Tag Archives: arrived

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


  epiphany_4420c

“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 

ТТТ

 

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.

ChurchYearCircle3

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

ТТТ

            

. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

ТТТ

 

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”?

epiphany_4420c

(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.

ТТТ

 

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.

Т

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)

Т

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. 

Т

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).

Т

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).

Т

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.

Т

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!! 

Т

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’”!

ТТТ

 

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

ТТТ

 

 

 

Advertisements

“Hey, Let’s Go On Vacation; I Know A Little Quiet Spot For Some R&R. There’s Great Bread And Fish There As Well!” – Mark 6:30-34†


Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the tenth day of my yearly consecration to Jesus through Mary; a special devotion I absolutely look forward to every year, and have purposely scheduled (in my calendar) for the past 6 years.  It is a great devotion of prayer and reflection, created by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), which takes 33 days of preparatory devotions.  The “Total Consecration” made on the 34th day.  The day of Total Consecration should always be on a Marian feast day.  (My consecration day is the “Feast of Mary’s Assumption to Heaven”: August 15th.)  Schedules for the preparation and Total Consecration are included in resource materials – – provided at NO cost – – through this website: www.MyConsecation.org.  There are more than twenty start days throughout the calendar year (ending on a Marion Feast Day) for those wishing to make the Total Consecration, so give it a try.

Let me give you a little history about the author of this devotion, St. Louis de Montfort.  He was a French Roman Catholic Priest, Author, and Confessor.  He was known to be a preacher in his time: Pope Clement XI made him a “missionary apostolic”, giving him authority to emphasize the importance of the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage the practice of frequent praying of the Rosary.  Father de Montfort is particularly known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and for the practice of consistently praying the Rosary (Reminds me that both St. Padre Pio and Venerable Pope John Paul II daily prayed the Rosary).  Father de Montfort’s most notable work regarding Marian devotions is contained in a two-part book entitled “The Glories of Mary” along with “The Secrets of the Rosary and the True Devotion to Mary”.

ТТТ

                         

Today in Catholic History:

†   0260 – St Dionysius begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1099 – First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon elected first Defender of the Holy Sepulchre of The Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†   1619 – Death of Lawrence of Brindisi, Italian monk (b. 1559)
†   1647 – Birth of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint
†   1649 – Birth of Clement XI, [Giovanni F Albani], Italy, Pope (1700-21)
†   1676 – Death of Clement X, [Emilio Altieri], Italian Pope (1670-76), dies at 86
†   1722 – Birth of Jean-Noel/Joannes Natalis Paquot, Belgian priest/historian
†   1902 – Death of Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski, Polish Catholic Cardinal (b. 1822)

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

ТТТ

Joke of the Day:

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection: Jesus invites His disciples to rest after their ministry, and is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.

 

(NAB Mark 6:30-34) 30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.  32 So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.  33 People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.  They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.  34 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

ТТТ

Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, in Mark’s Gospel, we read of the return of the “Twelve”, who had been sent by Jesus, in pairs, to preach repentance, to heal the sick, and to drive out demons.  When they returned, Jesus invited them to “come away” from the crowds to get some rest with Him.  However, the crowds followed, not giving them any peace.  It seems that, as the Twelve Apostles now shared in Jesus’ ministry, they also now appear to share in Jesus’ popularity as well.

In an effort to get away from the crowds, Jesus and His disciples get into a boat with the hope of finding the “deserted place” familiar to Jesus.  The crowds notice their “escape”, and so follow along the shore line, also arriving at the same “deserted place”.  The crowds find them and continued to draw near Jesus and the Apostles, making contact, and presenting their individual requests.  Mark reports that these Apostles’s, the closest and most intimate disciple’s of Jesus, don’t even have time to eat their food due to the swarm of people surrounding them.  The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and His disciples cannot even find a place to be alone.  (Sounds like me, a parent of four teenagers in a one-bathroom house.)  Remarkably, even with this chaos and pressure,  Jesus “is moved with pity [for the crowds] and begins to teach” them.

Today’s Gospel stops with Jesus’ having “pity” for them and “teaching”.  Mark’s report of the unyielding demands of the crowd continues in the following verses (next week’s Gospel reading).  The work of Jesus, and the work of His disciples (even still today), appears to be a “round-the-clock” job.  (My kids did not know the term, “round-the-clock”.  They have told me to write “24/7” as an alternative.)  OK; so they were busy 24/7.

Т

For the second week in a row at Mass, Mark uses the term, “Apostle”.  He also used this term earlier, in his Gospel’s third chapter:

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Jesus instituted these twelve me as “apostles” in order to extend His messianic mission through them (cf., Mark 6:7–13). Mark correctly and appropriately calls the “Twelve” men, “Apostles”, meaning His emissaries, empowered them to preach, to expel demons, and to cure the sick (“Apostles”: a Greek word meaning, “one who is sent with the delegated authority of the sender”!):

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

The earliest use of the special term, “the twelve”, as Jesus’ delegated “apostles” is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

“He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).

The number (12) is meant to recall the twelve “tribes” of Israel, thus implying Jesus’ authority to call and gather ALL Israel into God the Father’s kingdom.  Mark distinguished between the “Twelve Apostles” and a much larger group called disciples:

“When He [Jesus] was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned Him about the parables.  Without parables He did not speak to them, but to His own disciples He explained everything in private (Mark 4:10, 34).

The “Twelve” also share in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom:

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 10:7). 

In the Pauline letters (the New Testament epistles written by Paul) “apostle” has come to mean primarily one who had seen the “risen” Lord, AND had been commissioned to proclaim Jesus’ Resurrection to ALL the peoples of the planet.  Only after the Pentecost event is the title “apostles” used in the technical or precise term for the twelve specific men who became the first bishops of the Catholic (Universal) Church.  (However, don’t forget about Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, made so by divine appointment and Jesus’ appearing, creating the Lord’s baker’s dozen of 13.  – – Don’t forget the Lord’s choice of the first twelve’s replacement “Matthias”, (cf., ACTS 15:17)

Т

So, these twelve men, sent out in pairs on a divine mission from Jesus Christ, return back to Him at the conclusion of this inaugural mission – – and still in progress without interruption two millennia later.   Mark relates that the small group yearned for a well-deserved rest in a “deserted place” (Mark 6:31).  However, Luke is a little more specific as to where this “deserted place” actually is located:

When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. He took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10).

Bethsaida translates to “house of fishing”, and is a small village on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just east of the Jordan River.  The ground in this particular area has ALWAYS been uncultivated, used solely for grazing animals, and as a “fishing village”.  Note that the village of Bethsaida is where the feeding of the 5000 took place (in next week’s Gospel). 

Being mostly worldly fishermen, and ALL being the Kingdom of God’s “fishers of men”, these twelve men, plus Jesus, set off for Bethsaida by their favorite mode of transport:

 “They went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mark 6:32).  

Т

Just imagine the scene wherein Jesus and the Twelve Apostles are attempting to escape from the huge throngs of excited, spirit-filled, captivated, and strongly affected  people who wanted – – nay, demanded – – MORE!!  Jesus and His small group made good on an egress from the multitudes, placing water between them and the hordes of believers and non-believers desiring to be near them.

Picture this scene from both angles: from the crowds viewpoint on land and Jesus’ Apostles within the boat as it approached the beach?  I am certain the men in the boat felt some great relief, able to take a deep breath, and no longer wondering about their personal safety.  The other group was excited and awe-filled, wanting to see, hear, and experience MORE!!  The withdrawal of Jesus, with His disciples, to a “deserted place”, attracted a great swarm – – a humungous pack of people – – following the group traveling by boat.   This mob followed – – by foot – – along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The sea and shore is fairly flat, thus making it easy to see a great distance across the water, keeping an eye on the boat, even if it is miles out to sea.  In desperation for the unique teaching, preaching, and healing ability of this small group of divinely inspired and full-filled men, the “crowd” wanted to hear and experience more of what was presented to them physically, mentally, and spiritually by Jesus and His Apostles.

I would think Jesus and His most intimate of friends would be used to crowds interrupting their rest and meals by now, since it wasn’t the first time.  Mark mentions at least one other time when crowds gathered around them, interrupting their “down time”:

Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.” (Mark 3:20).

Jesus is moved with “pity” toward these people experiencing such awe, joy, and desire as to pursue them.  Jesus satisfies their spiritual hunger by teaching them many things in Bethesda, before and during the feeding of the 5000 @ Bethsaida (next week’s Gospel at Mass).  In His preaching, teaching, and healing (plus feeding the multitudes), Jesus shows Himself as the true, promised, and faithful “shepherd” of the NEW Israel and of a NEW Exodus, as prophesized by Moses and Ezekiel:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15-17);

And,

I [the Lord] myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—[says] the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:15).

Т

Verse 34 of today’s reading had an interesting and very prophetic statement somewhat openly hidden:

“When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).

What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God’s care for us?  Well, shepherding was one of the oldest of occupations (a true calling) in Israel, even before farming.  Why(?); because the “Chosen People” had to travel from place to place, living in tents, their constant movement required someone to herd and protect the flocks from one pastureland to another “round-the-clock” (“24/7”).  

Taking care of sheep was no easy calling; it required great skill and courage.  Flocks were often quite large, exceeding thousands or even ten thousands of sheep.  The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country.  So, watching over the animals required a great deal of attention and care.  Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back, solely, by the shepherd, at his own peril.  

Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, lions, and even bear were common in the biblical lands – – and tried to feed on the animals of the various flocks – – the shepherds often had to be ready to do battle with these wild and extremely dangerous beasts.  A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep (Remember, the shepherd King David’s encounter with Goliath).  Shepherds took turns watching the sheep, grouped together at night, to ward off any attackers, so that each could get a little rest.  

The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together.  Their life was intimately bound together with the individual sheep, goats, and cattle in their charge, even when their animals mixed with other flocks.  These animals quickly grew to learn and recognize the voice of their own shepherd, coming to him immediately when called by name.  (My dog doesn’t even do this unless I have a treat in hand for her.)

The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of His “chosen people”, Israel:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1);

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!” (Psalm 80:1);

And:

We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).

The prophesized Savior Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people:

He will feed His flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms(Isaiah 40:11).

Jesus told His disciples that He was the “Good Shepherd” who was willing to lay down His life for His sheep:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (Matthew 18:12);

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4);

And:

“I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15).

When Jesus saw the huge number of people in need of His protection and care, He was moved, responding with a compassionate concern.  His love was a personal and intimate love for each and every person who came to Him in need – – and still comes to Him today!!  In the person of Jesus Christ, we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God’s love for us as well as for ALL His creatures.  In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever-ready to give us help, strength, and refuge.  Please trust Jesus and in His grace and help at all times!  (I try to!!)

Т

In summary, by reading between the lines, we can see from today’s Gospel reading the intensity of Jesus’ public ministry and the intensity of the Apostles involvement.  Such was His dedication to those in His care – – those individual and unique souls – – that Mark mentions TWICE in his Gospel that Jesus and His close groups of disciples did not having time to eat.  In doing so, Mark offered to us a precedent, an example to follow.  A true Christian should be ever-ready to give up time, rest, and even meals in the service to others, to the Lord, and to His “Word”.  In doing so, this attitude to openness, availability, and charity, will guide us to change our plans whenever, and wherever, the good of others souls requires our kindness and helping hand: our involvement. 

Jesus gave us another precedent, EQUALLY important to follow as well: He teaches us to have “common sense” – – not to go to such extremes that you lessen your ability to cope without your own pressures, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  Saint Bede (b.672/673 – d.735), an English monk, once wrote the following:

The Lord makes His disciples rest, to show those in charge that people who work or preach cannot do so without breaks” (St Bede, “In Marci Evangelium exposition, in loc.)

St. Josemaria Escriva also wrote about rest, but in a rather unique way:

He who pledges Himself to work for Christ should never have a free moment, because to rest is to not to do nothing; it is to relax in activities which demand less effort” (St. Josemaria Escriva, “The Way”, 357)

I believe what St. Josemaria Escriva meant by this above statement is that, even at rest, the rest “itself” should be in Christ’s work (i.e., prayer, meditation) and even play – – a great source of active relaxation and joy.

Jesus chose twelve men from among His disciples.  He sent them out to share in His ministry of preaching and healing.  We who are Jesus’ disciples TODAY have also been sent out to share His Gospel with others.  Perhaps, at times, our commitment to follow Jesus – – as His disciple – – leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus establish, encourage, and assert the importance of times of rest and renewal.  Jesus wanted His disciples to “come away” and spend time alone – – with HIM!!  This is what WE seek and find in our life of prayer, in our celebration of the Eucharist, and hopefully, in times of our personal retreats.  When was the last time you “came away”, solely to spend time – – alone with Jesus Christ?  When was the last time you made a retreat for even part of a day, much less a weekend or a week-long period of rejuvenation with, and in, Christ Himself??!!   A great retreat experience is a joy to behold, a time of renewal beyond most other experiences short of the Eucharist itself (which is the SUMMIT of ALL experiences).  Try it some time, “you’ll like it”!!

Т

In conclusion, family and work life, and its demands on us , can make us feel similar to how Jesus and the Twelve Apostles felt in today’s Gospel: tired, and in need of rest.  We often wish for times of relaxation and renewal, EXCEPT there are projects to complete, errands to do, household chores to keep up with, and commitments to keep.  These all may be great things in themselves, but we are often left feeling drained and tired in trying to keep up, and keep on schedule.   

Perhaps, if possible, take the opportunity this week to give yourself permission to find the rest and relaxation Jesus attempted to seek for His disciples in today’s Gospel.  A gift we ALL can give to another is to assist them in finding some time and space to renew themselves; even, and especially, by saying a simple prayer of intercession.

Review your work and family calendar, spending some time reflecting on your unique and individual activities.  Find ways to get an appropriate amount of time for rest and relaxation this week and in the weeks ahead.  All of us need to keep in mind how Jesus tried to find time and space for His disciples to rest and relax after they returned from their mission, their work life; so should YOU!  Ask God to help find time to renew yourself so that you might be better disciples of Jesus.  (OK guys, when your wife asks you to take out the trash, don’t say, “I can’t do that.  I’m under orders from Jesus to get rest.”)

 ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Renewal Prayer

 

“Lord, we are Your people, the sheep of Your flock.  Heal the sheep who are wounded, touch the sheep who are in pain, clean the sheep who are soiled, warm the lambs who are cold.  Help us to know the Father’s love through Jesus the Shepherd and through His Spirit.  Help us to lift up that love, and show it all over this land.  Help us to build love on justice and justice on love.  Help us to believe mightily, hope joyfully, love divinely.  Renew us that we may renew the face of the earth.  Amen”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

ТТТ

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) RSV.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” “(John 1:1) KJV.

***

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

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

ТТТ

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Mary Magdalene

 

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene.  Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women.  Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.”  Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.”  She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother.  And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.  She is known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Comment:

Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries.  Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference.  We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not.  More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.

She is the Patron Saint of: Penitents, Perfumers.

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)

ТТТ

    

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


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

Т

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

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

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

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

ТТТ

“Jesus Christ Has Risen Today!” – John 20:1-9†


“Easter Sunday”

Today’s Content:

• Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
• Today in Catholic History
• 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

Т

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI on his elevation to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ, six years ago today. May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.

 Т

We had two tornadoes on Good Friday evening in the St. Louis Area. One missed my home by no more than a mile (literally). It was a pretty scary moment. We were in the basement and I glanced over to see me 11 year old praying the rosary quietly. I felt so good in knowing that he has gained an appreciation for our heavenly mother’s care in his life.

The tornadoes created a large amount of damage, and even damaged “Lambert Field”, our Metropolitan St. Louis airport was not sparred. Aa an example, a transport van with four passengers was literally picked up by the twister and placed on a wall of a parking structure, perched over a fall of several stories. We had no deaths due to the weather, and very few significant injuries. What a miracle in this devastation. Thank You Lord.

Т

 Today in Catholic History:

† 624 – Death of Mellitus, third Archbishop of Canterbury
† 709 – Death of Wilfrid, English archbishop and saint
† 729 – Death of Egbert[us], English bishop/saint, dies in Iona at age 89
† 858 – Nicolaas I succeeds Benedict III as pope
† 1342 – Pope Benedict XII (b. 1285)
† 1364 – Pope Urbabus V names John V van Virneburg as bishop of Utrecht
† 1581 – Birth of Vincent de Paul, French saint (d. 1660)
† 1622 – Death of Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Swiss friar, martyr, and saint (b. 1577)
† 1910 – German Catholic youth movement Quickborn forms
† 2005 – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is inaugurated as the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church taking the name Pope Benedict XVI.

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

Т

Joke of the Day:

Т

Today’s reflection is about Mary of Magdala finding that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Т

Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.) Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead at this point.

The story of the empty tomb can be found in both the Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, presented today. However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s. (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)

I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on that “Easter” Sunday morning. After all, he writes with a poetic and revelational “conceptual thought” and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough sort of style in creating an image. His unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.

Т

The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death. He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb. It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for final internment.

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” to finish preparing the body for a final burial. John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”. Mark has the sun already raised. And Matthew describes the day as just “dawning,” and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);

And,

At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM.

All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”.

Matthew – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Mark – Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
Luke – The women who had come from Galilee with Him
John – Mary of Magdala

John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples:

They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).

This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group. Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.

This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses. A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities. In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area. There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine!! So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.

As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”. Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias. Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed. In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty. My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?” (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)

Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance? Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – it was extremely heavy! It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. It would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin to move the large stone.

Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the Gospel reading at Mass. (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.) Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen. Please realize, at this point she did not consider that Jesus has been raised from the dead. So seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she trusted.

Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb! In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an angel or young man, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7);

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);

and

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).

I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term. Priests can have friends per Canon Law.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother. As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed. Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb.

Т

Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance. The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him. His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths. Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?

John states that the special feature about the status of the burial cloths, the way they were found in the tomb, caused the “beloved disciple [John] to believe.”

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8).

I see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb. The burial wraps were discarded without concern. However, the “cloth placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe was His Tallit – – His prayer garment or robe. This special and revered item was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.

For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics. To the pious Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.

Perhaps the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed. Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen. Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body. The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body. The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body. And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.

Т

The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:

For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

For John, this verse was probably a general reference to some specific and intended Holy Scripture verses. I can think of two in the New Testament, and several from the Old Testament (there are probably many more):

Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26);

“… that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:4);

For you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.” (Psalm 16:10);

He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:2);

And,

But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From the belly of the fish Jonah said this prayer to the LORD, his God. But I, with resounding praise, will sacrifice to you; What I have vowed I will pay: deliverance is from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:1, 2, 10).

The last verse concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least. Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand about Jesus’ Resurrection. In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala encounters the “Risen” Jesus, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener. How could she mistake a person, she had grown to love in such a very special and intimate way, for being a stranger? Was His physical presence changed that much? Obviously, she was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).

Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for our sins and then rise on the third day? Is it significant that they ALL disbelieved until after they saw the empty tomb? I cannot answer these questions; Can you?

Т

John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple of Jesus”, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, and dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.

John was the only Apostle who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now know as “Good Friday”. John, together with Simon Peter, was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one. It was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe. In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death simply, and no more than a tragic conclusion to a stupendous career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker. When John saw the empty tomb he should have certainly recalled Jesus’ prophecies that He would rise again after three days – – “to rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19). Through the grace of faith, trust, and love, John realized that no tomb could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.

In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show us how the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection, over a period of time, through His various appearances to them, individually and in groups. Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus—in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually and personally.

Т

In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death. Also related to us, is that they did not yet understand the Holy Scriptures or that Jesus had been truly “raised” from the dead. This understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them and others.

Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences. In the weeks ahead, we will see and come to understand, how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ. These first disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this gift, – – this grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.

Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples. If you had been there and heard that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought? What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?

Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had “Risen”. So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, we also, throughout this Easter season will learn more about how to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord – – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way.

Т

“Catholic Collect for Easter Sunday”

God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today raise us up
and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant 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.
International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

Т

New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

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

The Gloria

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

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

Т

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622)

If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint’s life.

Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed “the poor man’s lawyer,” Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor.

As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. Once, during a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers.

He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions.

He was accused of opposing the peasants’ national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God’s hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed.

He was canonizefd in 1746. Fifteen yers later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.

Comment:

Fidelis’s constant prayer was that he be kept completely faithful to God and not give in to any lukewarmness or apathy. He was often heard to exclaim, “Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” His prayer against apathy, and his concern for the poor and weak make him a saint whose example is valuable today. The modern Church is calling us to follow the example of “the poor man’s lawyer” by sharing ourselves and our talents with those less fortunate and by working for justice in the world.

Quote:

“Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation” (“Justice in the World,” Synod of Bishops, 1971).

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)

Т

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

The TAU

How do I view the TAU? What significance does it contain for me?
How can the TAU be a focus of MY prayers for meditation and contemplation?
In what ways do I explain to others the meaning and purpose of the TAU in the life of SFO members?
What is the symbolism of the shape of the tau when related to the “habit” Francis adopted for his way of life (which the Franciscan Friars still use today)?

Т

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

24. To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

Т

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

“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.

 

♬“Row, Row, Row Your Boat Gently Against the Savage Sea!”♬ – John 6:16-21†


Sorry for the late posting.  Was way too busy to get this blog uploaded this morning.  Keep my wife and I in your prayers this glorious day: my oldest son is having his first high-school party tonight.  Is there such a thing as “teen proofing” a house?

Today in Catholic History:
† 617 – Birth of Donnán of Eigg, Celtic Christian martyr, patron saint of Eigg
† 1521 – Martin Luther speaks to the assembly at the Diet of Worms, refusing to recant his teachings.
† 1711 – Death of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 1678)
† 1865 – Birth of Ursula Julia Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic saint (d. 1939), and
†The Liturgical Feast days of the following Catholic saints: Pope Anicetus (died 166), Saint Stephen Harding (d. 1134), and Simeon Barsabae and companions

Today’s reflection is Jesus walking on the water, and scaring the hell out of His disciples.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope. — Bern Williams
    

Today’s Meditation:
   

When it was evening, his disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.  It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.  The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid.  But he said to them, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”  They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.  (NAB John  6:16-21)

This incident happens immediately after the “loaves and fish miracle” on a mountain near Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.  This is a fifth sign of Jesus sharing God’s power, using nature as the stage of this miracle.   

Have you noticed that the stage is not only nature (on the sea), but also darkness.  Jesus is not present with the disciples, and nature challenges them.   This natural ebb and flow causes the men to be concerned.  When Jesus arrives, the supernatural divinity of Jesus saves them. 

Can you picture being in a large “john boat,” rowing against the rough and foamy waves that are mercilessly beating against your boat, while at the same time the boat is flooded with each white and foamy crest that strikes the boat.  At the same time, the wind is so strong that it could push anyone overboard if they would stand erect.  They were not close to shore either.  At three or four miles from land, any glimpse of land would be barely visible on the horizon, even in bright daylight.

Then, in the dark and gloomy distance you see Jesus, somehow illuminated as to easily see Him.  He is easily walking on the water towards your boat.  These fisherman, who were probably concerned about the conditions, but have also probably experienced similar severe weather many times in the past and knew how to handle the boat in such conditions, are made afraid by what they are seeing with Jesus walking on the water.

This is something that no one has ever seen before.  It is clear that Jesus is walking upon the water of a rough and violent sea, without any apprehension or concern; only with the radiant love He had towards the men in the boat.  These Jewish fishermen were probably aware of the Old Testament Prophesy found in Job 9:8 that states God “treads upon the crests of the sea.”  They realize they are seeing the God of this prophesy; the Savior or Messiah.

When we are in distress for whatever reason, be it physical, mental, financial, or spiritual; we are adrift in a dark sea of concern and fear.  At these times, look to the horizon, and find the illuminated Jesus walking towards you, and embrace Him.  He IS your savior!

The phrase “It is I” literally translates as, “I am.” This verse alludes to the name of God, “Yahweh,” given to Moses on Mount Sinai.  I don’t believe Jesus said this without its meaning being implied.  My feeling about this is backed up by Jesus’ action of having the boat instantly at sea shore, when it was three or four miles out to sea only moments earlier.  All involved had to be amazed and certain that Jesus was the true “Christ” and the true “Messiah.”

“Lord, I do not need a stormy sea to know of your magnificence and divinity.  Please be with me at any time I am ‘on stormy seas’ in my life.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Anicetus
    

Anicetus was a Syrian from Emesa.  He became pope about 155 and actively opposed Marcionism and Gnosticism.  His pontificate saw the appearance of the controversy between East and West over the date of Easter.  St. Polycarp, a disciple of John, is reported to have visited him in Rome about the dispute, which was to accelerate and grow more heated over the following centuries.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #17:
    

In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

“Hey Man, Want To Get Stoned! “-Jn 8:1-7†


On this day in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led 3,200 people on the start of the third and finally successful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama; and in 1980, J.R. Ewing was shot by an unseen assailant, leading to the catchphrase “Who Shot JR?”
 

Spring is officially here for a day or two now.  It seems it is more wintery today in St. Louis than it was a week ago.  Hopefully, the overcast and rainy weather leaves soon.  I NEED SUN!
 

Today’s reflection is of Jesus saving the woman that committed adultery from death by stoning.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

“Don’t do anything to defend yourself; bear everything with humility; God Himself will defend you”.
 

Today’s Meditation:

 

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.  But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (NAB Jn 8:1-7)

 

The Mount of Olives:  to me, this was Jesus’ place of refuge and prayer towards the end of His earthly ministry. This was His place to go when He wanted to be closer to God, just as Eucharistic adoration at my parish church is for me.   Significant covenants and events involved some type of exposure to mountains.  Noah’s ‘Ark’ landed on had Mount Ararat.  Abraham was tested on Mount Moriah with the sacrifice of Isaac (that was stopped prior to executing).  Moses spent forty days on Mount Horab (twice) to receive the Ten Commandments (twice).  And Jesus was “Transfigured” earlier on Mount Tabor.

Jesus’ opponents attempted to set a trap in this gospel reading.  Jesus knew the law well, and knew the Old Testament even better.  Leviticus 20:10 and Deut 22:22 mention only death, but Deuteronomy 22:23-24 prescribed stoning for a betrothed virgin.  The law dictated death, but Jesus knew that punishment by death was not for us on earth to decide.  Only one being is the judge of who dies, and who doesn’t; God!  Here that politicians: only God decides who dies!  Jesus’ own mother could have very well have been killed by stoning some 30 or so years earlier, for being pregnant with our Messiah: Jesus Christ!.

Why did John make such a big deal about Jesus drawing on the ground with His finger?  In Jeremiah 17:13 (RSV), it is written “Those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken thee, the fountain of living water.”  I think Jesus was fairly overtly reminding the temple teachers of the shared guilt of sin by those condemning this woman.

When pushed for an answer, Jesus reminds them of that the first stones were to be thrown by the witnesses that are condemning her (Deuteronomy 17:7).  Jesus just added a simple sentence to this law: the first without sin should throw the first stone.  A unique approach to an obvious trap set for Jesus.  I marvel at Jesus’ cunning and simple approach to living the gospel.  Thank God the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary was not there though!?

“Lord, I am living high on the mountain of faith and fortitude for you.  Please help me to stay on this mountain forever.  Amen.”
 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Enda

 

Legend has him an Irishman noted for his military feats who was convinced by his sister St. Fanchea to renounce his warring activities and marry. When he found his fiancee dead, he decided to become a monk and went on pilgrimage to Rome, where he was ordained. He returned to Ireland, built churches at Drogheda, and then secured from his brother-in-law King Oengus of Munster the island of Aran, where he built the monastery of Killeaney, from which ten other foundations on the island developed. With St. Finnian of Clonard, Enda is considered the founder on monasticism in Ireland. His feast day is March 21.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #21:
 

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.  Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.  Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.