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


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

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

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Go, Go, Go, – – And Don’t Forget Your Passports OR What I Have Taught You!!” – Matthew 28:16-20 †


The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

This week we return to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  This Sunday and next Sunday, however, are designated as solemnities, special days which call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith.  Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  This feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed Himself to us as the Holy Trinity, three Persons in one God.  

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Today in Catholic History:

†   545 – Birth of Chlotilde, wife of French king Clovis/saint, dies at about age 70
†   1098 – First Crusade: Antioch falls to the crusaders after an eight-month siege
†   1140 – French scholar Peter Abelard is found guilty of heresy
†   1548 – Birth of Juan de Zumárraga, Spanish Catholic bishop of Mexico (b. 1468)
†   1594 – Birth of Michel Renichon, priest, executed
†   1620 – Construction of the oldest stone church in French North America, Notre-Dame-des-Anges, begins at Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
†   1658 – Pope Alexander VII appoints François de Laval vicar apostolic in New France
†   1770 – Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is founded in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
†   1819 – Birth of Anton Anderledy, Swiss Superior General of the Society of Jesus (d. 1892)
†   1925 – Birth of Thomas Winning, Roman Catholic archbishop (Glasgow)
†   1933 – Pope Pius XI encyclical “On oppression of the Church in Spain”
†   1936 – Birth of David Nicholls, priest/theologian/political theorist
†   1963 – Birth of John XXIII, [Angelo G Roncalli], Pope (1958-63), dies at age 81
†   1981 – Pope John Paul II released from hospital after assassination attempt
†   1992 – Patrick Peyton, Rosary Priest, dies of kidney failure at age 83
†   Feast/Memorials: Vladimirskaya (in Russia); Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs of Uganda; Saint Kevin of Glendalough; Saint Clothilde (d. 545); Blessed Pope John XXIII; Saint Paula (d. 273); Saint Ovidius; Saint Gorg Preca

(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:  Sending His disciples to make disciples of all nations.

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

The Final Commission”, as this Gospel is sometimes called, is given on a mountaintop.  Throughout Holy Scripture, it appears to me that the most important and climactic events usually happened on a mountaintop.  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus transfigured while He was praying on the mountaintop:

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

In this Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also taught the crowds from the mountaintop the “Sermon on the Mount” (cf., Matthew, chapters 5-7).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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Jesus approaches His disciples, and then commissions them to “baptize and teach”, “to make disciples of all nations” (verse 19).  Baptizing and teaching the “Word” are tasks Jesus had previously prepared His disciples to accomplish.  Recall that Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal (cf. Matthew 10:1-15). However, in this earlier event, the Twelve were sent only to “the House of Israel”.  In this “Final Commission”, the “Eleven” are told to go to “all nations.” Thus, the mission of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry is now to be taken to all people by His disciples with their (and our) mission to baptize and to teach.

Jesus commissions His disciples to baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity; this text is one of the earliest and clearest attestations for Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity found in Scripture.  Other New Testament references to Baptism describe it as being celebrated in the name of Jesus.  With today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded that this central mystery of faith is meant to be believed and to be lived.  As baptized Catholic Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity and seek to invite others to share in God’s love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is not only with us NOW; He will be with us also until the “end of the age” (Verse 20).  Along with today’s reading, this particular phrase is found in only two other places in Matthew’s Gospel:

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

And,

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

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To summarize, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity invites us to remember that God has revealed Himself to us as one God in three separate, yet united, “Persons”.  As Jesus departed from His disciples, He shared with them the power to make disciples of all nations; He taught His disciples to invite others to share in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity by sharing with others the gift of Baptism, which continues to be the mission of the Church today.  Each of us who have been baptized shares in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity, and also shares in the Church’s mission of inviting others to share in God’s love.

Jesus taught His disciples to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Doesn’t this remind you of the Sign of the Cross?  Recall that whenever we pray the “Sign of the Cross”, we are reminding ourselves that we are united with God through our Baptism and share in the eternal life of the blessed Holy Trinity. 

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

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

Identify one or more ways in which you live the life of a Catholic disciple.  Identify a few ways in which you would like to do a better job bearing witness to your life of discipleship.  Choose one, and make it happen.  Then choose another, and so on.  Pray for the grace to be witnesses to the world by a life of discipleship through your personal faith, hope, and love for God and all His creations.

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Reflection Prayer:

Glory Be to the Father

“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

“For he will render every man according to his works …” (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 …” (Romans 2:6-8) KJV

***

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13) KJV.

“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) RSV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed John XXIII (1881-1963)

 

Although few people had as great an impact on the 20th century as Pope John XXIII, he avoided the limelight as much as possible.  Indeed, one writer has noted that his “ordinariness” seems one of his most remarkable qualities.

The firstborn son of a farming family in Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo in northern Italy, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was always proud of his down-to-earth roots.  In Bergamo’s diocesan seminary, he joined the Secular Franciscan Order.

After his ordination in 1904, Angelo returned to Rome for canon law studies.  He soon worked as his bishop’s secretary, Church history teacher in the seminary and as publisher of the diocesan paper.

His service as a stretcher-bearer for the Italian army during World War I gave him a firsthand knowledge of war.  In 1921 he was made national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith; he found time to teach patristics at a seminary in the Eternal City.

In 1925 he became a papal diplomat, serving first in Bulgaria, then in Turkey and finally in France (1944-53).  During World War II, he became well acquainted with Orthodox Church leaders.  With the help of Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Archbishop Roncalli helped save an estimated 24,000 Jewish people.

Named a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953, he was finally a residential bishop.  A month short of entering his 78th year, he was elected pope, taking the name John, his father’s name and the two patrons of Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran.  He took his work very seriously but not himself.  His wit soon became proverbial, and he began meeting with political and religious leaders from around the world.  In 1962 he was deeply involved in efforts to resolve the Cuban missile crisis.

His most famous encyclicals were Mother and Teacher (1961) and Peace on Earth (1963).  Pope John XXIII enlarged the membership in the College of Cardinals and made it more international.  At his address at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, he criticized the “prophets of doom” who “in these modern times see nothing but prevarication and ruin.”  Pope John XXIII set a tone for the Council when he said, “The Church has always opposed… errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”

On his deathbed he said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better.  Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

He died on June 3, 1963. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2000.

Comment:

Throughout his life, Angelo Roncalli cooperated with God’s grace, believing that the job at hand was worthy of his best efforts.  His sense of God’s providence made him the ideal person to promote a new dialogue with Protestant and Orthodox Christians, as well as with Jews and Muslims.  In the sometimes noisy crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, many people became silent on seeing the simple tomb of Pope John XXIII, grateful for the gift of his life and holiness.  After the beatification, his tomb was moved into the basilica itself.

Quote:

In 1903, young Angelo wrote in his spiritual journal: “From the saints I must take the substance, not the accidents of their virtues. I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect. God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances.  If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way” (Journal of a Soul).

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 3 & 4 of 26:

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

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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.

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“Pass the Lamb, and Grace Me with a Little Mint Jesus!” – John 1:35–42†


 

Second Sunday of Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

Congrats to Cardinal-Elect Timothy Dolan, a St. Louis Native.  I knew him when he was in St. Louis, and believed then he was destined for this position and honor.  Maybe, with God’s grace, he could become the first American-born Pope.

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I received this from a Facebook friend, Ray Sullivan, and simply had to pass it on to you.

We are the Cup:

The “empty cup is our “soul” before baptism; lacking Sanctifying Grace.  “Water” represents God’s “Sanctifying Grace”.

The act of pouring water into cup is the infusion of Sanctifying Grace through the “act of baptizing” the person.

 Commission of a “Venial Sin” causes the waterin our cupto become “dirty”.

 Commission of “Mortal Sin” causes the water to be poured out of our cup.

The “Act” of True Repentance via the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” allows pure water to be poured back into our cup.

In “Purgatory”, our water is poured through a heavenly-divine “filter” and “cleansed” (purified).

Finally, our “purpose” in life is to let Jesus’ water be in our cup.  If there is no water in our cup”, there is NOSALVATION”.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   570 – Death of Saint Ita, Irish nun (b. 475)
†   708 – Sisinnius begins his reign as Pope (dies 20 days later)
†   1535 – Henry VIII declares himself head of English Church
†   1844 – University of Notre Dame receives its charter from the state of Indiana.
†   1909 – Death of St. Arnold Janssen, S.V.D., missionary (b. 1837).  He is best known for founding the Society of the Divine Word.
†   1918 – Birth of Édouard Gagnon, Canadian Roman Catholic Cardinal (d. 2007)
†   1920 – Birth of John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, Philadelphia, Roman Catholic Archbishop of NY
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI has an audience with Golda Meir at the Vatican
†   2000 – Death of Georges-Henri Lévesque, Canadian Dominican priest and sociologist (b. 1903)
†   Feast/Memorials: St. Abeluzius in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

“Remember that God, under the Law, ordained a Lamb to be offered up to Him every Morning and Evening.” ~ Thomas Ken

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.  Jesus also receives His first followers (Apostles).

(NAB John 1:35–42) 35 The next day John [the Baptist] was there again [Bethany across the Jordan] with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”  They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).  42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from John’s Gospel immediately follows John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.  Having been baptized by John [the Baptist], Jesus begins to gather His followers.  The first followers actually “sought out” Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we also learn about a “sibling” relationship appearing among Jesus’ first disciples.   Andrew was the brother of Simon, whom Jesus renamed “Cephas” (meaning “Rock” or “Peter”).  In next Sunday’s Gospel, we will learn about another sibling relationship between the brothers “James” and “John”, the sons of Zebedee.  We know from the letters of Paul (and other sources) that it was a common occurrence for an entire household to be “baptized” together.  From the very beginning of the Christian Catholic Church, families helped one another to know and follow Jesus Christ.  WOW, I hope and pray that this virtue of helping others to find Christ in their lives continues to be true in your personal life, personal mission, and personal avocation.

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We are familiar with the “title” John the Baptist used for Jesus Christ – – the “Lamb of God” (verse 36).  We hear it weekly at the “breaking of the bread” at Mass, just after the “sign of peace”.  The title, “Lamb of God”, recalls key themes from Old Testament Scripture.  It alludes to the “paschal lamb” offered as a sacrifice when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the event commemorated at, and by, the Jewish Passover celebration.  The designation, “Lamb of God”, also recalls the prophet Isaiah’s description of the “suffering servant” of Israel (cf., Iasaih 52:13 – 53:12):

“… It was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.  We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted …” (Isaiah 53:4).

Let’s put this into perspective.  The blood of the “Passover Lamb” rescued the Israelites – – in Egypt – – from death (cf., Exodus 12).  Today, the blood of Jesus, the “true Passover Lamb” rescues US from everlasting death and destruction:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” (John 1:29). 

In using this “title” for Jesus, John the Baptist predicted Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the Cross.  John the Baptist also foretold a new interpretation and understanding of “Passover”, beginning with Jesus’ “Last Supper”.

John the Baptist was eager to point beyond himself – – to Jesus Christ.  He did not hesitate to direct his disciples to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, the true “Messiah”.  When two of John’s disciples began to seek Jesus out, Jesus took the initiative to invite them into His personal company and fellowship.  Jesus did not wait for “Andrew” and “the other disciple” to come to HIM; Jesus actually met them halfway. 

It is significant that John the Baptist was the son of a priest, “Zachariah”, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (cf., Exodus 29).  In Jesus Christ, John the Baptist saw the “true” and “only” sacrifice delivering us from the death of sin. 

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Who were The two disciples” referred to in verse 37 of today’s reading:

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” (John1:37) 

We know the one disciple was “Andrew” (John 1:40).  Traditionally, the other disciple was “John”, son of Zebedee.  “John” (the other disciple) is also the disciple believed to be the one whom “Jesus loved” throughout John’s Gospel:

One of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.” (John 13:23).

This same person, “John”, is mentioned through the Gospel of John as “the other disciple” or “another disciple”:

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.” (John 18:15);

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

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’” (John 20:2);

And,

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.” (John 21:7).

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Jesus asked Andrew and John the fundamental question concerning themselves and everlasting life: “What are you looking for?”  What were they looking for – – in Jesus Christ, and, what were they aiming to get out of their (and His) personal life?  Do you realize Jesus asks each of us the very same question: “What are you looking for?”  So, what are you aiming for in your personal life; and what are you trying to get out of life?

Besides the statement, “What are you looking for?”, why did John stress “the time” in today’s reading:

Four in the afternoon” (John 1:39).

Well, “four in the afternoon” is literally the “tenth hour” of the “day”, when daytime starts at 6 am.  Sunset was considered the start of a new day – – the common way of determining when a day started and ended during Jesus’ time period.  So, with this in mind, the next day – – Saturday beginning at sunset (at 6 pm) – – was the Jewish “Sabbath day”, making travel impossible for the devout and pious Jew.  Thus, Andrew and John would have stayed with Jesus in order to avoid breaking Jewish law by travelling on “the Sabbath”.

Jesus invites each of us to “come and see” (verse 39) for ourselves that His word is true and everlasting.  “Come and see” is God’s personal invitation to each of us, for coming together and being in communion with the “One” who created us – – in love – – for love itself!!  It is God the Father who initiates contact with us, regardless of our disposition to His invite.  It is God the Father who wishes to draw us to Himself.  Without His grace, mercy, love, and help, we cannot find Him!

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When we discover something very important and valuable, it is natural to want to share it with those closest to us.  Andrew immediately went to his brother, “Simon”, telling him the “good news” of his discovery, Jesus, the true “Messiah”.  It didn’t take much to get Simon to “come and see” who Jesus was.  Jesus reached out to Simon in the same way he did to Andrew earlier.  He not only addressed Simon by his personal name, but also gave Simon a “new” name which signified the “call” and “covenant” God the Father had for Simon himself. 

Andrew, in today’s reading, tells his brother, “Simon Peter”, that he had found the “Messiah” (John 1:41).  What was he actually saying by this “word”?  “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for the “anointed one” promised in Holy Scripture:

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:11),

Among some first-century Palestinian Jewish and Christian factions, the title “Messiah” was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel:

When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (see Acts 1:6).

In John’s Gospel, the word “Messiah” appears only here and in John 4:25:

The woman said to him, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” (John 4:25).

Elsewhere, John uses the Greek translation “Christos” (Christ) instead.

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“John” is Hebrew for “God is Gracious”.  However, Jesus changes “Simon’s” name to the Aramaic, “Cephas” (Peter), which translates to “the Rock”:

So I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Interesting for me is that neither the Greek equivalent “Petros” (Peter), nor “Cephas”, is used as a personal name prior to Jesus Christ’s time.

Cephas” or “Peter” literally means “rock”.  To call someone a “rock” was one of the greatest compliments in Jesus’ earthly time period.  An ancient rabbinic saying declares that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  Through Abraham, God the Father established a “chosen nation” for Himself.  Through faith, love, and hope “Cephas” understood who Jesus truly was – – the “Anointed One” (Messiah and Christ) AND the Only-Begotten “Son of God the Father”. 

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How did John know the true identity of Jesus as the “Messiah”?  The Holy Spirit revealed to John Jesus’ “true nature” as being the literal “Son of God”.  How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the “Christ”, the “Son of the God”?  The Holy Spirit makes Him known to us through the same gift of faith, hope, and love which He gave to John, Andrew, and the other “Apostles”.  God the Father gives His Holy Spirit freely to us, so that we may know and understand the “great mystery” and plan of God the Father in uniting ALL His creations in, with, and through His Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament describes the Catholic (Universal) Church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as “living stones”:

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into “living” rocks or spiritual stones.  The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith, love, and hope to know, understand, and realize Jesus uniquely, personally, and intimately.  The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live the “Good News” of Jesus Christ – – the Gospel – – faithfully.  The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the Jesus’ “Good News”. The Lord Jesus Christ is ever and always ready to draw us near to Himself.  Do you seek to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus OUR Lord?  I know “I DO”!!!  I believe YOU do as well!!

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In conclusion, we learn in today’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered.  The first two, “Andrew” and “another man” (Simon Peter), were initially followers of John the Baptist; but after hearing John’s [the Baptist] testimony, they became disciples of Jesus Christ.  

If you heard Jesus cal your name today, would you respond, “Here I am“?  Would you say, “I’m listening“?  Would you be able to answer clearly and readily if Jesus asked you: “What are you looking for?”  Would you try to pretend you didn’t hear Him?, or respond: “I’ll get back to you later!”?

The two disciples (Andrew and John) in today’s reading did not respond directly to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?”:

 “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘”Rabbi”, where are you staying?’”  (John 1:38).

However, they did accept Jesus’ personal invitation to “Come and you will see“:

He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.” (John 1:39).

They were so attracted by what they saw and heard, Andrew hastened to his blood-brother, “Simon”, declaring he had found the true “Messiah”.  He took Simon directly to Jesus, who recognizing Simon as a leader, changed his name to “Cephas” (Peter).  This was a life-changing event for these disciples who listened, who responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”, and who found what their hearts, minds, and souls were looking for.

During their time with Jesus, “Andrew” and “the other follower” realized and truly believed that Jesus was the prophesied “Messiah”.  Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  This makes three disciple followers: Andrew, John, and Simon).  Immediately upon meeting Simon face-to-face, Jesus gave him a new name, “Cephas”.  This renaming of “Simon” to “Cephas” (Rock, or Peter) is reported in all four Gospels (A true rarity indeed!).

In the dialogue between the first two “Apostles” (“Andrew” and “the other disciple” [John]) AND Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, we see an example of the usual “pattern” for first-century Jewish Rabbinical schools.  In this pattern, Jews sought out Rabbis they “connected with”, and established themselves as disciples of this particular Rabbi.  Jesus appears to have been truly “unique, noticeable, and distinctive, for He “sought out” individuals as well, inviting them to be His followers – – again, another “opposite” to the established “tradition”.  In the passage following today’s reading, John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus took the initiative in calling Philip and Nathanael (Apostles to be: five and six).

In verse 3 of today’s Gospel Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?”  I have already written that this is a “fundamental” question.  I now also see it is also a significant and revealing question: one which we might often ask of ourselves.  John the Baptist testified to Jesus’ identity, the “Lamb of God”, using the framework of the Old Testament to do so.  Andrew, Simon, and the other four disciples were looking for the true “Messiah”, whom they also came to know as the “Son of God the Father”.  What do you look for and what do you find in Jesus Christ, the true “Son of God”, OURMessiah”?

Look around your house and gather some items reminding you of your faith.  Perhaps you have a cross or crucifix displayed in your home, a statue of Mary, other statues, or other art depicting saints.  In today’s Gospel we learn about how Andrew led his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  In a true Catholic family life, we also help to lead one another to find and keep Jesus Christ in our hearts, minds, and souls continuously.  Look at the items you have just gathered.  What do these items mean to you?  How might you use them in your personal prayer life?  Pray that you will continue to help all you meet to grow in hope, love, and faith, in and for Jesus Himself!

Since we are human, therefore imperfect and sinful, it may take us some time to get the right message into our “closed” minds.  However, as Paul reminds each of us:

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Both our body and soul are magnificent gifts from God the Father.  Saint Francis is accredited with the following:

Consider, O man, how great the excellence in which the Lord has placed you because He has created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son according to the body and to His own likeness according to the spirit.” (Saint Francis of Assisi, “The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi” [1906], Admonition #5)

As we reflect on today’s readings, we ought to use our “ears” for listening to God’s voice present in our hearts.  We should hear His “voice” in the cries of the poor and marginalized.  We should use our eyes for seeing Jesus in the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, the violated, and the oppressed.  May the Holy Spirit – – present within us – – inspire us to cry out loudly, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will, and to serve you always!!”  May our hearts continue to grow to learn, to understand, and to know the following:

We have already found – – what we seek!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Grant us Peace.

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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.

The Trinity:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ...’” (Genesis 1:26). RSV

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … (Genesis 1:26). KJV

*

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). RSV

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19). KJV

*

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians. 13:14). RSV

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” (2 Corinthians. 13:14) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Paul the Hermit (c. 233-345)

It is unclear what we really know of Paul’s life, how much is fable, how much fact.

Paul was reportedly born in Egypt, where he was orphaned by age 15.  He was also a learned and devout young man.  During the persecution of Decius in Egypt in the year 250, Paul was forced to hide in the home of a friend.  Fearing a brother-in-law would betray him, he fled in a cave in the desert.  His plan was to return once the persecution ended, but the sweetness of solitude and heavenly contemplation convinced him to stay.

He went on to live in that cave for the next 90 years.  A nearby spring gave him drink, a palm tree furnished him clothing and nourishment.  After 21 years of solitude a bird began bringing him half of a loaf of bread each day.  Without knowing what was happening in the world, Paul prayed that the world would become a better place.

St. Anthony of Egypt [January 17] attests to his holy life and death.  Tempted by the thought that no one had served God in the wilderness longer than he, Anthony was led by God to find Paul and acknowledge him as a man more perfect than himself.  The raven that day brought a whole loaf of bread instead of the usual half.  As Paul predicted, Anthony would return to bury his new friend.

Thought to have been about 112 when he died, Paul is known as the “First Hermit.”  His feast day is celebrated in the East; he is also commemorated in the Coptic and Armenian rites of the Mass.

Comment: The will and direction of God are seen in the circumstances of our lives.  Led by the grace of God, we are free to respond with choices that bring us closer to and make us more dependent upon the God who created us.  Those choices might at times seem to lead us away from our neighbor.  But ultimately they lead us back both in prayer and in fellowship to one another.

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:

 

Preaching

 

What topics did Saint Francis tell his “friars” to preach about?

(Poverty, Obedience, the Gospel, Love, etc.)

Are these topics foundational for the “universal call to holiness”?

Is our generation in need of such “Words”?  WHY?

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 Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’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.

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

 

 

♫“Mary, Did You Know …!”♫ – Luke 1:26-38†


 

Fourth Sunday 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
  • Catholic Apologetics
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day.  Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue.  I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
†   1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI †   1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
†   1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
†   Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr

(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:

 

“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One

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Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.

 

(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then the angel departed from her.

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus.  This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel.  Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.  

On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent.  They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ.  Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized.  This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father.  These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.

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I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel.  I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons.  Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends.  The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.  

Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223.  His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home.  What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”

Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:

It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

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Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:

(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.

(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”

(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used.  This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)

(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.

And finally,

(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

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Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??!  Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear.  Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe.  Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.

I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation.  She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God.  She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately!  I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus.  In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind.  Now that is “awesome” indeed!!

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The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist).  In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:

Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)

Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!

But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)

Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)

And, after his announcement he declares:

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he 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, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:14-17)

Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:

Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)

Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:

But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)

And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:20)

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Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations.  Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response.  Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus.  The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God.  Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”

Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!

Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father.  Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father.  Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics.  She believed God!  We should believe God!  She learned to “have no fear”!  We should learn to “have no fear”!

 

Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of DavidANDSon of God”.  In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”.  Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.”  ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts).  You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.

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In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital.  (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.)  Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age.  Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home.  To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion.  (You do the math!)  Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!

I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t!  I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control).  I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind.  Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy?  How would her own family treat her?  Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”)  What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph?  Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.)  Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?  

She was a young girl of about fifteen.  Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood?  I would think not.  Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)

There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle.  Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body!  Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son.  Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.

I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.”  Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity.  Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment?  Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you?  Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise.  Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell.  (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)

In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary.  It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel.  In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth.  Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.

This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)

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Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience.  Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us.  Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan.  On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.

Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility?  To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion.  This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God.  She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us!  Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well.  We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father.  AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world.  As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.

Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you.  In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others?  Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her.  Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!

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To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time.  It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ.  The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.  Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe.  She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child.  In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son.  Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s).  Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something).  Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.

For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history.  God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation.  Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine.  This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human.  In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!

What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS?  How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation?  The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth.  What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God?  Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God.  This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Magnificat

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  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.

 

“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture

 

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV

 

“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Poverty

 

Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?

What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 18 & 19 of 26:

18.  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.

Т

19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

♫“You Light Up My Life♫- – But I Still Have My Flashlight, Just In Case!” – Matthew 25:1-13†


 

 Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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 Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions
for November, 2011

 

General Intention:

That the Eastern Catholic Churches and their venerable traditions may be known and esteemed as a spiritual treasure for the whole Church.

Missionary Intention:

For Justice and Reconciliation in Africa:
That the African continent may find strength in Christ to pursue justice and reconciliation as set forth by the second Synod of African Bishops.

Т

Tuesday, November 8th, is Election Day for most of the United States of America.  Please vote.

 

ТТТ

            

 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1406 – Death of Innocent VII, [Cosma de’ Migliorati], Italian Pope (1404-06)
†   1789 – Pope Pius VI appoints Father John Carroll as the first Catholic bishop in the United States.
†   1875 – Death of John Baptist van Son, Dutch Catholic politician, at age 71
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Leonard of Noblac; St. Winnoc

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

 

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 Joke of the Day:

 

 

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the wise and the ten foolish virgins, teaching His disciples the importance of being prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

(NAB Matthew 25:1-13) 1“Thenthe kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  2Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  3The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, 4but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.  5Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  6At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!’  7Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  9But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.  Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’  10While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.  Then the door was locked.  11Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’  12But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’  13Therefore, stay awake,* for you know neither the day nor the hour.

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks about what it means to be “prepared” to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.  This reading follows a series of warnings and predictions by Jesus about the coming of the Son of Man, the “Parousia”.  Jesus wants His disciples to understand that the exact day and time cannot be predicted, for only God the Father knows the time.  He teaches the disciples that they must remain always vigilant so that they will not be caught unprepared.

When reflecting on the parable of the “wise and foolish virgins” from today’s reading, it is important to consider the first-century wedding traditions of Palestine.  Bible Scholars believe it was the custom of the day for young maidens—friends and family members of the bride—to meet the bridegroom when he came to bring his bride to her new home.

Т

The Parable of the “Ten Virgins” can only be found in Matthew’s Gospel.  As with many of Jesus’ other parables, several levels of interpretation are easily possible (just like separating the layers of an onion).  In last week’s Sunday Gospel, Jesus warned against following the example (and not the words) of the Temple leaders, chiefly the Pharisees and Scribes.  Today’s Gospel, – – when read in the context of Matthew’s early Church’s Christian on-going struggle to define itself against the misinterpreted Pharisaic Judaism, – – is a continuing critique and condemnation of that time.  This reading suggests that the Jewish leaders were like the foolish virgins, unprepared to meet Jesus who is the bridegroom of Israel.

 Т

Jesus’ story of ten young women seems strange to most modern westerners today.  But Matthew’s audience knew how easy this event could happen in their society.  Wedding customs in ancient Palestine required extra vigilance and preparation for everyone involved.  (Some places in the world still follow this custom, in today’s reading.)  The bride and groom did not go away for their honeymoon, but celebrated for a whole week with their family and friends, twenty-four hours at that (Now that’s partying in the extreme!!). 

It was the custom for the groom to come at his discretion to get his bride and bring her to the wedding party.  If he came at night, lamps were obviously required, out of necessity (there were no public street lights in the first century). 

Т

Just prior to this week’s reading is the parables of the “Unknown Day and Hour” (Matthew 24: 36-44) and the “Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant” (Matthew 24: 45-51).  Along with these two parables, today’s parable is also about the time of the “Parousia”.  Knowing this explains the very first word, “Then”, meaning “at the time of the parousia”, followed immediately by, “the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins ….”  What a very thought-provoking sentence; it is not simple in structure nor meaning.

 The comparison of virgins and the kingdom in Matthew 25:1 does not mean that the kingdom of heaven may be likened simply to the ten virgins in question but to the situation related in the entire story. (In reading any part of Holy Scripture, we must take the whole of it and not just take a little part out of context.)  Today’s parable is a warning to Jesus’ disciples not to attempt to anticipate the Final Judgment of God, nor the limits of His kingdom.  His kingdom on earth is presently composed of the “good” and “bad”.  The sole judgment of God will eliminate the sinful, at His time – – not ours!!  Until then there must be patient and repentant as John the Baptist repeated preached throughout his ministry.

Т

I love the image of these ten virginal women who were split down the middle: five “wise” and five “foolish”.  I wonder, did they have blond jokes back then?  Matthew used this “foolish…wise” contrast once before:

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. … And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7:24, 26)

The two groups of each parable are distinguished by good deeds and lack of good deeds.  The deed in today’s reading is signified by the “oil” of this parable.

 Т

No one knows when Jesus will return for the “final judgment”, the Parousia.  We cannot anticipate or linger behind in our preparations for this time.  It is interesting that the phrase “trimmed their lamps” is used (verse 7).  Trimming a lamp means “preparing for use”.  It entails filling with oil, literally cutting off the bad part of the wick, and removing any excess so as to make the lamp burn more effectively and efficiently. 

For us, to prepare for the Parousia we need to “trim our lamps”.  Preparation includes our proper actions with ourselves and each other, AND with God.  Do you see Jesus Christ in yourself and others?  Do you participate in the Sacraments regularly, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation?  The Holy Eucharist fills us to the brim with the fuel of God, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation removes the evil and immoral excesses we collect in our sinful state.

Т

The exclamation “Lord, Lord”, found in verse 11, is a re-edification of a similar verse from much earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

In both verses, entrance into the kingdom is only for those who do the will of God the Father.  On the Day of Judgment the morally corrupt will be rejected by Jesus Christ.  The reply to these women in today’s parable, “I do not know you”, is also very similar to the one in Matthew 7:

I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23)

 

Thank God that Jesus doesn’t stop with the ominous statement of “I do not know you.”  He goes on to offer hope for those who trust and prepare for His return.  We need to “Stay awake”; to be always ready.  The wise virgins were adequately equipped and PREPARRED.  The wise virgins prepared as the master of the house would have prepared for the thief coming in the night:

If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.” (Matthew 24:44)

Being unprepared can lead to a lot of unnecessary trouble, and can even lead to disastrous consequences!  After all, what good is a life-jacket left on shore when the boat is sinking?  Let us all take a lesson from the Boy Scout motto:  “Be Prepared!”

Т

To summarize, Jesus warns us that there are consequences for being unprepared.  There are certain things you cannot obtain at the last moment.  For example, a student cannot adequately prepare for his exam on the day of testing.  A person cannot get the right kind of temperament or skill required for an impending task unless he already possesses the temperament and skills by the time of the task.  

Our eternal happiness and wellbeing depends on our “hearing”, and sadly, many have trained themselves not to hear.  Those not hearing will also not be prepared to meet Jesus Christ on His return, when He calls us on the Day of Judgment.  We need to listen to Him TODAY and EVERY DAY!! 

 

In conclusion, in the chapter preceding this parable (Chapter 24), Jesus warns about the destruction of Jerusalem, the tribulation of the end times, and the coming of the Son of Man – – the “Parousia”.  Keeping this in mind, today’s parable is a warning to the Catholic Christian community to remain ever vigilant and always prepared to receive Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who will return at the end of time for the Final Judgment.  This interpretation is supported by the reference to the “delay of the bridegroom”.  The Jewish-Catholic community, for whom Matthew wrote this Gospel, was coming to terms with the realization that the promise of Jesus’ return would possibly not be fulfilled within their mortal lifetimes.  So, the question remains for us to ask to ourselves, “Are we ready to receive Jesus? AND,  Will we be prepared to receive him?”

In our daily activities, it is easy to find excuses for not attending to our spiritual lives.  If not given the “top priority”, prayer and reading of Holy Scripture risks becoming “occasional” activities rather than daily practices.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that if we fail to give our spiritual life priority, we will find ourselves unprepared to receive Jesus.  Daily prayer, spiritual practice, and frequent reception of the Sacraments help to keep us ready to receive Jesus Christ.

What are some of the things our faith calls us to do every day, every week, every moment, to keep God FIRST in our lives?  What might happen if these things are not done regularly?  Jesus taught us that it is important to keep ourselves prepared and ready to receive Him when he comes again.  Jesus says that it is so important to remain ready to receive the Kingdom of Heaven since you will not have time to prepare after He arrives for the Final Judgment.  Pray that you will always keep God “FIRST” in your lives so that you will “be prepared” to receive Jesus when He comes.

ТТТ

  Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 63

Our souls are thirsting for God.

 

“O God, you are my God— it is you I seek!  For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.  I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.  For your love is better than life; my lips shall ever praise you!  I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.  My soul shall be sated as with choice food, with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!  I think of you upon my bed, I remember you through the watches of the night you indeed are my savior, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.  Amen” (Psalm 63:2-8)

  

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New Translation of the Mass:

 

 

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

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

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

 

When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  With the new Missal, we will respond:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6).  The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Alfonso Lopez, priest, and companions, martyrs

Blessed Alfonso Lopez was born at Secorún, in the dioceses of Jaca, on 16th November 1875.  He held various civil offices, but he felt to be called to religious life, so he entered the convent of Granollers in 1906.   He was sent to Italy, where he was received in the Seraphic Province of Umbria.  He spent his novitiate at Osimo, pronouncing his temporary vows in 1908 and his perpetual profession in 1911, the same year of his priestly ordination.  He was confessor in the Basilica of Loreto, then he returned to Granollers, where he carried out the task of teacher of the postulants and novices until 1935.  He distinguished himself by his virtues, mainly by his love for God, for his neighbour and his devotion for the Virgin Mary.  He was an excellent formator of the applicants for consecrated life that he mainly directed with the example of his virtuous life.

At the outbreak of the civil war, Alphonzo Lopez was a Friar Minor Conventual priest (OFM, Conv.).  He took refuge at some of his friends and was arrested on 3rd August 1936, along with Friar Miguel Remón Salvador and four other companions.  They showed themselves brave in the face of the request of apostasy.  In the end, they were taken to Samalús and shot in the evening of the same day, while Father Alfonso repeated, with spirit of faith and charity, “Forgive them, My Lord”.

From his degree on Martyrdom:

“The Servants of God Alfonso López López and his 5 brethren of the Conventual Franciscan Order belong to this huge multitude.

The Spanish civil war (1936-1939) didn’t spare their convent, in the town of Granollers, in Barcelona district, where they lived at that time.

In 1936, immediately after the military insurrection of the 19th July, the authors of political change rushed into the convent searching for weapons; they didn’t find any, but they threatened the friars and threw them out of their house, compelling them to take refuge at their neighbors and friends.  They could hide themselves only for one week.

In such a hostile and irreligious environment, the seed of terror and death threats against the Church and Her children, as it was in Spain at that time, these followers of St. Francis of Assisi were imprisoned and condemned to death, just because they were Christ’s disciples.

They shed their blood with inner serenity and meekness, giving glory to God with the profession of faith and forgiving their enemies. ” (from the Decree on the martyrdom )

Blessed Alphonso Lopez was Beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 11, 2001.

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Do I live this “penance” from a sense of duty, or of a love relationship?  How?

In what ways do change and conversion require detachment and humility (a form of poverty)?

Why is it important to realize that every personal sin have social consequences?

Do I think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a positive celebration of the mercy of God?

ТТТ

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 6 & 7 of 26:

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

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

Т

07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

  

“Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold, Jesus Christ is Eight Days Old!” – Luke 2:22-40†


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2011

 

General Intention: That the family may be respected by all in its identity and that its irreplaceable contribution to all of society be recognized.

 

Missionary Intention: That in the mission territories where the struggle against disease is most urgent, Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ to those who suffer.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   672 – Death of Saint Chad
†   962 – Translatio imperii: Pope John XII crowns Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, the first Holy Roman Emperor in nearly 40 years.
†   1119 – Guido di Borgogna elected Pope Callistus II
†   1613 – Birth of Noël Chabanel, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
†   1649 – Birth of Benedict XIII, [Pierfrancesco Orsini], Italy, 245th pope (1724-30)
†   1769 – Death of Clement XIII, [Carlo Rezzonico], Pope (1758-69), at age 75
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX encyclical “On persecution of Armenians”
†   1882 – The Knights of Columbus are formed in New Haven, Connecticut.
†   1906 – Pope encyclical against separation of church & state
†   1925 – Birth of David Abell Wood, priest
†   1974 – Pope Paul VI encyclical “To Honor Mary”
†   1983 – Pope John Paul II names 18 new cardinals
†   1986 – Dalai Lama meets Pope John Paul II in India
†   1995 – Death of Andre Frossard, French publicist (Defense of Pope), at age 80
†   Feasts/Memorials: Candlemas; The Presentation of the Lord; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Adelbald; St. Cornelius
†   Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church: Encounter of our Lord with Simeon – Major Feast Day
†   World Day for Consecrated Life (also February 3 in the United States).

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Catholic Church’s are prayer-conditioned for your (eternal) enjoyment!”

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 10 of 13 Parts

John Paul II, in his Message in 2002, questions this and challenges us to see to it that we never fail in our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession:

If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your own secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity” (Nove millennio ineunte 31). You must be sincerely committed to that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” to which I invited the faithful at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000 (Ibid).

Let us be called, brothers and sisters, by these exhortations to renew our commitment and walk with courage and humility in the ways of the Lord.

It is all about, dearest brothers and sisters:

  • examining our own faith
  • examining our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession of Evangelical Life
  • examining and renewing the authenticity of our permanent “conversion”
(Continued on next published blog)
From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

 

22 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.  27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  (NAB Luke 2:22-40)

 

The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows that Joseph and Mary were devout Jews and faithful followers of the Mosaic Law (Like we really need more proof!).  Just as John [the Baptist] had been incorporated into the Jewish faithful of Israel through his circumcision (just a few months earlier), the infant Jesus becomes a member of God’s “chosen people” through the same action of His own “sacred” circumcision.   By Mosaic Law, it is at this time that a Jewish baby received his name:  in this case, “Jesus”, meaning “God Saves.”   Jesus is now considered part of the “chosen people” of God, in the same respect and distinction religiously as Simeon, Anna, and even the parents of John:

Both [John’s parents] were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  (Luke 2:25)

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  (Luke 2:36-37).

 

Any woman who gave birth to a boy was unable to touch anything sacred (except her husband – [he, he]), or to enter the temple area by reason of her “legal” impurity for forty days according to the Mosaic Law:

 ”Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period.   On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.  If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood.  “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.  The priest shall offer them up before the LORD to make atonement for her, and thus she will be clean again after her flow of blood.  Such is the law for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl child.  If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.”  (Leviticus 12:2-8)

At the end of this period she was required by Mosaic Law to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering, and a turtle-dove or young pigeon as an atonement of sin.  The Holy Family could not afford the customary offering of a lamb.  According to today’s Gospel, Mary’s offering instead was two turtle-doves or two young pigeons (as allowed by Mosaic Law).  So, is this proof of Mary and Joseph led a humble and austere life?

 Yep, Jesus was born in an ordinary home without many (if any) extras or luxuries. Like all God-fearing parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in a belief, fear, and wisdom of God through their Judaic religious faith, practices, and traditions.  With such devout parents, Jesus, being obedient to His mother and stepfather, grew in wisdom and grace.

 

They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (which means “city of peace”) to present him to God.  As the firstborn son, Jesus was consecrated to God as the Law required:

Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.  You shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD.”  (Exodus 13:2, 12) 

 

The “Law” further stipulated that any firstborn son should be redeemed by the parents through a payment of five shekels. 

You shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel.   Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” (Numbers 3:47-48) 

Five shekels amounted to just about 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of pure silver.   The probable reason for the Temple obligation of “redeeming” the firstborn son through the giving to the Temple expressly “five shekels” is found in the Book of Numbers:

“Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed.   The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs to the shekel.”  (Numbers 18:15-16)

I found a couple of possible explanations for “five shekels” of silver being used for the regulation just mentioned above.  One of which I found elsewhere in Holy Scripture, and the other in Wikipedia.  

First, let’s look at Holy Scripture.  In Genesis, Rachel’s firstborn son, Joseph (You know, the one with the fancy coat) was sold by his brothers for twenty silver pieces (which is equivalent of “five shekels” per my Bible commentaries).

“They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt.”  (Genesis 37:28)

This may have established that the “standard price” for a firstborn son being “five shekels” for the ransom to “redeem” the child.  Interesting for me is that “twenty pieces of silver” was the exact price paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.  Could this infer the payment required to redeem us?!

The Second source for this amount of money comes from the “Zohar”, a book from a Jewish “mystical” belief known as Kabbalah.  Per the “Zohar”, the number five (5) is symbolic of the Hebrew letter “hei”, which was added to Abram’s name (becoming Abraham) when the time came for him to father Isaac, – – and the Jewish nation – – as written in the Book of Genesis:

No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.”  (Genesis 17:5)

God’s choosing of the Jewish people as His “nation”, and the consecration and redemption of the firstborn alludes to Abraham.  Thus, FIVE (5) shekels is the price for redemption.

 

What we DO know for certain, is that Jesus is presented to God at the Temple in Jerusalem as a baby; paying for the privilege of being consecrated to the service of God, as was all firstborn sons of the Jewish faithful.  Jesus however, also paid for OUR privilege of being saved from sin and death through His human pain, suffering, and death on that Holy Tree some thirty odd years later into His human and earthly life.  He will again be presented in this same place, this SAME Temple, at the end of His earthly ministry.  At this time Jesus will be presented not as the newborn infant, but instead as the “Messiah Christ!!”  Still a consecrated servant of God, Jesus offered far greater than a few coins to pay for His privilege of servicing God, and redeeming His people.  He offered His life and death – – for our “redemption”. 

Simeon (His name translates to “God has heard” – WOW!) was not a priest, but instead simply just a devout worshiper, always in the Temple.  He reminds me of an elderly gentleman I know (named John) whom I see at my local parish church nearly every single time I am there.  This man is always observed picking up little pieces of trash, straightening books, cleaning the parking lot, pruning the church and grotto flowers, dusting,  – – and of course praying! 

Though not a priest, Simeon obviously was close to his (and ours) loving God in the simple and miraculous fact that he received a prophetic vision that very few fellow “sinful humans” are privileged to experience.  This vision was given to him directly from God (no messenger here), and it was about the “Messiah”.  Simeon here (and Anna later) speaks about the child “Savior” that all faithful Jews were awaiting with anticipation.  Jesus is the ONE awaited “child” who is the “Redeemer” of Jerusalem as prophesized in the Old Testament.  Simeon recognized Jesus as “a sign that will be contradicted” – – a Messiah “destined for the fall and rise of many.” (Luke 2:34)

Simeon and Anna represent the hopes and expectations of faithfully devout Jews who were looking forward to the full and true restoration of God’s rule in Israel.  The birth of Jesus joyfully and gloriously brought these hopes to fulfillment for these two faithful servants of God (and for many others also).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was to be “a light for revealing to the Gentiles“.  Five centuries earlier Malachi prophesied such an event (Malachi 3:1).  The Holy Spirit always reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are open, receptive and ready to receive him.  Do you recognize the presence of the Lord within and working through you?

How exciting it would be to actually see someone of a divine nature you had actually hoped and prayed for over many years, and to actually recognize that divinity in the infant child fully and truly alive and present before you.  In his excitement Simeon extols openly and publicly a beautiful prayer:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30)

He is now ready to die – – ready to be with God in paradise – – because he has found “salvation” in his very presence on earth.  A salvation he had awaited his entire life.

I still remember the instance I looked at my wife on our wedding day, and each of my new-born children in the delivery room.  The excitement and happiness I felt at those moments was so elating.  Would not gazing upon the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, have to be many times greater than these most profound moments I witnessed in my life?  I cannot wait to gaze upon you, my Lord and my all

The Jewish “Presentation” ritual, along with the associated circumcision of males, and the redemption of the first-born, points to the fact that children are truly and fully gifts from God. So why are large numbers of infants killed daily in an infanticide erroneously called “therapeutic abortions”?  There is absolutely NOTHING “therapeutic” about this tragedy! 

Remember, Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord’s presence in the temple.  Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Anna was a beautifully spiritual woman.  Through her faith and actions, she presents a model of devoutness, righteousness, and saintliness to the trust, hope, and faith in God as we advance in age, especially into the elder years.  Advancing age, and the tragedies and disappointments of life, can easily make us sad, cynical, and hopeless if we do not have our hope and trust in eternal paradise with God firmly rooted into our soul.  Anna’s hope and trust in God and His promises grew in her with age.  It resulted in a bountiful harvest of spirituality blossoming in, through, and out of her soul and heart.  She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with a hope and trust in God’s plan of salvation.  

 

When reading Simeon’s prophesies, they are so somber to me.  “Many will reject Jesus.”  Even in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus (and the Holy Family) was ostracized by neighbors who may have thought Jesus was simply an illegitimate child of Mary, whom herself was merely thought of by many “neighbors” as an “adulterer” while still only “betrothed” to Joseph.  Jesus brought a new “covenant” to all people (including His town-folks) regardless of their status, nationality, or even beliefs, past actions, and/or behaviors. 

 “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (from verse 35) is so dismal, depressing, and prophetic for me!  Who would want their mother to be in pain?  However, Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the life and teachings of her loving child, Jesus.  Her gift of being the mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son, Jesus!!  Jesus Himself describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”

“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.  He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’   (Luke 11:27-28)

“He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.’”  (Luke 8:20-21).

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph.  He prophesied to Mary about the destiny of Jesus, and the suffering she would undergo for His sake.  The Virgin Mother was given the “blessedness” of being the true mother of the Son of God (and thus the mother of God as well).  That blessedness was also a two-edged sword, piercing her heart as her beloved Son suffered and died upon the Holy Tree.  She received simultaneously – – a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow – – as her son received a crown of thorns.

Jesus did not come wielding a sword, or destructive weapon of any kind.  Yet, He dies at the hands of others.  Weapons of evil and destruction are wielded against Him.  Instead of a destructive weapon, Jesus wielded a CON-structive weapon against evil – – His “good news” – – the Gospel of salvation!  Loyalty to Jesus leads each of us to a pointed sword pressing against our “hearts” and souls: – – our relationships, our reputations, our ambitions, and even our monetary and earthly treasures.

 

The Jerusalem Temple is long gone, leaving a simple piece of one wall as its only physical remnant to the past.  However, Jesus is now the NEW temple: (John 1:14; 2:19-22).  

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)   

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)   

In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” at night as He led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.  God’s magnificent and supreme glory came to dwell in a visible way over the ark and tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the Israelites would set out on their journey.  But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward.  In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey.”  (Exodus 40:34-38)

When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God’s glory came to rest there (cf., 1 Kings 8).  After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave it (cf., Ezekiel 10).  But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (see Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9).  That promise is fulfilled when the “King of Glory” himself comes to his temple:  

“Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.”  (Psalm 24:7-10)

“I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.  Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

Through Jesus’ coming in the flesh along with His saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples for his Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”  (1 Cor. 3:16-17) 

Open the doors to your heart, soul, thoughts, and actions for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, and to work in and through you.  Welcome Him in with open arms.  Grasp God in a bear hug of love and want.  Give Him your best in everything.

 

What a radical departure from ‘traditional’ JudaismJesus awakened and probably scared some people in His teachings, approach, and life style.  There appeared to be many reasons for not wanting to be “around” this man named Jesus, or to follow Him.  However, when condensed, all these reasons were simply and purely out of plain, simple fear; a fear that I believe stemmed from ignorance.  This ignorance could be seen throughout Holy Scripture in the fear emanated from the watchful eyes of the Temple priests and elders; and in the fear from the Roman government who was concerned about civil unrest and uprisings stemming from Jesus’ teachings and activities.

The model believer of trust and hope, the model disciple of Christ – – was Mary.  She had to decide what her role was going to be in salvation history: either to follow God’s plan or her own.  Though she was truly the faithful mother of God, Mary still had ‘free will.’  Family ties do not create faith – – only faith creates faith

She did not want to leave her homeland any more than Joseph wanted to leave.  However, according to God’s plan, Mary would have to escape to Egypt in order to protect her baby Jesus.  She would have to experience the fear of losing a child for three days in His youth.  And, Sadly, Mary would have to witness the devastation and despair of Jesus’ trial, scourging, crucifixion, and burial.

Mary, and Jesus, had to tread a rough and treacherous path hewed out for her by God, but isn’t sacrificing the “language” of love?  It is because of her sharing so much in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of Jesus, that she is called the “co-redemptrix” – – the co-redeemer – – in the Catholic Church.

Through all of these trials of faith – – Mary never faltered.  I believe she handled all these “sorrows” because she knew what was needed, and expected from herself, and from her son.  More importantly, Mary trusted in God’s providence at every stage in hers and Jesus’ life.  Even prior to Jesus’ birth, the teenage Mary had already surrendered her soul, her heart, and her body to God.  She allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in her – – and act through her.  Mary had NO doubts about God in her life, and in her priorities.  Even in the worst of times for her and her son on this earth, she never lost her faith, love, and trust in God’s plan for her.  We can, and we need, to learn from her example.  Please help me Lord to find the strength and fortitude to love, trust, and follow you as did your blessed mother, Mary, so perfectly demonstrated for us all.  

Do you know the joy of submission to God? Do you seek to pass on the Catholic faith, helping others to grow in wisdom, grace, and obedience to His word?  What do you hope for in your life, and in your families’ future?  How can you grow in hope?  We all must place our total faith, hope, and trust in the promises of Jesus Christ.  We must rely on the love, grace, and support of the Holy Spirit.  Does your hope and fervor for God grow with age?

Jesus promised that “no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).  God gives us a mysterious grace of joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain, and which neither life nor death can take way.  One of my favorite short prayers highlights this mystery:

Jesus, there is nothing that is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

Ask Jesus Christ to renew your faith in the presence of His Holy Spirit living within you, and working through you for His glory.  Give Him thanks and praise for coming to you and each of us individually.  Thank Him for making His home (and place of business on earth) with and within you – – and through you!

 

Morning Offering

 

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for the intentions recommended by our Holy Father for this month.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.

O Mary, my Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve.  Wherefore good Mother, as I am your own, keep me, guard me as your property and possession. 

St. Joseph, model and patron of those who love the Sacred Heart, pray for me.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Presentation of the Lord

 

At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany (January 6), the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15. (Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship.) This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.

The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas.

At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.

Comment:

In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed in the temple by two elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation; they acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Early references to the Roman feast dub it the feast of St. Simeon, the old man who burst into a song of joy which the Church still sings at day’s end.

Quote:

“Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him…. But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? …[T]he candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice” (Paul VI).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 2 & 3 of 26:

 

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

 

 

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

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


            

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

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

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 05 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRULY FRATERNAL LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Continued on next published blog)

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Communion Invocation from the Holy Mass

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

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

 

 

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

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