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“If They Sought Advice from Herod, Were the ‘Magi” Truly Wise? I believe the Answer Is ‘Uncertainly Maybe Possible!’” – Matthew 2:1-12†


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Because of the supportive and positive feedback I received concerning my success of explaining the Advent and Christmas symbols used in the Catholic Church, I decided to address occasionally other symbols used throughout the Church year.  Today I will discuss the Liturgical colors of vestments.

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The Church’s liturgical norms do prescribe specific vestment colors for various celebrations.  The purpose of utilizing different colors for vestments is twofold: first, the colors highlight the particular liturgical season and the faithfull’s journey through these seasons.  Second, the colors punctuate the liturgical season by highlighting a particular event or particular mystery of faith.  The following explanation is based on the norms of “The General Instruction on the Roman Missal”.

White or gold, a color symbolizing rejoicing and purity of soul, is worn during the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Easter.  White vestments are also used for certain other feasts throughout the year.  White may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial and Masses for the Dead to signify the Resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness.

Red has a dual imagery: symbolizing the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feasts of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith.

On the other hand, red also signifies the burning fire of God’s love.  Red vestments are won on Pentecost; for the Sacrament of Confirmation; and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit.

Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.  We focus on the life Jesus shared with mankind during His time on this earth, the life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments, looking forward to sharing an everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.  Green symbolizes this hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early spring arouses the hope of new life.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.  At the midpoint of both of these seasons—Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent—rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy: we rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.  Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.

Although not seen very frequently in the United States today, black vestments may be worn for Masses of Christian Burial as a sign of death and mourning.  Black may also be used on the Feast of All Souls or for any Mass of the Dead, such as on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

In all, the colors of the vestments awaken us to the sense of sacred time. They are another visible way to make present the sacred mysteries we celebrate.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” ~  Solomon Ibn Gabirol

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Today’s reflection: The “Magi” seek out Jesus and do him homage.  When have YOU last sought out Jesus, giving Him homage as these “Wise Men”?

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(NAB Matthew 2:1-12)  1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Mejesus-and-maryssiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” as “manifestations” of the divine of this newborn, beginning with His birth in Bethlehem, in the visit of the Magi, in His baptism by His cousin, John – the Baptist, and in His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

There are some fascinating implications about Jesus in the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s “infancy narrative”: Christmas2012

(1)In Luke’s Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, includes the Census required for Jesus to be “registered” in their father’s hometown (will say more about this later).

(2) Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the strange event of “learned” non-Jews, the “Magi”, seeking to visit the prophesied “new king” to be born of Jews, “Israel”.

In retrospect, this text and its story anticipates the future of this “king” on one hand, AND, His acceptance by the non-Jewish “Gentiles” on the other.  We have here a veiled image of the future Church composed of non-Jewish believers, and Jewish believers – – a new “Israel” of faith and worship.

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So, let’s take a deep breath and relax – – and consider this: If Jesus is truly “who” He claims to be – – “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, the prophesied “Anointed One” (Messiah), and the ‘Savior’ of the world’” – – then why was He not recognized by everyone who heard His “Word” and saw His works?  Well, John the Evangelist states in his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew Him not and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11).

Hmm, my faith has grown to realize that there is NO neutral stance when it comes to Jesus Christ, during His lifetime, and still today.  Once people hear and see who Jesus claims to be, and what the implications of His coming are for them, they either accept or reject Him outright.  

Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only a few lowly Jewish shepherds were graced to recognize this Jewish infant boy (Jesus) –wisemen3 – as “King” – – at His birth in a lowly place and fashion; however, some “Magi” also found their way, over a short period of time, to Bethlehem, in order to pay “homage” to the newborn “King of Israel”.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in the many “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the true “great” Messianic King when He appeared as prophesied and promised. 

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly order.  However, over a period of time, the word became used more so for anyone regarded as having a “more than human knowledge”. mcconnellwisemen For this reason, the term frequently used for them is: “Wise Men”.  We also get our word “magic” from this specific word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (probably around the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were most likely astronomers and/or astrologers, as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others quite apparently and easily overlooked when viewing the VERY SAME stars and constellations.

We know little about the “Magi”.  We know they came “from the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, via “Jerusalem”, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the “star”) which, in itself, was of some type ofth “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them across the vast desert, by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening”, to the little town of Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  (Can you hear the song “Oh, little town of Bethlehem” in your head.)  The “Magi’s” journey had to be a difficult one indeed. Roads were poor, no road signs in the desert, Inns (CamolTels) were not the best – – even for the camels.  And let’s not forget the thieves and the lack of police intervention.  All they had was a “star”- – but the best “star” in the heavens.

In their diligent search, these “three” Kings were led to the source of true knowledge – – to Jesus Christ Himself, the “Light and Wisdom” of God the Father.  When they found the newborn child Jesus, they humbly worshiped Him, and gave Him “gifts” fitting for a “true King”, even for a “divine king”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this specific – – and uniquely special – – “Messianic King”?  I would like to think it was a confident and assured faith in the promise God gave to the Jews, to them and their people – – and to us.  The prophetic promise was to send a Redeemer – – a “King” – – who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness for all peoples: 556238_10151178055187903_1249455228_n

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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My question to you: “Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of ‘strange lands’ to represent the Gentiles’ search for a M11 ADVENTtable_html_m309f20f1essianic Savior?”  I believe so.  In essence, the “Magi” could easily and correctly represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  As such, they are truly representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives and journeys today.

Also, there are a couple of Old Testament verses inferring that the “Magi” were truly “kings” themselves:

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day” (Psalm 72:10, 15).

And,

“Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

Tarshish and the islands”, in the above verse from Psalm 72, refer to the far western part of the “known world”, and Arabia and Seba [Sheba] in the fProject1ar southern portion.  These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”. 

What did Matthew mean by saying “saw HIS star”?  Well, it was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any significant  ruler’s birth: be it a secular king or religious ruler.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of an Old Testament story in which “Balaam” prophesied:

I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, That will crush the brows of Moab, and the skull of all the Sethites” (Numbers 24:17).

The “star” in this case means the physical Messiah King, Jesus Christ Himself; not the astronomical phenomenon in the Middle East the “Mafollow-the-star_t_nvgi” are following all the way to Bethlehem.  In a “Christian” messianic interpretation, the “star”, as also the “scepter” from Israel, would refer to Jesus Christ as “King”:

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1).

In reality, how many “Magi” do you suppose came to give “homage” to the child Jesus?  Where, in Holy Scripture, does it say that “three” Wise Men travelled to Bethlehem?  The answer is NOWHERE!  We actually base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the three “gifts”- – “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – – but the actual number of “Magi” that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us. 

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the prophesied “Word” being “written” in the heavenly stars.  (They did not connect the twinkling dots in the sky.)  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. when he died.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (a favorite of mine) as:

 “A madman, who murdered his own family, and a great many rabbis.” 

However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects throughout Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the “Second Temple” in Jerusalem (also referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what!” moment upon listening to the “Magi” about what the “heavenly skies” prophesied.  He was confused and also concerned about his lack of knowledge AND for getting NO preemptive warninthCAB77DFPg about this “NEW” king in “his” territory from his own priests, astronomers, and astrologers.  Herod was also worried about his personal future welfare, prestige, and physical life, with a “Messiah” king in “his” territory.  So, Herod immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to an immediate presence before him. (Hmm, first century pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and astronomers of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per a NAB-RE* footnote).  This footnoted story is about a child, later learned to be Moses, in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh King makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is often called the “New Moses.”) *(NAB-RE is “New American Bible – Roman [Catholic] Edition”)

Herod’s “chief priests and scribes” also reminded Herod of the prophecy found in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) Book of Micah:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

The Book of Micah shared with Isaiah the expectation that God the Father will deliver “Israel” through a “king in the line of David”.  “Bethleimage002hem-Ephrathah” is the birthplace of David, and therefore, of his whole “Davidic line”.  Today, it is known to us as simply, “Bethlehem”. 

Herod, and his “chief priests and scribes”, in a somewhat defensive maneuver to what is written in the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, asked these “Magi”, these first Gentile believers to be an [unlikely] envoy for King Herod.  So, after meeting with Herod, the “three kings” – – the three “Magi” – – travel to Bethlehem, and away from King Herod’s presence (as his “envoy”):

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Continuing to follow the “star”, the “Wise Envoy’s” eventually find the Holy Family still in Bethlehem:  holiness-title-slide

 “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his motherThey prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Upon finding Christ, the “Magi prostrate themselves”, an action given ONLY to God.  Thus, Jesus is confirmed to be the true Son of God through their action.  These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home and homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for discovering, and further knowing, this “heavenly” announced “God-King”.  They followed THE “star” in pursuit of a personal quest for finding the desire of their hearts, and their pursuit for a personal relationship with this “new divine king” whose name they learn was – – Jesus Christ.   – – (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it on a Hollywood street corner or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their pilgrimage these “Magi” can serve well as a model for “contemplative listening” today.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, what I mean is that their “actions” flowed directly from their personal – – their focused – – learning and true discernment through divine guidance.  They had set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in a unique “star” announcing:

the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts of the “Magi”, given to the Holy Family, as a foreshadowing (prophecy) of Jesus’ role in salvation hichristmasbitters5story?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” in nature (representing the spirit, the person, and the actions of Jesus Christ).  “Gold” represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense” is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh” was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus, was offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.  Jesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” are understood to be symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus gold_2Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” – – those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures – – were the first to acknowledge the “who” Jesus was – – FROM BIRTH – – as the Savior KING – – as OUR Savior King!

The journey we take to God is a long one, lasting our entire lives; only ending with our earthly deaths.  Mary, Joseph, and ALL the saints experienced the same long and difficult journey we need to experience. 

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Trinitarian Godhead personally.  In today’s story of the “Magi’s” finding and encountering the child Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to, and for, ALL nations, ALL peoples.  God’s divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave us His true and full – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere!! 

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, these three men made a “gift” of their individual, unique, and personal “liveGifts-with-a-Meaning-behind-Them_001-608x456s” with each step taken in the search for the prophesied “Messiah-Savior-King”.  Matthew, by his account of today’s event, eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” searching quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires in meeting this “singular” “King of Kings”.

After giving Him “homage” and bestowing “gifts” to the newborn child “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod.  So, they returned to their country by another route:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Nothing is written or otherwise known about what happened to the “MagiAFTER they left the child-Jesus.  They found Jesus – – so their journey seems to have ended for them.  BUT, their journey actually did NOT end, and neither has ours; it was just a “turning point” for them as it is for us.  Our journeys never end when we finally “find” Christ in our lives; it just puts us on the “proper path” to Him and to everlasting life with Him in paradise..wise01

By their faith, they followed the “star.”  By their faith, they found the true Messiah King of ALL peoples.  And, by their faith, they returned to their “far off” country via a different route.

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F. summarize titleaith is an entirely free gift which God the Father offers to us, and imparts to each of us personally.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – moving in our individual hearts, and opening our individual souls and being – – that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the real divine “truth” which the Trinitarian Godhead reveals to us in personal and unique ways.  With trust, love, and faith, OUR human “will” and “intellect” cooperates with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

No matter where I am in my personal search of discovery in God’s faith, Christ is present with me – – and within me – – ALWAYS.  I always have the same “star” the “Magi” followed, lighting my way, never leaving me in the dark, distancing me from MY Messiah-Savior-King!!

The visit of the “Magi”, which we celebrate as an “Epiphany”, or manifestation of God’s glory, reveals that the child Jesus whom the “Magi” hailed as the “newborn King of the Jews” (cf., Matthew 2:2), AND who will be crucified under the same title, “King of the Jews” – – is also King of ALL peoples

I sell myself short in my faith-life often.  I don’t always appreciate the power of my faith within me!  I don’t realize my capabilities in knowing God.  Sometimes, I believe my faith is weak, that myencountersThumbnail level of sanctity is low – – in my eyes – – not in His.  To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Trinitarian Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  Jesus Christ came so that both Jew and Gentile might find a true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND with each other. 

We usually do – – and definitely should – – think about God’s goodness to human beings.  Today’s story of the “Magi” has turned such thinking the in the opposite direction, around the goodness of human beings TO God instead.  Three human beings, the Wise Men, the Magi, brought and gave “gifts” to the “Son of God”.  Even though we try to imitate this action in our individual lives, the Son of God is a hard one to shop for.  How does one give gifts to the Son of God, who certainly has everything He needs or wants?  Well, Jesus Christ helped us with this specific inquiry.  He more or less revealed His answer, making it easier for us when He said:

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

How can we become a people and nation which defers to God?  We can begin with ourselves. The mysteries of this season invite us to imitate the “Magi”:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Luke 2:11).

Let us prostrate ourselves before Christ the true and promised Messiah-Savior-King, worshiping and adoring Him.  Let us offer ALL we have, and listen to His “Word”.  Then we shall be ready to serve Him and His Kingdom in heaven and on earth, here and now!! 

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To. conclusion some people, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed to have been established in remembrance of the gift giving of the “Magi” in today’s Gospel reading.  For this reason, in many cultures even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on “Christmas Day”.  This makes me think: giftofpresence-ckwe should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES” – – our true “Present Self”!!  Our “three” “special” gift offerings should be “praise”, “adoration”, and “thanksgiving” for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do – – in our lives!  Our individual spiritual gifts are much more valuable to Him, and to each other, than the monetary value of ALL the “gold, frankincense, and myrrhin the entire world!!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  How can we offer our very “selves”, our “lives”, more fully to God the Father’s personal and collective love and personal plan He has for each of us?  Hmm, let me know what your thoughts are on HOW YOU can do this task.

Let me please finally pass on a couple of reflection questions to each of you.  “Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your psales-questionsersonal path of life?  Do you actively ‘LOOK’ for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life; especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?”  God loves it so much when we speak “Words” of love, and perform “acts” of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm – – instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and “actions” help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you for and to OTHERS!!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift-giving”.  (Yes, I know it just passed a few days aGiftGiving_12-04go for most of us.  But, please, reflect on gift-giving again.)  What was the best gift you have ever received (?), and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special (?), was it the thought that went into it (?), or was it the person who gave it to you which made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress out on the correct answer.)  Do you bring the twinkling “light of Jesus Christ” to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?  Has this specific reflection today been a gift to you?  It has been a gift writing my thoughts on this Gospel reading. gift-keep-giving-13

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impartto others throughout your personal and public route in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of our personal journeys through life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” Wise One’s – – “Camel Jockey’s” – – in OUR search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  So, head towards to the light – – of the “new shining ‘star’”!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

Father,Epiphany 6
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Ash Wednesday – – First Day of Lent” 

 

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:

 

Today is the start of the Lenten Season.  Most followers of Western Christianity observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Saturday (April 23, 2011).  The six Sundays in this period are not counted because each one represents a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. 

The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

  • the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4);
  • the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18);
  • the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33);
  • the forty days Jonah in his prophecy of judgment gave the city of Nineveh in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
  • the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8);

AND, Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2).  Jesus said that his disciples should fast “when the bridegroom shall be taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion.  Since the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.

The Etymology of the word is interesting for me.  In Latin, the term “quadragesima” (a translation of the original Greek meaning the “fortieth” day before Easter) is used instead.  In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the common vernacular instead of the traditional Latin, the English word “lent” was adopted.  This word (lent) initially meant, simply, “spring” (as in German language “Lenz” and Dutch “lente”) and derives from the Germanic root for “long” because, in the spring, the days visibly lengthen.

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude, below (after my reflection on the Gospel), is one of the most famous of the prayers for souls in purgatory.  St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century.  According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.  Please say this prayer each day, during Lent.

            

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1422 – Death of Jan Zelivsky, Hussite priest (b. 1380)
†   1440 – Death of St. Frances of Rome, Italian nun (b. 1384)
†   1452 – Pope Nicolaas I crowns Frederik III RC-German emperor
†   1568 – Birth of Aloysius “Luigi” van Gonzaga, Italian prince/Jesuit/saint
†   1824 – Death of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/Friesland, dies at 79
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gregory of Nyssa; Saint Frances of Rome; Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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In today’s reflection, Jesus teaches that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should be done in secret.

 

1 “[Jesus said to His disciples] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.   (NAB Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

  

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Today, we celebrate “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the liturgical season known as “Lent” (explained in detail at the beginning of this blog, above).  We should be preparing ourselves to celebrate the Catholic “summit” of our Spiritual and Liturgical year: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead on that early Sunday morning we now call “Easter”.  

Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same.  They instruct us to develop and mature a true and loving change of heart.  This season is a time to build-up our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; disciplines that are meant to be part of our individual and communal Catholic ways of life during every season – – every day – – of the year.  However, during the Lenten season, we are given an opportunity as a Catholic Family (the Church militant) to renew and refresh our commitment to theses regular “yearly” practices.

The Jewish people considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the fundamental works of religious life.  These three practices were the essential and primary practices of a pious person; the three great pillars on which the good life was based (a Trinitarian statement).  

Jesus is warning against doing good so others can see you.  He then gives three examples in today’s reading: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each example, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is compared with what is actually demanded of His followers.  Jesus is instructing His followers with the aim of praying, fasting, and giving alms, to not draw attention so that others may notice and think highly of them?  He is instead instructing His followers to give glory to God, and not allow glory to self.    

Self-seeking glory is in opposition to “piety”.  True piety is far more than just feeling good or looking holy to others.  True piety is a virtue of loving devotion and surrender to God in all aspects of life.  Piety is an individual and person attitude of awe, reverence, worship, and obedience to our almighty God.  True piety is a grace and action of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through us, – – individually, – – enabling us to devote our entire lives to God with a righteous longing to please Him in all things, thoughts, and actions.

Jesus warns his followers against acting for the sake of appearance.  When His disciples give alms, pray, and fast, they are to do so in such a way that only God, who sees their heart and soul – – and knows what is hidden, – – will know.  Although our Gospel reading today omits the Lord’s Prayer (cf., Matthew 6:9-15), we can bear in mind that Matthew presents the Lord’s model of prayer for His disciples’.

 Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel.” (Didache 8:2)

 

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The references to “reward” in today’s reading, is also found in other verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:12)

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

It seems that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as “prophets”.  A prophet is, by definition, one who speaks in the name of God.   In addition, being “righteous” is required for all of Jesus’ disciples.  The Prophets, the righteous man, and the “little ones” from Matthew 10:41-42, are used here for different groups within the followers of Jesus Christ – – Christian missionaries of the era – – per se, as compared to His “close group” of Apostles and disciples that stayed near His physical presence.

What is the “reward” that Jesus offers to His disciples – US?  Answer: Communion with God our Father. (WOW!!)  In God the Father, we find the true and complete fullness of life, happiness, truth, beauty, love, and eternal joy. (What else would anyone want?)  Saint Augustine, the great fourth century bishop of Hippo, wrote the following prayer in his Confessions:

“When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.  The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts.  He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts.”

This reference to “reward” in today’s reading shows the word itself is an early part of Christian moral buzz-words.  In using this particular word (reward), Jesus is possibly attempting to emphasize the distinction between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, especially the Scribes and Pharisees.  In the original Kenoi (Biblical) Greek, Matthew uses two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples compared to that of the hypocrites.  The “reward” word for the hypocrite is the verb “apecho”, a business-related term meaning to give a receipt for what has been paid in full.

The word “hypocrite” occurs 21 times in the New Testament.  Mark uses it once. Luke uses it four times.  In addition to parallel words and references, Matthew uses it eleven times in passages that are found solely in his Gospel.  All of these are Jesus’ statements in which “hypocrite” refers to the most religious Jews of Jesus’ day – – the Scribes and Pharisees.  Interestingly for me, the word “hypocrite” is not found in the Book of Acts or any of the other epistles, but only in the Gospels.

When Jesus used the word “hypocrites” in verse 2, was He is, in fact, referencing the Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish temple:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” (Matthew 23:13) 

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes 12 of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.  (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“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.” (Matthew 23:27)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous.” (Matthew 23:29)

The designation – – “hypocrite” – – reflects an attitude which resulted, not only from the disagreements and controversies at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the early first century A.D., but also continued with antagonisms and disagreements between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s congregation in the later part of the first century A.D., and continuing on throughout history.  I believe we sadly still experience a large amount of hypocrisy in everyday life, in the Catholic Church itself, and even within my own Secular Franciscan Order.  Hypocrisy continues throughout all aspects of earthly existence to one level or another.  How sad!

Jesus, in saying “they have received their reward”(verse 2), is telling His followers that these individuals desired “praise” in their actions instead of a relationship with God, and have received exactly what they were looking for, and not God’s grace.

 

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The only “fast” (verse 16) prescribed in the Mosaic Law is on the “Day of Atonement”:

“Since on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean, so that you may be cleansed of all your sins before the LORD, by everlasting ordinance it shall be a most solemn Sabbath for you, on which you must mortify yourselves. (Leviticus 16:30-31).

However, the practice of regular fasting became a very common practice in later Judaism and Christianity:

“Do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day and the fifth day of the week [Monday and Thursday], but you shall fast on the fourth day and the day of preparation [Wednesday and Friday].  (Didache 8:1).

 

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Now, let’s return to the beginning of my reflection.  What is our responsibility during the Lenten Season?  What does rubbing burnt palm leaves on one’s forehead have to do with praying, fasting, and alms-giving?

The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes at the beginning of Lent (the outward liturgical sign of our inner belief and faith) is a summary of our Catholic Christian life.  The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our origin from God through Adam in that beautiful garden, and of our human death in body.  Today, when receiving ashes, listen to the words prayed by the minister when receiving them on your forehead:

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

There are actually three representations associated with the ashes.  Most know about the ashes representing our origins and death, but there is actually an additional representation most probably don’t think of (Isn’t it interesting that even the ashes have a Trinitarian aspect to them!)

The ashes are also the sign of our victory: that victory being – – the cross of Christ.  As the minister places the ashes on your forehead, he is making the sign of the cross. (Through sometimes it appear to look like a map of Europe or a Rorschach test.)  In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He overcame and conquered death.  Our destiny as Catholics is to receive the same “victory” over death that Jesus Christ triumphed over, and won for us.  We acknowledge Jesus’ victory over death when we:

 “turn away from sin and are faithful to the Gospel.”
(Words from the alternative prayer when receiving the ashes.)

 

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In summary, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to examine our life and to re-commit ourselves to the Catholic practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  Ash Wednesday is a great time to pray and to plan Lenten practices.

Jesus expected His disciples to give alms, pray, and fast.  He gave instructions that when we do those practices, they should not be done solely for public display.  Think of one way YOU will give “alms” during Lent; to share what you have with people in need – – in a private way.  Think of one way YOU will “pray” – – privately – – during Lent.  Choose one thing that YOU will “give up” during Lent as a reminder of your love for God – – without telling others.  

Finally, pray that God blesses your Lenten promises by praying today’s psalm from Mass (Psalm 51), the “Our Father”, or the Prayer of St. Gertrude (below).

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude

 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440)

 

Frances’s life combines aspects of secular and religious life.  A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.

Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth.  But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.

As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband’s brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer.  So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands’ blessings—to help the poor.

Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met.  The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter.  With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.  The family flourished under Frances’s care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy.  It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’s second son dead.  In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need.  When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging.  Later, Frances’s daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.

Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows.  They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor.  Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband.  She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.

Comment:

Looking at the exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (September 5), who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor.  The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer, but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world.  Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows.

Quote:

Malcolm Muggeridge’s book Something Beautiful for God contains this quote from Mother Teresa say about each sister in her community: “Let Christ radiate and live his life in her and through her in the slums.  Let the poor seeing her be drawn to Christ and invite him to enter their homes and lives.”  Says Frances of Rome: “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife.  And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Patron Saint of: Motorists; Widows and Oblates

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.

 

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Money

How does the monthly fraternity collection fit into your understanding of poverty and penance?  How does shopping at second-hand stores (e.g., garage sales/Good Will/Salvation Army/etc.) for clothing and furniture show concern for the environment and natural resources?  What is your attitude toward money and possessions?  Are you comfortable curbing your desire to “want more”?  Can you think of examples of doing this (curbing your desires)?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 9 & 10 of 26:

 

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

 

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10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

“Are We There Yet? We Left the Receipts for the Gifts At Home; Hope He Likes ‘Em!” – Matthew 2:1-12 †


 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for
JANUARY 2011

 

General Intention:

That the riches of creation be preserved, valued, and made available to all, as precious gifts from God to mankind.

 

Missionary Intention:

That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany Proclamation 2011

(to be read after the Gospel at Mass today)

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the twenty-first day of April and the evening of the twenty-third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twenty-fourth day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday — the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.  From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the ninth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the second day of June.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the twelfth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, forever and ever.  Amen.”

 

 

 

“Home Blessing”

 

There is a custom that has developed over time for commemorating the Magi’s visit to Jesus’ birth “home”.  It is to bless one’s home during the week of the Epiphany.

The blessing includes marking the first initials of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) at the top frame of the home door (possibly with holy water), along with the year, plus crosses between the numbers and letters.  This year’s marking would look like this:

20 + C + M + B + 11

Here is an example of a prayer that can be used during the blessing, if you wish:

“Be my shelter, Lord, when I am at home, my companion when I am away, and my welcome guest when I return.  And at last receive me into the dwelling place you have prepared for me in your Father’s house, where you live forever and ever.  Amen”

From the “Little Blue Book”
Diocese of Saginaw, MI

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   533 –
Mercurius becomes Pope John II, the first pope to adopt a new name upon elevation to the papacy.
†   1585 – Spain & Catholic France sign Saint League of Joinville
†   1873 – Birth of Thérèse de Lisieux, French Roman-Catholic nun and saint (d. †1897)

(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:

 

 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Starting with this first reflection of 2011, I will be posting 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.) 

 

Part 01 of 13 Parts

“The letter of the 6th of May [2010] from His Eminence Card. Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, addressed to the Minister General, Encarnacion del Pozo and to the entire Secular Franciscan Order, is a document of great importance and merits, therefore, the particular attention of each and every member of the SFO.”

“It should be remembered that the SFO is directly dependant on the Holy See, and the Pope in particular, through the CICLSAL.  In Cardinal Rodé’s letter, therefore, it is this same Hierarchical Church which speaks to the Order and does so in consistent continuity with the Magisterium of the Popes for the SFO.”

(Continued on next published blog)

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 the Magi (the Three Kings) seeking out Jesus, and paying homage to Him.

 

1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.   (NAB Matthew 2:1-12)

 

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Christmas Season officially.  Though it is true that the magi were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to “let His face shine upon” us through the face of the Mother of God.  We “serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.”

In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the Magi occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  As is not totally unusual or unique, Matthew’s Gospel tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the part of the infancy narrative covering the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew barely tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1).  Other examples of the difference in coverage of the infancy events between these two Gospels are found in (1) the census only being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and (2) the visit of the Magi only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel.

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; and Jesus’ acceptance by the Gentiles (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (retrojected) into the scene of today’s reading.

King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he made have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  He was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  He was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Magi” was a designation originally used for the Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge”.  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi” from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq) were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly and quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi. We know they come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign of some type of importance to them.  We base there being “three” Magi solely on the naming of their three gifts, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of strange lands to represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

 “May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer giftsLong may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.”  (Psalm 72:10, 15)

 “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.”  (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi from far away foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the king himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the Magi.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge and getting no preemptive warning about this NEW king in his territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare and prestige.  So, he calls all his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his immediate presence.  (Biblical pagers and cell phones were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the chief priests and scribes have a very strong similarity to a Jewish non-biblical legend (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warns the Pharaoh about the imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt, and the king makes plans to destroy him.  (Moses and Jesus seem to have identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

“And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

These Magi, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, and their friends and family, in their intense hunger for knowing this “heavenly” announced God.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their quest of knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.  (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars” and did not have to buy it in Hollywood!)

We have come to consider the gifts they brought as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be “Christological” in nature.  Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial (offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death).

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death.  They are made special to Him (and to us) because in giving them, the Magi (those unknown men from foreign lands and cultures) acknowledged who Jesus was to be: our Savior!  

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the Magi.  For this reason, in many cultures still today, gifts are exchanged on the Feast of the Epiphany instead of on Christmas Day.  We can still offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY in the future!  Our three special gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanks-giving!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know God personally.  In the Magi encountering Jesus, we see God’s plan for salvation.  This plan was (and is) to give his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for all mankind.  God gave to us this truly and fully – – both human and divine – – person (in the singular), for not just solely the Jewish faithful, but for all people everywhere.    Do you bring Jesus Christ to others in your path?  Do you actively LOOK for Jesus Christ in others along your path, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak words, and performs acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement.  He rejoices when our words and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes of immense size.

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of gift giving.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special, or was it the thought that went into it or even the person who gave it to you that made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”)

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “give off” to others.  

We Three Kings

 

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

[Refrain for after each verse]
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen (329-379)

 

Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and his principles influence Eastern monasticism today.

He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of his suffragan bishops, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.

One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”

He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.

Basil was best known as an orator. His writings, though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.

Quote:

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

 

Gregory Nazianzen (329-390). After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his archdiocese.

His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”

COMMENT: It may be small comfort, but turmoil in the Church today is a mild storm compared to the devastation caused by the Arian heresy, a trauma the Church has never forgotten. Christ did not promise the kind of peace we would love to have—no problems, no opposition, no pain. In one way or another, holiness is always the way of the cross.

QUOTE: “God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.”

Patron Saint of: Russia

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 2 & 3 of 26: 

2.     The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle. It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful.  In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

 

 

 

 

3.     The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.

 

“Oh, Oh, Look At Me, I Am Doing This for God! Nani-Nani Boo-Boo! ” – Mt 6:1-6, 16-18†


 Today in Catholic History:

† 1161 – Birth of Pope Innocent III (d. 1216)
† 1216 – Death of Pope Innocent III (on his 55th birthday)
† 1846 – The Papal conclave of 1846 concludes. Pope Pius IX is elected pope, beginning the longest reign in the history of the papacy (not counting St. Peter).
† 1955 – Pope Pius XII excommunicates Juan Perón.
† Liturgical Feasts: Saint Benno; Saint John Regis, patron of medical social workers; Saints Julitta and Quiricus; Saint Lutgart of Tongeren (died 1246, patron saint of the Flemish National Movement)

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you fruit and chewed it up for you before giving it to you?” – Anonymous
   

Today’s reflection is a warning against doing good in order to be seen.

 

Jesus said to His Disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.  (NAB Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)

 

Listen to the “nuance” of Jesus’ words when He says “Don’t do this.”  He is warning against doing good in order to be seen, and then gives three examples: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is contrasted with what Jesus demands from His followers.  All three of these spiritual acts (per Jesus) are suppose to be part of a personal relationship we have with God, and should not be made public with the sin of pride.  There are many aspects of our family life that are not made public, and the same should be true of some of our “spiritual life” practices as well.

The hypocrites that Jesus is talking about in this Gospel reading are the Scribes and Pharisees.  The designation “hypocrite” reflects an attitude towards some discontents of Jesus resulting from the many controversies during the time of His ministry.  The Scribes and Pharisees have received their reward in that they desired praise, and thus received what they were looking for by drawing attention to themselves.  Jesus just gave them what they wanted; a short time (relatively) of fame and possibly even fortune, in exchange for eternity separated from God.  Are we Scribes and Pharisees in how we treat are prayer lives, and in how we contribute to our parishes and dioceses?

Our faith has to be one of humility and reverence.  This is ESSENTIAL.  We are giving a gift to God, and thus it is for Him alone.  Who goes to a party and yells out “I gave that to Him, I gave that to Him; Nani-Nani Boo-Boo!”  Only a brat does!  We should have the innocence of a child, but not necessarily the behaviors.

Our gift to God is done as a tribute to the love and mercy He has given to us.  His bouquet of graces has endowed us with many fortunes and gifts in life.  Jesus does not boast about His actions.  As a matter of fact, I have found that Jesus usually works in small and mysterious ways; behind the scenes.  If Jesus is working stealthily, and we are to follow in His footsteps, then it should be obvious that boasting about deeds and bringing attention to our activities is certainly not what He wants of us.

Though we are not required to give 10% of our income to the church, as other church groups call tithing; we are required to support the church “as our status in life” allows.  Yes, this is one of six chief requirements for being a Catholic in full union with the church.  (The others are to attend and possibly even assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; fasting and abstaining on required days; confessing our sins at least once a year; receiving Holy Communion during the Easter time; and observing the laws of the Church concerning marriage.)

The almsgiving Jesus is talking about does not necessarily mean MONEY.  Yes, the rent and utilities have to be paid, so please give as you are able.  Supporting your church certainly entails placing money into the collection basket, but it is much more than that.  Do your children go to the parish school, if available?  If not, do they attend the parish school of religion?  Do you volunteer to help out at the school/parish picnic?  Do you attend church functions: i.e., sports, socials, men’s club, Vincent DePaul Society, etc.?  Do you assist at the weekly Masses as a server, Scripture reader, Greeter, Usher, or Eucharistic Minister?  This list continues: as you can see, there is a lot of potential for involvement in church and parish life. 

The problem I see in our church family today is a mentality of “If I don’t do it, someone else will!”  It is the rare person or family in the parish that volunteers in the parish family today.  The problem this creates is one of a burn-out factor for the person or family.  One person doing everything, wears them out!

 In today’s society, we are permeated by a “me first” behavior and attitude.  Because it is not a priority, a large percentage of Catholics do not go to Mass on a weekly basis; and when they do go (usually only at Easter and Christmas time), mass cannot go fast enough for them.  These same people more than likely will receive the Eucharist without receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior; not realizing (or just not caring) that they are committing another grave sin in doing so.   Not surprisingly, I have truly seen more than half the people attending Mass leave during “communion” time.  I wonder if they realize that the only person to leave the “last meal” early was Judas Iscariot!  It seems like a lot of Catholics want to keep the “Jude Man” company for eternity, in a very warm environment

I have taught 6th grade PSR (parish school of religion for public school children) for the past two years.  I am amazed at the attitude of parents in regards to the importance of a good Catholic basic education, and in their own faith practices. 

I once had a student (6th grade mind you) that whispered to me proudly, while sitting in the pew awaiting for our first mass of the school year to start, “I think I have been here twice before!”  I felt so sorry for the injustice this child had been dealt by his parents.  Another time, two students were brought to my PSR class three weeks into the semester.  The parent said she had not been notified about the start date.  After reminding her that it had been in the bulletin every week of the summer, she responded, “Well that would require me going to mass to get a bulletin!”  Do you believe these parents are doing everything they can to support the parish: financially, or even though their talents and prayers?  Let me answer for you: NO!!

I love to hear people say they are fasting or abstaining by not eating meat on Friday’s during lent, when you know they are VEGETARIANS all year round!  Fasting and abstinence is important practice in our faith, and should not be taken lightly.  Fasting and abstaining is a way to show God (and ourselves) that we are serious about our relationship with Him, and of our wanting to develop a deeper fellowship with Him.  By voluntarily avoiding something, we are taking our eyes off the things of this world, so that we can focus far better on Christ.

The current rules for Catholics require fasting only on Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday; and abstaining on each Friday of Lent as well.  Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 should eat only one full meal on fast days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.  All adult Catholics are required to refrain from something on the “abstinence” days.  You don’t have to stop there: the Catholic Church continues to encourage the faithful to observe a stricter fasting and abstinence habit (preferably year-round), as long as it is not to an extreme point that can be physically, spiritually, or mentally harmful to the individual.

Trivia time:  The English word “breakfast,” means a meal that breaks the fast.  Interestingly, I did not realize the only fast prescribed in the Mosaic law was that for the “Day of Atonement,” known today by a more popular term: “Yom Kippur” (see Lev 16:31), but the practice of regular fasting (according to the Didache) was common in later Judaism.

It would have been fun to be a “fly on the wall” when Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees that “they have received their reward!”  I wonder if He could hold back that coy little smile that says, “You guys are idiots.  Get off your high-horses.”

The statements about a reward found in this Gospel reading illustrate an authentic component of Christian moral teaching for the early Church, and continuing for Catholics today as well.  Possibly to underline the difference between the Christian idea of “reward,” and that of the hypocrites; Jesus used two different Greek verbs (unknown to me: Hey, I’m not a theologian) to express the rewarding of His disciples, versus that of the hypocrites.

So, what DO we do now?  Pray in quiet: and be open to God talking to you.  How often do you talk to God as you would talk to your biological father? We have two ears and one tongue; and God gave them to us in this ratio on purpose.  Give Him time to talk to you.  Another possibility, if you never tried it; go to Eucharistic Adoration.  Realistically, you probably won’t last an entire hour at first, so start with 10 – 15 minutes, and build up to it over some time.  It will become a treasured and wonderful experience if you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.

When you look in a mirror, do you see Jesus looking back at you?  To see Jesus in others, I believe you need to see Jesus in yourself.  When in the light of Christ, which means doing what Catholics are suppose to do, “be happy.”  If uncertain if you are in the light of Christ, reread this reflection.  After all, doing what you are supposed to do will necessitate seeing Jesus in everyone; regardless of their social-economic status.  How can anyone, other than Satan, be gloomy doing what God wants us to do for others, for His Church on Earth, and for Him?

We no longer wear sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance for our sins.  Fasting is a form of prayer, and should be done without any fanfare, and with a smile on your face.  Look at the “hunger pains” you may have as a prayer of gratitude for being closer to our Lord.

Let me add another pet peeve that I witness every year: ashes on forehead, which are typically received on “Ash Wednesday.”  Ashes remind us of our mortality and are an outward sign of our sinfulness on the first day of Lent.  It is not supposed to be a smudge, but instead a cross drawn on the forehead.  However, some of the clergy (like Deacon Dave and Father Syd) at my parish must have failed liturgical art in the seminary.

These three disciplines (prayer, almsgiving, and fasting) go together as “spiritual gadgets” in our “Catholic tool chest.”  The Church calls us to practice all three together, often!  I think of these three practices of Catholic spirituality as blades on the “Papal Swiss Army Knife” of the Church.

“O Lord, In my prayers, make me a hungry child
that I may know solidarity with the poor.

In my fasting, make me an empty bowl
that you may fill the hollow space in me with love.

In my almsgiving, make me a grain of rice
that in the company of others,
my gifts may feed a starving world.

We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Bl. Guy (Guido) Vignotelli

Born 1185 in Cortona, Italy.  He was known for his charities and recieved the Franciscan habit from Francis at Cortona in 1211.  Guy built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, was ordained, became famed for his holiness and miracles and died in the Cortona convent of the Franciscans.

Blessed Guy (Guido) Vignotelli, OFM Tert was born in Cortona, Italy, circa 1185, and died circa 1245.  After hearing a sermon by Saint Francis, the wealthy Guy invited Francis home for a meal.  At the end of the meal he asked to become a disciple.  He liquidated his goods and with Francis distributed the money among the poor.  Guy received the Franciscan habit of a tertiary from the order’s founder, was ordained a priest, built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, and lived there.  He became well known for his holiness and for his miracles, which were said to include resuscitating a girl who had drowned and multiplying food during a famine.  At age 60, Saint Francis appeared to him in a dream and foretold his death–the exact hour at which Guy died.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:

Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

 

“Well Done, My Son“ – Phil. 2:6-11†


Today’s second reading is my reflection material.  I was not sure why I picked it, but I did.  I thought, at most, I could write maybe four or five sentences.  So I asked God to help me, and then prayed to Him and to Mary, my heavenly Queen and mother.  When the Holy Spirit hits you, he can hit hard!!  I honestly believe this is one of the best reflections I have ever had.  What a way to start Holy Week!
  

Today is “Palm Sunday.”  Mass was super, and the kids did not complain at all.
  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ relationship with God.

Palm Sunday

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
  

Today’s Meditation:

  

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.  (NAB Phil. 2:6-11)
  

To me, this particular part of the second reading for today had a lot of verbal tongue twists.  Unless read slowly, and intentionally, this reading could be fairly confusing.  Basically, for me, I read it as, “Jesus did not believe equality with God could be achieved, as God is so superior to us sinners.  Jesus came as a poor, lowly laborer that was humble and obedient.  Jesus was obedient to God regardless of what was asked for Him to do: an unconditionally obedience.  God loved Jesus; and all believers will grow to love Him as they love God in heaven.  All will declare Him our Lord, Jesus Christ!”

In the first part of these bible verses, the subject of every verb is Jesus Christ; and in the last verses, the subject is God. It has a rhythmic quality with a general pattern of Jesus Christ first being humiliated, by being crucified; and then exalted by all creation as divine.

There is an obvious reference to Jesus’ pre-existence noted, and to certain aspects of divinity that He gave up, to serve in human form.  Taking the form of a “slave,” and coming in human likeness is a statement of faith for us Christians.  For us to believe in Jesus as totally divine AND totally human is a hard concept to grasp.  No one can be 200% of themselves.  No one, of sane mind, can be two actual people in one body.  Schizophrenia is the condition when one thinks they are two people.  Jesus did not THINK He was two people; He knew He was human and divine!      

 The name “Lord,” reveals the true nature of Jesus.  Jesus is the “Incarnate Word” of God.  Let’s go back to Genesis:  “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God.”  Jesus, being the incarnate WORD, places Jesus with God from the beginning.     

Are you starting to feel like you’re watching a ping-pong game: BOING, BOING, and BOING?  What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Let me use water to explain this basic tenet of Catholicism.  H2O is water, regardless of its state in nature: fluid, ice, or steam.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have all, ALWAYS, existed!  Three separate forms of one God!

A reference to the three levels in the universe, according to ancient belief, is address in this reading as well.  Every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will bend at just a mention of the name “Jesus Christ.”  And every tongue will declare that Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), is “Lord” of heaven and earth since the beginning, and forever!

“God, you are my heavenly Father.  Lord Jesus, I love you with all my heart and soul.  I wish to follow in your footsteps forever.  May the Holy Spirit reside in me all my days, and guide me in your love always.  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Venturino of Bergamo
   

Dominican preacher and missionary crusader. A native of Bergamo, Italy, he joined the Dominicans in 1319 and soon distinguished himself as a brilliant preacher, attracting huge crowds throughout northern Italy. Pleased with his ability to reach large numbers of believers, he announced in 1335 his intention to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. When Pope Benedict XII (r. 1334-1342) learned of the pilgrimage, he feared Venturino might be planning to crown himself pope, and so forbade the friar to proceed. This decree was joined by one issued by the Dominicans themselves at the Chapter in London (1335). Ignorant of these bans, Venturino proceeded to Rome and then to Avignon where he was arrested and imprisoned until 1343. He is also known for helping to organize a crusade, at the behest of Pope Clement VI (r. 1342-1352), against the Turks who were then menacing Europe.  Feast day is March 28.

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

Prologue to Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
   

… 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: …