Tag Archives: Abraham

“Freedom is NOT Free! It Comes With a Price, Responsibility, and a Great Reward!” – John 8:31-42†


 

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • 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:

 

 

This weekend is Palm Sunday.  We are approaching the climax of the preparatory Lenten Season.  Please remember to take your “old” palms back to your Church; they will be used to make ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday.  

Isn’t it remarkable that a simple item such as a leaf (palm) not only signifies the climax of Jesus power and authority over death for us, but is also used to signify the beginning of next year’s preparations leading up to eternal life.  How awesome.

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   799 – Death of Paul the Deacon, Italian monk and chronicler
†   1055 – Bishop Gebhard van Eichstattt named Pope Victor II
†   1111 – Pope Paschalis II crowns Roman catholic-German King Hendrik II
†   1204 – The Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople.
†   1250 – The Seventh Crusade is defeated in Egypt, Louis IX of France is captured.
†   1256 – The Grand Union of the Augustinian order formed when Pope Alexander IV issues a papal bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae.
†   1346 – Pope Clemens VI declares German emperor Louis of Bavaria, envoy
†   1506 – Birth of Peter Faber, French Jesuit theologian (d. 1546)
†   1556 – Portuguese Marranos who revert back to Judaism burned by order of Pope
†   1570 – Birth of Guy Fawkes, English Catholic conspirator during the “Eighty Years War” (d. 1606)
†   1742 – George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah makes its world-premiere in Dublin, Ireland.
†   1829 – The British Parliament grants freedom of religion to Roman
Catholics.
†   1943 – Catholic University Nijegen closes
†   1986 – Pope John Paul II met Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff at Rome synagogue
†   Feasts/Memorials: The Feast Day of St. Martin the Confessor in the Greek Orthodox Church; Saint Martinus I;  Saint Hermenegild; Caradoc; Carpus; Maximus; Blessed Ida of Boulogne

(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:

 

“The cause of Freedom is the cause of God!” ~ William Lisle Bowles, Edmund Burke

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ teaching on freedom as found in John’s Gospel.

  

 

 (NAB John 8:31-42) 31 Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  35 A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  36 So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.  37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham.  But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.  38 I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”  39 They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”  Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.  40 But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this.  41 You are doing the works of your father!” (So) they said to him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.”  42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

 

 

When the word “freedom” is thrown about in conversations nowadays it appears to be meant as a “freedom to do as I please regardless of others wants, needs, or feelings”!!  This concept [and misrepresentation] of “freedom” is simply a pretense, a sham, for being a slave to one’s desires, passions, unruly behaviors, and inappropriate words.  It demonstrates, encourages, and strengthens the true power of sin in this world. 

Jesus offers His disciples a “true” freedom – – a freedom from the slavery of fear emitting from oneself and others, the slavery of selfishness in one’s own actions, and the freedom from hurtful and immoral desires, passions, and behaviors coming through the power of sin.

 

The Jewish people’s genealogical and religious origin, which includes Jesus’, is nearly always stated as beginning “before Abraham“.  As their destiny developed over many millennia in both religious and societal aspects, God the Father’s “truth”, coming through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, will free them from sin and death.

Jesus answered them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.’” (John 8:34);

And,

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (John 8:51)

 

A glaring and potent editorial-type sermon was offered for those who truly followed and recognized Jesus as the “Messiah”, standing there among the vast number of Temple leaders and other Jews who did not recognize His divinity, as He talked to the “Jews who believed in Him”.  Evidence of this split in beliefs and identity in Jerusalem-based Judaic society can be found a few verses later, when non-believing Jews are described as plotting to kill Jesus.

I know that you are descendants of Abraham.  But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.”  John 8:37

 

Jesus Christ is asking much more from His followers than a “shallow” faith.  His disciples needed (and still need) a “true” faith, trust, and love in God’s word and promises.  God the Father’s words and actions ought to permeate one’s whole life and lifestyle.  Only this type of strong faith can bring one to know the “truth” and to become truly free.

The knowledge of truth is not just an “intellectual” knowledge of an academic and scholarly approach.  Knowledge of truth is more accurately defined as maturing in one’s soul; of one’s original mustard-seed size faith and trust found in “divine revelation”.  Revelation’s climax is found in Jesus Christ’s teachings; it constitutes an authentic, legitimate, and indisputable communication of supernatural life.  Earlier in John’s Gospel, the Evangelist writes:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).

Knowing His “truth” truly knows Jesus Christ, Himself, in an intimate and personal way.  God became man solely to save us!!  “Revelation” is simply realizing that the “inaccessible” God the Father became man; became our Friend; and became our Life in and through Him.  (That’s pretty heavy and deep!)

 

God’s “truth” is the only knowledge which really sets us free.  Knowledge of His truth, – – His word, – – removes us from a position of separation, estrangement, and isolation from the Holy Trinity.  His truth removes us from a state of sin, a state of slavery to Satan, and a state of attachment to a fallen nature.  His truth puts us on the path of friendship, companionship, and intimacy with God and His graces.

In regards to today’s reading, truth is liberating.  Liberation is a true grace, empowering us to keep on the path despite our individual and sin-prone limitations and obstructions.  Liberation, for the purpose of today’s reading, means one’s “inner” transformation, – – conversion – – which is a consequence of knowing God’s truth. This transformation, this conversion, is a spiritual process in which one matures “in true righteousness and holiness”:

Put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”   (Ephesians 4:24). 

As a Secular Franciscan, I have come to realize that we need to seek this “conversion”, this liberation, this freedom in the “truth” on a daily basis.

 

I believe Jesus greets all people, – – friend and foe, – – with the same words as He spoke in verse 33:

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:33)

These words contain both an essential requirement of faith and a stern warning. It requires an honest relationship, in and of, truth, as a condition for authentic and genuine freedom.  We need to also avoid every type of false, deceptive, and misleading freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, and every freedom that fails to enter into the whole “truth” about man and the world.

 

A verse from Today’s reading was made popular in the 1960’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

The truth will set you free.” (John 8:33)

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote on this particular verse and concept of Christianity:

How great a truth is this, which opens the way to freedom and gives it meaning throughout our lives. I will sum it up for you, with the joy and certainty which flow from knowing there is a close relationship between God and his creatures. It is the knowledge that we have come from the hands of God, that the Blessed Trinity looks upon us with predilection, that we are children of so wonderful a Father.  I ask my Lord to help us decide to take this truth to heart, to dwell upon it day by day; only then will we be acting as free men. Do not forget: anyone who does not realise that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love Our Lord above all else.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 26)

 

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I see an ironic humor in the Jewish peoples answer to Jesus when they said:

We “have never been enslaved to anyone (John 8:33)

Historically, the Jewish people were enslaved almost continuously!  First, they were taken into captive by the Egyptians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians, and ending with the Romans in this story’s era of first century AD Palestine.  I wonder if John is purposely posing a comparison about slavery to sin  and freedom in this particular encounter and event.  (I believe he is.)

The Jewish people present near Jesus Christ during this teaching think He is referring to a political bondage and/or “outside” rule when mentioning being “set free.” In fact, we know that historically they had experienced loss of “freedom” many times, yet they never accepted defeat.  As God’s “chosen people”, they regarded themselves as automatically free of the moral errors and aberrations believed to be ingrained into the “Gentile” peoples and nations.

 

Jesus answers the question posed to Him:

How can you say, ‘You will become free?” (John 8:34),

by telling them:

A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains” (John 8:35)

I believe Jesus is hinting [quite overtly] to the stories about Abraham’s two sons: Ishmael and Isaac (cf., Genesis 16; 21).  Ishmael is born of a slave woman, and given no part in Abraham’s inheritance.  Isaac, a son of a free woman, would be the heir to God’s promises.   Jesus’ answer also referred to the Mosaic Law requiring release of one’s slave after six years, described in the Torah (Old Testament):

When you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall be given his freedom without cost.” (Exodus 21:2);

And,

“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, sells himself to you, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year you shall dismiss him from your service, a free man.” (Deuteronomy 15:12).

 

The Jewish people thought true freedom came with simply belonging to the “chosen” people of God Almighty.  Jesus Christ retorted that it is not enough to simply belong to the genealogical line of Abraham.  True freedom actually consists in not being slaves of sin.  Sadly, most of the Jews present in today’s reading did not understand the redemptive work Jesus Christ was (and is) doing, and which will reach its climax in His death on that Holy Tree of Redemption and His Resurrection.

A human and physical descent from Abraham is NOT enough for inheriting God the Father’s promises and for attaining salvation.  To inherit Gods promises, to attain salvation with and from God the Father, one must identify with Jesus Christ, the “true” and “Only Begotten Son of God the Father”; the only “One” who can make us sons and daughters of God, and thereby bring us to “true” freedom and paradise.  To inherit God the Father’s promises and to attain salvation, one must identify with Jesus Christ through one’s faith and character.

 

 “Freedom finds its true meaning when it is put to the service of the truth which redeems, when it is spent in seeking God’s infinite Love which liberates us from all forms of slavery.  Each passing day increases my yearning to proclaim to the four winds this inexhaustible treasure that belongs to Christianity: ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God!’

Where does our freedom come from? It comes from Christ Our Lord.  This is the freedom with which he has ransomed us.  That is why he teaches, ‘if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’.  We Christians do not have to ask anyone to tell us the true meaning of this gift, because the only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom.(St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 27, 35)

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Jesus Christ’s inquisitors in this story are spiritually very far away from being “true” children of Abraham.  They did not rejoice in Jesus’ presence.  Abraham rejoiced to see the “Messiah”:

“Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56).

Through Abraham’s faith, he understood “righteousness”:

“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3).

And, Abraham’s faith led him to act without any doubt whatsoever, attaining the “joy” of eternal blessedness:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11);

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’” (Luke 16:24);

And

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.  Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  (James 2:21-24).

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In verse 38, Jesus refers to “the Father” twice.  We know that He is talking about God the Father (and not the “God Father”). However, I believe the second part of the same verse, “do what you have heard from the Father” is an ironic, cynical, and sarcastic reference to a heredity of the Jews from the devil.  Another way of saying this particular verse can be more easily understood as, “You do what you have heard from [your] father.”  Jesus’ words are made clear two verses further, verse 44:

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).

 

Those who live by faith are the “true” sons and daughters of Abraham.  Like him, they will be blessed by God the Father:

“Realize then that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham.  Scripture, which saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, ‘Through you shall all the nations be blessed.’ Consequently, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)

In fact, the very people who are arguing with Jesus Christ have not only rejected His – – God’s – – teachings, their very actions indicate they have a radically different relationship to “God” than that of Abraham.  These people, who are arguing and plotting against Jesus Christ, have a false relationship which is instead actually to Satan.

Here is some “food for thought”:  the false security and twisted belief in Mosaic Law which these Jewish people believed in being descended from Abraham as an “automatic” inclusion in God’s kingdom has a parallel.  The Christian who is comfortable, content, and satisfied with being baptized and then observing very few religious observances (“C&E” Catholics – meaning Christmas and Easter).  Christians not being observant to Church requirements are not living up to a faith, love, and trust God wants from all His followers. 

(I realize I am probably preaching to the “choir” in talking about my frustrations in the lack of observances from many “Catholics” within the Catholic Church.  However, I felt a need to write this.  So please send this reflection blog to all your friends, and enemies, especially those not in communion with the Catholic Church.)

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What are the “works” Jesus attaches to Abraham in verse 39?  We [should] know Abraham was declared by God to be the father of all the “chosen” people in the Old Covenant kingdom.  Paul says that in this New Covenant, with the coming of Jesus Christ, Abraham’s fatherhood – – his family lineage – – has now extended to those who believe, yet are not “circumcised”, the Gentile Christian Catholics who follow the same path of faith as Abraham.  An excellent resource for this explanation can be found in Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome (Book of Romans) written sometime between the years 56-58 AD, and the Book of James written by an unknown person between the years 90-100 AD:

And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal on the righteousness received through faith while he was uncircumcised.  Thus he was to be the father of all the uncircumcised who believe, so that to them (also) righteousness might be credited, as well as the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised, but also follow the path of faith that our father Abraham walked while still uncircumcised.  It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith.  For if those who adhere to the law are the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.  For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you father of many nations.’  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist.” (Romans 4:11-17);

And,

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.  Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’” (James 2:21-23).

 

The attitude of these Jewish questioners of Jesus Christ was in direct opposition and contradiction of their claim to be children of God.  Otherwise, they would have accepted Jesus Christ as the “One” sent by God the Father.  In rejecting the Only-begotten Son, they became supporters, sons and daughters of God’s enemy: Satan. 

We must be careful, and we must always remember that Satan opposes our Lord Jesus Christ in all ways, and for all time.  Satan is the “father of lies” who seduced our first parents, Adam and Eve.  He is hungry for your soul solely so God can be deprived.  He is still, to this day, continuing to deceive any and all those who yield – – even in the slightest degree – – to his temptations.

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Jesus Christ set us free from the power of sin with His Coming, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  Through, with, and in the power of His Holy Spirit, indwelling within us, we can walk in His path of trust, love, and sweet holiness.  If we would only listen to the words of Jesus with a humble, contrite, and teachable inner attitude, heart, and soul, He will give us the grace and the power to follow in His example on our personal and unique path to holiness – – to paradise.    Ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to open your ears to His word that you may be attentive to the Holy Trinities influence and divine power.

Jesus Christ came to proclaim, and to accomplish the “will of His Father”, God.  Jesus was not spared from the Holy Tree of Redemption (and Salvation) which He lovingly embraced with a pure love and willing attitude, solely for OUR benefit!  His absolute surrender and obedience to His Father is in response, and as a payment, solely to release all of us from Adam and Eve’s disobedience.  

 

God the Father crowned Jesus with the crown of victory over sin, death, and Satan’s power.  With a crown of thorns as His symbol of kingship, Jesus shows us the way to a true freedom in openly surrendering our heart, mind, soul, and free-will to a magnificent, all-powerful, merciful, and loving God.  What God the Father offers us is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, in this world and the next.  Holy Scripture promises such an offering:

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

Why do some “believers” NOT want to delight in the warmth and pure love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Trinity experiences a profound “joy” when seeing OUR pleasure and delight in doing God’s will with obedience, a proper spirit, and out of pure love for God and for others of His creation.  Offer yourself to Him daily in what you do and say.  The reward is too great, even for the greatest among us.  

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A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

 

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.

Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.

Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.

Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life. Amen.”

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

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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 “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, “I have greatly sinned” and later adds “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

 

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Martin I (d. 655)

 

When Martin I became pope in 649, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influential Church leader in the eastern Christian world.  The struggles that existed within the Church at that time were magnified by the close cooperation of emperor and patriarch.

A teaching, strongly supported in the East, held that Christ had no human will.  Twice emperors had officially favored this position, Heraclius by publishing a formula of faith and Constans II by silencing the issue of one or two wills in Christ.

Shortly after assuming the office of the papacy (which he did without first being confirmed by the emperor), Martin held a council at the Lateran in which the imperial documents were censured, and in which the patriarch of Constantinople and two of his predecessors were condemned.  Constans II, in response, tried first to turn bishops and people against the pope.

Failing in this and in an attempt to kill the pope, the emperor sent troops to Rome to seize Martin and to bring him back to Constantinople.  Martin, already in poor health, offered no resistance, returned with the exarch Calliopas and was then submitted to various imprisonments, tortures and hardships.  Although condemned to death and with some of the torture imposed already carried out, Martin was saved from execution by the pleas of a repentant Paul, patriarch of Constantinople, who was himself gravely ill.

Martin died shortly thereafter, tortures and cruel treatment having taken their toll.  He is the last of the early popes to be venerated as a martyr.

Comment:

The real significance of the word martyr comes not from the dying but from the witnessing, which the word means in its derivation.  People who are willing to give up everything, their most precious possessions, their very lives, put a supreme value on the cause or belief for which they sacrifice.  Martyrdom, dying for the faith, is an incidental extreme to which some have had to go to manifest their belief in Christ.  A living faith, a life that exemplifies Christ’s teaching throughout, and that in spite of difficulties, is required of all Christians.  Martin might have cut corners as a way of easing his lot, to make some accommodations with the civil rulers.

Quote:

The breviary of the Orthodox Church pays tribute to Martin: “Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith…sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error…true reprover of heresy…foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion….  Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”

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:

 

Resurrection

 

How does the Mass (and Baptism?) prepare us for death, & for resurrection?

In facing the trials of pain, cancer, and other diseases, it is a natural question that arises in serious illness: “Why me?”  How would (or do) you answer this question?

Ending of the Creed is, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body”.  Do you really believe this, and prepare for it?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

 

 

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

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

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

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♫“Mary, Did You Know …?♫ Heck Yes, She Knew! – – Kinda!!” – Luke 1:46-56†


 

Two Days till CHRIST@mas.  I pray all have a blessed and specially unique day of joy and celebration.

 

 

 

 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice, sometimes known as “Yule”, occurs on or very close to this date. In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around this time.

  

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   401 – St Innocent I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   795 – Leo III succeeds pope Adrianus I
†  1216 – Pope Honorius III delegates degree “Religiosam vitam eligentibus” announcing the Fifth Crusade.
†   1642 – Pope Urbanus VIII publishes degree “In eminente”
†   1419 – Death of John XXIII, [Baldassare Cossa], Italian Antipope (1410-15)
†   1815 – Spaniards execute Mexican revolutionary priest Jose Maria Morelos at San Cristóbal Ecatepec, State of México
†   1885 – Pope Leo XIII proclaims extraordinary jubilee
†   1945 – Utrecht (Netherlands): Catholic People’s party (KVP) established
†   1917 – Death of Mother Cabrini, first American citizen canonized by the Catholic Church (b. 1850)
†   1917 – Death Francesca Saveria Cabrini, US saint/patron of immigrant, at 67 years of age
†   1997 – Attendees at a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists for indigenous causes in the small village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas are massacred by paramilitary forces.
†   Feasts/Memorials: commemoration of Frances Xavier Cabrini; O Rex; Anastasia of Sirmium

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

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision is transformational, demanding change and conversion in its adherents, following the example of Saints Francis and Clare.

 

“A favorite saying of St. Francis was, ‘Let us begin for up till now we have done nothing.’  Francis saw his entire life as a continuing conversion into the vision of God, whom he saw as a loving parent.  Francis saw his life as a continuous conversion from sin to a life lived in gratitude for God’s love.  Many described the conversion of Clare from ‘the good to the better.’  The Franciscan life today remains one of on-going conversion.  There is always an unfinished quality to this conversion until we enter into the Reign of God.”

He gleamed like a shining star in the darkness of night and like the morning spread over the darkness.  Thus, in a short time, the appearance of the entire region was changed and, once rid of its earlier ugliness; it revealed a happier expression everywhere.” – Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 37

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A little boy was listening to a long and excessively boring sermon in church. Suddenly, the red sanctuary lamp caught his eye.  Tugging his father’s sleeve, he said, “Daddy, when the light turns green can we go?”

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the “Canticle of Mary”.

 

46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:46-56)

 

Today’s reading reveals the presence and powers of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s, Elizabeth’s, John the Baptist’s, and even Hannah’s lives.  The circumstances leading to the birth of Jesus Christ miraculously unfurls before us during this and every Advent/Christmas Season.  We discover the prophecies, promises, hopes, songs, and prayers of the Old Testament truly being fulfilled in the “New” simply because:

God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (John 3:16).

Filled with the Holy Spirit, when Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another they were also filled with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise.  They are filled with the Holy Spirit bringing forth a “Messiah” through the virginal conception of Mary, in order to bring forth a “Savior” for all mankind!

Yet to be born himself, John the Baptist pointed to the revelation of the “Messiah’s” coming by “leaping for joy” in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (A true kick of faith).  The Holy Spirit revealed to John (while still in the womb himself) the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary.

Mary is admired, honored, and praised by Christians throughout the world for being the mother of the Lord (the Theotokos: the God-Bearer) in addition to her profound, unrelenting and uncompromising faith, obedience, and belief in our almighty God.  She acted with unwavering focus, trust, and faith because she believed and trusted that God would fulfill the word he had spoken.

In today’s Gospel reading, Mary responds as the servant in this psalm of praise directed from her – to the world, and universally titled – “the Magnificat”.  The Magnificat is said every day during the evening prayers of the Divine Office by priests, consecrated religious, and other faithful Catholics. 

Mary “dedicated” her Son to the service of God, which ultimately would lead Jesus to the “Holy Tree” of salvation for all of us.

 

There is actually no proof, no specific correlation of this canticle – (a song, chant, or hymn containing words derived from the Bible, used in the Christian liturgy) – to the circumstance of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth other than in Luke’s Gospel.  In reality, the Magnificat (excluding verse 48: “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”) may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn or poem that Luke found appropriate for this part in his infancy narrative.

However, even if it was not composed by Luke, it definitely fits in with his other themes found throughout his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and prophesies.  

 

Several “barren” women in Holy Scripture – – including Elizabeth, Hannah, (and the teenage Mary) – – became pregnant and gave birth to healthy children via God’s intervention.  They all rejoiced that God had chosen them – the humble and austere as a source of new life. 

Mary’s great canticle of praise repeats – in essence and fact – the “Song of Hannah” from the Old Testament (and the “Hannah” of today’s first reading at Mass):

“And as she worshiped the LORD, she said: “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in my God.  I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory.  There is no Holy One like the LORD; there in no Rock like our God.  “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.  For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds.   The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering girds on strength.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil.  The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.   “The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts.  He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.  He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just.  “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them.  He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness.  For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered.  The Most High in heaven thunders; the LORD Judges the ends of the earth, now may he gives strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!”  (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

The “Song of Hannah” strongly proclaims and extols the goodwill of the Lord.  God pays tribute to the lowly, fills the hungry, and guards the faithful.  Like Mary and Elizabeth, Hannah was without child.  God gave her the grace of bearing a son she named Samuel.  Hannah also “dedicated” Samuel to the service of the Lord at any early age:

“Once he was weaned, she brought him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.”  (1 Sam. 1:24.) 

God can never be outdone in gratitude and generosity.  For her piety, reverence, and trust, He rewarded the “once-barren” Hannah with five (5) more children: three (3) more sons, and two (2) daughters. (1 Samuel 2:21)

As mentioned already, Mary also “dedicated” her son – – Jesus Christ – – to the service of God!  Just as Mary, Elizabeth, and Hannah had the honor of giving birth and dedicating their sons to God’s service, we have the honor of bearing Jesus (along with John and Samuel as part of the celestial court) in our hearts, minds, and souls.  In these last days of Advent, and still in the process of preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ, open your eyes, hearts, and souls to each other.  Let the light of Christ shine on each of us.

Like these great and beautiful women of the Bible, we should offer back to God the greatest gift He could ever give us.  Offer to Him the first fruits of our lives in and through the Holy Spirit by our words, deeds, and thoughts.  At Mass, bring your “best” to the Lord.  Bring your FULL attention, your love, and even your worries and concerns.  Offer it all to Him during the Offertory part of the Mass (along with your envelope).  As Vinny Flynn so elegantly writes in his book, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” (and as I am paraphrasing here), see God and the entire celestial court receiving your gifts and concerns with open arms, and even a warm smile and hug.  By doing this, you will receive even more blessings at communion.

 

A gift to all mankind, the Holy Spirit is God’s grace (in the third person of the Godhead) making possible for us to experience and know the infusing (and emanating) presence of God – – and the awesome power of His kingdom in heaven AND on earth.  The Holy Spirit is the way in which God lives eternally in and through each of us.

 

 

Prayer to the Holy Trinity

 

“Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.

Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.

Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.

Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever.  Amen”

http://catholic.org

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306)

 

Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi.  He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna.

His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband.  One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament.  She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed.  Vanna was killed.  Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness.  On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life.

He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order).  Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or “Crazy Jim,” by his former associates.  The name became dear to him.

After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor) (First Order).  Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused.  He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278.  He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest.  Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular.

Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans.  The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis.  They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V.  These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII.  At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned.  Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later.  He had accepted his imprisonment as penance.  He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping “because Love is not loved.”  During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.

On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near.  He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna.  Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed “Sister Death” with one of his favorite songs.  It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas.  From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.

Comment:

“Crazy Jim,” his contemporaries called Jacopone.  We might well echo their taunt, for what else can you say about a man who broke into song in the midst of all his troubles?  We still sing Jacopone’s saddest song, the Stabat Mater, but we Christians claim another song as our own, even when the daily headlines resound with discordant notes. Jacopone’s whole life rang our song out: “Alleluia!” May he inspire us to keep singing.

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)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 22 & 23 of 26:

 

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

 

 

 

 

23.     Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

 

 

 

 

“With Water, You CAN Catch On Fire!” – Matthew 3:1-12†


 

 

The Second Sunday of Advent

Twenty days till the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Let us all remember the “Reason for the Season.”
Please, Please, keep “CHRIST” in CHRIST-mas!!

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, the “Dr. Oz Show” will be about Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s)

 

Jeffrey Smith will be on the show to discuss the health dangers of genetically modified foods.  Also on the show will be Dr. Michael Hansen, a scientist from Consumers Union who has been an avid critic of GMOs for two decades, and Dr. Pamela Ronald, a pro-GMO scientist who has been proposing that organic foods include GMOs. This is a rare national coverage on this extremely important topic – that truly influences everyone.  GMOs will be discussed during the first 15 minute segment.

Show times for Missouri are below.  Please refer to your local directory for other areas:

Missouri: 

ST. LOUIS:  NBC 5 KSDK  11:00 AM
SPRINGFIELD: ABC 33 KSPR @ 3:00 PM
JOPLIN  FOX: 14 KFJX @ 5:00 PM
ST. JOSEPH: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM
KC AREA: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM; & IND 38 KMCI
COLUMBIA, MO  NBC 8 KOMU @ 1:00 PM and 12:00 PM

Thanks go to Gale Thackrey, who is the “Justice Ministry Coordinator” for the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in st. Louis Missouri. (www.fsmonline.org)

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

        
†   663 – Fourth Council of Toledo takes place.
†   749 – Death Saint John of Damascus, theologian
†   1301 – Pope Boniface VIII’s degree Ausculta fili (only nominee)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II (d. 1513)
†   1484 – Pope Innocent VIII issues the Summis desiderantes, a papal bull that deputizes Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany and leads to one of the severest witch hunts in European history.
†   1492 – Christopher Columbus, a Secular Franciscan, becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
†   1590 – Niccolo Sfondrati chosen Pope Gregory XIV
†   2008 – Death of Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church (b. 1929)
†   Feast Day: Saint Abercius

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Franciscans emphasize the dignity of the human person, especially in its social nature.

 

Although all creation is the “footprint of God,” the Franciscan tradition understands that human beings are also created in the very image and likeness of God. Humans represent in a special way God who is Trinity, and therefore we achieve our personal fulfillment in relationship to God and in community rather than in the isolation of individualism. 

“Her life was an instruction and a lesson to others: in this book of life some learned the rule of living, in this mirror of life others learned to behold the paths of life.”  Papal Decree of the Canonization of St. Clare

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist, the last prophet before Jesus Christ’s appearing in Judea; and his preaching of a message for repentance.

 

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2 (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”  4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6 and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.  9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  10 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  12 His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  (NAB Matthew 3:1-12)

 

This week’s Gospel (and next’s) bids all of us to think about John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus.  Today, Matthew describes the work and preaching of this “forerunner” to the Messiah, called “John the Baptist.”  Unlike Luke in his Gospel, Matthew does not impart on us any details of John the Baptist’s origins, and does not declare John as a relative of Jesus.  Matthew brings forward the sequence of Jesus’ ministry found in the Gospel of Mark with the preliminary preaching, teachings, and actions of “John the Baptist”.

John’s life was fueled by an intense, burning, and all-consuming passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.  John was led by the Holy Spirit into an austere life in the “wilderness” well before to his “ministry.”  The “desert of Judea” was (and still is) a barren area west of the Dead Sea extending up and into the Jordan valley.  As Jesus (John’s cousin) will be tested in the desert, John was also tested by Satan.  John matured in the “Law”, the “Word”, and the “Presence” of God in his life, and he completed the cycle of holy prophets begun by Elijah.   

John makes absolutely obvious and plainly clear that his relationship to the “Messiah yet to come” (Jesus) was one of service and submissiveness. This was made evident in his declaring that “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals”.   

Holy Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41).  When Mary visited Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb, filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).  The fire of the “Holy Spirit” lived and “burned brightly, intensely, and fully” in John the Baptist, and made him the prophesized “forerunner” of the coming Messiah as described in Isaiah 40:3:

“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

I have a problem with the translation of the above verse, which is not uncommon in using the “NAB” Catholic Bible for me recently.  In this instance, I have chosen to go back to the origin Greek.  The Interlinear Greek Bible actually translates Isaiah 40:3 directly as:

utoV  gar  FOR THIS estin IS o HE WHO rhqeiV WAS SPOKEN upo BY hsaiou ISAIAH tou THE profhtou PROPHET legontoV SAYING fwnh THE VOICE bowntoV OF ONE CRYING en IN th THE erhmw WILDERNESS etoimasate PREPARE thn THE odon WAY kuriou OF THE LORD euqeiaV STRAIGHT poieite  taV MAKE tribouV  autou HIS PATHS taV MAKE tribouV WITH PATHS tou THE qeou OF GOD hmwn US.” 

(The bold is not Greek.  Apparently, it does not convert from word to WordPress.)

(Pretty cool and poetic though, isn’t it!!  The original Greek gives me a whole new meaning.  I love learning new “old” thinks.)

John the Baptist’s preaching is not meant to be a type of “finger-pointing” ultimatum, in an attempt to “scare” the “unholy hell” out of us.  He is simply calling for a change of heart and behavior through repentance.  John preaches of a turning from a life of rebellion to one of absolute and complete obedience to God.  He characterizes the conversion of those – – who sought him out in that enormous barren desert of Judea, – – with a “baptism” of repentance.  John’s baptism should be understood by us as a belief, hope, and anticipation of baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In today’s Gospel, John himself even alludes to the difference between his baptism and the “one yet to come” in saying:

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who scolded the Jewish people for their lack of faith.  Living among a “proud” people who seemed to be unconcerned with the “things of God” (secularization), it was John’s mission to awaken them, unsettle them, and arouse in them enough willingness to recognize and receive the “Messiah” when He arrived!   

John declares that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  For John, this word “heaven,” was a proxy for the name of “God”, a name always avoided (still even today) by devout Jews out of reverence and respect.  Interestingly, the expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew, and points to the actual and authentic power and reign of God over His people.  

In its fullness and completeness, the “kingdom of heaven” not only includes one’s obedience to God’s word but the joy and victory of God over earthly, human, and physical evils – – particularly over death of the body and soul.  John shared the Jewish belief that the “kingdom” was to be ushered in by a judgment from God, in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  Catholics have modified this belief somewhat, wherein the “kingdom” is seen as being established in a form or type of stages, ending with the Parousia (Second Coming) of Jesus.

John the Baptist was one of, and the last of, the great holy prophets of Israel.  He preached “repentance” of sins to the people of Israel.  The description of John’s being, spirituality, and presence found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the great prophet, Elijah.  The “hairy” garment of John was considered by the Jewish people as a sign of an ascetical (somebody who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts) and prophetic calling, similar to Elijah’s demeanor, physical being, and calling.  It recalls the austere garment of Elijah, as found in 2 Kings 1:8:

’Wearing a hairy garment,’ they replied, ‘with a leather girdle about his loins.’ ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.”

The belief, hope, and anticipation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare the Jewish people for the final manifestation of God’s “kingdom” was prevalent and well-known among John’s audience,the first century Jewish people.  According to Matthew, this expectation was fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry.  In Matthew 11:14, it is written:

And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” 

Also, in Matthew 17:11-13, it goes on to say:

He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’  Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

“Ritual washing” was practiced by various groups in Palestine for at least 400 years (around 150 B.C. to 250 A.D.).  John’s acts of baptism very well may have been related to the purifying washings of the ascetic Jewish community called the “Essenes” who lived in an area called “Qumran” (about a mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea).

The “Pharisees and Sadducees” that John the Baptist saw and talked to were Jewish temple leaders, who also had responsibilities outside the religious aspects of their jobs, giving them responsibilities very similar to our present day political leaders in their society.  The Pharisees were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral.  Most scholars believe that another group called the “Scribes”, who were considered the experts in the Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this “party” of Temple leaders.  

The Sadducees were a priestly “aristocratic” party, well entrenched in Jerusalem.  This group or party only accepted as “Scripture” the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch).  The Sadducees followed the “letter of the law”, and rejected any oral traditions (the main way of teaching the Jewish and historical faith).  Most interesting for me is that they were defiantly opposed to any teachings NOT found in the Torah such as “resurrection of the dead.”  For me, no hope in a resurrection definitely would make one “Sad-You-See!”

Matthew links all three of these religious/political groups together as “enemies” of Jesus.  The threatening words of John in verses 7 through 12 are addressed to these Temple Leaders who were present, rather than to “the crowds” as is found and reported in Luke 3:7.  “The coming wrath,” that John is declaring in verse 7, is the “final judgment” that will bring about the eternal destruction for non-repentant and non-remorseful sinners. 

So, go to confession, and go often.  It’s an awesome experience!  Every time we turn to God in reconciliation, He RUNS to us, and allows us to see a small glimpse of heaven – His kingdom – thus filling us completely with hope and joy.

Fire in the Bible, is regularly connected with God, with His acts in the world, and in the lives of His people.  God manifested His actual presence with the use of fire, such as with the non-consuming “burning bush” when God spoke to Moses, as written in Exodus 3:2.  The image of fire is also used to symbolize God’s glory in Ezekiel 1:4 and 1:13, His protective presence in 2 Kings 6:17, His holiness in Deuteronomy 4:24, His righteous judgment in Zechariah 13:9, and even His wrath against sin as in Isaiah 66:15-16. 

The baptism via water from John was be followed by a washing away of the persons sins via a cleansing power of the Holy Spirit of God.  Some believers of that period saw the Holy Spirit and fire as synonymous.  Jesus was said to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.   The first Catholic communities believed the “Holy Spirit and fire” was to be understood, in actuality, in the context of what happened at Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:1-4:

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim

In John the Baptist’s preaching though, the “Spirit and fire” was in regards to their purifying and refining characteristics as found in Old Testament books of Ezekiel 36:25-27 and  Malachi 3:2-3.

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”

and

“But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Our baptism in Jesus Christ, “by water and Spirit”, results in a new birth and entry into God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (see John 3:5).  Do you want to experience that feeling of being on fire for God?   Do you want to be on fire for God and for the return of the Lord Jesus when he comes in His magnificence and glory?  Hell Yes!! (Wait; actually it should be “Hell NO!! – I think.  Hey, you know what I mean.)

The judgment between the “good” and “bad” is compared to a procedure in which a farmer separates wheat and chaff.  The “winnowing fan” was a farming tool, a forklike shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, which was blown clear by the wind, was then gathered and burned up.  My sons do the same activity every fall with our brightly colored and browned fallen leaves, but only after I have meticulously created neat and tidy piles in preparation of picking them up.

Today’s Gospel will be followed next Sunday by Jesus’ baptism celebrated and witnessed by this Holy prophet, John; an event that is attested to in ALL of the Gospels, and acknowledged by all as the start of Jesus’ “public ministry.”  

God wants to do much more than pardoning our sins.  He wants to open up heaven and give us His unrelenting love, healing, and peace.  John’s preaching of the “coming of the Lord” is an essential theme for the Advent season.  John’s message prepared the way for Jesus in the early first century.  Today, we are also “called” to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We must respond in repenting our iniquities, and in re-forming our lives into the mold of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are also called “to be prophets of Christ”, loudly and publically announcing the coming of the Lord.

It seems that “Messianic” prophesies are never vague in nature.  They always point to a hope that can be fulfilled in the human heart and soul.  Wars, terrorism, poverty, and useless death through the pitiful actions of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty smothers hope.  As Catholics, our hope is for peace, healing, and generosity in ourselves, and in others.  In essence, – what we pray for, we must also work for!  For me, this is exactly how we must approach preparing for the “advent” of our personal and intimate relationship with God in His “kingdom”!

We do an enormous amount of chores in order to get ourselves ready for the “secular” Christmas.  We purchase gifts, prepare Christmas cards, decorate our homes, and so on.  John the Baptist’s call for repentance in preparation for Jesus’ Parousia, should remind us that “our repentance” is another essential way to prepare for the “Lord’s coming” and our celebration of the Actual and True Christmas experience.  

Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and speak?

Parish communities usually offer a “communal” celebration of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” during the Advent season.  Participate in this communal celebration – – it is such a beautiful Sacrament.  If you cannot attend a communal celebration, please seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation on an individual basis.

 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.  I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.  Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.  In his name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Sabas (b. 439)

 

Born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery. While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue.

At age 18 he traveled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer. At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labor in the form of weaving baskets. Following the death of his mentor, St. Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.

Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first he refused. But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year —consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

Over the years Sabas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church. At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression. He fell ill and, soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba. Today the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and St. Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Comment:

Few of us share Sabas’s yearning for a cave in the desert, but most of us sometimes resent the demands others place on our time. Sabas understands that. When at last he gained the solitude for which he yearned, a community immediately began to gather around him and he was forced into a leadership role. He stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others—that is, for all of 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)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 5 & 6 of 26:

 

5.     Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

“Having No Belief In Resurrection Is So SAD-U-CEE!” – Luke 20:27-38†


 

Good Morning People of Christ.  Is everyone refreshed from their EXTRA hour of sleep today?  You know God has a sense of humor:  We will find this out next spring when we LOSE that hour of sleep.

 

 

 

Today is the first Sunday of the Month, and the day of my Secular Franciscan Fraternity to meet in prayer and mirth.  I so love being in the Secular Franciscans.  St. Francis and St. Clare were so down to earth, and humble, that it is hard to even come close to their holiness towards God and His earthly creations.  I pray everyone has a great day.  Pax et Bonum.

 

Today in Catholic History:

       
†   1225 – Death of Engelbert II of Berg, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1550 – Jon Arason (b. 1484), the last Roman Catholic bishop of Iceland prior to the reformation, is beheaded in Skalholt with his two sons Are and Bjorn.
†   Feast Days: Saint Willibrord; Prosdocimus; Herculanus of Perugia; Vicente Liem de la Paz

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Teachers are those who use themselves as bridges, over which they invite their students to cross; then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own. — Nikos Kazantzakis

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus answering a question about the resurrection of the dead directed to Him from some Sadducees.  Jesus teaches that His Father is the God who gives and sustains life beyond the grave.

 

27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’  29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless.  30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless.  32 Finally the woman also died.  33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”  34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  (NAB Luke 20:27-38)

 

The Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading are shown as opponents to a belief in resurrection.  In the dialogue between Jesus and the Sadducees, we witness a method of dispute used toward Jesus and His teachings that was common during His time of ministry.  This method was an attempt to trap Jesus with clear reasoning based on scriptures and its interpretations. 

Most Catholics know very little about the three different types of Temple leaders of Jesus’ time: the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees.  The Pharisees believed in divine origin of the scriptures called the “Torah.”  They also believed in the oral tradition received from Moses, Joshua, and the Elders.  Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. 

The Scribes were a Temple faction believed to be the “experts” in Mosaic Law and were responsible for copying the sacred texts and the variety of interpretations of these Laws.  In doing so, the Scribes developed volumes of regulations, traditions, and rituals, thus making a true devotion to Mosaic Law nearly impossible (sounds like our countries current IRS and fiscal regulations).  For the most part, Scribes were almost always believed to be closely aligned with the Pharisees.  

The Sadducees, on the other hand, were a priestly faction of very aristocratic men who were found exclusively in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time.  The Sadducees historically and religiously descended from the priestly family of Zadok, a “High Priest” in the time period of King David (2 Sam. 20:25), and King Solomon (1 Kings 4: 2, 4).  Zadok took part, with King David, at Hebron; fighting for David’s reign over Judah (1 Chr. 12:27, 28). 

The Sadducees accepted as authoritative scripture only the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch), and followed only the literal, written letter, of Mosaic Law.  They rejected any oral legal traditions, and were close-mindedly opposed to any religious teachings not found in the Pentateuch, such as the teachings on “resurrection of the dead.” 

The Sadducees believed only in an “earthly” image of heaven.  The Sadducees had no belief in immortality, angels, or anything else NOT found in the Torah (as they interpreted the Torah).   Once you died – well, you essentially became “worm food” – with NO hope for another life in heaven.  I guess that is how they got their name: their beliefs made them “Sad – You – See!”  (I could not resist this one; a Big thanks goes to Jeff Cavins.)  The pitiful thing is that many people today, including some probably reading this reflection, with their minds focused on this “earthly” existence, are just like them!

Though the Sadducees often disagreed with the other Temple leaders and were often at odds with the Pharisees and Scribes, all three of these temple factions considered themselves adversaries of Jesus and His teachings for different reasons.  The Temple Leadership had forgotten the real reason for Holy Scripture: to foster and grow a trust in a personal and loving relationship with God.  All three temple leadership factions became followers of laws and traditions – – instead of followers of God!  

The Sadducees’ question to Jesus: “whose wife will that woman be?” is based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  The Sadducees purpose in asking this question was solely for ridiculing the notion of a “resurrection” after bodily death.  Deuteronomy 25:5-10 relates a law that requires a woman – that has not given birth to a son prior to her husband’s death – to marry her brother-in-law for the purpose of bearing a son to carry on the family line.  Jesus rejected their naive understanding of death and resurrection, and then taught about life after resurrection.

The true reason for this unusual law in Deuteronomy was strictly for the purpose of property holdings.  Relatives of the same clan, who lived together, held their property in a communal form of what we would consider a “trust”.  It was only in this specific instance that this unique law was to be observed, since the law’s purpose was to keep the property of the deceased within the same family or clan.  Marriage of a widow to her brother-in-law was known as a “levirate” marriage from the Latin word “levir,” meaning “a husband’s brother.”  (Some resources spell levirate as “levirite.”  Each spelling appears interchangeable.)

Jesus understood the true meaning for this scripture verse; and He also knew the reason for the Sadducees’ asking this particular question.  In answering their question, Jesus teaches them and us that sexual relationships of this world will be transcended in the next.  We will rise above the need, or want, for sexual relationships with each other in heaven.  The gloriously risen body will be a work of the creative power of God for which marriage will no longer be needed.  (As Jesus revealed, they will be like the angels.)

Jesus argued with authority in interpreting Mosaic Law.  He used the EXACT same method and Scriptures the Sadducees used in order to show that there truly is a resurrection.  Using passages from the Book of Exodus (Exodus 3:2, 5-6) relating Moses’ encounter with God – – in the burning bush, – – Jesus showed God is a God of the living, and not of the dead!  Jesus showed that the “Patriarchs”, who died in body hundreds of years prior to Jesus and the Sadducees, are STILL alive – and, in God’ grace and presence!  All are alive to Him and in Him!  Jesus demonstrated His faith and confidence in the life-giving power of the God He proclaimed in the Temple. 

As this Gospel passage revealed, Jesus beats them at their own game!  Don’t you just love it when a plan back fires!  I wonder if the Scribes and Pharisees present, who maintained a belief in the resurrection of the body, were pleased with Jesus’ arguments towards the Sadducees?!  (I bet they were!) 

Jesus shows to the Sadducees (and us) the miniscule limits of our beliefs, thoughts, and imaginations when it comes to eternal life.  The Sadducees argued against resurrection because of their minds focus on this world only, their mental limits, and their experiences.  They could not appreciate, nor imagine, another possibility for existence and relationship with God.  It either had to be this or that, black or white, and with no gray areas for the Sadducees.  God is not confined by space, time, or other “earthly” restrictions and limitations!   Jesus suggests in today’s reading that a resurrected life is greatly beyond our limited imaginations and abilities of thought.  (Maybe that is why it is a matter of FAITH!)

When a tree is alive it needs water, soil, and sunlight.  When the tree is used to make a table, a toy, or something else – it has a whole new purpose.  The tree, as a table, no longer has a need for water, soil, or sunlight.  Jesus tells us that after we die, we will not have the same needs as when we were alive, except for our continuation, want, and need to have a personal relationship with God.  

Change is inevitable.  How we handle change is what marks us as Catholics.  We must be ready to step outside the “box” – our comfort zone – without fear.  We can only step outside our comfort zone through a firm trust in God’s providence.  With this in mind, please remember God’s presence when your parish is assigned a new priest.  Accept him with a loving and warming attitude, and thank God for His gift.  Pray for the health of a young woman experiencing an unexpected pregnancy, and welcome her, and her new creation of God, with open arms.  Praise the Lord for His magnificence, and ask for His help, when suddenly unemployed due to circumstances beyond your control.  The Gist: Do you see Jesus in all faces and situations you encounter daily?  (I hope so, for He is actually there to be seen – – by FAITH!)

Humans in general, and especially children, often know and/or experience very little in regards to death and dying.  I believe we, as a whole, know very little about the concept of “eternal life” as well.  What are your thoughts, beliefs, and even “fears” about death and dying?  Are you ready for any “tests” you may have to encounter to reach eternal paradise with God?  Do you truly TRUST God?

Food for thought: Decisive evidence of eternal life was shown to us with the resurrection of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning.  His victory over “death” was literally for all of us when He arose from that borrowed hewed tomb.  As Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he exclaimed:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25).  This He said prior to His own scourging, crucifixion, and death.

With a hope and faith in the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God, we need to pray for those we love, and even for those we do not yet know.  They may have died in body; however, we know by faith they are experiencing eternal life with God while their souls are being cleansed and perfected in Purgatory. 

A relationship with God CANNOT cease with bodily death.  We need to remember that God identifies Himself in relationship to us.  Because of our relationship with Him — the living God — we too are alive!  God will be with us – to guide and teach us – no matter what we do, or what circumstances we experience.  As Psalm 73:23-24 states: “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”   The real question today is: “Are you taking aim for heaven?”

 

“The Glory Be”

  

“Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 7 & 8 of 26:

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

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

 

 

 

8.     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.



“Knock, Knock, Who’s There!” – Luke 13:22-30†


32 Days till the Start of the Advent Season, AND
59 Days till Christmas

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   625 – Honorius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

I am ready to meet my maker.  Whether or not my maker is prepared for the  great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. — Winston Churchill

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about entrance to heaven only through Faith AND Works.

 

22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’  He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13:22-30)

 

What is this “narrow door” to the “Masters House?” Jesus’ story about the door being shut on the procrastinators coming too late insinuates that they had offended their host [God] through their action (or inaction), and that this justified their ban, – – their barring from heaven.  I believe most, if not nearly all Jewish people understood this part of the story simply because the Jewish religious teachers of Jesus’ time would not allow students arriving late to class to enter; the door being closed and locked.  Furthermore, these students were banned from class for an entire week in order to teach a lesson in discipline and faithfulness to the divine importance of their religious duties.

Today’s Gospel reading immediately follows Jesus’ “parables of the kingdom” found in Luke 13:18-21: Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'”  Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” 

These two parables preceding today’s reading were used by Jesus to illustrate the future magnitude of the “kingdom of God.” This future kingdom will result from the worldly mission and ministry of Jesus’ preaching, advocacy and healing.

Today’s reading stresses the great effort required for gaining entrance into God’s kingdom and that it is vital to accept the opportunity, given NOW to enter, because this “narrow door” will not remain open forever.  

The “narrow door” which Jesus is talking about is HIMSELF!!  In John 10:9, Jesus literally states, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jesus gives us the way to enter into the paradise of heaven through the Holy Cross wherein He was crucified for our sins.  God, through the human and divine natures of Jesus, sacrificed HIMSELF for OUR sins!!  If we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom on earth AND in heaven, we must follow Jesus’ path, which includes “the way of the cross.”  

The word “strive” from verse 24 can also be translated from the original Greek to mean “agony.”  To enter the narrow gate one must labor against the vigor of, and our sometimes profound weakness to, temptation to sin – and other obstructions from doing the will of God – such as apathy, laziness, and indifference.

Many Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that ALL “Jewish” people would automatically gain entrance to heaven, except for a few clearly obvious “sinners.” I would bet the proverbial “tax-collector,” leper, and prostitute were on the Pharisees “barred from heaven” list!  Most Jewish leaders believed “Israel” was specially chosen by God when He established a covenant with them and thus guaranteed, in essence, a slot in heaven no matter what happens. 

This last paragraph makes me ponder the “saved by faith alone” versus the “saved by faith and works” arguments.  How many people believe they automatically have a slot held for them in heaven – – just because they believe they are saved by God

Heck, Satan even believes in God!!

Sadly, this belief is not just a protestant tenet anymore.  I know of many Roman Catholics endorsing this error in faith.  Jesus warns that ANYONE can be excluded – permanently BANNED – if one does not endeavor to enter the “narrow door” through faith AND works! 

Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question asked in verse 23: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  However, His response is strikingly interesting for two reasons.  First, Jesus says that being a member of God’s chosen people, does not automatically give one a ticket for entrance through the narrow door into the kingdom of God.  

Second, Jesus’ words were a warning of rejecting His teachings’.  Jesus declares that many “Gentiles” from places outside Palestine would also enter heaven; God’s invite is open to Jew AND Gentile alike.  Some Jewish people would have their “places at table of the banquet in the kingdom” taken from them and given to Gentiles from the “four corners” of the world.  Many Gentiles would go through the narrow gate to paradise BEFORE even those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended: the chosen Jewish people.

In Luke 14:15-24, a parable about “the great dinner” is a further example of rejection by most of the Jewish people towards Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of heaven, AND the addition of the invitation to all the Gentiles of the world.  Also invited, in Luke’s parable are the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who Jesus grouped as those who recognize their need for salvation.

Please remember that we do not go through this “worldly” struggle alone.   God is always with us, giving us His grace when we are open to receiving.  As we struggle, we are promised an open “narrow” door as long as we maintain our faith and works – – for ourselves, others, and God!

 

“Prayer for Success in Work”

 

“Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my many sins; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, prudence and patience, never surrendering to weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success so fatal to the work of God.  All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch Joseph.  Such shall be my motto in life and death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (c. 1200-1271)

 

Dominicans honor one of their own today, Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza. This was a man who used his skills as a preacher to challenge the heresies of his day.

Bartholomew was born in Vicenza around 1200. At 20 he entered the Dominicans. Following his ordination he served in various leadership positions. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy.

In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop. For most men, such an appointment is an honor and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus. Not many years later, however, Bartholomew was transferred back to Vicenza. Despite the antipapal feelings that were still evident, he worked diligently—especially through his preaching—to rebuild his diocese and strengthen the people’s loyalty to Rome.

During his years as bishop in Cyprus, Bartholomew befriended King Louis the Ninth of France, who is said to have given the holy bishop a relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns.

Bartholomew died in 1271. He was beatified in 1793.

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)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the 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).

 

“What Exactly Does a ‘Mustard Seed’ Look Like Anyway, & Who Grows Them; the Jews or the Gentiles. There is No Produce in Our Creeds?!” – Luke 13: 22-30†


The retreat I just attended the past three days was, for lack of a better word, AWESOME!!!  Spending three days with seventy-two Secular Franciscans and Friars (OFM) was very spiritually uplifting.  We prayed together, laughed together, played together, and experienced Gods presence in a very unique way.

Fr. Albert Haase, OFM was our retreat speaker.  He gave four presentations, with an additional Q&A session.  Everyone attending the retreat believed he was actually talking about THEIR respective lives, in his talks on the “Spiritual Journey.”  With his unique combination of childhood rearing in New Orleans, and spending many years on the upper east coast, he has a very distinguished Arcadian-New Jersey accent. 

I want to thank him again.  He is a very dynamic, funny, spiritual, and captivating speaker.  If you ever get a chance to attend a presentation of his, DO IT!!

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

   
†  1241 – Death of Gregory IX, Italian religious leader, 178th Pope (b. c. 1143)
†  1280 – Death of Nicholas III, Italian religious leader, 188th Pope (b. c. 1216)
†  1679 – Birth of Pierre †  Guérin de Tencin, French cardinal (d. 1758)
†  1760 – Birth of Pope Leo XII (d. 1829)
†  1914 – Death of Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi bishop of Bergamo
†  Roman Catholic Feast – Mary Queen of angels, Immaculate Heart

 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Here is a little known fact about the Mustard Seed:

 

If you plant tomatoes close to jalapenos, you will get hot tomatoes.  Many other plants & vegetables cannot grow around certain types of other plants or vegetables because they take on the characteristics of what they are around. However, a mustard tree can be grown around anything, as it is not affected by its surroundings!  You could plant a mustard seed right on top of a jalapeno seed & it will grow completely unaffected by the jalapeno.

  

Reading scripture again brings a new understanding.  It isn’t so much on how “small” the mustard seed is, but rather that the mustard seed is unaffected by its surroundings, environment, or what conditions may be present!  Therefore, so should our faith, “be like unto the mustard seed.”  Faith that is like unto the mustard seed is unmovable, non-doubting, & steadfast.  Just Believe!

From http://my.opera.com

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the parable of the “narrow door,” and faith and relationship with God.

 

 

22 Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”  (NAB Luke 13: 22-30)

 

Today’s Gospel reading is the third of three parables (the others are described later in this reflection) in chapter 13 of Luke’s Gospel that deals with the theme of the unexpected reversals brought by the Kingdom of God.  The other two parables are about the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large bush, and the small amount of yeast that makes a large batch of dough rise.  All three parables are about the “few and the many,” in relation to the Kingdom of God.

As the parable in today’s Gospel reading opens, Luke reminds us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem.  This journey, this “exodus” as Luke refers to it, makes up the entire middle of his Gospel.  Jesus teaches as he goes to His ultimate destination, Jerusalem.  

A question from the crowd gives Jesus the chance to make a prophetic statement.  Luke uses this type of question device a number of times in his Gospel.  A few weeks ago, the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” led to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The question about “only a few will be saved” today uses typical Christian language about salvation, but also expresses the Jewish concern about whether everyone who calls himself a Jew is actually faithful to the covenant.  

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  What a direct, challenging, and difficult question.  Jesus gave an equally direct and very challenging answer in this Gospel reading.  Salvation is something we have to take seriously.  We have to hold our faith, internally and externally, each and every day of our lives.  St. Augustine once said that God created us without our help, BUT, He will not save us without our help!  We have a major part to play in letting redemption make a way into our hearts, minds, and souls. 

These sayings of Jesus in today’s Gospel, follows upon the two parables of the kingdom in Luke 13:18-21, —“Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'”  Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened,” — and are used to illustrate the future proportions of the kingdom of God that will result from its small beginning in the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.  Nothing will stand in the way of Jesus’ part in fulfilling God’s will, and in establishing the kingdom through His actions such as teaching, exorcisms, and healings.

One must remember that Jerusalem is the city of destiny and the goal of the journey for Jesus Christ on earth.  Only when he reaches this “holy city” will his work be accomplished.  (Trivia time:  the word “Jerusalem” translates to “city of peace.”)

Jesus answers that they (and we) must strive in the time we have remaining on earth, to enter through that the narrow door of faith and trust in Him.  Many will be trying to get in, but won’t be strong enough [in faith or trust].  Jesus then shifts to a parable about another door. (The translation actually says “gate,” then “door,” although the same Greek word is used.)  Once all those entering the master’s house are in and he locks the door, there will be no way for others to enter.  Those outside the door (the kingdom of God) may knock, but the master will say he doesn’t know them.  God will deny even knowing them; they will be like strangers to Him.  Unlike the Gospel reading from a few weeks ago where Jesus was teaching about prayer, and we were told to knock and the door would be opened, in this parable the master will not open, and will say he does not know those outside.  People from other places than the Jewish people of Jerusalem will take our place inside.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, Jesus says, will take our place with others in the Kingdom of God.  Those who do not make it through this “narrow door” will be cast out to where there is wailing and grinding of teeth – eternal agony without love of any kind!

The gate to Jerusalem, in reality, was supposedly a very narrow doorway.  Apparently, in order to go through the gate to the temple courtyard, camels had to have all baggage removed to squeeze through.  By saying the gate is narrow; Jesus is saying a great effort is required for entrance into the kingdom, and the urgency to accept the present opportunity to enter the kingdom because the “narrow door” will not remain open indefinitely.  Get rid of your baggage and step over that threshold NOW, before it is too late!

By rejecting Jesus and his message, His Jewish “contemporaries” place at the table for the feast in God’s kingdom, will be taken by Gentiles from the four corners of the world.  Those called last (the Gentiles) will precede those to whom the invitation to enter was first extended (the Jewish people).

The image of the door is replaced in the final verses of today’s parable with the image of a heavenly banquet.  Two passages from the Book of Isaiah influence the conclusion of this story.  Isaiah 43:5-6 speaks of God bringing Israel’s descendents back from the east and from the west, the north and the south.  And Isaiah 25:6 speaks of the Lord providing a feast of rich foods and choice wines for all peoples on His Holy Mountain.  The answer to the question “if only a few will be saved” is NO.  In the end many will be saved, but many who thought they would be saved will not be saved.  The parable is a prophetic warning to repent, in order to enter the kingdom.  Oh, how I wish the faithful would grasp hold of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and treasure it for the heavenly grace that it is!

In Luke 14:15-24, — the parable about the invited dinner guests not coming to the banquet, so the master sent his servants out to the streets to get people for the banquet — the story of the “great dinner” is a further illustration of the rejection of Jesus by Israel, who is God’s “chosen” people.  In doing so, Jesus’ invitation to share in the banquet of the kingdom and the extension of the invitation to others, such as the Gentiles, who recognize their need for salvation, is exemplified.

 Another similar parable is found in Matthew 22:1-10, a story about a king who gave a wedding feast.  The invited refused to come, not once but TWICE; and going as far as killing some of the servants sent by the king to invite the people.  The king sent troops to destroy and burn their cities, and kill the offenders.  Afterwards, the king sent out servants to the streets inviting anyone they came across, bad and good alike to the banquet, thus filling the hall with guests. 

In this parable, this story, are many symbolic traits by Matthew, instead of Luke.  The burning of the cities of the guests that refused the invitation corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The parable ends by presenting the kingdom in a two-fold expression of faith.  The first expression is a kingdom that is already present and that can be entered here and now.  The second being one that will be possessed only by those who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment, during the Perugia.  

We all take advantage of certain days throughout the year to celebrate individuals and to make sure that they know that they are not taken for granted.  Birthdays, anniversaries, religious and secular holidays, and so on.  These days are intended to express appreciation in a special way, but are not meant to replace the appreciation and love that we should always show one another.  

We are also guilty of taking one another for granted from time to time (and maybe even daily).  In today’s Gospel, Jesus told us a story about some people who took something for granted and then paid a very heavy price.  He is warning us not to assume that we will have eternal life in heaven, and not to take HIS invitation for granted.

The question for all of us to reflect on is whether we have Jesus first in our lives, and in our priorities.  Are we taking the time to let Him minister to us: to advocate, comfort, and care for us, every day of our lives.  The “creed” we say at every Mass IS the statement of our Catholic faith.  We must place our faith and trust in all the truths that this creed proclaims, without any uncertain or optional requisites.  One cannot pick and choose which tenants of Catholicism to believe and practice, in order to be Catholic!

Every day of our lives, we need to make it an essential element of our time, to make our own personal confession of faith, based on the truths of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.  I find the best time is in the evening, just prior to going to bed.  I simply review the days happenings, and my thoughts and actions; then ask God for forgiveness of any errors in my day, and for the ability (through the help of the Holy Spirit) to not repeat them. 

We need to open our hearts to these truths in the creed daily, so we can place our faith in them more and more.  From a tiny mustard seed, a might bush will grow!  Let us all show appreciation for one another today, and in the days ahead.  Let us strive to NOT take for granted any of the many things others do for us.

 

 

“Faith of a Mustard Seed”

 

 

“Lord, I know that faith is a powerful force.  By our faith we allow the Holy Spirit to reside in us, to teach us, and to guide us.  Without faith the Paraclete cannot live in and through us, and we would be as people of just this world instead of your kingdom.  It is written in Sacred Scripture that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible.  Please allow my faith to grow into a mighty tree, so that I may harvest a huge bounty to share with you and others.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

    

Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.

In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen” and Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.

Comment:

As St. Paul suggests in Romans 8:28–30, God has predestined human beings from all eternity to share the image of his Son. All the more was Mary predestined to be the mother of Jesus. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in dependence on Jesus, was to be queen. All other titles to queenship derive from this eternal intention of God. As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving his Father and his fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship. As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time (Matthew 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.

Quote:

“Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69).

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)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #22 of 26:

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

 

“Your House or Mine – God Doesn’t Care!” – Luke 1:39-56†


Today is the “Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Mother” to Heaven; Body & Soul. 

 

Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven, defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. “Dogma” is an article of faith that has been revealed by God, which the Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to be believed by all the faithful. This dogma teaches that Mary was truly assumed body, blood, soul, and humanity into the glory and magnificence of the “third” heaven.  (2 Cor 12:2 and 1 Peter 3:22)

It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation  for Roman Catholics in the United States; though “Holy Day of Obligation” is a term, I believe, most Catholics in the U.S. have removed from their vocabulary.  The other “Marian” Holy Days of Obligation are January 1st: the feast of “Mary, Mother of God,” and December 8th: the feast of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus).”

 

 

Next weekend I will be on a retreat with my brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order.  I will pray for all your intentions, during this spiritually awesome time for me.  As you can tell, I in no way consider retreats as a “chore.”  I truly love encountering Christ in many, and diversified ways.  Hopefully, I will be able to post a reflection next Sunday, but it may be a little later in the day or evening.  Pax et Bonum.

 

 

Today is also my birthday [of sorts]. In renewing a solemn pledge: a “Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary,” I made a spiritual rebirth.  Today is the beginning of a renewed chapter in my life.  By imitating Mary, I can say, “May it be done according to your will!”  What are the wonderful effects of this devotion on my soul?  They are:

†       “First, through the Holy Spirit, Mary will convey to me a portion of her profound humility.

†       Second, Our Blessed Lady also will give me a portion of her faith, which was the greatest of all faiths ever on this earth. 

†       Third, this Mother of fair love will take away from my heart all scruple disorder of servile fear. 

†       Fourth, Our Blessed Lady will fill me with a great confidence in God, and in herself.  I will not be approaching Jesus by myself, but always by that good Mother. 

†       Fifth, the soul of our Blessed Lady will impart itself to me, to glorify the Lord.  Her spirit will enter into my spirit to rejoice in God. 

†       Sixth, Mary will bear fruit in her own time, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ. 

†       And seventh, I gave Jesus more glory in a month, than by any other practice, however difficult, in many years.”  WOW!!!

From the devotion itself

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s Visit with Elizabeth.

 

 

39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:39-56)

 

 

The Gospel for today reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven might be best understood as a real experience and preview of the “Parousia” (see last Sunday’s reflection).  This view covers the full realm of Catholic beliefs about the uniquely human and divine person of Jesus Christ, truly human, and the relationship of His whole family, beginning with His mother.  For me, this understanding, or way of looking at the supernatural gift of Mary’s Assumption brings about an abounding and thriving meaning of God’s introduction of His Son, Jesus to the world and to His own Israel, through Mary, for my (and your) personal salvation. This is so strong that Luke actually interprets it TWICE in Mary’s Canticle, in today’s Gospel reading.  The first interpretation we find in verses 1:39-45; and the second is in verses 1:46-56.  The first introduction of Jesus is two-fold: (1) in Mary’s physical traveling to visit Elizabeth and her words of greeting on arrival at Elizabeth’s home; and (2) in Elizabeth’s reaction, her words, and the physical action of Elizabeth’s baby leaping for joy, while still in the womb.  The two mothers-to-be come together to praise a God who is very active and paramount in their lives. 

The second introduction (verses 46-56) is in God’s own action, through Mary, to bring Jesus the Messiah to us, in fidelity to His promises to Abraham and his sons, grandsons, King David, and to all Israel, as well as to all peoples.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God intends for each one of us. (That’s you and me, Bubbas!!)

The presentation of Jesus (in the womb) to His cousin John (also in the womb) will be renewed again a little more than 30 years later, with John the Baptist honoring and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Lamb of God to come, when Jesus’ presented Himself for baptism at the Jordan river.  This is also the first of only two times in all the Gospels that God speaks, proclaiming Jesus as His only-begotten and well beloved Son.

Can anyone imagine the faith Mary had in God?  WOW!!!  For me, it’s beyond my mental reasoning.  Her mind was uncluttered by any of the effects of sin that mar our soul.  An unblemished soul is something neither I, nor anyone reading this reflection, can claim (regrettably). 

Only Mary, born without the stain of original sin (the Immaculate Conception) could give birth to the mysterious uniqueness of Jesus Christ: truly divine and truly human, undiminished divinity and true humanity in one person forever.  Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin: namely death and decay.  Mary is literally the first person to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son secured for you and me, all of mankind that chooses to believes in God and His revelation of mercy.  

Her role in salvation had been pre-conceived by God before the beginning of time, and any role God would give Mary would be a uniquely special one for her.   Even though she apparently discerned that she was being asked to do the impossible, when the archangel Gabriel said something to her about having a baby, Mary displayed a total and unconditional faith and trust in God AND in the Son that God was promising.  Thank God the Planned Parenthood offices were not open, and trying to encourage Mary to avoid the “inconvenience” of an unexpected pregnancy, and the “embarrassment” of a “virginal” conception!  How often have we done anything as unconditionally as Mary did for God, and for us!? 

Was Mary ready for the rigors of being the Mother of God?  This question is answered in the following verse, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.”  It is not an easy feat for a 14 year-old Jewish child, being pregnant at the time, making a rugged four day trip by herself.  And to accomplish this feat “in haste” even adds to her abilities to handle the bad, as well as the good.  Mary is a tough opponent to evil: one heavenly tough lady!

Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation in their lifetime.  Upon arriving, “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” These verses made me recall a similar thing happening with the leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb.  This story can be found in Genesis 25:22-23: “the children in her womb jostled each other so much that she exclaimed, ‘If this is to be so, what good will it do me!’  She went to consult the LORD, and He answered her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”  Interesting to me is that this is a preview of the relation between John and Jesus, just without the quarreling!

 “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice … saying, ‘most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb …’” Having been graced to be filled with the Holy Spirit during an ACTS retreat several years ago, I can appreciate the energy, joy, and charisma associated with the event of being as one with the Holy Spirit.  I felt literally “on top of the world,” and so filled with love that I felt like I was truly going to burst.  Now, I need to emphasize that I never considered myself a “Charismatic Catholic,” and have never talked in tongues.  Until I had this retreat experience, I thought of “those” people as a little strange.  Through this encounter on my retreat with the third person of the Holy Trinity, I no longer have doubts in the capabilities of God’s graces.

Calling Mary “Most Blessed” brings up the image found in Revelations 12:1: “A woman clothed with the Sun.”  For me, Mary was wearing the mantle of God long before her conception with Jesus.  God, the first person of the Holy Trinity, presented to Mary the grace of bringing into this sinful world, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the complete image of Himself, and His Word – her Son Jesus, through the action of the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit.  This is a mystery of faith probably more complex than the United States Internal Revenue Code for most of us to truly understand.

Mary asks, “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even before his birth, Jesus was identified as the Lord.  There were no pre-conceived notions from Mary, Elizabeth, or any other individual aware of the promises about the coming Messiah.  No one alive at that time knew exactly what the Messiah’s role would be.  Some, maybe even most, thought Jesus would become some type of warrior king, similar to David.  If so, how surprised were they to be.  All Mary knew was that SOMETHING special was in store for all of them, and that even though totally blind to any future events, she put her total faith and trust in the hands of God!

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith, trust, and fidelity stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah with Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John.  In Luke 1:20, “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” Zechariah becomes mute, in response to his questioning of God’s grace.  But when Mary asks a similar question, unlike Zechariah who was disciplined for his doubt, Mary is praised and reassured. 

The difference between the two, I believe, is the level of their faith and trust in God’s capabilities.  Zechariah, an elderly temple priest, had doubt and lack of trust, probably due to the many years of A) strictly human reasoning, and B) concupiscence’s effect on his soul, thus making him skeptical.  Mary, on the other hand, had no sins to mark her soul, and had been nurtured by the faith of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.  Even in her young age, and with a perfectly sinless and grace filled soul, she knew nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

Mary’s role in this beginning of this infancy narrative should be seen in connection with her presence among “those who believed” after Jesus’ Resurrection that unique Sunday Morning.  Why?  The answer can be found in Acts 1:14, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”   Mary was with Jesus His entire life.  Mary saw Jesus, as her son AND as her Lord on earth (But don’t most Jewish mothers? – OK, sorry).  Mary trusted in God wholly and completely, and she continued to say “YES” to God, without fail, her entire life.  We need to see the totality of Mary’s life as we see Jesus in the totality of His life.

The nature of God in Jesus’ conception is proclaimed in Mary saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ….” There is an Old Testament parallel for this New Testament verse: “the Song of Hannah,” found in 1 Sam 2:1-11.  A whole separate reflection can be written on the correlations between the two, so I urge you to find it in your bible and read it.  This “song” is credited to Hannah after her birth to Samuel as her thanksgiving to God because of her giving birth to a son, despite her previous years of sterility.  She praises God as the helper of the weak who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly, and who alone is the source of true strength. 

Mary praises God for what He has done for mankind through her child, Jesus; and rejoices in God’s fulfillment of His promises in the verse, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  Mary was totally FILLED with the Holy Spirit, so there was NO room for sin, or for the least little self-centeredness.  Mary literally surrendered herself, and gave all she had, body, soul, and spirit, to serve God, in order for Him to live within, and to work through her!  This is EXACTLY what we need to do each and every day of our lives!!!  (TRUE!!!)

In this new era of salvation, Mary will be hailed as the Mother and Queen of Israel and us all.  “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”  Mary was humble.  So humble in fact, that I believe she may have had a hard time saying that all generations will honor her.  However, we still have to remember, always, that she WAS absolutely and truly FULL of God, thus making her actions and remarks as truly true.  Mary allowed God to work through her, and to work without any impediments from her, in any way.  This is reiterated in Mary continuing her Canticle, saying, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Her “lowliness,” her humbleness, is contrasted against with the might and majesty of God; for NOTHING is impossible with God. (Are you getting the “nothing is impossible with God” theme yet?)

Should we be afraid of GOD?  After all, the next verse says, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”  “Fear” of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.” 

The fullness of Jesus Christ, as shown through Mary – both physically and spiritually, is also available to any Catholic in a state of grace.  We receive these seven gifts when given “sanctifying grace:” the life of God within us.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1831) notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”  When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ Himself would.

Fear is a curiously strange word for most Americans. Most of us take this word as “bad.”  Instead we need to see this word as more of a “healthy fear.”  Healthy fears keep us from burning ourselves when cooking, shocking ourselves when plugging in a lamp, and keeping us from sinning when tempted.  So, we need not fear God as the world experiences fear, but we need to delight in the healthy fear – the profound respect for an infinitely good and powerful God.

Luke 1:50 ends the first part of the Canticle of Mary and transitions into the second part of the Canticle.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God does for those who faithfully and respectfully “fear” Him.

Verse 51: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heartHe has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowlyThe hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”  These six past-tense verbs describe God as the one who performed these actions, and is now in the present tense, operating in the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary.  My question is, “Who are the rich, and who are the hungry?”  Are the “lowly” the Jewish people of Israel, the sick, or the downtrodden?  Is being “rich” a measure of materialist wealth, or is it the proud and arrogant people who have no time or need for God? 

God, through Jesus, is creating a new “exodus,” a new journey that shows a preference for the humble, the poor, and the downtrodden.  This is manifested in Jesus’ ministry, and in the future missions of His disciples. 

Being “poor,” for God, does not come with a social status, or ethnic heritage.  The humble, poor, and downtrodden have to respond to God’s good news, in order to complete this journey with Him.  In the next verse of Mary’s Canticle, “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever,” God builds a “new covenant” upon the old foundation of Abraham’s.  God’s gift, His grace, that Mary is proclaiming, is NOT contingent solely on the ethnic heritage of Abraham’s genealogy.  It is NOW open to All, regardless of social status, ethnicity, previous religion, or any other origin.

“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”  Why would a young woman with the love and charity we all admire in her, leave prior to the birth of Jesus’ precursor: John?  Elizabeth certainly could have used the help with the delivery and other “nursing” and household issues.  Luke, I believe, does this solely in explicitly emphasizing the three main characters in each birth narratives: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John in one; and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the other.

Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and, because of her strong faith and belief, she responds as the servant in this psalm (song) of praise, the “Magnificat.”  The Magnificat, with the possible exception of verse 48, “for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.  Even if not written by Luke, it fits in well with his themes found elsewhere in his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of the Jewish family prophesies.  

In Summary, Mary’s faith and trust is what God wants each of us to imitate.  Can we imitate her faith? Even though Mary was sinless; and we know ourselves to be sinners endeavoring to sin less and less, these virtues are not something beyond our grasp.  In fact, we can grow in these virtues.  We do this when we try our best to follow her, and HIS path to salvation and redemption.  Imitating Mary leads us to her Son because they walk and exist together.  What is really awesome is that we don’t have to walk this path alone.  As a child of God, we can hold the right hand of Mary – our Heavenly Mother – with one hand, and the left hand (making Him our right hand man) of Jesus – our loving brother and kinsman redeemer – with the other, on the path that we take to the glory of paradise, in the salvation of the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2 & 1 Peter 3:22).

 

“The Hail Mary”

 

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

(Actually yesterday’s Saint of the Day, but he is one of my personal patron saints, and the main reason I am a Secular Franciscan)

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata,, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes” (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

He is the Patron Saint of Addicts and Drug addiction.

 

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)

 

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #15 of 26:

 

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