Tag Archives: baptize

“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


  the-Baptism-of-Jesus

“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). 

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

“John heralded his [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25).

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

 “But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.  He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malichi 3:2–3).

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; He shall bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

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“The Final Commission!” – Matthew 28:16-20†


 

Feast of the Ascension

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus charging His disciples to make further disciples of all nations.  He also promises to be with them forever.

 

(NAB Matthew 28:16) 16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.  18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

 

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Today’s Gospel is the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew.  His Gospel moves rapidly from the disciples’ discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb, to Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and finally to the commission that Jesus gives His disciples in today’s Gospel.

“The Final Commission”, as this Gospel is sometimes called, is given on the mountaintop.  Throughout Holy Scripture, it seems the most important and climactic events happen on the mountaintop.  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop:

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.  Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’  When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’  And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” (Matthew 17:1-8).  

Also in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught the crowds from the mountaintop the “Sermon on the Mount” (cf., Matthew 5-7).  

Wow!  Jesus Christ is again on a mountain doing big things.  He had already been “Risen” from the dead, and is about to show all present (and us) the ultimate gift to following on His path: going to God the Father and eternal happiness and joy in heaven.  This climactic event, I have read, has been called a “proleptic Parousia”.  I had no clue what “Prolepsis” means.  According to the dictionary, it means, “the assignment of something as existing or occurring before it could have done so”. Jesus’ ascension is a “proleptic Parousia” because it gives a foretaste of the final glorious coming of the Son of Man:

“From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.'”  (Matthew 26:64).

At the Parousia, His victory will be manifest to all.  However, for now, it is revealed only to the eleven disciples, who are commissioned by Jesus Christ to announce it to “all nations” and bring all to believe in Jesus as the true Savior of nations in obedience to His commandments.

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Wasn’t there “Twelve” “chosen” disciples: Apostles?  There is “eleven” disciples in this reading, recalling the sad and tragic defection of Judas Iscariot.  For whatever unknown reason, this man who spent three years closely bonded to the human, yet divine Jesus Christ, sold Jesus to a certain death for thirty pieces of silver.

To the mountain to which Jesus ordered them” is a slight deviation from Jesus’ initial message to the disciples, which was simply to go to Galilee:

Do not be afraid.  Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

Some bible scholars believe the “mountain” comes from a tradition known to Matthew and referred in today’s Gospel.  The significance of a “mountain” may have a theological rather than geographical meaning.  Matthew possibly may be recalling the revelation to Moses and Elijah on Mount Sinai:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments intended for their instruction.’  So Moses set out with Joshua, his aide, and went up to the mountain of God.  The elders, however, had been told by him, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. Aaron and Hur are staying with you. If anyone has a complaint, let him refer the matter to them.’  After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain.  The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai.  The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop.  But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights.”  (Exodus 24:12-18);

And,

He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.  There he came to a cave, where he took shelter.  But the word of the LORD came to him, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’  He answered: ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’  Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’  A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind.” (1 Kings 19:8-12; Horeb = Sinai).

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They see Jesus, and both worship and doubt at the same time.  Verse 17 states that the disciples “doubted”.  The original Greek transcript of Matthew’s Gospel can also be translated, “but some doubted”.  The Greek verb occurs again in the New Testament only in Matthew 14:31 where it is associated with Peter’s being of “little faith”.

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).

Is Jesus saying of His “Apostles” that they were “of little faith”.  Matthew may have said, “they doubted” in reference those disciples of Jesus whose faith in Him was not as deep or full as it should have been by this time.

Т

 

Jesus approaches and commissions them to “baptize and teach”, “to make disciples of all nations.”  Baptizing and teaching the “word” are tasks Jesus had previously prepared His disciples for.  Recall that Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal (cf. Matthew 10:1-15).  However, in this earlier event, the Twelve were sent only to “the House of Israel”.  In this “Final Commission”, the “Eleven” are told to go to “all nations.”  Thus, the mission of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry is now to be taken to all people by His disciples with their (and our) mission to baptize and to teach.

 

The Risen Jesus Christ is declaring a universal “power” in heaven and on earth in verse 18:

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

The Greek word translated as “power” in today’s reading is the same as that found in Daniel 7:13-14 where one “like a son of man” is given power and an everlasting kingdom by God:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14).

 

Since the Risen Jesus has a “universal power”, He gives the “Eleven” a mission that is “universal”.  They are to “make disciples of all nations”.  While “all nations” is understood by most readers as referring to all Gentiles, we should keep in mind that it also includes the Jewish nation as well.

Baptism is the way of entrance into the community of the “Risen one”, the Catholic (universal) Church.  Jesus goes on to say exactly HOW to baptize each new disciple: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.  This formula of baptism is perhaps the clearest expression of a “Trinitarian” belief found in the New Testament.  Though it may have been the baptismal formula of Matthew’s church, it designates the effect of baptism – – the union of the person baptized with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Finally, Jesus Christ tells His disciple to go and “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”.   Jesus wants His Apostles to pronounce, and teach the moral teachings of His “universal” (Catholic) Church, preeminently that of the Sermon on the Mount (cf., Matthew 5-7).  The commandments of Jesus are the standard of Christian conduct in this world.  The Mosaic Law is now surpassed in His new covenant with new and expanded commandments, even though some of the Mosaic commandments have been invested with the authority of Jesus.  Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ repeatedly said, “It was … Now I say do this ….”

Т

 

With great joy, hope, and faith, I believe that Jesus is truly, “with me always”, as He states in verse 20 of todays reading.  The promise of Jesus’ real, though invisible, presence echoes the name “Emmanuel”(God is with us), given to Him in the infancy narratives.  God’s promise of deliverance to Judah in Isaiah’s time was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, in whom God is with His people.  

Jesus is not only with us NOW; He will be with us until the “end of the age”.   Besides today’s reading, this particular phrase is found in only two other verses in Matthews Gospel:

Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous. (Matthew 13:40, 49);

And,

As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).

Т

 

In conclusion, the ending of Matthew’s Gospel can be understood as the beginning of the Catholic (universal) Church.  Jesus Christ “commissions” His disciples to continue to teach in His name and to bring others into the Church Community of disciples through baptism.  The Gospel ends, as it began, – – with the promise that Jesus will continue to be Emmanuel, “God with us”, for all eternity.

 

What does this Gospel reading mean for us as His disciples?  Just as Jesus sent His disciples to make disciples, our family, the domestic Catholic Church (the Church Militant), is called to bear witness to the life of discipleship – – living in the way of Jesus.  That act of witnessing can take many forms.  First and foremost, we should “call” people to discipleship by the example of our love for one another.  However, that example is only the beginning!!  Our love must extend beyond our family and friends, purposely reaching out to others, and to the world and its creations.

Identify one or more ways in which you live the life of Catholic disciple.  Identify one or more ways in which you would like to do a better job bearing witness to your life of discipleship.  Choose one of those ways and make it happen.  Then choose another, and so on.  Pray for the grace to be witnesses to the world of the life of discipleship.

Т

 

 

Watch, O Lord

 

“Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.  Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.  Rest Your weary ones.  Bless Your dying ones.  Soothe Your suffering ones.  Pity Your afflicted ones.  Shield Your joyous ones, and all for Your love’s sake.  Amen.”  (St. Augustine)

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

“Jesus Is the ‘Lamb of God’! Did He Like Mint Jelly?” John 1:29-34†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†  308 – Death of Marcellus I, Catholic Pope
†  429 or 430 – Death of Honoratius of Arles, bishop/saint
†  1120 – The Council of Nablus is held, establishing the earliest surviving written laws of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
†  1412 – The Medici family is appointed official banker of the Papacy.
†  1581 – The English Parliament outlaws Roman Catholicism.
†  1914 – Birth of Roger Aubert, Belgium, church historian (Le Pontificat de Pie IX)
†  1966 – Harold R Perry becomes 2nd black Roman Catholic bishop in US.
†  Feasts and Memorials: Berard of Carbio; Saint Fursey; Honoratus of Arles.

(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:

 

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

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 05 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRULY FRATERNAL LIFE

You are called upon to offer your personal contribution, inspired by the person and the message of Saint Francis of Assisi, to hasten the coming of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, mutual responsibility and love are truly alive (Cf. Gaudium et Spes 33 ff). You must deepen the true foundations of universal fraternity and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of brotherliness (John Paul II, Message to the Chapter, 2002).

  • THE REDISCOVERY  AND CONSOLIDATION OF ONE’S OWN IDENTITY AND MISSION  IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD

The Rule and the General Constitutions must, by virtue of your Profession, represent for each of you a model of daily experience, based on a specific vocation and a precise identity.

Stand firm against all forms of exploitation, discrimination and exclusion and all attitudes of indifference towards others (John Paul II).

As secular Franciscans, you live, by vocation, as members of the Church and of society, inseparable realities. You are asked first of all, therefore, to bear personal witness in the environment in which you live: among people; in family life; in work; in joys and sufferings; in dealings with people, all brothers and sisters with the same Father; in your presence and participation in the life of society; in fraternal relationship with all creatures” (SFO General Constitutions 12.1). (John Paul II)

 

(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 John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus is the Lamb of God, God’s own Son.

 

29 The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  30 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’  31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”  32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.  33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”  (NAB John 1:29-34)

 

Today it is John’s Gospel.  What happened to Marks’s Gospel?  Isn’t this Cycle “A” of the Liturgical year, when we are suppose to use Mark’s Gospel?

Well, last Sunday, we actually read and heard (at least I hope you either read or heard) Matthew’s account (again, not Mark’s) of Jesus’ baptism, on the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.”  Today, we hear and learn about John the Baptist’s “testimony” with regard to Jesus, which is found in John’s the Evangelist’s Gospel.  Please be very careful in reading this reflection and Gospel reading.  There are two John’s: John the Gospel writer and John the Baptist.

The Gospel according to John is quite different in character from the three synoptic Gospels. It is extremely literary and symbolic in nature. I consider John’s Gospel as being more spiritual, and conceptual, and more of a personal journal than that of a historical book.  It does not follow the same sequence or duplicate the same stories as the synoptic Gospels. John’s Gospel is a work of a growing and maturing theological reflection about John’s personal remembrances of Jesus.  His Gospel grows out of a different time, environment, and tradition than the other three (3) Gospel writers.

John’s Gospel differs from the other (Synoptic) Gospels today because he does not actually describe Jesus’ baptism.  Instead, John’s emphasis is on John the Baptist’s announcement that Jesus is the Son of God by declaring Him to be the Lamb of God.

When John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching, he cries out to Him in such a way as to give witness to whom Jesus actually is: “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John declares he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon, and rest upon Jesus.  Because of this personal and public revelation, John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the one who is to come after him and fulfill the age of the prophets, completing John’s role as the last prophet.

John the Baptist uses two familiar titles for Jesus in today’s reading.  He calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the “Son of God.”  John the Baptist identifies Jesus’ ultimate purpose of redeeming a sinful humanity by using these prophetic titles.

 “The Lamb of God” was and still is a most important, powerful, and personal description of the Holy Messiah to come.  This image of God’s lamb is first promised to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:8 (“God will provide Himself the lamb.”).  Secondly, He is the paschal lamb, whose blood is smeared on the door frames of the Jewish faithful and saved Israel, as found in the stories of the book of Exodus, Chapter 12.  Thirdly, Jesus is the prophetic suffering servant who is led “like a lamb” to slaughter as a sin-offering:

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.  (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.”  (Isaiah 53: 7,10).

Finally, Jesus is the victorious apocalyptic lamb that destroys evil in the world, as is found in Revelations, Chapters 5-7.   

It is noteworthy in these references to the “lamb” that the Baptizer John was the son of a Temple priest, Zachariah, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the Temple for the sins of the people (see Luke Chapter 1, and Exodus Chapter 29).  In Jesus, John the Baptist saw the true and only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin, and the one who will bring us to salvation.  (See references Genesis 22 through Revelations 7.)

John refers to Jesus as “He existed before me” even though John is actually six months older than his cousin, Jesus.  John (the Baptist) was linking Jesus to Elijah for himself, his followers, and his audience.  John believed Jesus’ pre-existence was implied through Holy Scripture.  John the Baptist obviously thought of Jesus as a higher and mightier person and soul than he himself; and probably he even thought of Jesus as the true Messiah. Evidence is found in an earlier Gospel verse:

The one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27)

John’s Gospel starts with Jesus’ Baptism story.  He does not have an infancy narrative like the ones found in the synoptic Gospels.  Thus, there is no genealogy recorded in John’s Gospel.  The “Gospel writer” named John, has John “the Baptist” saying, “I did not know him”.  Without the other three Gospels (the synoptics), the kinship between Jesus, and John the Baptist would be unknown.  When John says he “did not know” Jesus he was actually and truly referring to the hidden reality of Jesus’ Messiahship and divinity.  But the Holy Spirit, in this event, revealed to John the Baptist Jesus’ true nature (human and divine).  John bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God.  

I am still curious, though, as to why John the Evangelist decided to leave all of Jesus’ life prior to this event out of his Gospel!  Why and what was his purpose in excluding this part of Jesus’ life?  (Sorry, I don’t have an answer for this one yet! – – Maybe later.)

 

 

Also different from the Synoptic Gospels is that Jesus’ baptism is NOT connected with the “forgiveness of sins” of others.  Instead, its purpose in John’s Gospel is revelatory in nature, making Jesus known to Israel.  John the Baptist’s testimony clearly distinguishes the difference between his mission, and his Baptisms with water, from the mission and Baptism with the Holy Spirit that Jesus will inaugurate. 

John refers to the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus “like a dove”.  This spiritual dove is a symbol of a NEW being created through the “dove” of the Holy Spirit and the living, flowing waters of Baptism.  It also represents the human and divine nature of Jesus’ becoming part of a NEW restoration of the community of Israel, brought together again in a NEW covenant by John the Baptist’s final testimony: “Behold the Lamb of God.”.  Two Old Testament verses come to mind to support this belief:

Then he sent out a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.” (Genesis 8:8)

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like sparrows, from the land of Assyria, like doves; And I will resettle them in their homes, says the LORD.”  (Hosea 11:11).

 

 

John’s use of the word “remain” in verse 33, if you peruse his Gospel, is the first time he uses a verb he obviously favors.  John uses this particular word thirty-seven (37) times throughout this single book of the Holy Bible (NAB-CE edition).  I believe he uses the word, remain”, to emphasize and cement the permanent relationship held between the Father (God) and Son (Jesus), and between the Son (Jesus) and His disciples, His followers, and His believers.  In such a relationship and role, Jesus is the permanent possessor of, and Baptizer with the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “the Son of God” is another example of John exhibiting a different approach, or a different wording structure, from that of the Synoptic Gospels.  The three other Gospels, instead, use the phrase “This is my beloved Son“:

And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”  (Matthew 3:17)

And a voice came from the heavens, ’You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Mark 1:11)

And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Luke 3:22).

Again, why did he deviate so much from the other Gospel writers in this aspect?  (I am still working on this one!)

 

 

When John writes, “God’s chosen One,” he is probably referring to the “Servant” found in the book of Isaiah (42:1).

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.  (Isaiah 42:1)

John baptized in order to prepare for, and to make known, the ministry of the “One” who was to follow after him.  John the Baptist’s witness is an excellent example of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ, and for us today.  By our own Baptism, we are called to make Jesus known to the entire world in our words, attitudes, deeds, and actions; and by the witness of our lives as Catholics.

Our lives are to offer testimony, not only for ourselves, but also to the whole world, of Him who we know: Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Son of God.  Remember, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  How does the example and witness of your life give testimony to the loving and reconciling presence of Christ?  What might others come to know and embrace about Jesus in observing your personal and family life?  (You tell me!  Please write!)

As a form of meditation and reflection, look for as many phrases, terms, and “titles” for Jesus as possible in your bible and prayer books.  Examples include Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Savior, Prince of Peace, and so on.  What do these different phrases, terms, and titles mean to you?  What do they tell you about Jesus?  Let me know your favorite, or most interpersonal titles for our Lord; I truly would like to know.

 

Communion Invocation from the Holy Mass

 

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Berard and Companions (d. 1220)

 

Preaching the gospel is often dangerous work. Leaving one’s homeland and adjusting to new cultures, governments and languages is difficult enough; but martyrdom sometimes caps all the other sacrifices.

In 1219 with the blessing of St. Francis, Berard left Italy with Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis to preach in Morocco. En route in Spain Vitalis became sick and commanded the other friars to continue their mission without him.

They tried preaching in Seville, then in Muslim hands, but made no converts. They went on to Morocco where they preached in the marketplace. The friars were immediately apprehended and ordered to leave the country; they refused. When they began preaching again, an exasperated sultan ordered them executed. After enduring severe beatings and declining various bribes to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, the friars were beheaded by the sultan himself on January 16, 1220.

These were the first Franciscan martyrs. When Francis heard of their deaths, he exclaimed, “Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!” Their relics were brought to Portugal where they prompted a young Augustinian canon to join the Franciscans and set off for Morocco the next year. That young man was Anthony of Padua. These five martyrs were canonized in 1481.

Comment:

The deaths of Berard and his companions sparked a missionary vocation in Anthony of Padua and others. There have been many, many Franciscans who have responded to Francis’ challenge. Proclaiming the gospel can be fatal, but that has not stopped the Franciscan men and women who even today risk their lives in many countries throughout the world.

Quote:

Before St. Francis, the Rules of religious orders made no mention of preaching to the Muslims. In the Rule of 1223, Francis wrote: “Those brothers who, by divine inspiration, desire to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers should ask permission from their ministers provincial. But the ministers should not grant permission except to those whom they consider fit to be sent” (Chapter 12).

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 16 & 17 of 26:

 

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

 

 

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.

“You May Walk On Water In The Future, But Now You Have To Go Under!” – Matthew 3:13-17†


 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   1428 – Pope Martinus V declares Jacoba van Beierens (Duchess of Bavaria-Straubing, Countess of Hainaut and Holland from 1417 to 1432)  marriage invalid.
†   1431 – Judges’ investigations for the trial of Joan of Arc begin in Rouen, France, the seat of the English occupation government.
†   1522 – Adriaan F Boeyens elected only Dutch pope (Adrian VI – 1522-23)
†   1554 – Birth of Gregory XV, [Alessandro Ludovisi], pope (1621-23)
†   1856 – Birth of Adriaan Aškerc, Slavic priest/poet (Primoz Trubar) (d. 1912)
†  1902 – Birth of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Spanish Catholic priest and founder of Opus Dei (d. 1975)
†   1958 – Birth of Mehmet Ali Ağca, Turkish attempted assassin of Pope John Paul II

(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:

  

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

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 03 of 13 Parts

 

“The Church expects from the unique Secular Franciscan Order great service to the cause of the Kingdom of God in the world today. She wishes your Order to be a model of organic, structural and charismatic union at all levels, in such a way as to present itself to the world as a “community of love” (Rule SFO 26). The Church expects you, Secular Franciscans, to give a bold and consistent witness of Christian and Franciscan life, with the aim of building a more fraternal and evangelical world and so bringing about the Kingdom of God.”  (John Paul II, Message to the General Chapter of the SFO, 22 November 2002)

“We expect, in short, this Fraternity to grow in the Church as a living body  based on communion, providing, in contemporary contexts, forms of social, cultural and spiritual commitment.” (Letter of Card. Rodé)

 

(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 Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan River, and the Spirit of God coming upon Him.

 

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”  15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then he allowed him.  16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him.  17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (NAB Matthew 3:13-17)

 

This Sunday marks a transition from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time.  What have we learned and experienced through these past 43 days of the Advent and Christmas Liturgical Seasons?    We learned that (1) before Jesus’ birth, Gabriel announced to Mary and to Joseph (individually) who Jesus would be.  At the nativity – – The Word of God’s human birth, – – the shepherds and the Magi (2) recognized Jesus as the true “Messiah and King of the Jews”.  And today, at His baptism, (3) God the Father proclaims publically that Jesus is His Son and inaugurates Jesus’ public mission on earth.

Today, we celebrate the start of Jesus’ public ministry.  The baptism of Jesus is the happening when Jesus is equipped by the Holy Spirit for His special role and ministry, and when His heavenly Father proclaimed Him to be His “Beloved” Son.

Matthew’s Gospel is the only account of the baptism of Jesus to include a dialogue between Jesus and John the Baptist.  The baptism which John performs at the Jordan River foreshadows our present day Catholic Rite of Baptism.  Why did Jesus, – – who is totally free of sin and divinely perfect, – – present Himself at the Jordan River for John to baptize Him?  Think about this for a little while; I’ll answer in just a bit.

John baptizes for repentance from sin and in accepting this baptism from him, Jesus unites Himself with all sinners – – even though He is without sin.   The conversation between John and Jesus is distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  This dialogue shows John the Baptist’s knowledge and understanding of Jesus’ divine superiority to him as well as to everyone on earth.  John recognized Jesus as the mighty “Messiah” who was to come and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, as distinguished from his practice of baptizing only with water:

“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  (Matthew 3:11).

From the point of view of the 1st century Christian community, the Holy Spirit and fire were understood to be external signs of cleansing and strengthening believers.  This was experienced by the Apostles at Pentecost, fifty (50) days after Jesus’ Resurrection.  The early Christian community recognized John’s prophetic description in what Jesus would do, and which was experienced by the Apostles at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. 

 “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.” (Malachi 3:2-3)

I believe Jesus didn’t just show up like He made an appointment, arriving at a designated time to get baptized.  I am sure He arrived much earlier, maybe even days or weeks earlier.  Jesus listened, watched, conversed, and ate with John the Baptist (His cousin).  Jesus probably even watched people come and go, being baptized by John in the Jordan River.

Jesus overcomes John the Baptist’s reluctance to admit Jesus among the sinners whom he is baptizing.   Jesus says to John: “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”, referring to the “fulfillment” of messianic prophecies, and “righteousness” referring to proper conduct in agreement, compliance, and obedience with God’s will and plan for the salvation of not only the Jewish people, but also all peoples.  Jesus would explain this, or proclaim this, during His ministry when He taught:  

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  for they will be satisfied.”  (Matthew 5:6)

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

To fulfill all righteousness” meant Jesus had to submit – – to surrender – – to the God’s plan for the salvation of the human race.  This entailed Jesus being identified with the lowly of society: the sinners and the marginalized.  Thus, Jesus’ acceptance and participation in John’s baptism was appropriate and absolutely necessary, not for Him, but for us! 

Jesus allowed Himself to be counted among sinners.  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to his Father’s will.  Out of love He consented to this baptism for the remission of our sins.  In Jesus’ humility, obedience, and surrender, one can perceive a foreshadowing of the “baptism by fire” for the remission of our sins by His Passion and bloody death upon the Holy Tree some three years later.  Do you personally know, live, and show Jesus’ example of love, trust, and submissive obedience to God?

Today’s reading says, “the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him.”  I love the saying about the Old Testament living in the New, and the New Testament fulfilling the Old.  It is so true here in this reading, and in Isaiah:

 “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”  (Isaiah 42:1)

God the Father speaks directly to His people through Jesus and the Holy Spirit in Holy Scriptures, in both the first and second Testaments.  There is a distinct difference between Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels with regard to this particular reading.  In Matthew, God declares in a public statement that Jesus “is my Beloved Son”.  In Mark (and Luke), God proclaims directly to Jesus that He is His Beloved Son:

“And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  (Mark 1:11)

God’s voice and message reflects several Old Testament prophesies.  Isaiah would prophesy:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”  (Isaiah 42:1)

And David would proclaim:

 “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, “You are my son; today I am your father.”  (Psalm 2:7)

And earlier, Moses had written:

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

Just imagine yourself standing on the river bank when God spoke to Jesus and the crowd.  What an experience that would have been.  Can you picture a loud booming voice while a pure white and beautiful dove descended upon Jesus and resting on Him gracefully? 

At that very moment, the people there actually “SAW” the Trinitarian Godhead in totality – – the Father (the voice), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit (the Dove) – and revealed to all!!  God showed Himself in a very unique, special, powerful, and “NEW” way.  The “Trinitarian Godhead” is something that not even the most faithful Jewish believer would have conceived as being possible.  God wanted to make it really clear to those present at the time that something new and awesome was about to happen in salvation history!

This same voice was heard out from the heavens is also saying the exact same thing to each of us, “This is my Beloved child, and I am well pleased!”  We are, in fact, members of God’s Royal Family!  We, who believe, are all children of God!

With God’s affirmation, Jesus was able to resist the temptations found in the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (40 days in the desert with temptations by Satan).  Also with God’s affirmation, Jesus began his public ministry with a “joy” of truly knowing His loving heavenly Father.   

For the sake of the joy that lay before Him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God.”  (Hebrew 12: 2)

The Holy Spirit was also present at His baptism when He entered into Jesus.  The Holy Spirit “anointed” Jesus for his public ministry – – which began at that very moment in the Jordan River.  This same Holy Spirit works not only in and through Jesus, but also in and through us.  Jesus IS the emanating source of the Holy Spirit for all the faithful then, now, and for all eternity.  (See Hebrews 12: 22-24)

At His baptism, the waters (of the river) were consecrated by the descent of the Holy Spirit into Jesus as He descended into the living and flowing waters of the Jordan River.  This action signified the beginning of a new creation in Jesus – the “Savior Christ”.   From the waters of Jesus’ baptism another manifestation, – – another “Epiphany”, – – becomes apparent!  (Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Son of David and the future suffering servant of Isaiah.)

Jesus Christ’s baptism ushered in His public mission on earth.  At our baptism, we too are “anointed” with consecrated water, and become a new creation with and in God.  In a similar way to Jesus, our baptism inaugurates our mission as Catholics.   At our baptism, the exact same Holy Spirit came to each individual one of us, just as He did with Jesus Christ! 

At our baptism, we were gifted by God!  No matter who we are, how old we happen to be, how healthy or sick we are, how rich or poor we are, how smart or “dumb” we are, we can do something with the gifts – – be it a time, talent, and/or treasure – -that God has given us.

Look at Jesus’ humble attitude and love for all creation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to form and build this same attitude in your heart and soul.  If you do, heaven may open up for you as well; and you may actually “hear” or “experience” God talking to or in you.  There is a mission or task that God has anointed you to initiate and complete.  (So do it!)  

Is the Holy Spirit living in you and emanating through you?   Do you radiate Jesus’ attitude, love, and joy to those around you?  God wants His love, joy, and truth to emanate in and through us so that others may see, hear, and experience the goodness, truth, and beauty of God’s message and meaning of salvation. 

Through the Holy Spirit entering into us in the Sacrament of Baptism, we can support each other on our Catholic journey of faith by “affirming” the importance of each other not only in our eyes – – but also in God’s eyes as well!  Through our baptism we too were made children of God along with Jesus Christ!  Through our baptism, we too can resist temptations, and share in Christ’s mission!

 

Saint Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix
 

 

“Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.  Amen.” 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Adrian of Canterbury (d. 710)

 

Though St. Adrian turned down a papal request to become Archbishop of Canterbury, England, Pope St. Vitalian accepted the rejection on the condition that Adrian serve as the Holy Father’s assistant and adviser. Adrian accepted, but ended up spending most of his life and doing most of his work in Canterbury.

Born in Africa, Adrian was serving as an abbot in Italy when the new Archbishop of Canterbury appointed him abbot of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul in Canterbury. Thanks to his leadership skills, the facility became one of the most important centers of learning. The school attracted many outstanding scholars from far and wide and produced numerous future bishops and archbishops. Students reportedly learned Greek and Latin and spoke Latin as well as their own native languages.

Adrian taught at the school for 40 years. He died there, probably in the year 710, and was buried in the monastery. Several hundred years later, when reconstruction was being done, Adrian’s body was discovered in an incorrupt state. As word spread, people flocked to his tomb, which became famous for miracles. Rumor had it that young schoolboys in trouble with their masters made regular visits there.

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 9 & 10 of 26: 

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

 

 

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

“It’s a Birthday Party, and My Head’s On Fire, My Head’s On Fire!”-Acts 2:1-4†


Pentecost Sunday: Today is a Feast day marking the birth of the Catholic Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.  Red is the liturgical color worn by the priest at mass today.  This color recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples of Jesus on that first Pentecost.  The color also reminds us of the blood of martyrs; those believers who [by the power of the Holy Spirit] held firm to their faith, even at the cost of their lives.

Pentecost is historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, which commemorates God giving Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus.  Shavuot was celebrated on Wednesday, May 19th this year, and will be on Wednesday, June 8th in 2011.

Today in Catholic History:

† 1430 – Joan of Arc is captured by the Burgundians while leading an army to relieve Compiègne.
† 1498 – Girolamo Savonarola is burned at the stake, in Florence, Italy, on the orders of Pope Alexander VI.
† 1533 – The marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon is declared null and void.
† 1967 – Death of Lionel Groulx, French Canadian priest and historian (b. 1878)
† Liturgical Feats/Memorials: Aaron the Illustrious in the Syriac Orthodox Church, Saint Desiderius, Saint Guibert of Gemblours
   

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

Sainthood is not reserved for monks living cloistered lives of private prayer, or for martyrs who gave up their bodies to the cruelest forms of brutality. Sainthood is a state of grace for all who avail themselves of God’s holy fire of heart, allowing it to burn, burn, burn, right through to the core.”  – Liz Kelly May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, Loyola Press
   

Today’s reflection is about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.
     

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  (NAB Acts 2:1-4)
   

The Easter season concludes with today’s liturgical celebration.  Pentecost was the beginning of the Church: its birthday.  When I was little, and saw those famous paintings and icons of the Holy Spirit (as flames) coming down on the Apostles, I thought why would God do this?  It would burn their heads!  I now know that the Apostles, with those tongues of fire on top of their heads, represent the candles at the birthday party.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, what is Pentecost all about; what is all the fuss?  The answer is simple: to see Jesus in an entirely new and exciting way.  When we pray, or when we are together at mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or any other liturgical event, The Holy Spirit wants to reveal Jesus to our hearts.  The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus’ love, majesty, divinity, mercy, and power.  Through the fire of the Holy Spirit, the things that keep us from Jesus are burned away.

Jesus actually defeated death, and was declared “Lord over heaven and earth!”  By sending the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise to send an advocate, (a helper also called the Paraclete) who would enable His believers to be witnesses to Christ’s “good news,” and to be the reconciling presence in the world.  There is an important connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s reading, it is written, “… there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind…”  The words “wind and spirit” are also mentioned in John 3:8 (The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit).  The word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” (and the Hebrew word “ruah”) meaning both “wind” and “spirit.”  Could it be that the sound of a great rush of wind is a sign of a new action from God in regards to salvation history?  I might look at spring storms a little different in the future.

The tongues of fire have always been a curiosity of mine.  This type of “fire” is also mentioned in Exodus 19:18 (Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire …) where the fire symbolizes the presence of God initiating the “covenant” on Mount Sinai.  Here the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, acts upon the Apostles and disciples by preparing them to proclaim the “new covenant,” with its gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus commissioned His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: to teach, to forgive sins, and to baptize.  Jesus wants all His followers to be agents of peace and harmony amongst all peoples, and in all places of the world.  This can only be done through the actions of the Holy Spirit working through us, in us, and with us.

To speak in different tongues (languages) is a form of ecstatic prayer, in praise of God.  We may know it as “charismatic” prayer.  Interpreted in Acts 2:11 as speaking in foreign languages (both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God), it symbolizes the worldwide mission of the church.  Everyone speaking differently wasn’t to confuse the masses of people; it actually helps bring all peoples of the world together under one large umbrella:  the Catholic, or universal Church.

To live as a disciple of God through, with, and in the Holy Spirit, is a gigantic privilege.  He brings us peace, and works through us to teach Christ’s message.  Along with this privilege comes a huge responsibility as well.  As the Apostles and early disciples had done centuries ago, we are still expected to spread the “good news” of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and of His coming again soon.  Are we willing to surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit?  Are we eager and willing to bring His “good news” to this wounded and hurting world?

Today is the perfect day to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, and to share the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with others in your life.  Find a place and sit quietly.  Reflect on your need to forgive, and upon concerns you may have with giving and accepting forgiveness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help bring you peace through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to burn away everything that keeps you from Jesus.  After all, heart burn is a good thing in this case. 

The following prayer may help in finding the Holy Spirit, and in kindling that fire inside you.

Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit

“O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive; into my mind, that I may remember; and into my soul, that I may meditate.  Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy.  Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end.  May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy.  Amen.”

Saint Anthony of Padua

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John Baptist Rossi
   

This holy priest was born in 1698 at the village of Voltaggio in the diocese of Genoa and was one of the four children of an excellent and highly respected couple.  When he was ten, a nobleman and his wife who were spending the summer at Voltaggio obtained permission from his parents to take him back with them to Genoa to be trained in their house.  He remained with them three years, winning golden opinions from all, notably from two Capuchin friars who came to his patron’s home.  They carried such a favorable report of the boy to his uncle who was then minister provincial of the Capuchins that a cousin Lorenzo Rossi a canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin invited him to come to Rome.  The offer was accepted and he entered the Roman College at the age of thirteen.  Popular with his teachers and with his fellow pupils he had completed the classical course with distinction when the reading of an ascetical book led him to embark on excessive mortifications.  The strain on his strength at a time when he was working hard led to a complete breakdown which obliged him to leave the roman College.  He recovered sufficiently to complete his training at the Minerva, but he never was again really robust.  Indeed his subsequent labors were performed under the handicap of almost constant suffering.

On March 8, 1721 at the age of twenty three he was ordained and his first Mass was celebrated in the Roman College at the altar of St. Aloysius Gonzaga to whom he always had a special devotion.

His fame came from his work as a confessor and as his ministry to the sick.

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

 

Tomorrow (May 24th) is celebration of the “Dedication of the Patriarchal Basilica of Our Holy Father St. Francis at Assisi, and Commemoration of the Transfer of the Body of St. Francis”

This feast and commemoration are observed by all the branches of the Franciscan Order.  When St. Francis died in 1226, he was buried in the Church of St. George in Assisi (now a chapel in Santa Chiara, and the shrine of the original San Damiano crucifix.)  Two years later St. Francis was solemnly canonized, and the building of San Francesco at the other end of the town was begun.  In May, 1230, the body of the saint was transferred to the new church; and in 1253, on the anniversary of the transfer, Pope Innocent IV consecrated the Church of San Francesco.  Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) raised it to the rank of a patriarchal basilica and papal chapel.

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

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.