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“The ‘Sign’ Read: ‘If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!’” – John 2:1-11†


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

Please let me explain why I did not publish a blog Wednesday.  I have a chronic eye condition known in the medical field as “keratoconus”.  Patients with this condition have misshaped globes of the eye.  Instead of the ckeratoconus-demoorneas being round and smooth, my eyes are shaped like the ends of footballs, and with ridges on their surfaces.  Thus, I wear specially made (very expensive) contacts in order to see well enough for daily living.  Without these contacts, my vision is like looking through a very thin layer of petroleum jelly.  Eventually, I will have to have corneal transport surgery on both eyes, but obviously, I wish to postpone this surgery as long as is reasonable.

One of my eyes has started to develop blood vessels on the cornea; some2816_2835_3thing very bad for future corneal transplant surgery.  Thus, I have to use four different medications on the eye throughout the day and night, and I am unable to wear a contact in this eye until some point after my surgery.  Laser surgery is scheduled for late February (He will burn the blood vessels on my cornea with the laser). 

For now, it is difficult to read due to the resultant blurriness of not wearing the contact.  For this reason, I have to limit my reflection blog to Sundays – – only FOR NOWI am also asking for your prayers in this matter.  Thank you in advance.

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Quote of the Day:

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.” ~ Frederick William Robertson

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Today’s reflection: Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus heard and obeyed His mother, Mary – – the mother of God; Do YOU?!

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(NAB John 2:1-11)  1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”  So they filled them to the brim.  8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”  So they took it.  9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs * in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  For many Sundays in this lectionary cycle (Cycle C), our readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke.  Occasionally, however, we will read from John’s Gospel [as we do in every lectionary cycle].  Today’s Gospel reading comes from John, describing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and His first miracle – – His first “sign”.

To situate today’s reading within the context of John’s Gospel, we need to know that this event follows Jesus’ call of His first six disciples (cf., John 1:35-51).  John tells us that Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary.  This event is unique to John’s Gospel.  There are no parallel reports of this miraculous “sign” at Cana in any of the Synoptic Gospels.

Today’s Gospel is about “Signs (“sēmeion” in Greek).  John uses “signs” to re5030826-directional-signs-vector-or-xxl-jpeg-imageveal Jesus as the true promised Messiah to ALL “Israel”.  John uses “signs” to symbolize Jesus’ wondrous actions, His deeds.  We need to remember that the Gospel according to John is quite different in character from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  His writing style is highly literate and symbolic in nature.  It does not follow the same order, nor reproduce the same stories, as the other three Gospels.  To a much greater degree as that of the three other Gospel writers, it is the product of a theological reflection growing out of a different circle of readers, and their different traditions.  John’s Gospel was probably written in Ephesus during 90’s AD. 

John’s Gospel narrative contains a series of “signs”, seven to be exact (They will be listed near the end of this reflection.).  John’s Gospel’s relates God’s “Word” through a series of wondrous deeds – – actions – – by Jesus Himself.  It gives the impression that John is primarily interested in the “significance” of these actions. 

The first sign in today’s Gospel reading, is the “transformation of water into wine” at a wedding feast in a place called Cana (John 2:1jesus_wine1–11).  This first “sign” represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings (John 2:6), and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus then, and still today.  He is still actually transforming US ALL through our hearing of His “Word” and the fellowships of our Church’s seven Sacraments.

So, the Old Testament exodus stories provide the background for today’s reading:

“Recall today that it was not your children, who have neither known nor seen the discipline of the LORD, your God—His greatness, His strong hand and outstretched arm; the signs and deeds He wrought in the midst of Egypt, on Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on all his land; what He did to the Egyptian army and to their horses and chariots, engulfing them in the waters of the Red Sea as they pursued you, so that the LORD destroyed them even to this day … Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all His servants and to all His land(Deuteronomy 11:2-4; 29:1-2).

God’s intervention in human history is anew again – – in a new, fulfilled, and fulfilling way – –  through Jesus Christ in the midst of His brethren today.

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The first verse talks about Jesus being in a place called “Cana”:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there” (NAB John 2:1-11). 

Cana is NEVER mentioned in the Old Testament.  The only other (two) biblical references to “Cana” can be found(1) in John 4:46, which mentions Jesus, while in “Cana”, being asked to heal the son of a royal official at Capernaum; and (2) in John 21:2, where the Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels’) comes from “Cana”.  Cana of Galilee is not mentioned in any other book of the Bible, or in any other contemporary literary source.  So where is “Cana”, and why is this place significant to John?  I do not know with certainly.  Speculation is rampant among bible scholars, but I would love to find this place someday when finally discovered with certainty.  I hear the wine there is truly divine!

Also in the first verse, “The mother of Jesus” is never mentioned by name.  Matter of fact, Mary is never mentioned by name in John’s Gospel.  And, on tsecret-rosary13aop of this, Joseph is not present at the wedding feast as well.  I suspect Jesus’ earthly “father” had died sometime between his finding his lost Son in the Temple and this event some eighteen years later.

Jesus, per John, addressed His mother by saying “Woman”:

Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

This was NOT a ‘diss (slang word for “treat with contempt”) on Mary!!  Today, a child would possibly be given the “eveyesil eye” for calling his/her mother “woman” in this way.  However, in actuality, this was a normal and POLITE form of addressing one’s mother during Jesus’ time.  He also calls her by this SAME title while dying on the Holy Cross, at His most intimate – – and final – – time with her:

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’” (John 19:26).

The word “woman” was a revealed word which was highly exulted (like the word “king”) amoung the Jewish peoples.  Jesus is “the Word made Flesh”.  When Jesus Christ calls His mother “woman”, He is revealing the promised fulfillment in Genesis:

 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Genesis 3:15).

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Wine was running low, a good “sign” of the celebration being in full force, but a bad sign because – – they are RUNNING OUT OF WINE!  So, Mary, probably helping at the celebration, goes to her son and says:

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine” (John 2:3).

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

Woman, how does your concern affect meMy hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

If itwasn’t His time”, why did Jesus do what His mother asked?  After all, Jesus never worked miracles solely to help His family and friends.  I believe He performed this first miraculous “sign” out of OBEDIENCE to His mother, ObedienceToTheWordknowing the importance of [what we today know as] the Fourth Commandment and its great importance in God’s kingdom:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you … Take to heart these words which I command you today…  Bind them on your arm as a ‘sign’ and let them be as a pendant on your forehead” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:6, 8)  

I wish people today saw and appreciated the need and JOY to be obedient to God’s Commandments, and not to subjugate them – – to de-prioritize them – – out of personally selfish wants and desires. 

Now, let’s go on to discuss the second (of three) points about His reply to His “mother”: 

How does your concern affect me?” (John 2:4)

Everything Jesus says is a fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  He is telling His mother that if He does what she implies, the “cats are ‘gjesusturnedwaterintowineonna be out of the bag”!  Mary is hastening God’s will, My source and My authority by doing a miracle to meet the wedding parties need.  That’s why, I believe, the third revealing point in this one verse relates to Jesus saying: 

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

The “hour”, I believe Jesus is referring to, is His Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven:hourglass

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

I wonder how much Jesus knew about His future at the time of the wedding feast miracle.  Did He know every single detail about His gruesome torture and death to come?  Did He know the beauty He will find in His ascension?  I believe He did.  Do you?  However, Jesus was focusing on His mother’s concern for the wedding couple.  He moved up the clock, revealing His divine authority.  So, He begins a series of seven signs here at “Cana”.

Only after John has Jesus fulfilling these seven “signs”, does the “hour” of Jesus fully arrive.  The whole Gospel of John is a progressivglory-to-god-by-brandon-halliburton-free-photo-11978e “revelation” – – a REVEALING – – of the glory of God’s only begotten Son.  At “Cana”, Jesus is beginning to reveal God the Father fully; which will ne fulfilled later when He returns – – in “glory” – – to His heavenly Father on our behalf.  Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

Jesus’ reply was tjohn2_5SCruly revealing in nature.  However, Mary was not going to take an implied “no” for an answer.  She simply looks at the “servers” and says:

Do whatever He tells you(John 2:5).

Mary knew her Scriptures well; she helped teach them to Jesus.  Mary, in her reply, may have been referencing a verse from the Book of Genesis:

When all the land of Egypt became hungry and the people cried to Pharaoh for food, Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: ‘Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you’” (Genesis 41:55).

What I believe was important about Mary’s reason for wanting Jesus to perform a “sign” before His “time”, and His willingness to obif_mama_aint_happy_aint_nobody_happy_magnet-p147594797048165970b2gru_400ey her fully, may have been one of simple logic and survival for Jesus:

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Do not forget the Fourth Commandment.  Jesus didn’t!!

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John goes on to report that:

There were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons” (John 2:6). 

Twenty to thirty gallons” is a litermarriageincanaal present day translation for the “two or three measures” of Jesus’ day.  This vast quantity of wine recalls prophecies of “abundance in the last days” from Jewish Scripture:

Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, flocks of sheep and cattle; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again neglected” (Jeremiah 31:12);

 “Yes, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—When the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps and the vintager, the sower of the seed; The mountains shall drip with the juice of grapes, and all the hills shall run with it. will restore my people Israel, they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits.” (Amos 9:13–14).

With this “first sign”, the changing of the water to wine, Jesus is replacing the “Jewish ceremonial washings” with His divine body, blood, soul, and divinity washing away all affects of original sin.  This event also presented the initial revealing – – the initial revelation – – of Jesus’ divine nature and authority at the outset of His public ministry.  

Jesus’ action in this reading points to the “wine of the new covenant” and the “bread of life” He establishes in the “Last Supper” anjesusfirstLOGOd in our present Eucharist.  It also points to the Messianic banquet which Jesus personally will host at the end of time.  (Behold the Lamb of God … Hapy are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!)

The miracles of Jesus’ public ministry – – His “signs” – – demonstrate the power of God’s love and mercy for His people.  God’s kindness knows no limits!  And the ultimate expression of His love is revealed in the person of His Son, our Lord – – Jesus Christ.  He became flesh for OUR sake; He died for OUR redemption; He rose from the dead for OUR glorification!! 

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John ends his Gospel today by going to the beginning: the beginning of Jesus’ “signs”, the beginning of His revealed “glory”, the beginning of His public ministry, and the beginning of His disciples truly believing in Him as the true promised Messiah:

Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

God reveals His “glory” in the most unlikely places: in a stable at Bethlehem, at a wedding party in Cana, in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, and on a blood stained crosto-god-be-the-glory_137_1024x768s outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Jesus’ first public miracle – – His first “sign” – – was performed at the confident “invitation” of His mother.  In doing as His mother requested of Him, Jesus blessed a young couple, bringing JOY to their wedding feast: first, by His presence, and second, by His surprising response to Hhis mother’s concern, saving them from an embarrassing situation. 

Changing water into wine was a remarkable act of kindness; but saving the best to last was unheard of in Jesus’ day.  In Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament) wine was often seen as a gift anDo-Whatever-He-Tells-You-1024x1024d symbol of God’s blessing (cf., Deuteronomy 7:13; Proverbs 3:10, Psalm 105).  With Jesus miraculously producing 180 gallons or so of the best wine possible, and many times more than what actually was needed for the feast, He showed the superabundance of the blessings He Himself came to offer to All “Israel”, to ALL peoples.

What other signs will Jesus go on to do during His public Ministry?  Well, now would be a good time to list the seven “signs” John reveals through his Gospel:seven-signs

  • The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents, as I mentioned earlier, the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.

  • The second sign, the cure of the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46–54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus’ life-giving “Word”.  

  • The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in John 5, continues the theme of water offering newness of life.  In the preceding chapter, to the woman at the well in Samaria Jesus had offered living water springing up to eternal life, a symbol of the revelation Jesus brings.  Here Jesus’ life-giving “Word” replaces the water of the pool which failed to bring life.

  • John 6 contains two signs: the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  These signs are related to the “crossing of the Red Sea” and the manna” of the first exodus, manifesting a new exodus in process.  The multiplication of the loaves anticipates the future revelation of God in Jesus which the bread of life is His visible “sign” which we call the “Eucharist”.  

  • The sixth sign is presented in John 9, the sign of the young man born blind whom Jesus heals. This is a narrative illustration proclaiming the triumph of light over darkness.  Remember, this event takes place in the Temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles (aka, the Feast of Lights) at which there were a multitude of candelabras lighted throughout the “Holy Place”.  Jesus is presenting Himself as the Light of the Temple, and of the world.  The young man had been given his sight by Jesus.  This “sign” was an object lesson, revealing the divine power of Jesus to give light to the eyes, and at the same time, subtly revealing the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and Levites attending to the Menorah.

  • And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in John 11, is the climax of signs.  Lazarus is presented as a token of the real, spiritually alive, life which Jesus, THE Resurrection and THE Life, who will now ironically be put to death because of His gift of life to Lazarus, desires to give ALL to those believing in Him then, and after He was seen raised from the dead.  Notice the irony of Jesus raising Lazarus and then enduring His own death in place of Lazarus.

John’s purpose in describing these seven signs in their unique order is clearly expressed in what some bible scholars say was the “original” ending of his Gospel, at the end of Chapter 20.  Besides these seven just described:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [His] disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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In the Church’s lit. summarize titleurgical history, the “wedding feast at Cana” is closely associated with the “adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi” and the “Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The “sign” Jesus performs at the wedding feast is an “epiphany” (manifestation) of Jesus’ divinity to be celebrated.flickr-3699162219-hd

With these epiphanies in mind, awareness of Jesus’ Passion and death looming future on the Holy Cross is ever present in John’s Gospel.  Even in today’s narrative of Jesus’ “first sign”, the language used by John anticipates Jesus’ future Passion.  When Jesus says to His “mother” that “His hour has not yet come”, Jesus protests against her wishes in words John used again when describing Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples in John 13:1.  When introducing the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet [also only found in John’s Gospel], John writes that Jesus knew His “hour had come”.  Per John, Jesus is very much in command and extremely aware of ALL that is to happen to Him, from the very beginning.

Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is never mentioned by name, but is referred to instead as “the mother of Jesus”.  Mary is overridingly influential in Jesus’ first “sign”.  She will never abandon her Son, even being present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  Mary was (and still is) a faithful and constant witness to the final manifestation – – “sign” and epiphany – – of Jesus’ divinity.

John’s Gospel describes seven “signs” indicating Jesus’ true divine nature and identity to His disciples.  He never speaks of these “signwordsandeedslogosas miracles because their importance is not in the deed – – the action – – which Jesus performs, but instead in what these deeds indicate in regard to Jesus’ true nature and identity.  In today’s reading, Jesus’ disciples are said to “begin to believe”.  However, no mention is made as to whether the other wedding guests are even aware of what has happened.  (But, they thought the wine was heavenly in deed!)

Here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-define and fulfill God’s promise to “Israel”.  Jesus is establishing the New Covenant promised to the Water_Wine_Renderprophets.  A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in His deed – – the action Jesus performs.  Asked to do something about the awkward situation that a lack of wine at the wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miraculous “sign” produces vast quantities of wine: six jars overflowing with over 180 gallons of superior wine.

This overflowing response to a simple human request is a vision for us – – a “sign” – – about the vast abundance of God’s kingdom.  It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with our needs, and others’, today.  Responding as best as we can, fully confident that, like the mother of Jesus, God can transform our efforts, brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us here and now!

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We. conclusionddings are magnificent and breathtaking celebrations.  We go out of our way to make the occasion festive and extraordinary.  People work hard to please one another with a special kind of JOY.  What better image of the Kingdom of God can there be than070114_weddinggift a wedding feast!  Wedding celebrations are not an everyday occurrence.  ut we can anticipate the Kingdom of God each and every day through our kindness, attention, and care to one another’s needs.

Reflect about weddings and other feasts and HOW they are used as images in Holy Slove others_t_nvcripture for the Kingdom of God.  Consider how these festive occasions are images of God’s tremendous, overflowing, love for us – – and examples of how we can show our love for one another.  Think about Mary’s attentiveness to the needs of the wedding hosts, and about Jesus’ response to His mother’s request.  What can you learn from today’s Gospel story?  Reflect on, and consider ways – – actions or deeds – – in which you might show these same sort of generous and loving values in your daily life.  Create your own “sign” for God’s plan in your life and for His kingdom on earth!!

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity. generosity-revolution-revisited-graphic
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.”

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“Happy Birth Day To Jesus Christ!” – John 1:1-18†


The Nativity of the Lord
(CHRISTinMASS)—
Mass During the Day

 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
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

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Today in Catholic History:    

†  1 AD – First Christmas, according to calendar maker Dionysus Exigus.
†  795 – Death of Adrian I, Italian Pope (772-95)
†  800 – Pope Leo III crowns Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Roman emperor
†  1046 – Pope Clemens VI crowns Henry III Roman Catholic-German emperor
†  1048 – Parliament of Worms: Emperor Henry III names his cousin count Bruno van Egisheim/Dagsburg as Pope Leo IX
†  1130 – Anti-pope Anacletus II crowns Roger II the Norman, king of Sicily
†  1156 – Peter the Venerable, Benedictine abbot of Cluny (b. c. 1092)
†  1223 – St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene.
†  1717 – Birth of Pius VI, [Giovanni A Braschi], Italy, Pope (1775-99)
†  1775 – Pope Pius VI publishes encyclical on the problems of the pontificate
†  1916 –  Death of St. Albert Chmielowski, Polish Catholic saint (b. 1845)
†  1955 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical on sacred music & popular music

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about John’s announcement that, in and through Jesus Christ, the “Word” became flesh and dwelt (dwells) among us.

 

(NAB John 1:1-18) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning with God.  3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 5 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  6 A man named John was sent from God.  7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  11 He came to what was his own, but his own peopledid not accept him.  12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  15John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Christmas Feast Day, four Masses are celebrated; they are the vigil Mass, the Midnight Mass, the morning Mass and the Mass during the day.  Each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate aspects of Christ’s birth.  The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.  The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Luke’s Gospel.  The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth through the shepherds’ visit to the infant Jesus.  The Mass during the day is from John.  However, in each of these Gospel readings, we hear different portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel reading for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John’s Gospel.  This reading is not an infancy narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Instead, John’s Gospel begins at “the beginning”, and presents the “Creation story” as the basis for announcing Jesus’ Incarnation.  This is the subject matter of my reflection today.

 

John’s prologue (introduction) states the main themes of his Gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate “Logos” (the “Word” of God) who reveals and brings to light God the Father.  The essence of John’s Gospel today (John 1:15, 1011, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by a “stair step parallelism,” in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next.  Here’s an example:

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

This single verse, in its “stair step” design, the Holy Spirit invites us to view Jesus’ birth from God the Father’s perspective.  Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ birth was the result of God the Father’s initiative.  However, John’s Gospel also highlights that His incarnate birth was His own divine intention from the very beginning as well – – from the very first moment of Creation.  Notice that from this single verse, in this stair step form, theologians have discovered a great very deal of theology, philosophy, and poetic form.  Also notice that John begins his testimony with the very first words of the Old Testament:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … (Genesis 1:1).

Genesis 1:1 AND John 1:1 are intentional parallels in content, chapter, and verse.  SO COOL!!

 

I find the verb, “was”, following the phrase “In the beginning”, in today’s reading, extremely interesting and deeply theological.  This verb (“was”) is used three times with three different meanings in just this one verse:

First, existence (subsistence, being, life, reality, way of life);
Second, relationship (association, connection, and affiliation);
and,
Third, predication (something affirmed, rather than identification or recognition).

 

The “Word” (the meaning of the Greek word, “logos”) is a term combining three specific aspects:

1) God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis);
2) Personified preexistent “wisdom” as the instrument of God’s creative practical counsel (such as is found in Proverbs);
And,
3) The ultimate intelligibility (meaningfulness) of reality (from Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The term “Logos” (“Word”) is borrowed from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought.  “With God” is a prepositional phrase connoting both a relationship and a communication with an other: OUR Father expressing Himself (His “Word”) in heaven, on Earth, and within each of us.  In Greek (Hellenistic) thought, the “logos” was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity.   In Jewish thought, this phrase also describes God the Father taking “action”, such as in the Creation story.  John, and others in the early Church, adopted this active language to describe God’s incarnation in Jesus (his “Word” becoming flesh).  The term (logos) was then used to express the mystery of a Trinitarian faith as one God in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  The “Word” – – “Logos” – – was to be equated with the Second Person, Jesus Christ Himself.  John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving “Word” which has come to earth in human form.  Jesus is the wisdom and power of God the Father, who created the world and sustains it; and who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in, with, and through Himself.  

Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God:

What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed.” (from an early church antiphon used during Morning Prayer). 

The “’Word’ of God” was a common expression among the Jewish people.  God’s “Word” in the Old Testament is truly an active, creative, and dynamic “Word”.  Many Old Testament examples extol His presence WORKING in, with, and through His creations:

By the LORD’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6);

He sends forth his commands to the earth; His word runs swiftly(Psalm 147:15);

“God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy, you who have made all things by your word” (Wisdom 9:1);

 “Is not my word like fire — oracle of the LORD — like a hammer shattering rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

Finally, God’s word is also equated with His wisdom:

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding.” (Proverbs 3:19).

In addition, the Book of Wisdom describes “wisdom” as God’s eternal, creative, and illuminating power.  Both “Word” and “wisdom” are seen as one and the same:

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne leapt into the doomed land, fierce warrior bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree, and alighted, and filled every place with death,** and touched heaven, while standing upon the earth.” (Wisdom 18:14-16).

** I believe this really refers to Jesus’ life-producing death, and His Resurrection enabling Him to “touch heaven, while standing upon the earth.”  

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Verse six of John’s reading today is:

“ A man named John was sent from God.  ” (John 1:6).

John talks about John the Baptist, who was sent – – just as Jesus was “sent” – for a divine mission.  After this reading, other references to John the Baptist in John’s Gospel will go on to emphasize the differences between John the Baptist and Jesus, as well as John the Baptist’s subordinate role to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist “came for testimony”.  John the evangelist’s testimony portrays Jesus Christ as if on trial throughout His entire ministry.  John’s theme is Jesus, in His entire ministry, testifying to the acting out in the actions of John the Baptist, the freeing of Samaritan woman, His acting out the Jewish Scriptures and the works of the “Messiah”, the desire of the crowds following Him, the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and even upon us.

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Let’s go on to another verse: 

He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11).

What do we think is meant by this verse?  “What was his own, but his own people” literally means “His own property/possession” (meaning ALL Israel), “His own people” (the Israelites).  So, reading it this way, it says.”He came to Israel, but the Israelites did not accept Him.”

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Verse 14 is another inspired sequence of ideas expressing a great deal of theology, philosophy, and poetry:

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The ‘Word’ became flesh” indicates the “whole person”.  John used this phrase in today’s reading to refute a “docetic” tendency which was a first century heresy asserting that Jesus was not fully human.  The Apostles’ complete belief is expressed in the following verses:

This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God” (1 John 4:2),

And,

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7).

So, the phrase “come in the flesh, coming in the flesh” meant for John that Jesus of Nazareth was truly and fully human.

 

The second idea expressed by John, “made His dwelling among us”, literally means to “pitch His tent or tabernacle” in the very midst of us.  God’s presence was the tabernacle or tent of meeting in the desert described in the Old Testament; the place of God’s personal presence among His people:

They are to make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst.  According to all that I show you regarding the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of its furnishings, so you are to make it.” (Exodus 25:89).

Today, the “Incarnate Word” – – JESUS CHRIST – – is the NEW mode of God’s personal presence within, and among His people.  

 

John’s third idea is expressed in the single “Word”, “Glory”.  Glory” is God the Father’s visible manifestation of magnificence and splendor in power.  His “Glory” filled the tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34).

And, His Glory also filled the temple at another time:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:1011).

God’s “glory” is now centered in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  The phrase, “the Father’s only Son” not only means “Only One” but also includes a filial (child to parent) relationship with God the Father. 

If we are going to behold the “glory” of God we will do it through Jesus Christ:

 “Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of His divinity” (2 Peter 1:4).

The “Logos” (the “Word”) is thus “only SonAND God, but NOT Father/God.

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Verse 15:

John testified to him and cried out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, “The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me”’” (John 1:15)

is interposed between John 1:14 and John 1:16 in order to link His incarnation and ministry to “His Grace”, surpassing the grace given to the Israelites. Thus, through Jesus Christ, His grace (and His Father’s) becomes visible and available for ALL peoples, ALL nations.  John the Baptist thought so highly of the human/divine Jesus that He even said in today’s reading:

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” (John 1:30)

Jesus’ coming initiates “grace in place of grace”.  What verse 16 signifies is a fulfillment of the Old Covenant (cf., Jeremiah 31:31-34, in which God promises a new covenant.)  John recognizes that Jesus Christ brought truth and grace of God’s promises to Jeremiah in His very own person:

“While the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).

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In this “prologue” (beginning introduction) of John’s Gospel, the main themes of his Gospel are introduced and presented in dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief.  

We also see in John’s prologue a unique aspect of his Gospel; the theme of “testimony”.  John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light.  Others in John’s Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus.  We are invited to accept and believe this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God.  But even more directly, Jesus’ own actions and words will themselves testify to His identity with God the Father as God’s “Incarnate Word”.

Thinking about Jesus’ birth in these dual theological and worldly terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the “darkness” of winter.  At this time, nature itself seems to be suggestive to us of our darkness through sin.  Into this darkness – – in the midst of our sinfulness – – God comes to dwell among us in the human AND divine Son, Jesus Christ.  John’s Gospel reminds us that, through Jesus’ Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us His special, chosen children.

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To summarize, every Christmas we celebrate the greatest of “mysteries”: God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  We call this mystery the “Incarnation” (the word means “to take on flesh”), and it changes everything and every one of us.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we can also look upon the Nativity from God the Father’s perspective, better appreciating the significance of His Incarnation.  The mystery we proclaim at Christmas is one of God – – the very God who created all things from nothing and who is light Himself – – taking on OUR humanity in order to transform and save us from the darkness of sin.  Through His birth among us, we see the face of God and become His own children.  This awesome mystery is one we surely should adore, and not just at the end of the year, but each and every day.

As you look at your Nativity set, think about how familiar you are with this beautiful scene.  Recall the details of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Realize and understand that the Gospel of John invites us to consider Jesus’ birth from a different perspective, God the Father’s.

Today’s reading reminds me (and hopefully you) that the image we see in our Nativity set is a remarkable sight, event, and experience.  God the Father made Himself at home with us by sending His “Word”, taking on flesh and becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ.  Reflect on some of the events from today’s Gospel reading which happened – – for our sake – – because Jesus came to dwell among us: Light overcame darkness; truth revealed falsehood; life conquered death; and belief replaced unbelief.  We can see God’s “glory” in Jesus; and believing, we become as children of God because, through our faith in Him, we have become like Him, children of His Father.  

Please thank God for this mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation that we received, solely because Jesus was born among us.

MERRY CHRISTinMASS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Glory Be to the Father

(Doxology)

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that 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, Lying on of hands or 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.

Faith and Works, Part 1

 “‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew. 7:21) RSV.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew. 7:21) KJV.

 

“Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) RSV.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46) KJV.

 

 “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans. 2:6-8) RSV

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. (Romans. 2:6-8) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord

On this day the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek.  We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-Son, help round out the scene.

But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill.  A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.

On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “un-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith.  And, like Mary and the shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.

Comment: The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism.  If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point.  It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David.  It climaxes with the birth of Jesus.  From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people.  Praise God!

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues and Poverty

(Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

Why did Saint Francis call poverty a royal virtue?

In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where is poverty described or listed as a virtue?  And, what does this tell us?

Which virtues were the special gifts given to you at your Confirmation? … At your Baptism?

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

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

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

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

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♫”Oh, Johnny Boy, the Holy Spirit Is Calling You!”♫ – Mark 1:1-8†


    

 

Second Week of Advent

 

 Today’s Content: 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule 

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 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations: 

Do not forget that “St. Nick’s day” is this week (Tuesday, December 6th).  In many places of the world, it is St. Nicholas (and not Santa) who is the main gift giver.  Put out your children’s shoes and they find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. Remember though, St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.

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My wife’s surgery (foot surgery) went well, and she is cooperating.  Hopefully, she will be back at work within a few weeks.  Thank you for all the prayers.

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 Today in Catholic History:

†   1075 – Death of Archbishop Anno II of Cologne
†   1110 – First Crusade: The Crusaders conquer Sidon.
†   1259 – Kings Louis IX of France (A Third Order Fransican and Patron Saint of the SFO Order) and Henry III of England agree to the Treaty of Paris, in which Henry renounces his claims to French-controlled territory on continental Europe (including Normandy) in exchange for Louis withdrawing his support for English rebels.
†   1334 – Death of Pope John XXII (b. 1249)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II, (1503-13), patron of Michelangelo, Bramante, and Raphael
†   1563 – The final session of the Council of Trent is held (it opened on December 13, 1545).
†   1674 – Father Jacques Marquette founds a mission on the shores of Lake Michigan to minister to the Illiniwek (the mission would later grow into the city of Chicago, Illinois).
†   1786 – Birth of John LA Luyten, Catholic Member of Dutch 2nd parliament [or 12/14]
†   1963 – Pope Paul VI closes 2nd session of 2nd Vatican Council †   1997 – Death of David Abell Wood, priest, at age 72 Memorials Feasts: Saint John of Damascus; the Great Martyr Saint Barbara, St. Ada (feast day)

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“’Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ is an action of the risen Savior.  The Holy Spirit reveals to the spirit of the believer the true reality, majesty and saving power of the Son of God.  We are enabled to surrender our lives in a deeper way to God’s saving work.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to die to sin and live to God.” ~ Fr. Francis Martin, “The Life Changer”, St. Bede’s Publications

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist preaching repentance and baptizing people, in preparation for the “One” who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB Mark 1:1-8) 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].  2a As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”  4 John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  6 John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.  7 And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday’s Gospel was taken from the end of Mark.  Today’s Gospel is taken from the beginning of Mark.  Unlike Luke and Matthew, Mark does not include any details of Jesus’ birth.  Instead, he begins with Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, and with the appearance of John the Baptist in the desert wilderness.  We are invited today to reflect upon the role of this last great prophet, John the Baptist, who ‘prepared the way’ for Jesus and for the Salvation that Jesus Christ would bring to us then, now, and in the future.

Many scholars believe that the Gospels reflect the personal and group tensions that likely existed between the followers of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Each of the four Evangelists report on John’s preaching and baptizing, and each also emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ baptism by John.  The four Gospels go on explain that John the Baptist was sent to preach in preparation for another.  

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Holy Scripture tells us that John (the Baptist) was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb:

He [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”  (Luke 1:15).

When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the son in her womb, John, leapt in her womb as they were both “filled” with the Holy Spirit:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).

The passion and fervor of the Holy Spirit dwelt in John, and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah and Savior.  John was divinely led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness – – prior to his “prophetic” ministry, – – where he himself was tested and grew in the “Word” of God.  

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Although Mark attributes Jesus’ prophecy to Isaiah, the text is a combination of several passages from several books of Holy Scripture:

See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20);

 “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3);

 “Now I am sending my messengerhe will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1);

“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’” (Matthew 11:10);

And,

“This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’” (Luke 7:27).  

John the Baptist’s ministry is seen, and presented in this reading as God’s prelude to the saving mission of God the Fathers “Son”.  John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.

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John broke the prophetic silence of several centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God to the people of Israel.  His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who also reproached the “chosen people” of God for their unfaithfulness and who also tried to awaken true repentance in them.  

Among the Jewish people – – who became unconcerned with the things of God, – – it was John’s work and mission to awaken their interest, to unsettle them from their complacency, and to arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive Christ when He came.  

Why did Jesus say John the Baptist was more than a prophet as reported in Luke’s Gospel:

Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” (Luke 7:26)?

He was more than a prophet; he was the “voice” making straight the “way of the Lord”.  John the Baptist became “the voice” who is coming:

 “He [John the Baptist] said: ‘I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23).

 And what exactly did the prophet Isaiah say about this “voice” of the “one crying out in the desert”:

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, that she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.  A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:1-3).

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Can you picture a man “clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (verse 6).  Was he thought of as a “wild” man, with “crazy” ideas, OR, was he looked at as the prophesized “prophet”?  Remember, he did have a large following, and was watched, with “some concern”, from religious and political figures of the area.  They all knew the Old Testament prophesies of Isaiah.  John the Baptist’s clothes and dietary habits recalled that of the prophet “Elijah” from the Old Testament:

They replied, ‘He wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist.’  ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.” (2 Kings 1:8).

Jesus Christ Himself even speaks of John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who has already come:

 “Then the disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’” (Matthew 17:1012);

Then they [Peter, James, and John] asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He told them, ‘Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” (Mark 9:1113);

And,

He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17).

 

John the Baptist truly completed the cycle of great prophets begun by Elijah:

“All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Matt. 11:13-14).

John’s baptismal ministry was for repentance, for turning away from sin, and for taking on a “new way” of life according to God’s “Word”.  Our baptism in, with, and through Jesus Christ – – by flowing water and the Holy Spirit – – results in a “new birth” and a glorious entry into God’s kingdom, as His beloved children:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5).

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Jesus will create a “new” people of God through the life-giving baptism with the Holy Spirit:

I [John the Baptist] have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1-8).

However, first Jesus will identify Himself with the “chosen people of Israel” in submitting to John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance:

John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4),

AND, in bearing on their (and our) behalf the burden of God the Father’s decisive judgment, was baptized for the “chosen people of Israel”:

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.” (Mark 1:9).

As in the desert of Sinai at the Exodus, so here, in the wilderness of Judea (at the Jordan River also associated with Elijah and Elisha), Israel’s Son-ship with God the Father is to be “renewed” through the living waters AND Holy Spirit of Jesus’ baptism.

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In conclusion, Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s appearance highlights John’s connection and permanence with Jewish prophetic tradition.  Mark, in today’s reading, combines quotations from the Old Testament books of Exodus, Isaiah, and Malachi.  Mark’s description of John the Baptist as an “ascetic”, living in the desert and “clothed in camel hair”, eating “locusts and wild honey”, is reminiscent of the description of the prophet “Elijah” found in the book, “Second Kings”.  The people of Judea and Jerusalem flocked to John the Baptist, longing for and listening to his message of repentance and forgiveness.  Many came to John to be baptized in the Jordan.  Mark’s Gospel is direct and clear; John the Baptist’s role is onlyto prepare the way” for another to come, “one who is greater” than John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate.  John says that he has baptized with water, but that the “one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit” as well.  John the Baptist’s baptism was not yet a Catholic Christian baptism.  It was a “preparation” for the Sacrament of Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

John the Baptist is presented to us as a model for preparation during Advent.  We, too, in this day and time – – some two millennia later, – – are still called upon to “prepare a way for the Lord”.  Like John the Baptist, we ARE messengers in service to the “One” who is greater than any on earth.  Our Baptism commissions us to call others to life as disciples of Jesus.

Think about ways in which the example of others around you have “called” you to be a follower of Jesus Christ; who have been examples to you of Christian discipleship.  What are the characteristics they posses that you have tried to (or can) emulate?

Jesus is ready to give us the “fire” of His Holy Spirit so that we may “glow with” the light, joy, and truth of His Gospel to a materialistic and secular world, so desperately in need of God’s light, joy, and truth.  Jesus Christ’s “Word” has power to change and transform our lives so that we may be lights pointing others to Him.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light, the truth, and the way of Jesus Christ.  The question is: “Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and communicate? 

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ, the Sacrament of Baptism “commissions” us to also prepare the way of the Lord.  The grace of the Holy Spirit leads us to continually renew our lives so that we might lead others to Jesus.  Can you identify at least one action that you will take this week to try to be a more faithful follower, a more faithful disciple, of Jesus?  Pray that God will receive this action you have just identified, and use it to lead others to his Son.

The season of Advent invites us to renew our lives in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Some of the first-century people who heard the message of John the Baptist repented for their sins and were then baptized.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, our sins are truly forgiven, and we also receive the grace (the gift) of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our life of discipleship.  Led by the Holy Spirit, we should use this Advent season time to renew our lives in “preparing the way” for Jesus.

ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.” 

ТТТ

 

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

The Roman Catholic Church bases her teaching upon one source: The “WORD” of God.  This revelation is communicated to us in two divine ways: Holy Scripture and apostolic “Tradition”.  Many people (including most Protestants) believe in only the writings found in the bible are the word of God.  However, Oral transmission of the faith is also the word of God as Peter reported:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) RSV

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (cf., 1 Thessalonians. 2:13) KJV

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

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.

 

Tradition Found in Holy Scripture, Part 1

 

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  RSV

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians. 11:2).  KJV

 

“Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us(2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  RSV

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Timothy. 1:13-14).  KJV

 

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  RSV

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians. 2:15)  KJV

Information from
“Catholic Answers” Website
www.catholic.com

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

Where can you find the virtues in the SFO Rule?

How would you paraphrase what Saint Francis thought about each of the virtues? (Hint: All the Cardinal and Theological virtues can be found in the Catechism, paragraphs 1804-1829)

How have you been living the virtues?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

Т

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

“Wow, It’s Raining ‘Justice’ and ‘Salvation’ Out There; AND It Is SOooo Heavenly!” – Luke 7:18b-23†


            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   687 – St Sergius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope, succeeding Conon
†   1124 – Chancellor Haimeric selects pope (Lamberto becomes Honorius II)
†   1945 – John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, ordained as a priest
†   1952 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Orientales Ecclesias
†   1996 – Deaath of Gerald Moverley, priest, at age 74
†   1996 – Death of Guiseppe Dossetti, politician/priest, at age 83

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 Franciscans are heralds of peace and reconciliation.

 

“In his Admonitions, Francis explained that “those people are truly peacemakers who, regardless of what they suffer in this world, preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of our Lord Jesus Christ” (#15). His greeting to all, still repeated by Franciscans today, was “Pax et bonum,” “peace and all good.”  Franciscans are called to build peace in their personal lives and in society.  As mentioned above, such a lifestyle involves an attitude of active non-violence.”

“Let Franciscans love one another, as the Lord says: This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.  Let them express the love they have for one another by their deeds.”  Earlier Rule, Chapter XI

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Today’s reflection is about today’s first reading at Mass; God’s “Decree” to His “Chosen” People.

 

 

6c I am the LORD, there is no other; 7 I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things.  8 Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this. 

18 For thus says the LORD, The creator of the heavens, who is God, The designer and maker of the earth who established it, Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in: I am the LORD, and there is no other.  Who announced this from the beginning and foretold it from of old? Was it not I, the LORD, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me. 

22 Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!  23 By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, 24 Saying, “Only in the LORD are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him.  25 In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel.”  (NAB Isaiah 45: 6c-8, 18, 21b-25)

 

Since I wrote about today’s Gospel reading this past Sunday, I have instead chosen to reflect on today’s first reading of the Mass.  The great prophet, Isaiah, is often referred to by Jesus Himself throughout His ministry.  Isaiah offered an immense amount of wisdom, love of God, and prophesies in his words of hope and trust.  I though, struggle at times with understanding Isaiah’s verses at more than just a cursory level.  Hopefully, I have accomplished relating my thoughts on these verses without too many “Blunders.”  But hey, what is the name of my blog site after all?!

Most Scholars believe the book of Isaiah was actually written by two different people, 150 years apart.  Today’s first reading was written by the “Second” (Deutero-) Isaiah.  And, it was probably written during the Jewish Babylonian captivity.  There are even some disputes and discussions among scholars that chapters 56-66 of Isaiah were written by a “Third” (Trito-) “Isaiah.”

The first part of today’s reading is a poem of “firsts and lasts,” “beginnings and ends,” “alphas and omegas.”  It is classified by bible scholars as a “servant song,” wherein the servant is the beloved and chosen “One” of Yahweh; with a mission.  To paraphrase: the servant is “the chosen ‘ONE’ sent by God for a specific mission.”  Hmm; Who does that sound like to you?!

In verse seven (7), a strange comment is made: “create woe.”  God is not “stirring the pot!”  (A talent I excel at, at times.)  God is permitting evil for the sake of a greater good.  Although God is said to be the author of both good and evil, evil should not be perceived as our notion of an arrogant and overconfident monster boastfully moving callously throughout the world. (Wow that was descriptive!)  God allows evil via His permissive will, just as He allows us to experience, receive, and offer evil via our free-will.  Several Old Testament books prophesizes such evil for the Israelites:

Amos 3:6: “If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If evil befalls a city, has not the LORD caused it?

Amos 4:13: “You shall go out through the breached walls each by the most direct way, and you shall be cast into the mire, says the LORD.”

Isaiah 10:5-20 writes about Israel being an “impious nation”.  In this case God uses Assyria merely to punish, but not to destroy His “chosen” people.

 Finally, in Judges 2:6-3:6, the Israelites offend God by choosing to serve the “Baals”.

Somehow, the “servant” that this particular reading is relating to, is to be sent by God with the intent to accomplish God’s will and plan for Israel.  Many centuries later, we discover His entry into humanity, through the new “Eve”, and the new “Ark”: the Blessed Virgin, Mary. 

The Vulgate is the late fourth (4th) century bible as translated by Saint Jerome, from the original Hebrew and Greek, into Latin.  It is known as the “commonly used translation” for all other bibles.  The Vulgate Bible, in due course, became the definitive and only official Latin version of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church.  Jerome’s Latin translation is well known in the Advent hymn used during Mass and in the Divine Office: “Rorate coeli desuper.  This “hymn” expresses the world’s longing for the coming of Christ:

“Mystic dew from heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield —
Fairest flower of the field”.

Saint Jerome’s interpretation (instead of the NAB used today) actually gives a more precise messianic sense in verse eight (8) by using proper names in writing “just one” and “savior” instead of the NAB’s “justice” and “salvation.”   For many reasons, including this example, I actually prefer the Douay-Rheims Bible (the English translation of the Latin Vulgate) over other translations, except for the original Greek of the New Testament.  (You know you’re a “Bible Geek” when you take courses in the “Kenoi” (ancient Greek of the Bible) Greek.

Historically, verse eight (8) is also a prayer or hymn used to bring to a close the anointing ceremony for Cyrus (the Great; c. 600 BC – 530 BC.)  This prayer song urgently begs, implores, God to bring salvation out of their (the Jewish people) exile and captivity in Babylon. 

God always listens to His people.  In Isaiah 11:1 it says, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  Historically, after the Babylonian Exile there existed only a “stump” of the Davidic line remaining.  From this stump arose the “new shoot”, the messianic King – – Jesus Christ!  In Isaiah 55:10-11, it is written:

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

Verse eighteen (18) [and 21b-25] is part of “The Lord’s Decree” (Verses 14 through 25).  It is in a hymnic style echoing with participles (verbs used to form complex tenses, and may also be used as an adjective) that are cut off with “victorious” acclamations.

God is stating that He made the earth NOT to “waste” it, but to live in it fruitfully and reasonably with each other.  God has to be an active member of the “Franciscan Action Network” (FAN), whose mission, in part, is to make aware how NOT to waste earthly resources.  God is also stating that there is NO OTHER god than He!  Our heavenly and almighty Father gives an allusion to the beginning of creation, when the earth was a waste and void – in verse eighteen (18), and as He did in Genesis:

The earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

The same Hebrew word, “tohu”, is used in both passages just mentioned (Isaiah 45:18 and Genesis 1:2).  The further allusion God is making here is to Palestine, which God wishes again to be inhabited by the returning exiles.  Why did it actually takes till the major conflict and war, in 1968 Israel, and still is being fought over till this day?

In verse twenty-five (25), God’s chosen people, Israel, is being summoned away from the false Babylonian gods, and who never anticipated the future collapse of their own cities, as prophesized.  When God foretold the future through his prophets, He set in motion the means and plan of fulfillment (salvation).  This is overtly implied in the phrase “survivors from among the Gentiles.”  In Isaiah 10:21-22, it is written:

“A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people, O Israel, were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return; their destruction is decreed as overwhelming justice demands.”

For me, “remnant” is a difficult word and principle to define in this particular case, for “remnant” is not to be decided numerically as God’s prophets were never impressed by externals; or by an interior state of lowliness for the prophets were too realistic in their mission.  The word “remnant”, in this case very likely meant the involvement in destruction – – with only a few survivors.  The survivors became the hope for the future; and out of whom God reconstituted a “new” Israel.  The word “remnant” goes much further though.  It declared that God is not only the source of all life, but also the “ONE” who brings this life out of lowly origins, and an attitude of faith.  Evidence can be found elsewhere in Old Testament Holy Scripture:

 “Thus says the LORD: As the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion a pair of legs or the tip of an ear of his sheep, So the Israelites who dwell in Samaria shall escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of a cot.” (Amos 3:12)

Hate evil and love good, and let justice prevail at the gate; then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will have pity on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)

 “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD.” (Zephaniah 3:12)

 “And take from his mouth his bloody meat, and his abominations from between his teeth: He also shall become a remnant for our God, and shall be like a family in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.” (Zechariah 9:7)

Verse twenty-three (23), – – “By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear” – – inspired an early Christian hymn to Jesus.  Philippians 2:10-11 declares:

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Interestingly, inserted in this particular verse from Philippians is a reference to the “three levels” of the universe, according to ancient thought: heaven, earth, and under the earth. 

Philippians is not the only New Testament book referring to today’s first reading of the Mass.  Romans 14:11 also announces:

For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

In verses 22-25, God says, “ends of the earth” meaning the descendants of Jacob/Israel.  It directs the poem or hymn to the “chosen people” of God.  But, it must not be read as a call to or for a “universal salvation” of all the Jewish people!”  Rather, today’s reading refers to Israelites scattered throughout the Babylonian empire and that have already surrendered to apostasy (the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance).  The fulfillment of prophecy, and of Israel’s finest hopes, is to be found onlyin the Lord.

 

The 23rd Psalm

 

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul:
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.

Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For You are with me;
Your  rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (1819-1876)

 

This woman who once wanted to become a Trappistine nun was instead led by God to establish a community of sisters who care for the sick and aged in the United States and throughout the world.

Born into a distinguished family in Aachen (then ruled by Prussia but formerly Aix-la-Chapelle, France), Frances ran the household after her mother’s death and established a reputation for generosity to the poor. In 1844 she became a Secular Franciscan. The next year she and four companions established a religious community devoted to caring for the poor. In 1851 the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis (a variant of the original name) were approved by the local bishop; the community soon spread. The first U.S. foundation was made in 1858.

Mother Frances visited the United States in 1863 and helped her sisters nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. She visited the United States again in 1868. When Philip Hoever was establishing the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, she encouraged him.

When Mother Frances died, there were 2,500 members of her community worldwide. The number has kept growing. They are still engaged in operating hospitals and homes for the aged. Mother Mary Frances was beatified in 1974.

Comment:

The sick, the poor and the aged are constantly in danger of being considered “useless” members of society and therefore ignored—or worse. Women and men motivated by the ideals of Mother Frances are needed if the God-given dignity and destiny of all people are to be respected.

Quote:

In 1868, Mother Frances wrote to all her sisters, reminding them of Jesus’ words: “You are my friends if you do what I command you…. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another” (John 15:14,17)

She continued: “If we do this faithfully and zealously, we will experience the truth of the words of our father St. Francis who says that love lightens all difficulties and sweetens all bitterness. We will likewise partake of the blessing which St. Francis promised to all his children, both present and future, after having admonished them to love one another even as he had loved them and continues to love them.”

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 15 & 16 of 26:

 

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

 

 

 

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

“Heaven is the Ultimate “Equal Opportunity” Crowd!” – Mt 20:1-16†


Going to the Chapel, and I’m Going to Get, Umm, – “retreated.”  Yep, I am going on our Franciscan (SFO) annual retreat this weekend.  So, I may be a little late in posting a reflection on Sunday, but it will get done.  If there are any intentions, please be comforted that I intend to pray for any of your intentions (this sentence is close to a “department of repetition department” sentence).  Pax  [PS – Please pray for good weather]

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   849 – Death of Walafrid Strabo, German monk and theologian
†  1503 – Death of Pope Alexander VI (b. 1431)
†  1559 – Death of Pope Paul IV (b. 1476)
†  1579 – Birth of Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, Roman Catholic nun (died 1640)
†  1596 – Birth of Jean Bolland, Flemish Jesuit writer (d. 1665)
†  1857 – Birth of Libert H. Boeynaems, Belgian Catholic prelate (d. 1926)
†  1952 – Death of Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Chilean Jesuit saint (b. 1901)

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

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

  

Today’s reflection is about the landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day, and paid all the same.

 

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15 (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’  16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  (NAB Mt 20:1-16)

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most of us, and in a very unique and special way.  So many homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor is so much less than in the United States.

This parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day and then paying all the laborers the same wage.  It is difficult to know whether he actually composed it, or received it as part of his education and faith formation.  If the latter, what was the original reference?  In its present context, it is closely association with Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”   

Why does the landowner go find and hire laborers throughout the day.  As I believe in simple answers, I think it is because he doesn’t want to leave out anyone willing to work.  This landowner definitely had compassion for the others around him.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps.  Too bad the laborers that were hired first did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on Christian business principles, and on kindness to others around them. 

Different interpretations, in my understanding, have been given to the verse about the first being last and the last being first.  In view of Matthew’s associating it with today’s parable, and then substantially repeating it, but in its reverse order at the end of the parable (verse 16), probably means that all who respond to the call of Jesus at whatever time (first or last), will be inheriting the benefits of the kingdom: the gift of God.  In other words, Matthew is suggesting through Jesus’ parable, that the equality of all the disciples is in the reward of inheriting eternal life.

When the landowner said to the laborers (verse 4), “What is just,” I recognized that he did not actually saying what they would be paid as a wage.  Although the wage was not stipulated, it is clear to the reader that it would be a fair wage for the amount of time worked.  I, as most people would have assumed, believed that these and the subsequent would-be hires for the day would be paid less.  But in God’s Kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, and no separations.  All in heaven are joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God.

Verse 8, Beginning with the last . . . the first” is the catalysis that open this story to a potentially controversial discussion and various opinions.  This particular aspect of the story has no other purpose that I can see, other than to show how the first laborers knew what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

In verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive articles or phrases, “My friend,” and “I am not cheating you.” In calling the laborers his friend, he is expressing a caring for that individual, and that he wished a type of special relationship with that individual.  He further stresses that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  He only asked for the laborer to perform a certain function, and then paid him what he promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should be of no concern to anyone else.  The landowner gave to the laborer what he promised him.

This reflection on the above paragraph makes me think about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were talking about the graces and talents each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold! 

The laborers, at first sight, had an appropriate grievance against the landowner. They worked more, so they deserved more than those that only worked a “few” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to suffer.  In hindsight, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, they (and we) need to see things from another viewpoint.  They received something else that day besides the “fair” wage: they received a JOB!  These laborers were bringing home money to their families.

Everyone needs to look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired for that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavy on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried how they were going to feed and clothe their loved one’s (not to mention college educations).  Then this stranger, at the end of the day, offers them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think those men were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers, doing their best?  When we say that something is “unfair,” please take a second look, as it may very well not only be fair, but the Christian thing to do!

God asks of us to do certain things, and if we do them we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more.  Yep, those of us that have arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord, are given more graces to share. 

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed on our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our soul, faith, and our relationships with other.  Those that find the redemption and salvation of God’s promise, through the Sacrament of the Anointing while on their deathbed, will not have enough time to nurture a huge tree of graces like those that others may grow over many years, but will still have the same bounty as all others.  There is NO difference in the eternal joy and magnificence of being in the presence of our Lord Jesus, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” crowd.

The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involves no violation of law, justice, or gratitude towards any of the laborers.  His only “problem per-se” was having the virtue of generosity towards the later hires.  In my belief, virtues are a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and valued as a foundation for principles of life, and good morality and ethics in decisions.  Virtues promote the individual and collective societies well being.

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is a sin of vice: it is “envy.”  Envy is a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin that destroys the life of grace, and creates a threat of eternal damnation in hell to the individual, if un-repented.

Until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the early risers; the ones that were willing to get to work early.  Upon meditation and reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual situations any of these workers may have had, the landowner treated each and every one on a fair, equal, and loving basis. 

Many of us have been given more than we need in life.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of the world, we actually live as royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are given many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not only mean materialistic items; it also means our spiritual wealth as well, through prayers and kindness to the others we meet.

God wants to treat each of us as the landowner did.  In Matthew 20:7, it is written, “You too go into my vineyard.  “Any of us who responds to Jesus’ call, and each of us has a distinct and unique calling, regardless of the time (first or last) in our lives, will receive “the same” in inheriting all the benefits of God’s kingdom.  And please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; a gift of God.

 

“Prayer after Confession”

 

“O almighty and most merciful God, I give You thanks with all the powers of my soul for this and all other mercies, graces, and blessings bestowed on me, and prostrating myself at Your sacred feet, I offer myself to be henceforth forever Yours.  Let nothing in life or death ever separates me from You!  I renounce with my whole soul all my treasons against You, and all the abominations and sins of my past life.  I renew my promises made in Baptism, and from this moment I dedicate myself eternally to Your love and service.  Grant that for the time to come, I may detest sin more than death itself, and avoid all such occasions and companies as have unhappily brought me to it.  This I resolve to do by the aid of Your divine grace, without which I can do nothing. Amen.”

From Catholic Prayers Website
http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1562-1641)

 

Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.

Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.

The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.

During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.

Comment:

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.

Quote:

St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself…But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

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 #18 of 26:

 


Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.