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“Those Who Do Not Believe Develop Heart and Soul ‘Murmurs’!” – John 6:41-51†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in OrdinaryTime

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This next Wednesday, August 15th, is the “Feast of the Assumption of Our Mother Mary”.  Each year for the past 6 years, on this date, I have completed my preparations and renewing my “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”.  This devotion was created by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and takes 33 days of preparation by means of prayer, reading, meditation, reflections, and personal promises – – a true “metanoia” (conversion process)!  (But then again, each and every day, I try to convert myself to God’s will, even if ever so slightly.)  Each time I have completed this particular devotion, the experience and journey itself seems to “taste “a little sweeter.  I’ll take this as a good sign to continue this yearly practice.

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There will no Reflection next Sunday, August 18th.  I will be on my yearly Franciscan (OFS) Retreat at King’s House in Belleville, IL.  Our OFS Region (about 100 Secular Franciscans) will get together there for the weekend to celebrate, learn, rejoice, pray, contemplate, and enjoy each other in community.  It is truly an awesome, up-lifting, powerful, and exciting time for me, both personally and spiritually.

Anytime spent with friends, family, and God – – all rolled into one experience – – is a true grace from God Himself.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

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 Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says, He “came down from heaven”.  What are your “murmurs” towards Jesus?

 (NAB John 6:41-51) 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.  46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Sunday, we continue to read from the “Bread of Life discourse” found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  We have been reading from this chapter for the past two Sundays and will continue to read from it for another two.  (Since I have grown to love John’s unique multi-dimensional viewpoint of Jesus Christ, one month of solely John’s Gospel (at the Sunday Mass) is totally awesome.).  Last week, the crowd with whom Jesus had been dealing for two liturgical weeks now asked Him for a sign which would show that He truly came from God. (So, He’s not a magician or con-artist).  Jesus replied by saying that “HE” is “THE” sign ANDthe bread of life” truly sent by God!

Today’s Gospel begins with a report that the Jews (the crowd) are “murmuring” about Jesus’ claim regarding His identity.  After all, they knew Jesus’ family (Mary and Joseph). So, they could not comprehend what Jesus meant when He said that He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41).  Jesus responds to the crowds request by saying, “Only those who are chosen by God will recognize Him” (John 6:44) as the one sent by God; this is (and will be) a recurring theme in John’s Gospel.  WOW!  Reflect on the fact that God chooses those who will have faith in Jesus. (And He always chooses those who wish to follow Him – – to come to Him!!)

In the verses which follow in today’s reading, Jesus talks more about His unique unity, His personal union, with God the Father.  He is the “One” who has seen God the Father and, therefore, truly and fully knows God the Father, and as His Father.  (But let me ask: “Was He the ONLY one?” The answer will come a little later.)  Those who listen to God – – and HEAR Him and BELIEVE (John 6:47)- – will recognize Jesus as being the “One” sent from God the Father Himself.  Those who believe this will have eternal life according to Jesus’ proclamation.  

Jesus will conclude today’s reading with the essential principle of our Eucharistic theology – – the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith – – Jesus, “the bread of life”, will share ETERNAL life to those who believe Him!!  Jesus promises that His “bread of lifewill bring ETERNAL life to those who come to, and partake of it.  Jesus also prophetically tells us “the bread of life” will be “His own flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51).  The flesh Jesus is referring to is the reality of His “Risen” self to a new life.

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In Capernaum (the location of today’s reading), Jesus is rejected solely because His origins are known to the people there.  By their “murmuring” (John 6:41), Jesus’ audience (the crowd who followed Him to Capernaum from Bethsaida) behaved like the Israelites of the Exodus, while lingering in the desert.  If you recall, their own “murmuring” provoked the gifts of water and manna being delivered to them from God the Father:

As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood.  When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.” (Exodus 15:24-25);

Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. … in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him.  But who are we that you should grumble against us? …[God says] I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2,7,12).

This crowd’s “murmuring” was an example of the unbelief as prophesied in Isaiah and the Psalms:

But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12);

Next they despised the beautiful land; they did not believe the promiseIn their tents they complained; they did not heed the voice of the LORD (Psalm 106:24-25).

Familiarity with His family and societal background led them to regard Him as pretentious and boastful in His claim.  They saw Jesus as a person they felt they knew completely and intimately; yet they were truly blind.

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Jesus’ command to “stop murmuring” (John 6:43) is followed by a short series of sayings.  The next two verses of today’s reading reiterate that only those “drawn by God” will believe in Jesus:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45) 

John is demonstrating the claim that God Himself is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus.  There is NO knowledge of God the Father apart from Jesus:

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

John is repeating Holy Scripture, reminding his readers of verses found in both Exodus and earlier in his own Gospel:

But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20);

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

This belief reflects the Jewish tradition: to see God meant instant death!!   However, this belief is contradicted by others who DIDsee God”, yet live:

To the LORD who spoke to her [Hagar] she gave a name, saying, ‘You are God who sees me’; she meant, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?’” (Genesis 16:13);

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 32:31).

In seeing Jesus Christ, this crowd truly SAW God.  Yet, we see the Holy Eucharist; we are also truly witnessing the Risen “God” is being revealed to us in a unique visible and spiritual (supernatural) way.  “Seeing”, and partaking of God in the Holy Eucharist, does not bring death, but everlasting life through Jesus Christ!!  “Seeing” is believing in and partaking of – – participating in – – God’s communion (co-union)!  This “seeing” God by faith does not bring death but everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus concludes His series of sayings with this final affirmation:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) 

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The following “final” verse from today’s reading is an extremely powerful revelation:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51),

At the end of this sixth chapter of his Gospel, John will shift his Gospel from the topic of Jesus as “the revealer of God the Father” – – to Jesus as the “living bread” which He Himself gives to us as a gift, revealing to us the grace, which we have learned to call “the Holy Eucharist”. 

Here follows is the next portion of John’s sixth chapter.  The verses which immediately follow today’s reading are also the verses for next week’s Gospel reading at Mass:

“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’  These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:52-59)

These verses definitely say, and identify, the “Holy Eucharist” to me!  Does it to you?

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In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as He did in last week’s Gospel, that “HE” is “the bread of life” (John 6:48).  We also hear Jesus adding that HE is “the living bread” (John 6:51).  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist.  We celebrate this special and unique gift (grace) of Jesus each time we gather for Mass.  We, as Catholics, truly and fully believe that receiving the “Risen” Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to our eternal life in the paradise of heaven, with our Trinitarian God.  (His “bread” is truly divine – – truly “heavenly”!!)

Today’s Gospel draws our attention to the faith in Jesus’ real, true, full, and Risen presence in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus IS then, truly and fully “the bread of life”.  He gives us His Body and Blood as “the living bread” so that we may have eternal life.  When we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, with the proper attitude, our lives reflect the reality that our communion – – our unique union – – with the divine Jesus Christ Himself, is truly preparing us to see the way to reach His kingdom.  Our Holy Eucharist leads us to live as His people of promise, confident we will one day share the fullness of life with, and united to, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!!  (Not a bad deal for us sinners!!)

The crowd in today’s story despised Jesus because they thought they knew who He was – – understanding Him to be an uneducated laborer from a rural “Hick” town called Nazareth.  They regarded His mother, Mary, and His “foster” father, Joseph as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name or identity.  Their collective thoughts were: “How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman?”

This crowd surrounding Jesus became even more offended when Jesus claimed something only God could claim.  His claim which He revealed to them is that He is the very source of life who comes from God the Father, and who lasts forever and ever (John 6:51).

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I am sure we all make the same mistake as did the crowd in today’s Gospel.  We sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) refuse to listen to others solely because we think they are inferior to us?  (No humility in thinking such thoughts, is there?  NOT!!!!)   We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially when He speaks through these “inferior beings”.  We can miss what God says to us, if we despise and spurn the “instrument” God chooses to work through.  John states that the Jews from today’s reading “murmured” at Jesus.  They listened to Him, but with a critical spirit rather than “hearing” Him with faith, with an open ear, and with an earnest desire to learn and believe what God the Father wanted (and still wants) to speak to them (and us) – – through His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  There are many different ways people can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit, wishing to learn, believe, grow, and ultimately, to be transformed.  Let me ask: With what “way” do you listen to God’s “Word”?

God is offering His people an abundant life; yet, we can miss out on this unique gift.  What is “the bread of life” which Jesus offers us?  When Jesus offers us a true life, He brings us into a new relationship with God the Father – – a relationship of trust, love, and obedience.  Jesus offers us a true, abundant, ever-sustaining life – – lasting forever and ever.  Jesus offers us a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the “One” who made us “in love” to be uniquely united with Him forever and ever!!  

Think about your hope that one day you will share eternal life with God in heaven.  This “hope” can transform the way you (and we) live out our daily experiences and lives.  We are called to BE people “of hope”; we are taught to believe in God’s promises and to have confident “hope” that we will experience the fulfillment of those promises in our daily lives.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us this gift of eternal life in and through the Eucharist.  Jesus taught us that those who listen to God know that He had been (and is still) sent by God the Father – – for the life of the world – – and for ALL creation.  Jesus is fulfilling His promise to us through His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Jesus Christ gave (and still gives) us the gift of HIMSELF in the Holy Eucharist – – in His Body and Blood – – given so we may have, and grow in, eternal life with Him.  Ask God to increase your faith in His true and full presence present in each morsel of the Holy Eucharist, and each sip of the cup of salvation, which we experience with all our senses.  (Doesn’t smell fishy to me at all!!)

There is NOTHING to “murmur” about when it comes to God the Father’s Salvation plan FOR US!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Peace Prayer

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I
may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

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“Who Are You, Lord, And Who Am I?!” – John 6:24–35†


 

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am asking for some input from my readers in regard to my blog format.  It is trying for me to amass all the information I needed for each blog normally posted on Saturdays.  For this reason, I have decided to change my format somewhat.  Starting next week, I will be splitting my blog sections between Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On Wednesdays, I will post the following sections:

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

Then, on Saturdays, I will continue to post these sections:

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

Please let me know your opinions on this matter, and if I should add or totally delete sections from my blog.  After all, this blog is as much yours as it is mine, because it is for YOU.

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Do not forget to vote on Tuesday, August 7th, (in Missouri at least).  Although a “Party Primary” election, local and state issues may also be on the ballot.  Voting is a “right” every eligible American should be proud to participate in as a citizen of this great “Godly” country.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1579 – Death of Stanislaus Hosius, Polish Catholic cardinal (b. 1504)
†   1900 – Death of James Augustine Healy, black Roman Catholic bishop, dies at 80
†   1912 – Birth of Abbé Pierre, French Catholic priest (d. 2007)

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches the crowds that He is the “bread of life.” We know who He is: the question I’m supposing is, “Who Are WE??!!”  Ask yourself this question: “Why are you seeking out Jesus?”

 

(NAB John 6:24–35)  24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”  28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?  31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:  ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.   33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday, we heard about Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish, leaving enough leftover to fill twelve wicker baskets.  Between last Sunday’s Gospel and today’s Gospel is the short story of the disciples leaving for Bethsaida for Capernaum by boat as Jesus leaves for “the mountain alone” (John 6:15).  After an unknown amount of time (probably several hours at least):

the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

This Sunday we continue to read from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, but not in continuity with last Sunday’s Gospel.  What we are not told (and what the “crowd” did not see) is the story between these two readings: Jesus’ walking on water (cf., John 16-21).  This event will be explored, and possibly revealed, in my reflection blog at a later date.

In today’s gospel, upon discovering the absence of Jesus and His closest of disciples, the crowd went in search for them:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

Upon finding their “New Moses” (please refer to my reflection from last week), they inquired of Jesus how He arrived there, and arrived there BEFORE them (since they knew Jesus went into the mountains):

When they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25)

In the dialogue that follows, Jesus unfolds for us the gift of “Himself”, which He gives to us in and through the Holy Eucharist.

The crowd had come by boat, the fastest way possible for them, knowing Jesus would have had to walk to Capernaum since there were no other boats available for Him to use.  However, Jesus’ answer was NOT the one they were expecting to hear:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:25). 

Amen, Amen” – – Interesting words indeed!  A little trivia time: did you know there are 25 “Amen’s” in John’s Gospel alone (with only 52 “Amen’s” total in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels)?  So, why do you suppose Jesus decided to start a sentence with a word never before used at the beginning of a statement?  These initial “Amen’s” are truly unique to Jesus, and are unparalleled, otherwise unknown in any other Hebrew writings.  Why (?) – – the reason is that “Amen” – – at the beginning of a sentence – – does not refer to the words of a previous speaker as one would assume (I bet His English teacher was mad at Him for such usage!).  I believe Jesus used the combined (and amplified) words “Amen, Amen” to introduce a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.  In this case, the new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom is in seeing and believing His signs of His divine nature.

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Jesus goes on to say in today’s reading:

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal(John 6:27).

Jesus is telling all who come to Him (then and now) to change their priorities, both in life and in death.  Our secularized and materialistic world will someday perish.  I am sure we have all heard the axiom, “You can’t take it with you”.  This axiom references the materialistic, worldly items we accrue though life.  What you WILL take with you on your day of judgment is the way – – the “how” – – you USED these materialistic items, and the “way and how” of using ALL of God’s graces, powers, and “Words” given to you freely and FREE!  (Jesus has already paid the cost!!)

Jesus answers the crowd, saying who HE truly is:  “the bread of life”:

“This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:50, 51, 54, 58).

Only through Jesus Christ’s grace, can you, I, or anyone else, enter into God the Father’s Kingdom.  Only through Jesus Christ are we provided the life-sustaining food (and water) which endures and gives eternal life:

Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

The above verse (John 4:13) gives a new meaning to Christ being present – – truly and fully – – in each morsel and drop of both “species” of the Eucharist: the body and blood of the Risen Jesus Christ!

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Having heard what Jesus just said, the crowd wanted to know:

What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” (John 6:28).

Jesus answered:

This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” (John 6:29)

That just seems to be a little too simple, maybe even cunning or crafty, in the simplicity of His “Words”.  Many believe that ALL you have to do is simply “believe Jesus is the ‘one’ sent by God”.  However, there is a “little” more to this statement than just “believing”; for to believe, one must also accept the premise that Jesus is truly “the one sentas prophesized in Jewish scripture.  In reality, in order to believe Jesus is truly “the one sent”, you must also believe ALL that the prophets had to say about this “one sent”.

  

Image from the following website:
http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/
prophecies-concerning-jesus-and-their-fulfilment\

In believing, the crowd would be accepting that Jesus IS (and STILL IS) fulfilling EVERY prophecy made from the entirety of the great Prophets of old; where and who He would be born to, His work and mission, how He would die, His resurrection, and His ascension into heaven.  Through Jesus Christ, these prophecies of a “kingly” and “suffering” Savior Messiah had arrived to this crowd (and to US!)! 

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This crowd wanted even further proof from what they had already seen – – as a perfect sign in itself – – with the multiplication of the bread and fish.  So, the crowd says to Jesus:

What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” (John 6:30).

Haven’t they seen ENOUGH to prove who Jesus truly and fully was (and is)?  Oh, those of so little faith!!  Then again, they were not the first ones to ask for proof from Jesus regarding His divine nature.  They were not the first to ask for, nay, demand a sign.  So, when:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1);

Then, Jesus responds thusly:

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ ” (Matthew 16:4).

Luke further elaborated on this:

 “While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation’” (Luke 11:29–30).

The “Son of Man” was a “sign” to this generation (and ours) as Jonah was a “sign” to the Ninevites of his generation.  Jonah is the “sign”, and his message was repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural dimension of their lives.  Jesus is the “sign”, and His message was also that of repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural divine nature of the “Son of Man”.

The Jews of the Exodus story demanded a “sign”, demanding bread from Moses – – and God gave them “manna”.  The crowd demanded from Jesus what the Israelites demanded of Moses – – a “sign” – – the “bread from heaven”:

 “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). 

For the Jews of His day, Jesus is declaring that He IS the prophesized “sign”, the “bread from heaven” as revealed in Exodus:

 “Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. …  But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. … Moses then told Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to keep it for your future generations.’” (Exodus 16:4-34)

 This “bread from heaven” – – the “manna” – – was a divine sign, a gift from God the Father to His children.  This “manna” is similar to a natural substance, still found today in small quantities, on the Sinai Peninsula, and is associated with the honey-like resin from the tamarisk tree.  However, God’s “manna” is clearly an extraordinary, supernatural sign of God’s providence toward His “chosen” people, who needed His help.  Per Jewish tradition, the “manna” – – the “food” from heaven – – was (and is) expected to reappear miraculously at Passover, during “the last days”.  Christian tradition regards the “manna” of Exodus as a type of the Eucharist which Jesus fulfilled and is still fulfilling today.

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In verse 6:31, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”, Jesus now starts referencing a single, specific, part of the prayer He taught to His disciples during the “Our Father” prayer:

Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

St. Francis of Assisi explained this specific portion of the “Our Father Prayer” in a beautiful and succinct way:

“Give us today our daily bread: Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to remind us of the love God showed for us and to help us understand and appreciate everything that He did or said or suffered.”

Jesus Christ IS OUR DAILY BREAD!!  (I can’t say this fact enough!)  Through Jesus in the Eucharist, we are reminded and showed to understand and appreciate the true, and full totality of His life, death, resurrection, ascension, promises, hope, love, trust, and return – – in our lives NOW!!.  HOLY WOW!!!  HOLY AWESOME!!!

The “manna” of the Exodus story prefigured, and pointed to, the superabundance of the unique “bread” of the Eucharist which Jesus gave to His disciples on the eve of His sacrifice.  The “bread” Jesus offers His disciples still sustains us not only on our journey to His heavenly paradise; it also gives us the abundant supernatural life of God Himself, sustaining us now and for all eternity.  

When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ Himself, who makes us sharers in His body and blood, thus partaking in His divine life.  The Holy Eucharist is the “supernatural food” of healing – – for both body and soul – – and gives us strength for our journey to the paradise of God’s heavenly banquet (cf., Hebrews 12:18-24).

After initially answering the crowds question for a “sign”, Jesus then directly and unequivocally says:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

I believe Jesus could not have been much clearer.  The people present certainly knew Jesus was referring to the prophecies in Isaiah and Amos among others:

 “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy?  Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.  Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.  I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the steadfast loyalty promised to David.”  (Isaiah 55:1–3);

“See, days are coming—oracle [revelation] of the Lord GOD— when I will send a famine upon the land: Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. … On that day, beautiful young women and young men shall faint from thirst” (Amos 8:11–13).

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true “bread of heaven” which can satisfy the deepest hunger, thirst, and longing every human being experiences in life.  We must believe in Christ, listen to His “Word”, pay attention to Him – – and most importantly – – “come to” Him in the Eucharist!!

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In today’s Gospel, there are four exchanges between Jesus and the crowd.  In the first, the crowd, after finding Jesus already at Capernaum, before them, asks a very “matter of fact” question: “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus replies by identifying their motivation in pursuing Him: their being fed earthly, worldly, bread.  Jesus acknowledges their physical feeding, yet challenges them to see beyond their material needs.  Instead, they (and we) should be seeking out Jesus because He can give eternal life!

As the second dialogue begins, it seems that the crowd might be on their way to accepting Jesus and His mission.  They ask: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  Jesus replies that the “works of God” is that they “BELIEVE” (have faith in) the one sent from God.  

Notice, Jesus is clearly declaring that He IS the One sent by God the Father – – the “New Moses”!!

However, in the third dialogue, the crowd reveals their inability to see Jesus’ true identity; the crowd reveals their “blindness”.  They ask Jesus for a sign so that they might know Jesus is truly sent from God the Father.  This request for a sign sounds strange since Jesus had just fed more than 5000 people, and for the most part, the SAME people now asking for a “sign” again.  I must add, what more is expected from Jesus to prove His true divine nature?  (Maybe He needs to raise someone from the dead!  Um … wait; He does, including Himself!)

The crowd cannot see beyond the surface of the “sign” Jesus gave in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  By their description, they identify Jesus with Moses.  So, just as Moses gave the people “manna” in the desert, the crowd wanted Jesus to give them a sign so they will know Jesus was truly from God.  They were looking to identify Jesus as a “prophet” without realizing “God the Son” was standing before them.  

As God “fulfilled” the crowd’s ancestors’ needs in the desert, so God still provides food for eternal life (and still provides NOW TODAY)!   In the bread which they received from Jesus, they received physical nourishment as well as spiritual nourishment.  Jesus wanted the crowd then (and wants us today) to see beyond the surface – – to the One who provides true nourishment, God the Father through God the Son working through the Holy Spirit, even through material things.

The conclusion of the dialogue also further reveals the crowd’s “blindness”: they CANNOT “see” the divine Christ in their midst.  They asked for what Jesus had just told them they have found: “Sir, give us this bread always” (verse 34).  Jesus answers plainly that He Himself IS the “Bread of Life” they are seeking; the Bread of Life who will satisfy every hunger and thirst.  We can understand this fact better when we remember that God revealed His name to the “chosen” people of Israel as “I am” – – “Yahweh”.  Jesus claims this name – – “I AM” – – for Himself!!  Jesus’ claim [to fame] will bring many into His kingdom.  On the other hand, Jesus’ claim – – though it is true – – will have a negative effect as well, for some.  In the weeks ahead, in the Gospel readings at Mass, we will see how this claim offended others in the crowd.

Jesus offers a new relationship with God, a new life – – a life of sacrificial love, selfless service, and the forgiveness of others – – corresponding to God’s mercy, goodness and loving kindness.  This new life is a life of holiness, purity, and truth, corresponding to God’s holiness.  This new life is a life of obedience and trust, corresponding to God’s offer of abundant life, peace, and happiness.  This is the true definition of “work” which Jesus directs us to do, and enables us to perform through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am truly hungry for the “bread” which comes down from heaven; and I thirst for the “Words” of everlasting life in, with, and through God!!  (What about you?)

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Sometimes, we don’t recognize the wonderful things our Trinitarian God has done for us in ours, and in others, lives.  Sometimes, out of habit or need, we simply forget and ask for further evidence of His love and care.  Pray that God, in these times, will remove our “blindness” so that we can receive and appreciate – – with thanks, praise, and love – – all the wonderful things which God truly accomplishes in our lives.

St. Francis said, Who are You, Lord, and who am I?”  The “manna” from heaven and John’s supernatural Christology (nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) draws out the theme of nourishment from God, and especially, the new life we receive through Christ, who is the “Bread of Life”.  How awesome and wonderful is it that we ALL have a Trinitarian God who is close to us – – truly one of us – – through the “Risen” human flesh of Jesus, and as near and physically present as in the Holy Eucharist.  We need to come to realize that the importance of the immanent nature (God existing in, and extending into, all parts of the created universe) of God is truly and absolutely important for our daily spiritual lives!!

The second half of Saint Francis’ question above, Who am I?” is as equally important as the first half, Who are You, Lord.  I might rephrase this question as: “Who am I that I can relate to my (and your) immanent God and His call to freedom and a new life?”  Like the Israelites, we actually sometimes desire a bondage to our personal addictions or societal failings.  Let us remember that we do have choices.  We can choose to feed on the “Bread of Life”; or we can feed on the “dry bones” of an exploited, materialistic, and secularized human existence without everlasting life.  (Here Fido, you take the bone and I’ll take the bread!)

It is interesting for me that, often, we are not only complacent with oppressive situations and rewards in life, we are also even sometimes “grateful” for the mere “scraps” we receive in life.   We need to remember that in times of trials and tribulations, the “scraps” of worldly materialistic items and conveniences are no match for the overwhelmingly bounty of God – – through the “Bread of Life”, Jesus Christ!

Recall the wonderful gifts God has given you, and the remarkable deeds God has accomplished in and through you.  Remember, it is truly important to stop and count our blessings.  We can all easily miss recognizing all of the wonderful things God has done (and does) for us on a daily basis.  Recall that we have this gift from Jesus – – in the Eucharist – – TODAY and FOREVER!!  (and even in heaven!)   Thank God for all He had (and has) given to us. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Bread of Life Prayer

 

“Bread of Life, you feed
us through word and sacrament.
The bread we share
a remembrance
of your presence with
us. Strengthen us for
service, that seeds we sow
in fertile places
might grow and flourish,
that food we share
in fellowship
might nourish and revive,
that words we share
in our daily walk
might glorify your name.
Bread of Life, you feed us
through word and
sacrament that we might feed others.
Blessed be your name!  Amen.”

http://www.faithandworship.com/Jesus_bread_of_life.htm

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3) RSV.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3) KJV.

***

But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom. … And, ‘Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands’” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) RSV.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  … And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands (Hebrews 1:8, 10) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint [Commemoration] of the Day:  Dedication of the Church of St. Mary Major Basilica

 

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431.  Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary.  Standing atop one of Rome’s seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica.  Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine’s era.  Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church.  St. John Lateran represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark; St. Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary’s, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

One legend, unreported before the year 1000, gives another name to this feast: Our Lady of the Snows.  According to that story, a wealthy Roman couple pledged their fortune to the Mother of God.  In affirmation, she produced a miraculous summer snowfall and told them to build a church on the site.  The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome every August 5.

Comment:

Theological debate over Christ’s nature as God and man reached fever pitch in Constantinople in the early fifth century.  The chaplain of Bishop Nestorius began preaching against the title Theotokos, “Mother of God,” insisting that the Virgin was mother only of the human Jesus.  Nestorius agreed, decreeing that Mary would henceforth be named “Mother of Christ” in his see.  The people of Constantinople virtually revolted against their bishop’s refutation of a cherished belief.  When the Council of Ephesus refuted Nestorius, believers took to the streets, enthusiastically chanting, “Theotokos!  Theotokos!”

Quote:

“From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, in whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs.  Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the People of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation…” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 66).

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

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

05.  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.

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

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

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“Is Catholic ‘Communion’ sanctioned with ‘PETA’?!” – John 6:51-58 †


 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote or Joke 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, I will be away at my fourth “ACTS” retreat weekend.  This is my third experience being “on team”: presenting the retreat to others.  ACTS is an acronym meaning: Adoration, Community, Theology, & Service.  With many retreat experiences under my belt, I honestly believe the ACTS Retreat movement is the most “Spirit Filled” encounter I have undergone.  I offer to each of you a personal invitation, if one ever becomes available in your area.  You can more information on the ACTS Retreat movement at the following website:

http://www.actsmissions.org/

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   684 – St Benedict II begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1409 – Council of Pisa selects Petros Philargi as 3rd Pope: Alexander V
†   1870 – Christmas is declared a federal holiday in the United States
†   1936 – Birth of Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI names 27 new cardinals
†   1975 – Death of St. Josemaría Escrivá, Spanish Catholic priest (b. 1902)

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

 

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Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus saying, “I am the living bread.”

 

 (NAB John 6:51-58) 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

 

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This Sunday we celebrate a second solemnity at this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.  Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  (Last week’s was the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.)  This day was once called Corpus Christi (Latin for “Body of Christ”) in the Catholic Church.  In the revised Lectionary the name of this solemnity, “Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ”, is expanded to more completely reflect our unique and true Eucharistic theology.

 

Today’s reading is taken from the Gospel according to John.  The reading relates a discourse between Jesus and a crowd of Jews.  Today’s discourse comes shortly after the miracle of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  In John’s Gospel, “miracles” are identified and mentioned as “signs” through which people come to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God.  These signs are always followed by a dialogue, or discourse, that interprets and explains the miracle (“sign”).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves is said to have occurred near the time of Passover.  Jesus chose the time of the Jewish Feast of Passover to fulfill what He had announced at Capernaum:

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  So they said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’  Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” (John 6:32-35)

In doing this, John links it to the Exodus story and God’s saving action toward the Israelites.  Even the representation of Jesus coming from heaven as a life giving bread is a manifestation and revelation of the “manna” stories of the Old Testament Exodus stories.

The recollection of the manna in the wilderness evokes to the Israelite people that they live – – not by earthly bread alone – – but by the “bread” of the Word of God:

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

In the Old Covenant (Old Testament), bread and wine were offered in a Eucharistic (thanksgiving) sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to God the Creator as being the true life giver and the true giver of life’s nourishment.  Melchizedek, both a priest and king, offered a sacrifice of bread and wine, as Christ also will:  

“Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words … “. (Genesis 14:18);

And,

Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and ‘blessed him.’  And Abraham apportioned to him ‘a tenth of everything.’  His name first means righteous king, and he was also ‘king of Salem,’ that is, king of peace.  Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.  See how great he is to whom the patriarch ‘Abraham (indeed) gave a tenth’ of his spoils.”  (Hebrews 7:1-4).

 

Melchizedek’s offering foreshadowed the offering made by Jesus Christ, our high priest and king in the “new” covenant of God’s everlasting kingdom.

“It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.  But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creationBut this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 7:26; 9:11; 10:12).

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Having seen Jesus multiply the loaves and fishes, the crowd pursued him, perhaps to seek more food, but I believe also to look for other signs (miracles).  Jesus told the crowd that “He is the bread of life”.  He explains that just as God gave the Israelites manna to sustain them in the desert, so now God has sent “new manna” giving eternal life.  It is in this context that Jesus repeats those same words and tells all again (both then and now) that He is TRULY the living bread that came down from heaven.

At the last supper when Jesus blessed the cup of wine, he gave it to his disciples saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”:

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28).

Jesus, in blessing the cup of wine at the “last supper” was pointing to the sacrifice He was about to make on the cross, shedding His blood for us, pouring Himself out and giving Himself to us as a sacrificial atonement for our sins, and the sins of the world.  Jesus made Himself an offering and sacrifice; a gift that was (and is) truly pleasing to God the Father.  He “offered himself without blemish to God”

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14). 

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After witnessing the life and miracles of Jesus Christ, why did many Jewish followers get so upset?  Some even asked:

How can this man give us (His) flesh to eat?” (John 6:52)

Many left disappointed in Jesus’ words about eating flesh and drinking blood.  Probably because both are prohibited by Jewish law. 

“Many of His disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’  As a result of this, many (of) His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” (John 6:60, 66)

These individuals choose to return to their old lives, instead of “the Jewish sin” of consuming the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  They took the words on an absolutely literal basis!  These poor souls believed they had to actually eat the skin of Jesus.  They envisioned acts of cannibalism.

This literal concept of “cannibalism” is revolting, even to me.  But yet, we are eating the actual body and blood of our divine Jesus Christ at every Mass in the Catholic Church.  I am not being hypocritical in any way.  To non-Catholics (and even some Catholics), this concept of “transubstantiation” is hard to understand.  The bread (host) and wine does not change physically, or even molecularly; yet both change “substantially” into the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Non-believers (including most Protestants) don’t understand or believe in this concept of “transubstantiation.”  How wrong they were (and are).  I will hope to offer proof in this reflection.

Jesus said to His disciples:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53)

Another Amen, amen – – “YO, LISTEN TO ME” – – moment for the people He is talking to and teaching.  He goes on to say:

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

Notice that Jesus did not say “eat a representation or simulation of my body.”  He also did not say “reminder of my body… ”.  Jesus said in no uncertain terms:

“… EATS my flesh and DRINKS my blood …” (John 6:54)

Jesus goes on to declare that only through Him, can one obtain salvation.  Only through Jesus Christ can we obtain the grace to overcome our sins and iniquities.  Only through Jesus can we obtain the grace of eternal life in paradise with the Holy Family, the angels, the Saints, and the entire celestial court.

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The verb “eat” used in verse 54 of today’s reading is not the classical Greek verb used for human eating, but rather that of animal eating.  A proper translation for this verb would be instead:

To “munch” and “gnaw.”  

John may have purposely used this verb in order to emphasize the true reality of the flesh and blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (Body and Blood).  However, this same verb eventually did evolve to become the ordinary verb in Greek to mean “eat.”  

I believe John’s reference to the word “eat” is for the “Bread” of the Eucharist used in the celebration of the Mass.  Further proof is in verse 56:

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink..” (John 6:55) 

Did you notice that the word “eats” is plural?  Hmm, one may eat the “flesh” of Jesus multiple times!!  I love that as a Catholic Christian, I can do as Jesus Christ specifically wanted His follows to do: to come to Him daily.  In participating in the Holy Eucharistic celebration, I bring Him in me AND me in Him.  

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:56)

And, I can encounter this celebratory event DAILY!!  I can renew my love for Him, and dedicate myself to Him anew each day.  WOW!!  The Franciscans call this daily conversion:

“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.” (Rule #7 of the Secu;lar Franciscan Order)

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Saying “the living Father” (verse 57), Jesus is referring to the “living bread” of the Holy Eucharist.  The little pad or morsel of dead flour becomes, – – through the grace and action of the Holy Spirit, – – the living body of Jesus Christ sent to give life to all who believe in and consumes (“eats”) it.

In a way, it is the true bread that came down from heaven in the form of Jesus Christ, and unlike our ancestors who ate the bread of life, “manna,” (cf., Exodus 16:12-36) in the desert, and still died.  Whoever eats Jesus’ “bread” will live forever.

“This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (John 6:58)

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Jesus’ words were not well understood by the crowd; they argued that He was not from heaven but only born of human parents: Mary and Joseph (and not from God’s).  The crowd also had trouble understanding how Jesus could give them His flesh to “eat”.  He tells them that when they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they will remain forever connected to Him in a very intimate and personal way.  

Jesus’ words may be difficult words for some to hear, yet, they are important words because they seek to show us our intimate connection with Him.

 This is the “mystery” at the center of our unique and true Eucharistic theology.  In the elements of bread and wine, Jesus’ Body and Blood are truly present.  When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus Himself comes to dwell within us and us in Him.  This “communion”, this personal and intimate contact with the Lord Jesus Christ makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s Body in the world.

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Our faith teaches us that when we gather to celebrate Mass, Jesus is present to us.  The bread and wine truly becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.  This is what we mean by the word “transubstantiation”.  Jesus truly makes himself present to all who receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

Do you have memories of your First Holy Communion?  Reflect on what Jesus meant when He called Himself the “living bread”.  Recall that every time we receive the Holy Eucharist, Jesus, Himself, keeps the promise He made in today’s Gospel:

Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (John 6:58)

 

Jesus’ passing over to His Father by His death, resurrection, and ascension – the new Passover – is anticipated in the Last Supper and still celebrated in the Holy Eucharist, thus fulfilling the Jewish Passover and anticipating a final Passover of the Catholic Church in the glory of God’s eternal kingdom.  When the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He also invited us to take His life into the very center of our being.  The “life” He offers is the very life of God Himself.  I think I am hungry for some bread; How ‘bout you?

 

Jesus, I believe

 

“Jesus, I believe in the true body and blood of our Holy Eucharist. You gave up your life for us, and continue to give us life through the Holy Eucharist, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.  I love you forever.  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.

 

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

 

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (1902-1975)

 

An estimated 300,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square on October 6, 2002, for the canonization of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei. His canonization came only 27 years after his death, one of the shortest waiting periods in Church history.

Opus Dei, which means Work of God, emphasizes that men and women can become holy by performing their daily duties with a Christian spirit. In his homily, Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of every believer following God’s will, as had the newly sainted founder of Opus Dei. “The Lord has a plan for each one of us. Saints cannot even conceive of themselves outside of God’s plan: They live only to fulfill it.”

Born in Barbastro, Spain, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer sensed early in life that he had a vocation to the priesthood. Following his ordination in 1925, he briefly ministered in a rural parish. He moved to Madrid, where he obtained a doctorate in law. At the same time Father Escriva was beginning to envision a movement that would offer ordinary people help in seeking holiness through their everyday activities. It was officially founded in 1928.

As Opus Dei grew, Father Escriva continued his studies and his priestly work among the poor and sick. During the Civil War in Spain he had to exercise his ministry secretly and move from place to place. Only after the war did he return to Madrid and complete his doctoral studies. He later moved to Rome and obtained a doctorate in theology. Pope Pius XII named him an honorary prelate and a consultor to two Vatican congregations. All the while, Opus Dei grew in size and influence.

When Msgr. Escriva died in 1975, Opus Dei could be found in dozens of places around the globe. Today its membership includes approximately 83,000 laypersons and 1,800 priests in 60 countries. It is a “personal prelature,” a special jurisdictional entity within the Church.

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:

 

Creation & Ecology

 

What is the result when some individuals accumulate large amounts of wealth created from this world’s resources at our disposal, when at the same time there are other humans suffering a lack of the basic needs means to live humanely?

What balance is required in order to be Franciscan in regards to ecology issues?

Are all creatures of equal value — the inanimate, the plants, animals, human?  How does the Church prioritize them?

In SFO Rule #18, what is meant by “the Franciscan concept of universal kinship”?

What means do I use to show reverence for all creation?

What is the moral error in the economic principle that indicates the price of an item should be set by “what the market will bear”? (cf., CCC p.2424)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

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26.  As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.

 

“Well, Well, Well, Let Me Tell You Woman!” – John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42 (5-42)†


 

   

“Third Sunday 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:

 

I have been chosen to be on another “ACTS” retreat team at my local parish.  For those that do not know, ACTS is a parish-based retreat similar to cursillo-type retreats.  ACTS is an acronym meaning Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.  They are some of the most moving and spirit based movements one can experience.  I have been on many and each one hits me differently.  I can’t wait for the retreat.  

 

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The latest about Fr. Corapi on his forced leave of absence.  I received an e-mail from Santa Cruz Media.  Their official “Statement” relative to Fr. Corapi’s suspension included the following paragraph:

“We have consulted with a number of canon lawyers.  They have assured us that the actions of the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas are, on several points of canon law, illicit.  It is our fervent hope that The Dallas Charter will be changed because of false accusations like this.  There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to “destroy” Father Corapi.  We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same.”

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1191 – Death of Pope Clement III
†   1309 – Pope Clement V excommunicates Venice and all its population.
†   1329 – Pope John XXII issues his ‘In Agro Dominico’ condemning some writings of Meister Eckhart as heretical.
†   1378 – Death of Gregory XI, [Pierre R the Beaufort], last French Pope (1370-78)
†   1642 – The sixth Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Joseph takes his office.
†   1935 – Birth of Fr. Stanley Rother, Roman Catholic Priest, Martyr and Missionary to Guatemala (d. 1981)
†   1962 – Archbishop Rummel ends race segregation in New Orlean Catholic school
†   Memorial/Feasts: Rupert of Salzburg

(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 greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus revealing himself to the Samaritan woman at the well, as recorded in John. (The “shorter” form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

 

 

(NAB John 4: 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42) 5 Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. 

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.  9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)  10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?  12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”  13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

I can see that you are a prophet.  20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”  21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”  25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”  26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” 

39 Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.  40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Today, and for the next two Sundays, we read from John’s Gospel instead of from Matthew’s at Mass.  The Gospel of John is the only Gospel not assigned to a particular liturgical year (A, B, or C). Instead, readings from John’s Gospel are interspersed throughout our three-year liturgical cycle and calendar. (We are presently in Cycle A; predominately Matthew’s Gospel.)

Also, for today’s Mass, the Deacon or Priest has the option of reading a long and short form of the Gospel.  I have chosen to comment predominately on the short form of the reading, otherwise, this reflection would be twice as long.

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Let me give you a little history and geography lesson for the three places in today’s reading/reflection that may be unfamiliar to you.

“Sychar” is a place that St. Jerome identified with “Shechem”.  St. Jerome, in his research while translating Holy Scripture to Latin from the original Greek discovered this link between the two names Syriac manuscripts.

Per biblical scholars, the mountain in verse 20 of today’s Gospel is believed to be Mount Gerizim.  A temple was built on the mountain in the fourth century B.C. by Samaritans.  

“Jacob’s well” was about a mile and a half from the nearest town (Sychar).  The well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee.  It wasn’t easy to draw water from this well as it was over a hundred feet deep, and Jesus did not bring a rope or bucket. 

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In today’s Gospel, the dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman is among the most surprising for me.  A conversation between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman rarely, if ever, happened.  Jesus, a devoutly observant Jew of that time (DAH!), was expected (almost required by law) to avoid conversations with any woman in public, regardless of their nationality.  

On top of the societal norms barring men from talking to women in public, the long-held dislike and hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans should have prevented conversation between the two as well.  The woman herself alludes to the break from Jewish tradition:

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (John 4:9)

However, not only does Jesus talk with the woman, He also asks to share her drinking vessel.  Touching her cup, or her, is an action that would make Him unclean according to Jewish law.  (Samaritans must have had major “Kooties”!)

The history of the Samaritan people is quite interesting.  They originated in the period of the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C., as found in 2 Kings 17:

“The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.  When they first settled there, they did not venerate the LORD, so he sent lions among them that killed some of their number.  A report reached the king of Assyria: ‘The nations whom you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know how to worship the God of the land, and he has sent lions among them that are killing them, since they do not know how to worship the God of the land.’  The king of Assyria gave the order, ‘Send back one of the priests whom I deported, to go there and settle, to teach them how to worship the God of the land.’  So one of the priests who had been deported from Samaria returned and settled in Bethel, and taught them how to venerate the LORD.  But these peoples began to make their own gods in the various cities in which they were living; in the shrines on the high places which the Samarians had made, each people set up gods.  Thus the Babylonians made Marduk and his consort; the men of Cuth made Nergal; the men of Hamath made Ashima; the men of Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the men of Sepharvaim immolated their children by fire to their city gods, King Hadad and his consort Anath.” (2 Kings 17:24-31)

Samaritans shared Jewish ancestry, but Samaritans had intermarried with the Jewish inhabitants and “foreigners” during their rule under the Assyrians.  Like the Jews, the Samaritans believed that a Messiah would come.  However, Samaritan religion not only included the worship of Yahweh, it was also influenced by the worship of other gods.  

The Samaritans did integrate rather quickly with the Jewish people of the region in a very limited and somewhat precarious way.  After the Babylonian captivity, they tried to ally themselves with the Jewish people for political reasons, and to contribute to the rebuilding of the Temple, but the Jewish people refused.  These two groups of people seemed to be always unfriendly, and sometimes hostile towards each other.

 

The initial dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is better understood if we recognize the importance of water, especially in an arid climate such as Palestine.  First, the Samaritan woman comprehends Jesus’ promise of “living water” in the literal sense, as “flowing” water.  There was no flowing water in her area that was easily accessible.  The daily trip to the well by the women of the community was of vital importance. Most women normally trekked to the water well in the early morning when the day was much cooler. 

Why did this woman come to the well at the hottest time of the day – – noon?  A realistic expectation for her late arrival at the well, when all the other women had already gone, is that she is an outcast within her own Samaritan community (She was an adulterer).  She, in essence, tells Jesus that she is an outcast because of her “many husbands.”

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Water in the arid land of Palestine was extremely scarce.  And we all know that water brings about life in its beauty.  When the Israelites complained about lack of water in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to “strike the rock” and a stream of fresh living water gushed out:

“I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.  Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus17:6).

The image of “living water” is used throughout Holy Scripture as a symbol of God’s wisdom, a wisdom that imparts life and blessing to all who receive it.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 13:14). 

Jesus offered this woman His “living water”, the water of life: the revelation that Jesus brings.  This Samaritan woman thinks Jesus is talking of “flowing” waters instead, which is so much more desirable – – “sweeter” – – than the stagnant cistern water which she had to use every day.  The water she used had to be collected the few rains they experienced in the area, and then sat gathering sand, dirt, parasites, trash, and other waist products.  However, the “flowing” water this woman considered so supreme and sweet is not anywhere near as supreme and sweet as God’s revelation within us, nor is it as refreshing to the soul.

For me, it is interesting that John’s method of recording such a misunderstanding in what the Samaritan woman understood from the words of Jesus’, reminds me of another verse from earlier in John’s Gospel:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3.)

One can’t truly “see”, or understand the kingdom of God – – along with Jesus’ words and actions in His kingdom, – – unless “born again”.  The word attached to “born” (again) is a Greek adverb that means both “from above” and “again.”  Jesus meant this word to be understood as “from above”, – – as with and in the Holy Spirit – – and not “again”, as being born “twice”.  I am sure there are a lot of Protestants saying, HMM right now. 

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As I said earlier, Samaritans and Israelites did not trust or like each other. (It seems this still is the case between the Palestinians and Jewish people in the Middle East areas still today.)  

For the woman to say, “sir” toward Jesus is impressive for me.  “Sir” comes from the Greek word “kyrios” meaning “master” or “lord”.  The word “sir” is a respectful mode of address for either a human being or a deity, and the Samaritan woman’s meaning is further revealed in verse 19 of today’s reading:

The woman said to him, Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:19).

Sir” is a word sometimes used in the Septuagint (the Torah) for the Hebrew “adonai”, substituted for the tetragrammaton “YHWH”.

 

Jesus captures the woman’s attention with His reply to her question about Him being greater than Jacob of the Old Testament.  He IS greater than Jacob!  Jesus Christ is capable of quenching her thirst – – once and for all!  Jesus offers a “drink” of changed through sanctifying grace; a grace that works in each of us through the Holy Spirit.  Sanctifying grace allows us the ability to share in God’s own life, and Him in ours, through the presence of the “Advocate” – – the Holy Spirit – – in our individual souls and hearts.  What a supreme and great gift to receive from Him, to be in Him, and Him in us!

 

This Samaritan woman became aware that she was speaking to someone of authority.  So, she asks an important question indirectly that affected the religious life of the two groups of people:

“Where was the right place to worship God?”

The Jewish people said “only Jerusalem would do”!  The Samaritans believed the shrine on Mount Gerizim was also legitimate, basing their claim on verses from Genesis:

“The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’  So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7)

“Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’” (Genesis 22:2)

He set up a memorial stone there and invoked ‘El, the God of Israel.’” (Genesis 33:20)

Jesus not only answers her question, but also confirms the teachings of the prophets, and, further affirms His revealed truth.  The Samaritans, not being Israelites (God’s chosen people) are in the dark about many of God’s plans.  (They were not “in-the-know”!)  The Samaritans do not accept any revelation that is NOT found in the first five books of Holy Scripture – – the Law of Moses – – The Torah.  On the other hand, the Jewish people are closer to the truth since they accepted the whole, the entirety, of the Old Testament. 

Both, the Samaritans and the Jewish people, needed to open themselves to the new revelation found in, and of Jesus Christ.  Both religious communities were awaiting the “Messiah” – – the true dwelling place of God among men.  Jesus is the Messiah, the new Temple for both communities:

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’” (John 2:19)

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The mountain in verse 20 of today’s Gospel is believed to be Mount Gerizim.  A temple was built on the mountain in the fourth century B.C. by Samaritans.  The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy mentions this mountain and the building of a structure:

“When, moreover, you have crossed the Jordan, besides setting up on Mount Ebal these stones concerning which I command you today, and coating them with plaster” (Deuteronomy 27:4).

Mount Ebal in Deuteronomy is the Jewish peoples’ term for Mount Gerizim. 

Under King’s David and Solomon, the Temple in Jerusalem was designed, funded, built, and worshipped in.  Neither Temples in Gerizim and Jerusalem exist any longer, nor are they needed!  As I just said, Jesus is the new Temple of God.  By accepting Him in body, blood, soul, and divinity, we are offering to Him worship from the heart; an offering the Holy Spirit of God stirs people to bestow. 

 

Being “in Spirit and truth” (verse 23) is not a reference to an interior and personal worship within one’s own mind and body.  The “Spirit” is THE Holy Spirit, given by God to us as a grace, which reveals His truth to us and enables us to worship God in appropriate ways.  The evangelist John qualifies this concept and “truth” in two consecutive verses found in the long-form of today’s Gospel reading:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate  to be with you always, the Spirit of truth,  which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it.  But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17).

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Due to their different paths in history and religious focus, the Samaritans expected a “prophet” Like Moses to come, and take them on a new “exodus” to paradise,  They did not expect a “Messianic” king from the house of David.  Their expectations of a new “prophet” stems from their tradition, history, and a particular verse in Deuteronomy:

“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

 

This “adulteress and outcast” Samaritan woman becomes a “disciple” of Jesus Christ!  Even with her past history as an outcast in her community, and her not being a Jew, as Jesus is, she still gains the courage to return to her town telling others of her revelational discovery in the Jewish Jesus’ words.  This Samaritan woman then leads other non-Jew Samaritans to Jesus.  Though Jesus does not meet her initial expectation, thinking He is a prophet, she’s now knows she had truly found the “Messiah”.  Her belief was so strong and convincing that members of the Samaritan community return with her to meet Jesus personally and many of them come to believe in Him, and follow Him.

 

The Samaritan woman in today’s story not only comes to acknowledge Jesus Christ being someone of importance, but also acknowledges her sins.  She accepts the “true” teaching about worshipping God the Father in “spirit and truth”.  Though she shows and demonstrate favorability to Jesus Christ, she still had to grow to recognize Him as the “Messiah”.  Seeing this favorability emitting from her, Jesus reveals that He IS the “Messiah” she and her people had been awaiting:

 “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” (John 4:26)

 

Jesus could not be more direct in verse 26, when He declares, “I am He”!  These three simple words is rooted in the well-known Old Testament name of Yahweh – – I am”.  Jesus declares He is the Messiah, AND He evokes the words Yahweh used to reveal Himself to Moses:

“God replied, “I am who am.”  Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14),

These words by Jesus are used to indicate a revelation not only of His being the Messiah, but also of His divinity:

But he said to them, ‘It is IDo not be afraid.’” (John 6:20),

“That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.  So Jesus said (to them), When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” (John 8:24, 28),

“Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’” (John 8:58),

“From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.” (John 13:19),

“They answered him, ‘Jesus the Nazorean.’ He said to them, ‘I AM.’  Judas his betrayer was also with them.  When he said to them, ‘I AM,’ they turned away and fell to the ground.  Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’” (John 18:5-6, 8). 

Mark even makes a reference to “I AM” and His divinity in an indirect way:

They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’” (Mark 6:50).

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Jesus Christ is displaying and teaching to us “evangelization at work” in His conversation with a lowly Samaritan Woman.  She was enthusiastic to His words and eager to learn. 

St. Augustine understood Jesus’ role as an Evangelist when he wrote:

“The same thing happens today with those who are outside, who are not Christians: they receive tidings of Christ through Christian friends; like that woman, they learn of Christ through the Church; then they come to Christ, that is, they believe in Christ through this report, and then Jesus stays two days among them and many more believe, and believe firmly, that he indeed is the Saviour of the world” (St. Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 15, 33).

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There are several reasons for the importance of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  First, the woman changed in heart, mind, and soul.  She gained a belief in Jesus Christ as the true “Messiah”.  Through Jesus, she came to recognize her sins.  

This woman, who was deemed to be so immoral as to be an outcast in her own society, becomes a stout and fervent evangelist to her own people.  She went from being a “sinner” to a believer and messenger of God’s word; goes from being a “foreigner” to a loved member of the family!

Finally, the dialogue from the Samaritan people that came to see this “prophet named Jesus” is a foretaste of the type and beauty of the “open” community that will be created among those who believe openly and truly in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”.

The Samaritan woman gained a gift – – a grace – – based on faith.  Faith comes from the Holy Spirit indwelling in each of us, and acting in and through each of us, individually.  I came across a nice little comment about faith that I would like to share:

“Faith comes to us as a grace, a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We do not earn faith or create it out of our own efforts and talents.  The Holy Spirit plants an attraction to God in our hearts as well as the faith we need to come to God.  It is a strong yet gentle impulse that honors our freedom and fills us with gratitude.”  (Alfred McBride, Truth for Your Mind, Love for Your Heart, Our Sunday Visitor)

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In Summary, why do we have this reading at this time of the year?  Our Lenten season is one of repentance.  It is a season during which we are called to reflect upon, and to live acutely and respectfully, the promises of Baptism.  The water well, and all the talk about water in today’s Gospel reading, should immediately call to mind in us the Sacrament of Baptism.  As the Samaritan woman was changed in heart, mind, and soul, – – “converted,” – – and then sent on a mission to her community as an evangelist, we too are converted and sent by our Baptism to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to others on a daily basis.

The Catholic Church’s Magisterium teaches that we become true worshipers of God through Baptism:

“By baptism men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him; they receive the spirit of adoption as sons ‘in which we cry: Abba, Father’ (Romans 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks.” (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 6)

 

Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?  Reflect upon the importance of Baptism to you.  How is Jesus’ discourse with the woman at the well like Baptism?  (Hint: Jesus knows the woman’s sin and forgives her. The woman comes to know Jesus as the Messiah.  And, the woman invites others to meet Jesus.)  

Jesus broke through the obstacles, impediments, and walls of prejudice, hatred, aggression, and conviction to bring peace, love, and reconciliation to all people – – Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles – – alike.  He demonstrated the universality (Kathlicos – Catholic) of the Gospel in word AND deed.  No one is barred from the love of God and His grace of salvation.  There is only one thing that can keep us from God and His redeeming love – – OURSELVES, by turning away from Him.

 

 

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Psalm 95
 “Sing joyfully in the presence of the Lord.”

 

“Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; cry out to the rock of our salvation.
Let us greet him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms.
Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For this is our God, whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock. Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno (1825-1888)

 

Francis, the last of 12 children, was born in northern Italy into an aristocratic family. He lived at a particularly turbulent time in history, when anti-Catholic and anti-papal sentiments were especially strong.

After being trained as a military officer, Francis was spotted by King Victor Emmanuel II, who was impressed with the young man’s character and learning. Invited by the king to tutor his two young sons, Francis agreed and prepared himself with additional studies. But with the role of the Church in education being a sticking point for many, the king was forced to withdraw his offer to the openly Catholic Francis and, instead, find a tutor more suitable to the secular state.

Francis soon left army life behind and pursued doctoral studies in Paris in mathematics and astronomy; he also showed a special interest in religion and asceticism. Despite his commitment to the scholarly life, Francis put much of his energy into charitable activities. He founded the Society of St. Zita for maids and domestic servants, later expanding it to include unmarried mothers, among others. He helped establish hostels for the elderly and poor. He even oversaw the construction of a church in Turin that was dedicated to the memory of Italian soldiers who had lost their lives in the struggle over the unification of Italy.

Wishing to broaden and deepen his commitment to the poor, Francis, then well into adulthood, studied for the priesthood. But first he had to obtain the support of Pope Pius IX to counteract the opposition to his own archbishop’s difficulty with late vocations. Francis was ordained at the age of 51.

As a priest, he continued his good works, sharing his inheritance as well as his energy. He established yet another hostel, this time for prostitutes. He died in Turin on March 27, 1888, and was beatified 100 years later.

Comment:

It wasn’t Francis’ lack of scholarly ability or deep-down goodness that almost kept him from the priesthood, but his bishop’s distrust of “late vocations.” Until the later part of the 20th century, most candidates for the priesthood entered the seminary right out of grade school. Today no bishop would refuse a middle-aged applicant—especially someone whose care for people in need is constant. Francis is a holy reminder that God’s call to reassess our life’s direction can reach us at any age.

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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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.

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we now say, “God of power and might,” with the new liturgical text we will say:

God of hosts”.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Eucharist I

 

What kind of nourishment do you seek when you receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

How do you use “Communion” to renew your pledge to sacrifice for the Body of Christ?

How do you use “Communion” to renew your pledge to accept the Body of Christ, with all her limitations and weaknesses?

While we speak of receiving the Consecrated Bread and Wine, do we include adoration of the Divinity in our prayers at Communion?

In what way(s) is the Eucharist for healing?

 

Т

 

 

Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) 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). 

“You Thought You Had It Hard Before, Check Out These Laws!” – Matthew 5:17–37†


 

“Vigils for Victims” of underage sex trafficking are being organized outside Planned Parenthood offices coast-to-coast on Monday, February 14, from Noon to 1 PM in each U.S. Time Zone …

… and YOU can make a profound impact in one hour!

We must act swiftly and take a public stand against Planned Parenthood’s harmful agenda — raising awareness in the communities where we live, and calling upon Congress to IMMEDIATELY strip the abortion chain of all tax funding.

This Monday, February 14, all people of faith and conscience are being called upon to hold one-hour “Vigils for Victims” of human trafficking during the Noon hour in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood offices nationwide.

 This requires rapid action, but will show Planned Parenthood — and the media — the power of pro-life America to bring about change!

For more information, go to http://www.40daysforlife.com and follow the links.

Please join me at the following location:

Central West End Planned Parenthood facility
4251 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO  63108

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:


   
†   1130 – Death of Honorius II, [Lamberto], Pope (1124-30)
†   1130 – Gregorio de’ Papareschi elected as Pope Innocent II
†   1480 – Birth of Girolamo Aleandro, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1542)
†   1585 – Death of Alfonso Salmeron, Spanish Jesuit biblical scholar (b. 1515)
†   1599 – Birth of Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Siena Italy, pope (1655-67)
†   1888 – Death of Jean Baptiste Lamy, 1st Archbishop of Santa Fe (b. 1814)
†   1913 – Birth of Guiseppe Dossetti, Italian politician/priest
†   2005 – Death of Lúcia Santos, Carmelite nun and Fatima visionary (b. 1907)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Beatrice; Saint Ermenildis; Saint Fulcran; Saint Polyeuctus

(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:

 

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.  The wife said, “You should do it because you get up first, and then we don’t have to wait as long to get our coffee.”  The husband said, “You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.”  His wife replies, “No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.”  The husband retorts, “I can’t believe that, show me.” 

So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says – – “HEBREWS”!

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 13 of 13 Parts

Let us not forget, dearest brothers and sisters, that there are nearly 450,000 of us professed Secular Franciscans, in every corner of the globe.  We are a great potential force for good and grace in the service of the Church.  We make up 75% of all the Franciscans in the world!

Can you imagine what we could accomplish in the service of the Kingdom and the Gospel if only we were all true, authentic, good Secular Franciscans?

Come on, then, brothers and sisters, let us answer the call of the Church: let us “put out into the deep”, Duc in Altum, with courage, and not keep the Church waiting any longer as She urges us to retake our place fully in the Church and in the world.

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ coming to NOT abolish the Mosaic Law, and Old Testament prophecies – – but to fulfill them.

 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  21 You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’  22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.  23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.  Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.  27 ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.   31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’  32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’  34 But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the evil one.  (NAB Matthew 5:17–37)

 

Today’s reading is the first part of three readings concerning Jesus’ teachings on the true way of life for entrance into God’s kingdom.  Part one concerns the Mosaic Law.  The second reading will deal with worship, religious practices, and prayer (Jesus’ model for His disciples).  Part three focuses on trusting God and giving proper acts of loving service to our “neighbors”.

Here in part one, we have a statement of Jesus’ position concerning the Jewish Mosaic Law.  It is composed of traditional material, plus Matthew’s own editorial touches (after all, he wrote the book).  Jesus did not come to change, tweak, amend, or even abolish Mosaic Laws.  Nor did Jesus want to distort the words and prophecies of the many biblical prophets who preceded Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill all the laws, prophecies, and promises concerning the “Messiah” and the new kingdom to come!  I know about sixty prophecies (more or less) from the Hebrew Scriptures, written 1500 to 400 years before the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  To fulfill ALL, and not just some, prophesies would be a statistical improbability (And for me, impossible!  Only God could make that happen.)  And, He promised He would, He did, and in the Person of the “Messiah”.

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the new kingdom – – the new covenant – – is a direct offshoot of the old.  In my opinion, Catholics are a second generation or first cousin of the Jewish faith.  Jesus, a Jew, proclaims this when He asserted that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity. 

Jesus requires us to follow the moral laws, “the Commandments”, not the desert code for worship during the exodus, which Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.  Since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the moral laws He gave us then are indeed perfect in nature; and thus, of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted – ever!

Those who do not obey any of the Ten Commandments, even in the smallest of ways, or who teach others to not follow the Ten Commandments, are guilty of serious moral evil (sin).  Sin affects not only the entire body of Christ, but also the human Church (us).  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church and separates the sinful one from a permissive and loving God and weakens the bens of love among the brethren (the human Church).

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  They have become Christian”, an Imitator of Christ!  The greatest gift one, as a Christian, is their best “self”!

 Jesus said,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself(Luke 10:25-28):

Then He said

“And do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Matthew 7:12).:

Peace, love, and humility are graces God bestows upon and within us.  We are to share His graces and gifts with all people we encounter – at all times and in all places.  After all, a talent or gift not shared with others is, sadly, a talent or gift wasted!  Don’t be afraid to embrace your calling, your mission on earth.  It really is possible to live the life God desires of you.  In fact, all humankind is so dearly in need of your witness to God, which only you can give.

The commandments identified in verse 19 denote those of the Mosaic Law.  However, I think Jesus was (and is) talking about more than the Jewish civil and religious regulations.  He is teaching a universal and perpetual system of moral standards and principles “until heaven and earth pass away.”

Jesus wants us to look further the Mosaic Laws and into the “heart” (the intention) of the Law-giver: God!  God wants a sincere, unconditional, and total submission, compliance, and reverence to the intentions underlying His laws.  Ok, yes the standards are immense and challenging!  However, so too are His graces and rewards! 

 

From verse 21, and extending to verse 48, Jesus gives six examples of conduct expected of His disciples wishing to follow Him and His teachings.  {We are only covering the first four examples in today’s Gospel reflection).  Each situation deals with a commandment of Mosaic Law.   Each one is presented in the second person format.  (Isn’t Jesus the “second” person in the Trinity? – Hmm.)  The first example introduces “your ancestors did something” formula.  Jesus responds by introducing a different, higher, more important standard of behavior.  He emphasizes the difference by using the very strong words: “But I say to you ….”  By doing this He is declaring an authoritative clarification of what He (and God the Father’s) expects of His sons and daughters.

In today’s reading, two of the directives accept the “old” Mosaic Law fully, while extending or deepening the directive (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28).  The two other directives in today’s reading are partially rejected as a standard of conduct for Jesus’ followers (Matthew 31-32; 33-37).  I say “partially” because His improvement is more of a “clarification of God’s intent” rather than complete rejection. [Again, Matthew 5:38-39 and 5:43-44 are not covered in this reflection]

 

The first directive, found in verse 21, in today’s reading is about killing someone.  The Mosaic Law can be found in two specific places in the Old Testament:

You shall not kill.”  (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17)
(The Hebrew word is “murder”.)

However, the second part of the verse, “whoever kills will be liable to judgment” is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament directive found in the book of Exodus:

Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death.”  (Exodus 21:12)

Jesus counters the current interpretation when He says, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment ….”  Jesus goes deeper and broader by declaring a new standard of doing harm by using just words.  Jesus’ intention is to (1) avoid harming your brother verbally, and (2) seek reconciliation with your adversary.   This standard of behavior is found in Luke’s Gospel:

“If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison.  I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  (Luke 12:58-59).

The severity of the “judge” in either (Matthew’s or Luke’s) parable is a strong warning to all people (not just Jesus’ disciples, or even the Jewish people as a whole) concerning the fate for unrepentant sinners in the coming judgment by Jesus – – the Parousia.

Anger is probably the greatest motive leading murder.  Insulting someone, using improper nicknames, and/or strong descriptive labels, are simple steps leading to anger and murder. “Raqa” (verse 22) is an Aramaic word meaning “fool”, “imbecile” or “blockhead”; using it is clearly improper and disparaging terms of abuse towards others.  These “words”, as well as the aforementioned act of murder, are forbidden in God’s kingdom. 

The Jewish people understood that not all offenses are equal.  Some are minor, others are major.  The Jews had an increasing order of punishment for issues involving anger.  There was (1) judgment, (2) being called before the Sanhedrin Court, and (3) Condemnation (death)!  This reveals the various levels and degrees of seriousness in each of the offenses (name calling, anger, and murder).  Judgment would probably first take place by the local council or congregation.  Next in order, would be a trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Temple court in Jerusalem.  The Sanhedrin was the highest judicial body of the Jewish religion, a Supreme Court of sorts.  Finally, for the most serious of charges, condemnation to “Gehenna” was the ultimate penalty – – death and burial outside the city. 

Gehenna, the “Valley of Hinnom,” or “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” was (and still is) an area geographically southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  At one time, it was the center of an idolatrous (pagan) cult in which children were offered in fire sacrifices:  

“The king [Josiah of Judah – descendant of David] also defiled Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be an immolation of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech. (2 Kings 23:10)  

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they have built the high place of Topheth to immolate in fire their sons and their daughters, such a thing as I never commanded or had in mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31)

(A Side Reflection:  A common method of abortion is to inject a super high concentration of salt into the amniotic (babies) fluid in which the fetus lives.  This barbaric act literally, and brutally, BURNS the fetus to death in its own – – once life giving – – fluid.  Can you just imagine the pain of physically and slowly burning to death?  Our society is no better than the pagan cult that once lived in Gehenna!)

The concept of punishment for sinners by fire after death or the final judgment can be found in Jewish apocalyptic literature such as Enoch 90:26:

And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house.” (Enoch 90:26)

In verse 29-30 of Matthew, Jesus is telling us that any sacrifice of self, for others out of love, is never too little for inclusion into God’s kingdom.  In reality, sacrifice of self, for others out of love, may keep one from inclusion to the horrors of total destruction in Gehenna.

 

Next are the laws regarding “adultery” and “divorce”.  The Mosaic Law is very direct when it comes to adultery:

You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

Notice the period behind the verse!  It is there for a reason!!  Adultery is a misleading name for me.  A true “Adult” would never violate that “intimate” (meaning “shared privacy”) covenant made not only with a spouse, but also made with God Himself!

The Old Testament Mosaic Law was quite interesting when it came to divorce.  Read Deuteronomy 24:1-5:

When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house: if on leaving his house she goes and becomes the wife of another man, and the second husband, too, comes to dislike her and dismisses her from his house by handing her a written bill of divorce; or if this second man who has married her, dies; then her former husband, who dismissed her, may not again take her as his wife after she has become defiled. That would be an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring such guilt upon the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage.  “When a man is newly-wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him. He shall be exempt for one year for the sake of his family, to bring joy to the wife he has married.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

The Old Testament commandment that a “bill of divorce” be given to the woman (she usually sends the bill NOW) assumes that the divorce itself is for legitimate reasons.  Jesus is denying that most divorces are, in fact, legitimate in any way. I believe this is proven in the fact that He says, “Unless the marriage is unlawful”.  This “exceptive clause,” can be found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel as well:

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

BUT, there are other sayings from Jesus about divorce which clearly prohibit it absolutely.

“He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”  (Mark 10:11-12)

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  (Luke 16:18)

To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband and a husband should not divorce his wife.”    (1 Cor 7:10, 11b)

Most bible scholars agree that these verses represent the true attitude and stance of Jesus Christ (and thus, GOD).  Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” (“unless”) are believed by some scholars to be a modification of the absolute prohibition to divorce.  It seems, however, that the “unlawfulness” that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage can be broken refers to situations unique to his own first century early Catholic community.   These situations stem from violations of Mosaic Law that forbid marriage between persons of certain blood affinities and/or legal relationships:

None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the LORD.  You shall not disgrace your father by having intercourse with your mother. Besides, since she is your own mother, you shall not have intercourse with her.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your father.  You shall not have intercourse with your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in your own household or born elsewhere.  You shall not have intercourse with your son’s daughter or with your daughter’s daughter, for that would be a disgrace to your own family.  You shall not have intercourse with the daughter whom your father’s wife bore to him, since she, too, is your sister.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s sister, since she is your father’s relative.  You shall not have intercourse with your mother’s sister, since she is your mother’s relative.  You shall not disgrace your father’s brother by being intimate with his wife, since she, too, is your aunt.  You shall not have intercourse with your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, and therefore you shall not disgrace her.  You shall not have intercourse with your brother’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your brother.  You shall not have intercourse with a woman and also with her daughter, nor shall you marry and have intercourse with her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; this would be shameful, because they are related to her.  While your wife is still living you shall not marry her sister as her rival; for thus you would disgrace your first wife.” (Lev 18:6-18)

Marriages of this sort was (and still are in most parts of the country) regarded as incestuous (“porneia” in Greek, from which we get the word “porn”).  However, some first century rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism, who had married in such a way, to remain in their incestuous marriages.  Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity, and can be seen in a similar prohibition of incestuous marriages found in Acts:

 “Tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.   Namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.” (Acts 15:20, 29)

In the interpretations, there is no exception to the prohibition of divorce, when the marriage is lawful.

 

Verse 33 (false oaths) is not a “precise” quotation from any Old Testament text. It can be deduced from several verses in the Pentateuch:

You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11)

You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)

The true purpose of any oath is to guarantee truthfulness – – by calling on God as your witness.  Remember the Old Perry Mason TV episodes wherein the person testifying in court put their hand on a bible and said, “I swear to tell the truth …”?  Also, every President of the United States, and all elected federal officials place their hand on the religious book of their faith, (usually a bible in this country), when taking the oath of their office.  One’s oath is a form of a covenant with God – – and you don’t want to purposely break a covenant with God!

Recently, in the prevalent secularization of America, and in removing God from anything and everything [a personal opinion], the use of “God-based” oath formulas, and acts such as placing your hand on a bible (never done in a courtroom anymore) are attempts, simply, to avoid God’s divine name in public. 

However, one is still in fact swearing by His name regardless.  All the things sworn to or by, – – are related to God

I had a “dah” moment in reading Verse 37.  What did Jesus really mean by saying”:

“Let your `Yes’ mean `Yes,’ and your `No’ mean `No’”? 

Was Jesus literally meaning, “Let your words be “Yes, yes,” or “No, no” without any misrepresentation, misinterpretation, or misdirection in what you say to anyone at anytime?  Some scholars believe that this statement is in fact, a milder form of an oath, permitted by Jesus.  If you look at verse 34 again, it says, “Do not swear at all“.  If taken as “biblical”, it is highly unlikely that any human could uphold this regulation.   I believe Jesus clearly explains His statement with the second half of the verse, “Anything more is from the evil one”.  Any “oath-taking”, in reality presumes our sinful weakness; namely, our sinful predisposition to lie.  Otherwise, why would an oath ever be needed?  Jesus is simply insisting that His disciples be truthful at all times, thus making any oath essentially unnecessary.  (How about that, for a much higher standard!)

 

Initially, to fulfill the Mosaic Law meant for me to literally follow each of the laws exactly to the slightest detail, forever (yeah, right!).  After a period of reflection, I have come to believe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most would think.  Instead, this “passing away” may refer to the termination in our “human” understanding and knowledge of our existing universe, for a more divinely inspired and mysterious understanding.  I believe we may be living in the early stage of the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  Isaiah declares:

“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) 

Jesus’ ministry on earth points to the “new kingdom”.  His mission never deviated from Old Testament prophecies.  In fact, I believe His ministry actually remained within the framework of Mosaic Law!  However, Jesus brought about a significant anticipation and hope of a new age and a new covenant – – His kingdom on earth.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  Are you?!

There is a responsibility for all of us to help each other, in an individual and communal way.  We are to gain knowledge to understand our faith, and God’s love and trust He has for each individual one of us – – personally!  We also must help shape the hearts and souls of others, in addition to our own.  You don’t have to be perfect (trust me, that would be impossible); you just have to give your best.  Surrender to the Holy Spirit; allow Him to work with, in, and through you.  The Holy Trinity will certainly do the rest of the work, again – – with, in, and through YOU!  YOU really can change the world, one person at a time.

Jesus does not overturn the Law of Moses, nor does he set His disciples free from the Law. He instead requires his followers to go beyond Mosaic Law by doing more than it requires. 

I sense that most people remember more through their eyes than they ever will through what they read or hear.  We need to “show” All others (not just people with whom we are comfortable) how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle.  This is done by demonstrating a proper Catholic standard of living and routine at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

We all live by rules.  Without rules, life would be chaos.  Think of the rules that you are all called to follow in order for you all to get along with others in your life.  In reality, following rules is a way of showing love and respect for one another.

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

 

In Summary, the Law condemned murder. Jesus condemns anger. The Law condemned adultery. Jesus condemns even lustful looks.  As Jewish Christians who had always been faithful to the Law, Matthew’s community needed a way to understand the difference Jesus, and the kingdom He brings, have made.  They believed that God had always been at work in history through “the Law and the prophets.”  The written scriptures and their interpretation in tradition are surpassed by Jesus, whose life, His birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and glorification – – are THE definitive revelation of the will of God, our Father.

 

The Prayer for Controlling Anger

 

“O Lord, must I fear Your wrath?
Retribution is Yours by right!
May I never dishonor Your Divinity,
My
soul seeking to maintain Your love.
Shape my being into earnest kindness,
A reflection of Your perfection.
Grant me the
grace of self-control,
That I may not display any anger.
Should I have such an outburst,
Instantly remind me to seek redress,
For such is offensive to You.
Anger is Yours alone to avenge!  Amen.”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph (1729-1812)

 

In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter or most often as official beggar for that community.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Comment:

People often become arrogant and power hungry when they try to live a lie, for example, when they forget their own sinfulness and ignore the gifts God has given to other people. Giles had a healthy sense of his own sinfulness—not paralyzing but not superficial either. He invited men and women to recognize their own gifts and to live out their dignity as people made in God’s divine image. Knowing someone like Giles can help us on our own spiritual journey.

Quote:

In his homily at the canonization of Giles, Pope John Paul II said that the spiritual journey of Giles reflected “the humility of the Incarnation and the gratuitousness of the Eucharist” (L’Osservatore Romano 1996, volume 23, number 1).

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 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.

 

 

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. 

“Was Jesus a Republican or Democrat!?” – Mt 23:27-32†


 

Exactly four months till CHRISTmas day!  That is 122 days, or 17 weekends, 107 weekdays, and about 100 or so school days.  Isn’t everybody excited NOW!!

 

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†   1282 – Death of Thomas Cantilupe, English saint
†   1624 – Birth of François de la Chaise, French confessor of Louis XIV of France (d. 1709)
†   Liturgical Feasts: Genesius of Arles; Saint Louis IX of France; Saint Joseph Calasanz.

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. — Francis of Assisi

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ “calling-out the Scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites!”

  

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.  29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’  31 Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; 32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!  (NAB Mt 23:27-32)

 

The gospel today is a diatribe of criticism and censure by Jesus to the Scribes and the Pharisees in Jerusalem.  Jesus is definitely driving home a point by literally calling the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites!”  While a deep antagonism and conflict existed between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees, and is well founded in the various clashes between them, this tongue-lashing reflects a deep disagreement that probably goes beyond that of Jesus’ ministry.  This disparity needs to be seen as expressing the bitter conflict that still existed between the Jewish Pharisees and the early Jewish-Catholic Church of Matthew’s time later in the first century A.D., long after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven body, soul, blood, and divinity.

Jesus’ speech is not purely anti-Pharisaic though.  Matthew observes in “his” Jewish-Catholic Church, many of the same faults that Jesus found prevalent in the Pharisaic Jewish temples of Jesus’ time on earth.  Matthew is warning his fellow Christians, through this Gospel reading and Jesus’ words, to look at their own conduct and attitudes: to not fall into the same trap the Scribes and Pharisees fell into.   

The sixth “woe” —  about bright and gleaming tombs with rotting flesh and bones inside, just as  the preceding “woe” (not in this reading) about cleansing the outside of the cup, but not the inside, —  deals with a concern for externals, and the neglect of what is inside oneself.  Jesus is telling the temple officials that although they appear “whitewashed” on the outside, they are full of dead bones and filth on the inside.  I can picture Him being visibly upset, and nearly yelling at those church officials present, while stretching out his arm with a finger pointed at each of them.

Do you know anyone who always has to have the newest fashion, yet snub their nose at others they feel live “beneath” them?  Have you ever done this, and don’t answer to quickly!?  Let me throw a few sentences at you, and see if any come even close to something you may have said:

  • How do you like my new haircut?
  • See my new cell phone.  It has all the best gadgets on it.
  • My family ALWAYS vacations in Florida.
  • My children can’t go anywhere but _______! Fill in the elite and very expensive ivy-league type high school in the area.  (I purposely left out a few very specific names of schools in my area, as to not grossly offend someone.  There were several I could use, including a couple of [sadly] Catholic High Schools in the area, which gives the impression they are TOO GOOD for the average person.)
  • Let me pay the bill with my “platinum” credit card.

All of these sentences carry the sins of pride, greed, and envy; plus, depending on the circumstance, also the sins of gluttony and sloth.  Besides these 3-5 “capitol or cardinal” sins, the person saying anything similar to this is extremely close to breaking the 8th and 10th Commandments (Thou shall not bear a false witness, and Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property, respectfully). 

Contact with dead bodies during Jesus’ time on earth, even if the person was unaware, caused ritual impurity for that person.  Ritual uncleanness was, for all essence, contagious and the individual was separated from the temple and society.  This is why people with a skin disease such as leprosy were not allowed in the cities, much less the temples.  Any impropriety with cleanliness, religious or personal was scrutinized, and the person treated severely.    For this reason, tombs were white-washed so that one would not contract any impurity inadvertently.

The final “woe,” is the most serious of the seven mentioned in this Gospel chapter.  It is nothing less than that of an indictment from Jesus.   It portrays the temple Scribes and Pharisees position and status in society, as being in the same relationship of their ancestors “who murdered the prophets and the righteous.”

The Scribes and Pharisees honored the murdered prophets of old, by building tombs, and then decorating their memorials with trinkets and gems.  Plus, the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time asserted that they would have not participated in their ancestors’ crimes of murdering the prophets if they had lived during their ancestor’s period of time.  Jesus made a very clear and profound statement in declaring the Scribes and Pharisees as being most definitely the “true” children of their ancestors.  The Scribes and Pharisees were boldly ordered by Jesus to “fill up what those ancestors measured out!”  This order manifests the Jewish belief that there was a specific allotment, a measure, of suffering that had to be completed prior to God’s final judgment taking place.

What do you think the crowd listening to Jesus this day were thinking and doing?  Some in the crowd were probably nodding their heads in total agreement, while others (especially the Scribes and Pharisees) were visibly upset or confused at what Jesus was saying to them in a very public way.  Do you think the majority of the crowd was happy and elated that Jesus “called out” the “quasi-politicians” of the Jewish religion?  Or, do you believe the majority present was upset that He was attacking the temple officials that took care of their specific spiritual needs. 

Was Jesus looked upon as the “outsider” attacking the “incumbent,” similar to how present day politics work?  Rhetorically, was Jesus a Republican or Democrat?  My answer is WHO CARES: but I believe the correct answer is neither.  Jesus’ political party was that of “Messiah and Savior from God!”

All communities have its portion of trouble-makers, but I prefer to call them “Sh!t-disturbers” because they enjoy the ability to “stir the cr@p!”  These people have a tendency to abuse the generosity of others, similar to the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time that is preached about in today’s Gospel reading.

For us reading and reflecting on this Gospel today, Jesus is simply giving us another example of how important our example is to others, for as St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!”

 

“Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament”

 

“We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ,
in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You, because,
by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  Amen.”
 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Louis IX, King of France 1215-1270

 

Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order

 

King St. Louis was born in the castle at Poissy near Paris on April 25, 1215. His devout mother, Blanche, was determined that he should be educated not only for the earthly kingdom he was to govern, but still more for the kingdom of heaven. She accustomed him to look upon all things in the light of faith, and thus laid the foundation for that humility in good fortune and endurance in misfortune which characterized the holy king.

Louis was crowned king when he was only 12 years old. His mother, however, was entrusted with the actual government of the kingdom during his minority. Meanwhile, Louis was being educated in all the duties of a Christian prince. Among his instructors there were several Franciscan friars, and later on the young king himself joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Louis had governed his kingdom for several years in his own name, when he vowed, in the course of a serious illness, that if he would recover, he would make a crusade to the Holy Land, to wrest the holy places from the hands of the infidels. Upon regaining his health he at once carried out his vow. He took the fortress of Damietta from the Saracens, but was taken captive after his army had been weakened by an epidemic.

After he had borne the sufferings of a prisoner of the infidels for several months with holy serenity, the terms for his release were submitted to him; but there was attached to these terms an oath, that if he did not fulfill them, he would deny Christ and the Christian religion. The holy king replied: “Such blasphemous words shall never cross my lips.” They threatened him with death. “Very well,” he said, “you may kill my body, but you will never kill my soul.” Filled with admiration at his steadfast courage, the finally released him without objectionable condition. After securing many other terms favorable to the Christians, he was obliged to return to France, since his mother had died in the meantime.

In the government of his kingdom, Louis proved how profitable piety is in every respect. He promoted the welfare of the country and his people in a remarkable manner. His life as a Christian and as a Christian father was so exemplary that he has been found worthy to be chosen as the patron and model of Tertiaries. The most important principal of his life was the observance of the laws of God under all circumstances. His biographer assures us that he never lost his baptismal innocence by mortal sin. He himself set such store by the grace of baptism that, in confidential letters, he took pleasure in signing himself “Louis of Poissy,” because it was in the parish church there that he had been baptized.

Louis never tolerated cursing or sinful conversation either among the servants or among the courtiers; and never was he heard to utter an unkind or impatient word. he wished to avoid all unnecessary pomp and luxury at court, so that more help could be rendered to the poor, of whom he personally fed and served several hundred. His wardrobe was as simple as it could fittingly be, and at all times he wore the insignia of the Third Order under his outer garments. On special occasions he publicly wore the habit of the Tertiaries.

In order to curb sensuality he not only observed all the fasts of the Church with unusual severity, but denied himself certain food for which he had a special craving. He was a most solicitous father to the 11 children with which God blessed his marriage. He himself prayed with them daily, examined them in the lessons they had learned, guided them in the performance of the works of Christian charity, and in his will bequeathed to them the most beautiful instructions.

He fostered special devotion to the sufferings of Christ; and it was a great consolation for him when he gained possession of the Crown of Thorns, for the preservation of which he had the magnificent Holy Chapel built in Paris. When serious complaints concerning the oppression of the Christians in the Holy Land reached his ears, he undertook a second crusade in 1270, but on the way he died of the plague, contracted while visiting his sick soldiers.

Amid exclamations of holy joy because he was going into the house of the Lord, he surrendered his soul to God on August 25. St. Louis was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.,
© 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #25 of 26:

 

Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

“Hey Steve, Let’s Get Stoned!” – Acts 7:51-60†


I want to wish a very happy and blessed birthday to a woman I have grown to love.  I think I have read nearly all her books.  This woman raised herself up and out of despair and poverty, to become a poor and simple woman doing God’s work on earth; and doing it exceptionally well: Happy Birthday Mother Angelica.  May you have a blessed day.

Today in Catholic History:
570 – Birth of Muhammed, founder of Islam (d. 632) (date disputed)
1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
1314 – Death of Pope Clement V (b. 1264)
1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
1923 – Birth of Mother Angelica, American nun and broadcaster
    

Today’s reflection is about the stoning of Stephen.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt
  

Today’s Meditation:
    

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.  You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”  When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.  (NAB Acts 7:51-60)
     

Israel had generations of resistance to God’s word.  God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the Jewish people rejected, persecuted, and murdered the prophets.  There seemed to be in a constant cycle of reverence, then immoral acts leading to destruction or capture.  Then prophets proclaim the fruits of following God’s laws with limited results for long periods.  Finally, the people ask for forgiveness and redemption, which is gained through sacrifice and prayer.  The Jewish people are forgiven and live in peace, harmony, and in the presence of God in a reverent manner; only to repeat the cycle again and again (I believe seven times).    

Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them had been fulfilled (see Mark 14:62): Jesus died, and was resurrected on the third day.  His church was torn down (His death on the cross), and was rebuilt in three days (with His resurrection).  The location of God’s “glory” is in heaven with the risen Christ, rather than in the Jewish Temple made by humans.

 The reason they covered your ears, is that Stephen’s declaration, like that of Jesus, is a scandal to the court which regards Stephen’s declaration as blasphemy.  I can picture them all acting like little children with their eyes closed tightly, hands firmly over their ears, looking downwards, and yelling “nani, nani, nani”.   

Stephen is taken outside the city, because any death makes the ground it occurs on as “unclean.”  No one, the Jewish people nor the roman officials, would ever think of making a planned murder on sacred ground.  Murder, in whatever form, is also death to a sacred life from God.  The location of murder is irrelevant to me.  Even in this present era, people are still purposely murdered.  Sacred lives are destroyed out of our immoral thoughts that “this” life is unnecessary or a hassle.  Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are all offenses against this sacred life, and are wrong!

Stephen was destined to be our Church’s first martyr.  This man chosen to feed the elderly widows and other members of the Church of Christ is being killed for his faith by a mob.  Stephen sees Jesus standing with God as he is being persecuted.  Stephen is literally walking in Jesus’ footsteps. 

The word “standing” may refer to Jesus’ welcome to his martyr in an individual way.  It is a variation of Jesus sitting at Gods right hand.  When you go to a friend’s house, how much warmer is the welcome when you are met at the door, or on the porch, with a smile and handshake from the home owner.  I think this is what Jesus is doing:  standing on the porch, welcoming Stephen to His abode.

Witnesses” hardly would be probable in a lynching.  These “witness participants” were probably people caught up in the mob hysteria present, and probably threw a stone or two at Stephen.  I wonder how they felt afterwards: was there any remorse?  Stephen forgave them before they even asked; did any ask God for forgiveness?

In the crowd was a young man that will become one of the greatest figures and disciples of the Catholic Church.  This man, at this time, is a strong and devout Jew, who hates any heresy to the current Jewish faith: Saul.  Saul’s presence appears at the precise point when the Churches mission moves outward from Jerusalem to the Gentile world.

“Jesus, I am in awe at the piety of the early followers of your disciples.  Please give me the grace of these early Church Fathers.  I so want to live and die in you presence and love.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Marian
    

When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. Germanus had founded at Auxerre, there came to him a young man called Marcian (also known as Marian), a fugitive from Bourges then occupied by the Visigoths. St. Mamertinus gave him the habit, and the novice edified all his piety and obedience. The Abbot, wishing to test him, gave him the lowest possible post – that of cowman and shepherd in the Abbey farm at Merille. Marcian accepted the work cheerfully, and it was noticed that the beast under his charge throve and multified astonishingly. He seemed to have a strange power over all animals. The birds flocked to eat out of his hands: bears and wolves departed at his command; and when a hunted wild boar fled to him for protection, he defended it from its assailants and set it free. After his death, the Abbey took the name of the humble monk. His feast day is April 20th

(From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
   

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #20:
   

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