests.  Great sacrifices often bring great results.

Quote:

“Martyrdom is part of the Church’s nature since it manifests Christian death in its pure form, as the death of unrestrained faith, which is otherwise hidden in the ambivalence of all human events.  Through martyrdom the Church’s holiness, instead of remaining purely subjective, achieves by God’s grace the visible expression it needs.  As early as the second century one who accepted death for the sake of Christian faith or Christian morals was looked on and revered as a ‘martus’ (witness).  The term is scriptural in that Jesus Christ is the ‘faithful witness’ absolutely (Revelations 1:5; 3:14)” (Karl Rahner, Theological Dictionary, volume 2, pp. 108-09).

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 8 & 9 of 26:


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

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

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09.  The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

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


Pentecost Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

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

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

 

(NAB John 20:19-23) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was also the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time.  Thomas for me was a bona fide, natural pessimist. Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, then from Mark:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew says:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).

Now, Mark says:

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

And, Luke says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

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

Consider John’s following statement:

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

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking this (John 20:28) with the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“ (John 1:1)

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

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

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

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Consider the following verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace be with each of you”.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

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

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Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Faith and Works

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patron Saint of: England

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Prologue to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS):

Prologue

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fourth Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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Today in Catholic History:

 

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus says that He is the “good shepherd” who knows His sheep.

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John reiterates this command in His first epistle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

Prayer for Generosity

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Praying to the Saints

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of Europe & Italy

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey,
O.F.M. (From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Prologue to the
Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule:


 
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“First Century Headline: ‘Jesus Goes Into the Exorcize Business – AND Cleans Up!’” – Mark 1:21-28†


Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Last week was the annual “March for Life” in Washington D.C.  The purpose was to mark the 39th anniversary of the ominous ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade.  This ruling legalized the murder of 54 million babies in these few years.  This number equates to 17 percent of America’s current 312 million-plus population – – “17 PERCENT”!!!  Only the “Black Plague” has cost more lives … Not even ALL our countries WARs “combined” can claim this sad distinction!   Let us all pray for those lost lives, for those about to have abortions, and especially for the overturning of this barbaric violation of Natural – and GOD’s – Laws.  Here is a prayer I say daily:

Prayer to St. Gerard

(Patron Saint for Mothers)

“St. Gerard, you worshiped Jesus as the Lord of Life.  I ask you today to pray for my special intentions: For all those about to have abortions, all pregnant women, their husbands, all new parents, & especially _________.  Lift up to Jesus all those who seek to conceive a child, all those having difficult pregnancies, all who have suffered the loss of a child, and all who lovingly lift up their children to God.

Pray that all of us, by caring for mothers, fathers, and children born and unborn may build a Culture of Life, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   904 – Sergius III comes out of retirement to take over the papacy from the deposed antipope Christopher.
†   1119 – Death of Pope Gelasius II
†   1732 – Paris churchyard Saint-Medard closed after Jansenistic ritual
†   1860 – American College established in Rome by Pope Pius IX
†   Feast/Memorials: Valerius of Trèves; Saint Juniper

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing a man with an unclean spirit.  Jesus’ fame spreads throughout Galilee.

 

(NAB Mark 1:21-28) 21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.  22The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.  23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”  25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!”  26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.  27 All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.”  28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

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Gospel Reflection:

Do you believe that God’s “Word” has power to set you free and to transform your life permanently?  Today’s Gospel describes what was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ earthly public ministry.  Jesus, and the disciples who chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel, arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee.  There, Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  The people responded to Jesus’ teaching with “astonishment”, noting Jesus’ “authority”, contrasting His message and teachings with the “Scribes’”.  We are only in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel and we already are finding evidence of tension which will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem on a future Passover Sabbath.

Today’s reading happens, as I said, during a Sabbath, and both inside and outside the synagogue of Capernaum.  His ministry on this day combined teachings and the “miracles” of exorcism and healing.  There is no mention made of Jesus’ words of the teaching in the synagogue in Mark’s Gospel; however, today’s reading DOES cover the “effect” of their astonishment and His authority on the people hearing His “Word” and seeing His actions.  

Т

The witnesses declare that Jesus “teaches with authority” to ALL the people – – in AND out – – of the synagogue; and witnesses are still declaring His “authority” now, today, as it was then!  Jesus’ authoritive “teaching” provides evidence and witness as to His definite claim over those hearing and believing His “Words”, and over the “unseen spirits” influencing individual listeners.  His “Word” was offered to those present listening to Him in the best tradition of the Old Testament prophets.  His method of teaching was different; not like the “Scribes” who taught and spoke the “Word” (as they believed it to be), yet did not LIVE the “Word” in their daily actions and lives.  

When Jesus taught, He always spoke with “authority”.  He spoke the “Word” of God the Father as NO ONE had spoken before!!  When the Rabbis taught, they supported their statements with quotes from other authorities or from their personal interpretations of the Mosaic Law.  The prophets spoke with God-given, delegated, “authority”, i.e., “Thus says the Lord.”  When Jesus spoke, He needed no authorities, no Temple leaders, or no Rabbis needed to back His “Word” or statements.  He WAS and IS THE “authority” personified (incarnated); Jesus Christ WAS and IS THE “Word” of God the Father made flesh.  When He spoke, God the Father spoke.  Jesus Himself declared:

I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  So what I say, I say as the Father told me.” (John 12:49-50)

Even the demons and “unclean spirits” obeyed when He commanded.  After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happened; a man with an “unclean spirit” approached Jesus and calls out to Him while in the synagogue.  Demons know Jesus.  Demons are not afraid to enter His holy temple.  They have a personal, yet unfriendly, relationship with Him.  So, when someone asks you, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus, do you know Him?”, just remember, so does Satan and all the other fallen angels, and the “unclean spirits”!!

What IS an “unclean spirit”?  Well, it is a spirit who is resistant to, and continues to resist vehemently, the holiness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  This “unclean spirit” is fearful of the Holy Trinitarian Godhead because he (or they) know and fear the absolute power of Jesus Christ to destroy their influence on the people who also attempt to resist the holiness of the Trinitarian God:

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew Him.” (Mark 1:32, 34);

Whenever unclean spirits saw Him they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’” (Mark3:11).

Plus, they, every “unclean spirit”, know Jesus’ divine power is granted to others doing His will:  

They [the Apostles’] drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:13).

As we see in this example (and throughout Mark’s Gospel), the various spirits and demons know Jesus for who He truly is, and are fearful of Him and the overwhelming power He possesses over them.  In fact, they understand Jesus’ identity better than His disciples at this time.  Jesus orders the “unclean spirit” to be quiet, and then drives the “unclean spirit” out of the possessed man.  Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is a true indication of His physical and divine power over ALL evil, and over ALL reality.

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In reality, and in the less scientific era of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness on the person’s part.  Thank the Lord (literally) that our modern understanding of illness is very different and more beneficial for a “sick” individual.  Possession by “unclean spirits” may have been a way to describe what we call mental illness in today’s world.  It may also have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions easily correctable today.  

There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine.  Jesus appears to be similar to these healers; but He heals with a unique authority and connects His healing activities with the “Word” of His preaching and teaching.  However, we are missing the point that Mark is making in this Gospel if we try to explain away the healing work and power of Jesus Christ as simply an act that can be “accomplished” today scientifically.  

This man processed with an “unclean spirit” calls Jesus “the Holy One of God”.  This was not a confession as such, but an attempt by the “demon” to hopelessly defend himself against Jesus’ power over him.  The demon is trying to counter Jesus’ “authority” by declaring that he knows Jesus to be the “Holy One of God”.  By using “Holy One of God” (Jesus Christ), the demon thought and tried to establish control over Jesus, and to impress the congregation.  How wrong and misguided could this “unclean spirit” be in this belief!!  Jesus silenced the bellowing words of the “unclean spirit”, driving him out of the afflicted man, by His authoritive “Word”.  By doing so, the congregation was definitely “stunned” and “impressed”.

Т

It is clear that the crowds see in Jesus’ deliverance of the possessed man a “declaration”, a “revelation”, and a “affirmation” of His divine “authority” over every authority, those who resist God’s “Word”, those who comply with God’s “Word”, and those who do not know God’s “Word”.  Jesus’ power to deliver and heal gives clear credibility, authority, and support to His teachings as coming from God – – (unlike the Scribes).  Because of the kind of authority with which He healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee like a divine wildfire illuminating the world. 

So awesomely compelling were Jesus’ “Words” and actions that the news about Him and His abilities could not be contained any more than the sun can be contained with the emerging dawn.  Thus, His reputation spread quickly throughout all of Galilee, and spread throughout Israel, even to the High Priests in the very center of Jerusalem.  Today, some two thousand years later, the “good news” of and about Jesus Christ is STILL continuing to spread.  This “illuminating fire” has not been quenched; rather, it is instead growing brighter throughout ALL nations of the world.  We are called to participate – – to be active, not passive – – in sharing the “Good News” of Jesus Christ with others in our personal and public words, and in our personal and public deeds, even here and now.  We must have, and deepen our faith in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, – – and His “Word”.  A true and fully complete “faith, love, and hope” in Him is the key to knowing Him better, loving Him more deeply, and seeing Him more fully.

Remember, faith is powerful; but without love it profits nothing:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 13). 

Scripture continues to tell us that true faith works through love:

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6).

As faith thrives, so flourishes hope:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). 

Our faith is made perfect in love because love orients us to both the supreme good who is God the Father Himself, as well as the good of our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God:

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. … God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27). 

Notice: “Hope” anchors our faith in the promises of God the Father and cleanses our desires for the things which will last for ALL eternity.  This is why the “Word” of Jesus Christ has power to set us free from all that would keep us bound in sin, deception, and despair.  

Finally, faith is both a free gift of God the Father AND the free submission of OUR individual wills to the whole truth which God reveals to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  To live, grow, and persevere in the perpetual and complete faith of God the Father, we must nourish and support our faith with His “Word”.  Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds so that we may grow in His “truth” and in our knowledge of His great love for each of us, as I just wrote: personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Thank you Jesus Christ for revealing the power of Your “Word”.

Т

How does today’s reflection affect you personally, uniquely, and intimately?  Try to name some awesome and amazing things, events, and/or people in your lives which or who bring you closer to the “Holy One of God” now revealed by His “Word”, to be the “Most Holy Trinity”.  

In today’s Gospel, the people who “heard” Jesus were “astonished” and “amazed” in their personal experience with Jesus.  What did these people, who saw and heard Jesus, find so “amazing”?  Per the Gospel reading, the people heard and saw the “power” and “authority” of God actively at work in their personal and public lives, in and through Jesus Christ Himself!!  

We should see the same “power” and “authority” of Jesus at work in OUR personal and public lives.  Can you name any modern examples of people in whom you have seen the “power” and “authority” of God at work?  It could be a priest, a friend, or even a “marginalized” individual.  PLEASE pray that we ALL will experience an awe-inspiring wonder at the work of God in our lives and in OUR world today – – MANY, MANY times.

If we approach God the Father – – and His “Word” – – humbly, with an eagerness to do everything He desires, we are in a much better position to continue seeing God’s presence in our daily lives.  We will be able to learn what the Trinitarian God wants to teach us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, through His personal, unique, and intimate “Word”.  Are you eager to be taught by Jesus Christ as the people “hearing” Him in today’s reading?  Are you willing to mold and model YOUR life according to His “Word”?  We already know the end of the book; so, let’s be on the “winning” side.  AMEN!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord,
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

 

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). RSV

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58). KJV

*

I and the Father are one (John 10:30). RSV

I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30). KJV

*

For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Roger of Todi

 

Blessed Roger of Todi

Blessed Roger (b. 1216) died at Todi in the Italian province of Umbria, Italy, died on January 5, 1237; cultus (adoration of) approved by Pope Benedict XIV.

Blessed Roger was one of the early Franciscans who was admitted to the Order by the founder himself.  Because of his earnest efforts at perfection, the Seraphic Founder greatly esteemed him, and often chose him as his companion when he set out to preach or to direct souls.  St. Francis appointed him spiritual director of the convent of Poor Clares at Rieti.

Pope Gregory IX, who knew him personally, and who had called him a saint even during his lifetime, at once sanctioned the celebration of his feast at Todi.  Pope Benedict XIV extended his veneration to the entire Franciscan Order.

(Based on info from http://www.franciscan-sfo.org &
http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com websites)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Prayer” – – “Question”

(Answers next week)

How does prayer capture the “double miracle” occurring at each and every Mass?

How does imaging St. Francis’ appeal to each “Person of the Holy Trinity”, AND, the “whole” communion of Saints, in giving blessings to his friars affect you personally, and as a Franciscan?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Are You Ready To Meet Jesus’ Expectations?! Are You Watching?!” – Mark 13:33-37†


 

First Sunday of Advent

  

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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  Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the “National Day of Listening”.  I have come to realize that though we all “listen”, many of us have lost the grace of actually “hearing”.  I compare listening and hearing to another great sense: peripheral and central vision.  “Listening” is our peripheral auditory sense, making us able to navigate the verbal/audible environment subconsciously and with little effort.  “Hearing” is like our central vision, able to be focused and pinpointed.  Hearing is an active sense that needs to be honed through usage and training.  Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth.  Use the ears twice as often as the mouth.

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I attended an excellent meeting/program last Saturday, put on by the Secular Franciscan, St. Clare Region, Executive Committee (REC), titled “Servant Leadership”.  I highly recommend all SFO’s take this program when it becomes available to you.  We had Franciscans participating from all three Franciscan Orders, and from three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Southern Indiana).  The Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, SFO, wrote a very excellent synopsis of this training program, which I would like to share below: 

 “Servant leadership” is a [daily] reflection on a conversion-based, Gospel-centered life.  Our models for “servant leadership” include Jesus, Saint Francis (with his characterizations of being detached, patient, fraternal and ‘in solidarity’, and flexible), and Saint Clare (being reverent, steadfast, and prayerful). [Put all 7-8 characterizations together, and you get a ‘parent’]  The three essential characteristics of Franciscan “servant leadership” are: 

1)  Having a call or commission,
2)  Commitment, and
3)  Vision.  

Leadership should be based on prayer, which flows from – – and results in – – conversion.  Servant Leadership requires a fundamental and genuine dialogue and focused listening skills [See the above article on hearing versus listening.].  The ability to share leadership tasks through delegation should be emphasized.  We should recognize the diversity of gifts, aptitudes, and talents that exists among us all, and be quick and creative in utilizing these graces.  Leaders come in different “flavors,” with each leadership style having certain advantages.  Remember,  a leader’s style will flow from background, personality, etc. ~ from Mike DePue, SFO

 Т

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.  With my wife’s work schedule (she is an Emergency Department Nurse in a large metropolitan area), our families “Turkey Day” is actually today (Sunday).  For me however, every day with her and my children is “Thanksgiving Day”; I love them all more each and every day – – even on the “fowl” [sic] days.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   399 – St Anastasius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

†   640 – Death of Acharius, a 6th-century bishop in Gaul. Bishop of Noyon/saint

†   1095 – Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

†   1775 – Birth of Joachim G le Sage ten Broek, Dutch notary/catholic foreman/publicist

†   1894 – Birth of Amphilochius of Pochayiv, Ukrainian Orthodox saint (d. 1971)

†   1934 – Birth of Lawrence Martin Jenco, Servite priest, taken hostage in Beirut by five armed men in January 1985, while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services there, being held for 564 days  (d. 1996)

†   1970 – Pope Paul VI wounded in chest during a visit to Philippines by a dagger-wielding Bolivian painter disguised as a priest

†   2004 – Pope John Paul II returned the relics of Saint John Chrysostom to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Roman Catholic); Barlaam and Josaphat, Apostle Philip, and Gregory Palamas  (Eastern Orthodox—Revised Julian Calendar)

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Watch a child.  If a little boy falls in the park and scrapes his elbow, he instinctively runs to his father or mother to make it better.  More often than not, the parent can do nothing except gently kiss the bruised elbow and tell the little one that it is going to be OK.  The amazing thing is that often this is all the child needs.  The kiss doesn’t “fix” it; it just lets the little one know that he is loved, he is not alone, and he is going to be OK.  Sadly, as we grow up we begin to believe that a little kiss or a mere hug isn’t going to fix anything, so we stop asking.  God the Father is inviting you to run to Him with your cut elbows, broken heart or shattered dreams.  No hurt is too little and none is too great.” ~ Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift”, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning His disciples to be watchful and alert, so that they will be ready when the Son of Man comes.

 

(NAB Mark 13:33-37) 33 Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  34 It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the season of Advent, which marks the start of a new liturgical year for the Church.  The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged on a three-year cycle.  Each year features a different Gospel—Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with readings from the Gospel of John interspersed throughout all three years.  With this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, focusing our attention on the Gospel of Mark throughout the year.  

Since this the first week of the new Liturgical Year (cycle “B”), let me give a little history on Mark’s Gospel, based on the introduction to his book from the NAB Bible.

Mark is the shortest of all four Gospels, and is most likely the first of the four to have been written.  His Gospel recounts what Jesus Christ did in a vibrant and dramatic style, where one incident follows directly upon another.  With Mark, Jesus is portrayed as immensely popular with the people in Galilee during His ministry (cf., Mark 2:2; 3:7; 4:1).

The framework of Mark’s Gospel is partly geographical: Galilee (cf., Mark 1:14 – 16:8).  Only rarely does Jesus go into “Gentile” territory (cf., Mark 5:1–20; 7:24–37).  Mark’s Gospel is more oriented toward Christology: Jesus being the “Son of God” (cf., Mark 1:1- 11; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39).

Although the book is anonymous, apart from the heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (in Jerusalem) Catholic Christians assembled:

When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer.” (Acts 12:12).  

This “Mark” was a cousin of Barnabas (cf., Colossians 4:10), and accompanied Barnabas and Paul one of his missionary journeys (cf., Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39).  Traditionally, Mark’s Gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution, and when destruction by the Roman Armies loomed over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.  Mark’s audience seems to have been Gentiles unfamiliar with Jewish customs, as shown in the following verses:

“They [the Pharisees] observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].)  (Mark 7:2–4).

Mark was intended to prepare Catholic Christians to be faithful in the face of persecution (cf., Mark 13:9–13), while proclaiming the Gospel in Galilee (cf., Mark 13:10; 14:9).  In this difficult time, it helped to recall that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties, which Mark does.  Early Christian communities took courage from Jesus’ warning to remain alert and watchful, and they found in His words a way to persevere through suffering.

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To begin my reflection on today’s reading I’d like to start with two important Advent themes running though both this week’s and next week’s reading.  Today’s theme is about the Lord’s return at the end of time; and next week’s theme is centered on John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus.

Today’s reading is taken from the end of Mark’s Gospel, the chapter that immediately precedes Mark’s account of Jesus’ Passion.  Having been recently questioned repeatedly by the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus is now questioned by His disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew—who are seeking details about His prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  Jesus answers them with many warnings about the difficulties disciples and their followers and their followers will face in THEIR lives.

This portion of Mark’s Gospel is an “eschatological” discourse (dealing with the coming of the new age – the “eschaton” – in its fullness the “final stage”) about specific events which will precede it.  This Gospel deals also with how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting that event which is as certain to happen as its exact time is unknown to all but God the Father:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32).

Therefore, Jesus is teaching us the necessity for a continual – – and actively persistent – – alertness, attentiveness, and preparedness for His promised return.  

This vigilant waiting, emphasized in this reading, does not mean an ending of ordinary activity, with a concentration only on what is to come.   Instead, Jesus’ message reveals a continued and faithful accomplishment of present, ongoing, ordinary, day-to-day duties and responsibilities, with a continued and persistent awareness of the coming end, for which all (we ALL) must be ready – – continuously, persistently, and faithfully.  This “time to come” will initiate the “great judgment” (Parousia) in which the everlasting destiny of ALL will be made known to ALL!!

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For me, vigilance is another way of saying “LOVE”.  Let me explain what I mean by this statement.  A person who keeps God’s commandments, (big “C” and little “c”), and continuously looks forward to Jesus Christ’s return, rarely looking backward at his past life, is doing exactly what our “Trinitarian God” wishes for us to do!  Our lives are, and should be, a period of faithful hope and waiting, vigilantly: vigilance IS “the way, the truth, and the life” towards our encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The first Catholic Christians often repeated tenderly the hope, desire, and longing for His return.  That’s why they prayed so frequently:

Come, Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelations 22:20).

By expressing their faith, charity, and longing in this way, early Catholic Christians found the interior “core” strength, optimism, and confidence necessary for fulfilling their family and societal duties and responsibilities, while at the same time, interiorly detaching themselves from earthy (materialistic) goods, with the “self-mastery” which comes from the faith and the hope of eternal life (cf., 1Peter 1:3-9).  Remember, Mark’s audience lived in a time of trial and tribulation, at the cusp of the Temple’s destruction by the Roman Armies, and the severe persecution of any and all Jews and Jewish Christians believers.  I pray daily to grow into their “self-mastery”, their interior “core” strength, and their hope, desire, and longing for Christ’s return.  Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis called this “Daily Conversion”.  Today, Franciscans, indeed, all Catholic Christians, are being called, through this Gospel reading, to “Daily Conversion”.

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Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and grace, and He expects us to be ready for action – – prepared for the future.  Our call is not only to believe, but also to watch; not only to love, but also to watch; not only to obey, but also to watch!  So, what are we to watch for?   Answer: the greatest event to come, and ever to happen – – the promised supernatural magnificent return of our Lord Jesus Christ – – when He comes again “in glory” at the end of the age (the Parousia).  

This type of watching which Jesus Christ has in mind is NOT a passive activity.  It is not a “wait and see what happens” approach to, and in, our lives.  Jesus urges us to be ever vigilant and persistent in “active” prayer that His “kingdom may come” and His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf., the “Our Father”). 

We are not only to watch for Christ, but also, we are to watch with Christ!!  The Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on Him and His “Word” daily.  He wants us to be ever-ready for His action and grace in our present lives, and in our present world.  

Those who “wait” for the Lord will not be disappointed.  (That’s a promise: cf., Psalm 27:14, 37:7, and 40:1.)  He will surely come with His sanctifying grace and saving help.  Do you watch for Jesus Christ’s action in your present life? – – with a faith and joyful hope for your future? – – with vigilance and patient awareness?  Are you aware of yourself having “everlasting life” within you – – NOW?  If you’re curious about watching for Jesus in your present life, look up, read, and reflect on what John says in John 6:54, 56* (will be posted at the end of this reflection).

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To conclude, today’s Gospel reminds us that Advent is about more than OUR preparation for the Catholic Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas.  Advent is also about preparing ourselves for Christ’s RETURN “in glory” at the end of time: the Parousia!  Like the disciples and the faithful in Mark’s first-century community, we must also stay continuously and persistently vigilant, alert, and watchful for His return.  Our faithfulness to our Trinitarian God, through the good times, and especially through the difficult times, shows us to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In our lives, we try to prepare ourselves for many future events: the next vacation, a marriage, a child’s education, retirement, and so on.  We are careful not to allow ourselves to be caught by surprise.  We prepare so that we can handle any challenges we may face.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are called to be just as attentive and alert to the coming of the Son of Man so that event will not catch us by surprise and unprepared.  This means we are to attend to our spiritual life as carefully as we attend to other important matters we may encounter!!

Try to remember a time when you received surprise visitors at your house.  It could be a neighbor who stopped by, or a relative who arrived unannounced.  Were you prepared to receive this unannounced guest?  What might you have done differently, if you knew ahead of time that this visitor was going to arrive?  Jesus told His disciples that “no one knows when the Son of Man will return, except the Father”.   Are you prepared?!  Pray that through this Advent season you will become more prepared to receive Jesus Christ (in Holy Communion *) AND when He comes again “in glory” – – at the end time.  

 

(*)  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 54, 56)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

“Optional Closing Prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet”

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.  Amen”

 

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New Translation of the Mass

(This is the Last “New Translation of the Mass” segment.  It will be replaced with a new segment titled, “Catholic Apolgetics” next week) 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

A big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in use by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Francesco Antonio Fasani  (1681-1742)

 

Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695.  After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial.  When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout, and penitential.  He was a sought-after confessor and preacher.  One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.”  Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead!  The saint is dead!”  Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Comment:

Eventually we become what we choose.  If we choose stinginess, we become stingy.  If we choose compassion, we become compassionate.  The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

Quote:

During his homily at the canonization of Francesco, Pope John Paul II reflected on John 21:15 in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other apostles and then tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”  The pope observed that in the final analysis human holiness is decided by love.  “He [Francesco] made the love taught us by Christ the fundamental characteristic of his existence, the basic criterion of his thought and activity, the supreme summit of his aspirations” (L’Osservatore Romano, vol. 16, number 3, 1986).

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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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

What is a VIRTUE?

Can you name them? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How are the virtues tied together?

What are the vices contrary to these virtues?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

 In the name of the Lord!

 Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Judge Me Not – – Um, – – Actually, Please Judge Me Lord!” – Matthew 25:31-46†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Last Sunday of Ordinary Time for Liturgical Year

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

  

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

One week to the beginning of the Advent Season.  What are your plans to make this Advent personally special and more faith fulfilling for you?  Let me know.

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   284 – Diocletian was chosen as Roman Emperor.
†   1168 – Giovanni di Struma elected “anti-Pope”
†   1342 – Pope Clemens VI names John IV of Arkel as Bishop of Utrecht
†   1437 – Death of Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, cardinal and lord chancellor; excommunicated, reinstated by anti-pope John XXIII (b. 1363)
†   1529 – Death of Karl von Miltitz, papal nuncio to Germany and envoy of Pope Leo X to Martin Luther
†   1621 – Birth of Avvakum, Russian priest and writer (d. 1682)
†   1761 – Birth of Pope Pius VIII, [Francesco S Castiglioni], Italy, 253rd Pope (1829-30)
†   1778 – Death of Francesco Cetti, Italian Jesuit Jesuit priest, zoologist and mathematician (b. 1726)
†   1890 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical on slavery in missions
†   1934 – Birth of Valentine J Peter, Omaha Nebraska, priest (Boy’s Town 1985- )
†   1942 – Birth of Paulos Faraj Rahho, Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Bishop (d. 2008)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Mediator Dei”, suggesting new directions and active participation instead of a merely passive role of the faithful in the liturgy, in liturgical ceremonies and in the life of their parish.

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

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 Quote of the Day:

 

“Every time a parent and child ‘express their love and care for one another,’ wherever that may happen, our world has become a little more perfect.” ~ Chris Lowney, “Heroic Living”, Loyola Press

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that when the Son of Man comes in glory, He will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.  (Judgment of Nations)

  

(NAB Matthew 25:31-46) 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’  37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching discourse with His disciples.  The topic is about the “end of time”, – – the coming of the Son of Man, – – and the Final Judgment: the “Parousia”.  We are hearing today, this description of this “changing” event, at the conclusion of our present liturgical year, “the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King”.  Next week starts a new Liturgical year in the Catholic Church (Cycle “B’, using Mark’s Gospel predominately).  With the ending of Matthew’s Gospel, today’s passage might also be read as a wrapping up of Matthew’s account and testimony on Jesus’ life and ministry as well.  The remaining chapters go on to tell the events of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

Do you remember last Sunday’s parable of “the Talents”?  It goes along with today’s narrative.  The “Talents” parable, along with today’s reading, teaches us that the gifts and graces we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us.  Our final judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones of His creations.  In fact, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served “these least ones”, we have served Jesus Christ Himself.  How awesome is that fact!!  (As much as we might like to judge the parables, the parables, nonetheless, judge us as well.) 

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Today’s narrative of Jesus, which is distinctive only to Matthew’s Gospel, portrays the “Final Judgment” that will accompany the “Parousia”.  Although most people call today’s reading a “parable,” it really isn’t a parable, per se.  The only elements of a parable are the 1) depiction of the “Son of Man” as a “shepherd”, and 2) of the “righteous” and the “wicked” as “sheep” and “goats” respectively (Matthew 25:32–33).  

In today’s reading, Jesus describes to His disciples the scene of the Final Judgment of the “Son of Man”, Jesus Christ.  “All the nations” will be assembled before Him, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture.  The “Final Judgments” made by Jesus Christ, will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  Without a doubt, Jesus Himself, – – who suffered through His scourging, and who died a painful death on the Holy Cross, – – identified (and still identifies) Himself with the “least ones” of His flock.  The decisive factor of “judgment” will be the deeds of mercy that have been done for the least of Jesus’ brothers (Matthew 25:40).  

A difficult and important question is how we identify these “least brothers”.  Are they “all people” who have suffered hunger, thirst, etc. (Matthew 25:35-36) or a particular group of such sufferers?  Bible scholars even seem to be divided in their response to this question.  Arguments can be realistically made for either side of the question.  For me, it seems a stronger case can be made for Matthew’s view being that the sufferers are his “Christians”, and probably Christian the missionaries whose sufferings were the result of their preaching of the Gospel.  The measurable criterion of judgment for “all the nations” (verse 32) is revealed by their treatment of those who have heard the message of Jesus Christ, and their ultimate acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ Himself:

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).

So, I think Jesus meant, by saying, “all the nations will be assembled before him”, a reference to the time before the Parousia event when ALL will hear (and thus be responsible) for God’s message:

This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).

Wow!  This means the “Gentiles and Samaritans” will be judged on their response to His “Word” as well.  The phrase “all the nations” includes the Jewish people AND non-Jewish peoples who will be brought to His throne at the “Final Judgment”:

 “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Mt 16:27).

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Goats are animals that will consume ANYTHING.  Jesus states that the “Goats”, will be placed to the left – – not an honorable position.  In verse 41, Jesus says:

Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41) 

The “accursed” (Matthew 25:41) – -the “goats” of today’s reading, will be surprised and dumbfounded that their neglect of “the sufferers” was also – – at the same time – – neglect of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Furthermore, they will receive – – from Jesus Christ Himself – –  a similar response at the “Final Judgment”:  separation from His kingdom.

 

Jesus’ story about the separation of goats and sheep must have unsettled His audience, nearly everyone either being shepherds or related in some way to shepherds.  In the barren and parched lands of Palestine, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day because green pasture was sparse indeed.  These animals were only separated at night, as goats apparently need shelter.  Goats were also less submissive and meek; more often “on edge” than sheep are.  Goats even came to symbolize evil, and the expression “scapegoat” has become a common expression for someone who is made to take the blame for others. 

There is even an Old Testament passage eluding to this “scapegoat” expression, and of the ritual expulsion of the “sin-bearing” goat on the Jewish “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur):

When he has finished purging the inner sanctuary, the tent of meeting and the altar, Aaron shall bring forward the live goat.  Laying both hands on its head, he shall confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and their trespasses, including all their sins, and so put them on the goat’s head.  He shall then have it led into the wilderness by an attendant.  The goat will carry off all their iniquities to an isolated region.” (Leviticus 16:20-22)

Jesus is telling us that separation is an inevitable consequence of His judgment.  The Day of “Final Judgment” will reveal who showed true compassion and mercy toward their neighbor (the sheep), and those who have not (the goat).  

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At any banquet of Jesus’ time, the preferred place of honor was ALWAYS to the right of the host.  In today’s reading, the “sheep” will be placed in the place of honor at God’s heavenly banquet.  This expression of the “place of honor” can be seen throughout Holy Scripture, and medieval art.  In the famous painting of the last supper, Simon Peter was immediately to the right of Jesus.  St. Dismas, the good thief, is shown crucified to the right of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus’ throne in Heaven is to the right of God the Father:

“From this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:69)

This right hand “place of honor” is so important of a position that ONLY God the Father can grant such a place hold:

My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left [, this] is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:23)

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So, what are we to “DO” to gain entrance to His kingdom?  Jesus gives more than a hint in verse 35-36:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) 

The Church calls the actions that Jesus described in today’s Gospel the “Corporal Works of Mercy”.  These works are:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit those in prison
  7. Bury the dead

The “righteous” will be amazed to know that in caring for the needs of “sufferers”, they were actually ministering to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as well.  We have to remember the famous verse from Matthew 10:

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42).

 Jesus Christ is going even further in saying:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)

Not only are we to see Jesus in all who we meet, we also “DO” to Jesus whatever we “DO” to each and every person we see.  Hmm, what does that mean when you curse at someone, “flip the bird” at another, or do something immoral or inappropriate toward a neighbor, friend, or family member? (You know the answer!)

Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for others as a role we should endeavor in as faithful Catholics.  God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done, but also for what we have failed to do!! 

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Verse 41 of today’s reading has a scary and prophetic message for all of us, especially thegoats” among us.  I personally do not like the hot weather of St. Louis summers, so this image of a “fiery” hell truly scares me.  This image scared the Jewish people as well.  1 Enoch 10:13 (an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally attributed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah) says of the evil angels and their leader:

When their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is forever and ever is consummated.  In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined forever.  And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all.” (1 Enoch 10:12-14)

I highly recommend a book titled, “23 minutes in Hell”, written by Bill Wiese.  It is an extremely eye opening personal account of someone given the “grace” of being placed at the entrance to hell for a very short period.   Not an enjoyable “read”, but well worth the time.  It may literally scare “the hell” out of you!!

Is there an example of how to live this “doing” to others?  Well, when Saint Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier from the 4th century AD, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he did an unbelievable thing for that time period.  He stopped at the man, cut his coat in two, and gave half to the stranger.  That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak.  One of the angels asked Jesus, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?”  Jesus replied, “My servant ‘Martin’ gave it to me.”  Martin’s disciple and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, states that as a consequence of this vision, Martin “flew to be baptized”. 

 

In the chapters that follow, in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn the great and boundless extent to which Jesus Christ identifies with the least ones; to the point of giving up His life for the least among us.  In accepting a horrible and excruciating death on the cross, Jesus Christ shows Himself to be one of the hungry, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  To accept Jesus IS to accept Him – – who suffered and died on the Cross –as one of the least ones.

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To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that we will be judged on only one thing: one’s acts of mercy, which we have shown to the least among us.  Knowing the answers will not suffice; “DOING” the answers is all that counts!!  Jesus identifies with the least ones; thus we serve Him whenever we serve one of the least ones!!  In these actions, these “Corporal Works of Mercy”, we show God’s compassion and mercy to those “least one’s” in need of faith, hope, and love.

God’s boundless love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness.  When we do something for one of Christ’s least and marginalized ones, we do it for Christ Himself.  Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love – – as Jesus Christ has treated you?

Reread the list of the “Corporal Works of Mercy” mentioned earlier.  What are some concrete examples of how you might “DO” these actions in your community?  Why is it important that we “DO” these things, especially for others?  Why does Jesus say we ought to – – need to – – DO these works of mercy?  (The answer is simply because whenever we show mercy to another person, we are also showing mercy to Jesus himself.)  Choose one “Corporal Work of Mercy” to “DO” this week; then add to it each week.  Pray that you will always see, and always serve, Jesus Christ in the least and marginalized ones among us.

 

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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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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

The Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Edmund Rich (1175 – 1240)

 

Archbishop of Canterbury England, who battled for discipline and justice, also called Edmund of Abingdon.  Edmund was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on November 30, 1180.  He studied at Oxford, England, and also in Paris, France.  He taught art and mathematics at Oxford and was eventually ordained to the priesthood.  

He spent eight years teaching theology and became Canon and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral.  An eloquent speaker, Edmund preached a crusade for Pope Gregory IX and was named archbishop of Canterbury.  He became an advisor to King Henry III and presided in 1237 at Henry’s ratification of the Great Charter.  When Cardinal Olt became a papal legate with the patronage of King Henry, Edmund protested.  

A long-lasting feud between Edmund, the king, and his legate led him to resigning his See in 1240.  He went to Pontigny, France, where he became a Cistercian Priest.  He died at Soissons, on November 16, 1240.  Edmund was canonized in 1246 or 1247.  A hall in Oxford still bears his name.

Patron of: Abingdon, Oxfordshire; Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth; St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

Information from Wikipedia

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and His Message

 

If Saint Francis were writing a letter to your local SFO Fraternity, what do you think he would include in that letter? – Make a list.

Using this idea, can you make up a letter from Saint Francis to your Fraternity?

What inspiration(s) have you found in the letters of St. Francis?  (If you haven’t. you should.)

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

 

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

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

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

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

“I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12†


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Psalm
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, this week.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  I hope to see you all in Church.  This year, this past Wednesday, marks the 45th Anniversary of my father’s death.  I miss him, but know he (and my Mom) is (are) with me every single Eucharistic celebration.  In preparation for All Saints Day, let’s pray for greater courage in fighting abortion.

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Tomorrow night is Halloween.  Please be safe in all your Ghoulishly Christian endeavors.  If you have children that go “trick or treat”, please use the usual safety rules:

  1. 1.     Reflective material or flashing light or cyalume stick visible on all side placed on costume,
  2. 2.     Parent accompany the children on the haunt and haunting activities,
  3. 3.     Only go to homes where you know the occupants, and
  4. 4.     Inspect any treats prior to allowing children to have and/or consume.

Better yet, go to a party at yours or neighboring church (yet still follow the rules).

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Finally, The St. Louis Carinals are the Baseball World Champions.   There 11th World Champions in 2011 (“11 in 11”).  Besides the team, the fansare also the best.  The city is celebrating, people are hugging perfect strangers and NO rioting, breaking windows, or any other BAD behavior!  We have to be the greatest and classiest fans, not only in baseball, but in sports period!  Way to go Cardinals Nation, and way to go St.Louis Area for once again showing the world the proper and GREAT way to celebrate – –  with CLASS!  (thanks Jeff)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   701 – John VI of Greece begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   942 – Alberic nominates Pope Marinus II (Martinus III)
†   1270 – The Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis end by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis.
†   1389 – French king Charles VI visits pope Clemens VII
†   1534 – English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII head of the English church – a role formerly held by the Pope
†   1950 – Pope Pius XII witnesses “The Miracle of the Sun” while at the Vatican.
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Artemas; St. Herbert; St. Marcellus the Centurion; St. Saturninus; St. Serapion

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against following of the Scribes and the Pharisees example; and teaches that those who would be great must be servants as well.

 

(NAB Matthew 23:1-12) 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  4 They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  5All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’  8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  11The greatest among you must be your servant.  12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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 Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel continues to expand on the tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders.  Having finished a string of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus is now directing His words to the crowds following Him, warning them not to follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees in “saying” – – but not “doing”.

Today, Matthew’s begin a narrative in which Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees for their lack of humility. Matthew, in his writings, saw these Temple leaders as true enemies of Jesus (cf., Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; and Mark 8:11–13, 15).

Who were these men of “faith” that could be enemies of Jesus?  The Scribes and Pharisees were teachers of Mosaic Law.  They were entrusted with the laws interpretation, and thus were influential in determining everyday Jewish practices.  

In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing His teachings on the exact same laws and traditions offered to the Temple leaders, as found in the Old Testament, especially the Torah.  Both Jesus and the Temple leaders were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to adapt it to contemporary Jewish life of the time.  The differences between Jesus’ and the Temple leader’s teachings therefore, are often highlighted and amplified in Matthew’s Gospel.

While there is a well-seated and lengthy tradition of deep opposition existing between Jesus and the Temple leaders, today’s discourse by Jesus, exposes an opposition that goes far beyond that of Jesus’ ministry period on earth.  This opposition has to be viewed as expressing the long-held and very bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church, when this Gospel was composed.  Matthew’s Church is believed to have included many who did not believe a break with the Temple was necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ (My question: Was it?).  So, Matthew reports of Jesus stating that it is correct to “do” and “observe” what the Scribes and Pharisees teach; it is only their “example” that is to be avoided. Namely, Jesus is talking of the Temple leaders love for being honored and exalted (I call it the “look at me, I did much good” syndrome).  Therefore, today’s Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate that is occurring within the later first century Church and the Pharisaic Jewish church.

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The Temple leaders are sitting on their “laurels” – – their own personal glory – – and not sitting with God in mind and present among them.  So, is this what Jesus meant when He said:

The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:2)?  

It is not clear whether Jesus meant this is a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority, or, actually referring to a physical chair on which the “priest or Rabbi” sat as he taught and governed.  After all, there were found to be known seats such as this, in synagogues of later periods.  Did Jesus foretell future events in Jewish religion, was it just a coincidence, or was there another meaning?  

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at just this one observation, but continues to a greater phase in His comments that the Temple leaders do not walk the talk:

 “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Matthew 23:3)

Jesus is not doing away with Mosaic Law, but is instead expounding upon – – amplifying and fulfilling – – Mosaic Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophetsI have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Remember, during the “Beatitudes” narrative, Jesus declared the “was said … but I say …” statements (cf., Matthew 5:31-42).  He is now also DIRECTLY warning His disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees, by their examples, as He did when talking of John the Baptist as a “true” servant of God (cf., 14:1-12).

The Scribes and Pharisees indults and actions in observing Mosaic Law in all things cannot be taken as the PROPER way to conduct oneself, then, and now in Jesus’ Catholic Church on earth today.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by conformity to salvation history and Mosaic Law.  At the same time, He is also points – – and leads – – to a new “church” that would exist after His death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  During Jesus’ ministry, the beginning of God the Father’s kingdom on earth, His mission remained within the framework of Mosaic Law, though with a significant anticipation of the age to come.  Keeping this fact in mind, the crowds following Jesus Christ and His disciples were encouraged not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders whose deeds did not conform to their teachings.

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Carrying a heavy load is certainly not any fun or joy for ANYONE.  In verse 4 of today’s reading is the phrase, “They tie up heavy burdens”.  This particular phrase reminds me of Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom while submitting to the Church’s “yoke”.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instructionTake her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sirach 51:23, 26)

Jesus is reminding His follows that though burdened by the “law” as expanded on by the Scribes and Pharisees, that there is a undeniable hope in a faith and love to God the Father.  Those “burdened” can find rest in the “true” Word of God:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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To the indictment of the Temple leaders of preaching – – yet not practicing – – the “true” faith (verse 3), Jesus adds the indictment of “acting in order to earn praise”.  The disciples have already been warned against this same fault when Jesus taught about alms-giving, prayer, and fasting much earlier in His ministry (cf., Matthew 6:1-18).

Jesus is alluding to two specific aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses, for which many Catholics are not aware.  These two aspects, and two words associated with these aspects, are used in verse 5 of the Gospel.  Let me explain the items: “phylacteries” and “tassels”, and their proper use.

Phylacteries” are an item of clothing required by Mosaic Law during periods of prayer.  They are simple, small, and usually black boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture are written.  They are worn on the left forearm and on the forehead by black straps (cf., Exodus 13:9, 16; and Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).  If you watch people at the remains of the Temple wall (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), you will notice these small black boxes on their foreheads, and strapped (with long pieces of leather) around their left forearm, as they pray facing the wall.  These are the same phylacteries in use today, as in Jesus’ time.

The “Tassels” (officially called “Tzitzit”) are the “fringe” Mosaic Law prescribes to be worn on the corners of one’s garment (such as the prayer shawl) as a reminder to keep the commandments.  The widening of phylacteries (bigger boxes) and the lengthening of tassels (longer fringe and tassels) were solely for the purpose of making these “proofs of piety” more noticeable and pronounced.  (Humility in its finest; isn’t it!)

In their misguided zeal, the Temple leaders 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 rulers.  They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith – – a burden – – rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to “humbly serve”.

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It is obvious Jesus loved His Father and His faith.  Jesus Christ was not afraid to express His concerns about the way the Temple leaders were abusing their positions for personal gain.  Jesus did not “bow out” or “quit” out of frustration.  Instead, Jesus Christ brought His Catholic (universal) Church into union with God His Father, and gave all that believed (and still believes) in Him the possibility of eternity salvation in paradise.  

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues actually leads to increased greed and separation from God the Father.  Another Evangelist, Mark, in his Gospel, even warns of greed and arrogance:

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)

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We now get to the second portion of Jesus’ discourse today: the warning against using various titles.  This section however, is addressed to the disciples alone, and not to the followers coming along for the ride, or the Temple leaders.  

Everybody loves a title.  I once had a title: “Director of Quality Assurance”, which meant I was reportedly in charge of a very important aspect of my company.  In reality, my jobs consisted mainly of filing papers, and counting various variables, in an office BY MYSELF (and with no staff).  (Not as glamorous as the job sounded on my business card.)

Temple leaders loved the name, “Rabbi”, meaning “my great one, or, teacher”.  It was (and still is) a title of respect for teachers and leaders.  Jesus was called “Rabbi” many times in Holy Scripture.  At age fifteen, He was even found teaching in the Temple (the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).  A large part of His earthly ministry involved being in or around the Temple frequently.  He was easily recognized as the leader of a group of people associated with the Jewish religion.

So, was Jesus against calling anyone “rabbi” or “father”?  Or, was He just directing this sharp rebuke solely to the Scribes and Pharisees? Well, I believe He was warning both His disciples and the Temple leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors in order to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others.  Holy Scripture gives more than enough warning about the danger of self-seeking “pride”.  Examples can be found in the books of Proverbs and James:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) 

And,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6),

While only the title ‘Rabbi’ is used in addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, I believe the inference is that “Father” and “Master” was also used.  The prohibition of these titles – – to Jesus’ disciples – – highly suggests that the use of these titles was present in Matthew’s first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  Per Matthew, Is Jesus forbidding the “title” or the spirit of superiority and pride shown by their acceptance (or both)?

Saint Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD), and the bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin language, comments on Matthew’s Gospel reading:

Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity.  For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives.  One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher.  I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption.  Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

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Humility is the key to piety and love of the Trinitarian God.  The Evangelist, Luke, says of humility:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Our Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme example of how to live a humble life.  The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order states:

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently (#9),

And,

Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly.  Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs.  Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power (11).

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 In Summary, the warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the future Catholic communities as well as the Jewish leaders of His day.  Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us LOUDLY today (Yet, cannot, or will not, be heard by many).  Catholic Christian leadership is a call to “service” for the glory of God!!  Like Jesus Christ, and His Virginal Mother, those who would be leaders among us must be “servants of ALL”.

St. Paul described “servant leadership” in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He recalled their “sharing”, their humility in serving the Church, and their “toil and drudgery”:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.  You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Although the challenging words of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel was directly addressed to religious leaders of His time, many voices today should still question those in positions of political and economic power.  In their own words, participants in the “Occupy Together” movement have accused individuals, groups, and businesses of greed, arrogance and corruption.  Yet, they don’t (are won’t) see the greed, arrogance, and lawlessness on their own part.  For me, most in both groups: the US Government and in the group of “wildly greedy individuals” are equal partners in greed, arrogance, and corruption.  Their actions of removing themselves from laws (by law and action) prove their lack of caring for the people they are suppose to “serve”.  Arrogance thrives in our halls of government, and in parks around the world (with the “Occupy” groups) today.

 

There is hope however.  Respect for God and His ways will dispose us to humility and simplicity of heart.  The word “disciple” means “one who listens in order to learn”.  Jesus shows us the way to God the Father, the sure and true way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness.  He showed us “the way” by lowering Himself as a servant for our sake:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

What is true Christ-like humility?  It is when humility is “lived” with a true self-knowledge; seeing Jesus’ Christ in each and every person we meet.  The humbled do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and the power of His love and saving grace.  True humility is a “servant-like” quality, enabling us to place our life in the service of God and neighbor. Do you have a joy for Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?  Are you following Jesus’ example of service to others – with Humility?

Our response to economic and political concerns, should be to “model” humble servant leadership, and seek the same from those in positions of extraordinary power.  Remember, November 8th (Election Day) is right around the corner.  So, practice what you peach!”  What does this mean to you?  Can you list some examples of people you know who “practice what they preach”?  In these people, what do you observe in them, and what do you admire about them?

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  How many of us have been tempted to say (or actually have said) this phrase to our children and co-workers (Yep, I have)?  Today’s Gospel resounds with Jesus’ reply, “Practice what you preach.”  People, who know us best, can identify the [many] inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we actually give – – so ask, if you aren’t afraid.  

Maybe the challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency a love, faith, and hope in the Catholic Christian “way of life” we wish to teach our loved ones.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus Christ talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith.  How might you better practice the Catholic faith you professed at your Baptism and Confirmation (and at every Mass).  TODAY, choose an “action” to take which shows your faith – – in action.  Pray together that your faith will be shown consistently in your actions AND words.  Remember, God opens doors and gives you what you need to “act” on His behalf, so use the gifts and talents God has given you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

“LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.  Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.  Amen.”  Psalm 131:1-3

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23.  Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor.  Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life.  He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home.  There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits.  He was not helped by his poor education.  He applied twice before being admitted.  For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca.  When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian.  Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617.  He is the patron saint of Majorca.

Comment:

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life.  But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant.  None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness.  Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks.  Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched.  May they find such a friend in us!

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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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

Why does Francis call us “Brothers and Sisters in Penance”?

Are we to really “hate” our bodies? (cf., Galations:5:13-21)

How much of Francis’ life was spent in penance and conversion?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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