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


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

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

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

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

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John goes on to report that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

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

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“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

“Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.   So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelations 3:15-16).

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

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Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

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Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

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Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

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“Do You Say ‘Yes’ To Your Faith, Or, Do You Say ‘Possibly’?!” – John 6:60-69†


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

  Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Two years ago FAN (Franciscan Action Network) introduced the “F.R.A.N.C.I.S. Commitment to Civility in Discourse”.  I encourage each of you to take this commitment.  Send it to all your friends and ask them to take it.  Also, along with yourself, ask your friends to send it to candidates for local, state, and federal offices, and consider sending it to the media as well.

The F.R.A.N.C.I.S Commitment to Civility in Discourse

Take a quiet moment in prayer and then recite the following out loud or to yourself.  Each verb begins with a letter which, when taken together, spells out the name FRANCIS:

Commit to:

    • FACILITATE a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
    • RESPECT the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.
    • AUDIT one’s self and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.
    • NEUTRALIZE inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
    • COLLABORATE with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
    • IDENTIFY common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
    • SUPPORT efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity.

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There will be no reflection blog next Sunday September 2nd.  Sorry, but I will be actively involved in some family business which I cannot reschedule.

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Quote of the Day:

I am not moved by what I see. I am moved only by what I believe.” ~ Smith Wigglesworth, “Ever Increasing Faith”, Pentecostal Classics

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Today’s reflection: Simon Peter confesses his faith by saying Jesus alone has the “Words” of the eternal life.  What do you TRULY say about your faith?  Is it hot, cold, or lukewarm?

(NAB John 6:60-69) 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?  62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Gospel Reflection:

For our Gospel today we hear the conclusion of John’s sixth chapter, known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.  In the preceding verses proclaimed in the Mass over the past few weeks, we have heard Jesus explain that He is “the Bread of Life”, given so that those who believe may come to share His eternal life (cf., John 6:47-48).  Today’s reading follows the miracle in which Jesus feeds more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (cf., John 6:11-13).  This particular reading is about how “hard” it is to be a disciple of Christ.  My question: What is SO hard about following Christ?  Well, possibly because the “hard” in today’s reading is the audience “hearing” Jesus talking about what they perceive as cannibalism, the most serious heresy for any Jewish person.  Many in the “crowd” consider His “Words” as blasphemy.  Thus, John’s Gospel describes the crowd as “murmuring”, unable to accept Jesus’ “Words” as literally true.  Influenced by the crowd’s response, Jesus turns to His disciples, asking a question:

Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)

Jesus’ “Words” certainly shocked a good portion of His followers.  This leads to the challenge for the usually outspoken Simon Peter to declare his faith and understanding of “who” Jesus truly is: the Holy Son of God! 

Why do many of us (including some Catholics) find it easy to accept the claims which Jesus made in today’s Gospel, and others find it so “hard” to accept?  Some accept Jesus when it was (is) easy to see Him doing great works, but not when it was (is) difficult to accept His “Word” that HE is the true Son of God sent down from God the Father as Moses had prophesized.  Many are attracted to Jesus solely because He offers something irresistible: a visible sign of God the Father’s mercy and love which Jesus demonstrated (and still demonstrates today) through His supernatural works of healing and freeing us from evil through the mystery of the Eucharistic grace. 

After witnessing everything transpired during Jesus’ public ministry, I cannot believe that some of Jesus’ disciples – – His devoted followers – – were still not convinced about His divinity and true nature.  Decades later, there STILL were some in his own faith community finding it difficult to accept Jesus.  This is the reason John zeroed-in on this portion of his Gospel.  The issue here is the importance of faith as a divine gift which enables us to see and believe Jesus as what He says He truly is!

Just as the larger crowd (the 5000) struggled with Jesus’ teaching, many “disciples” present in today’s story somehow also cannot accept Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus knows about their murmuring and responds by acknowledging their unbelief.  At the same time, Jesus reveals that only those drawn by God the Father will choose to believe in and follow Jesus to the end.  John’s Gospel reports here that many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples “murmured” and ceased to follow Him at this point in His public ministry.  The number of people following Jesus then dwindled from a crowd of more than 5,000 to possibly only 12 men and a few women and children.   It is to these Twelve men (Apostles) to whom Jesus now turns His attention; asking:

Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

Jesus saying this provided John the opportunity, through Simon Peter, the central, essential statement of faith, the core essence of our Catholic faith.  In essence, Jesus was asking if their faith was full and true, or if their faith had conditions attached to it.  Like most politicians today, some of whom are members of the Christian religion, and even the Catholic faith, they (and we) are siding with the majority are favorite stance instead of the morally correct position on serious issues, especially “life” issues: i.e., abortion, euthanasia, health and medical care, immigration, and so on.    So, you can see I believe Jesus’ question is being asked of ALL Catholics and other Christians – – universally.  (That means you, dear readers – – and me as well!)

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The question, “Do you also want to leave?”, is meant to inspire our declaration of faith in Jesus then, as the Holy “One” now, as His supernatural real presence in the Holy Eucharist. 

To me, this text makes me think that Jesus could be giving us an insight to His supernatural AND natural true union in the Holy Eucharist today.  My question: Is Jesus not only giving us His dual-nature union of body and blood (plus His soul and divinity) in the Holy Eucharist, but also the path we are to take on our journey to His kingdom?  I am drawn to what was written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.  So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam[Jesus Christ] a life-giving spirit.  But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritualThe first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.  As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (1 Corinthians 15:44–49).

The last Adam, Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21–22) has become a life-giving spirit, a life-principle transcendent, spiritually different from the natural soul of the first Adam.  Furthermore, the “last Adam”, “Jesus the Christ”, is not just alive, but, life-giving – – a truly divine source of a real, everlasting life for others indeed.

So, in today’s reading, Jesus states:

The words I have spoken to you are spirit AND life” (John 6:63). 

By saying, “spirit and life”, Jesus is declaring that HIS “bread of life” – – the “RISEN HIMSELF” – – IS the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  WOW indeed!!!

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Many stumbled on their spiritual path when Jesus made claims which only God can make.  Jesus claimed to be “the bread of heaven” – – the very life of God – – given to us freely as the spiritual food to sustain us on our journey to the promised land of heaven.  Jesus’ discourse on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (cf., John 6:51-59) not only caused many of His followers to feel offended, but also pointed to – – pre-figured – – the “Last Supper”.  

Jesus did not leave any middle ground for those listening to Him.  They could either accept, that is believe His “Word” as divine and fully true, or they could reject it as the claim of an imposter.  It seems there is no “in-between”; forcing one to be either “hot” in faith, or “cold”.  A “lukewarm” faith is as unacceptable and as deadly as a “cold” faith:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16).

Even the “Twelve” of His closest disciples (the Apostles) admitted His “Words” on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” was a “hard saying” to understand (but not to believe).  Jesus promises His disciples (then and still now) nothing less than the full and complete blessing of eternal life along with a fully complete union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures His disciples (then and now) that it is His (and our) heavenly Father who invites and gives the grace to follow Him – – even when it comes to the “hard sayings”.  

Jesus knew some would not only reject Him and His “Word”, but would also be offended.  Through this offended “spirit”, these people would eventually betray Jesus to His enemies.  After all, Jesus always knew that there would be those who would not believe Him, plotting to destroy Him as agents of evil:

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him” (John 6:64).

 Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus would again reiterate His prior knowledge of betrayal by others:

For he [Jesus] knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:11).

I cannot even fathom how someone who witnessed Jesus’ public ministry, and believed in Him at one time, could now NOT believe any longer.  Everything Jesus had promised had been fulfilled (so far), yet some still could not believe.  They saw, yet they were still blinded.  Humans can be a stupid bunch at times!!

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Jesus warned all who could hear Him:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:44).

Even with this stern yet loving warning, many of Jesus’ disciples had lost heart and returned to their former ways of life:

As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). 

Was this abandonment because they could not comprehend what Jesus was truly saying when He talked about eating the true body and blood of Christ?  Or, did they leave due to an underling fear of their families and other Jews shunning them for following a man going against Jewish food laws?

Thankfully, those who stayed (and us), know a few things, however.  We know that the Holy Eucharist is a gift – – a grace – – from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We know the Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ – – transubstantiated.  And, from today’s reading, we know Jesus did not chase after anyone who left Him; giving further proof the Holy Eucharist IS the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, to be shared with all who believe!!

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Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ question about whether those “Twelve” closest to Him will also leave:

Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Simon Peter’s response reminds me of the reports of Peter’s confession of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (cf., Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20).  Peter announces, on behalf of all the Twelve, that they have come to believe all Jesus has taught about Himself:

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Jesus is truly the “One” sent from God the Father, and in whom they (and we) have found the true path to eternal life.  Each of the four Gospels has declared this statement of faith:

Simon Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:16);

“[A man with an unclean spirit] cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:24);

Ha!  What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34);

“She [Martha] said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:27).

Sometimes, you definitely CAN believe what you read!!

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Today’s conclusion of John’s “Bread of Life” discourse focuses on a intimately personal faith in a life of Christian discipleship.  Each person must make his or her own judgment about who Jesus is in their own life.  In doing so, we determine the way of our life, our personal path, which we will follow to eternity.  God’s grace invites each of us – – personally – – to be a disciple of Jesus.  However, each of us must also respond to the grace of God by confessing a full and true belief in Jesus Christ being truly the “One” sent from God the Father for our redemption and salvation.   This absolute, non-conditional, faith then commits us to the righteous path of life, leading us to eternal life in a heavenly paradise.

Real faith is not blind or uninformed; faith seeks understanding and is ACTIVE – – always at work in our lives.  This is why God the Father imparts to us the help and comfort of the Holy Paraclete – – the Holy Spirit – – to enlighten the eyes of our mind and soul to understand His truth and wisdom:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Jesus offers His life-giving “Word” and “spirit” to those who truly and fully believe in Him, obeying His “Word” without ANY conditions.  Simon Peter’s profession of faith and loyalty was based on a personal relationship with Jesus!  His belief was not simply based on what he knew about Jesus, but in knowing that when Jesus spoke, God spoke(!); when Jesus acted, God acted!  (PERIOD!!!) . . .

Through the personal grace (gift) of faith, Simon Peter came to understand Jesus as the true Messiah Savior, the Holy “One” of God the Father.  Simon Peter believed in the “Words” Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and therefore Savior of the world.  “Faith” is a personal response to God’s revelation of Himself to each of us.  “Faith” is the key to understanding and experiencing God’s action and work in our own personal lives.  Ask the Lord to increase your faith so you may grow in your relationship with Him and in the knowledge of His unlimited love for you.

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At baptism, we (or our parents) promised to believe (or teach) all articles of the faith.  In the example of Simon Peter, we learn each person must also make his or her own profession of faith in Jesus as the one sent by God the Father to save us.  As we matured in the faith, we learned, accepted, and believed (and still believe) Jesus Christ IS the “Word” of eternal life.  We also chose to follow the way of Christian discipleship at some point in our adult life, and hopefully still choose the same today.

Think about the promises made at your baptism (even if by someone else on your behalf).  What is the importance of this promise made by you then and now?  How are you trying to honor this commitment in your daily lives?  Please pray that you continue to grow in your faith, always remembering Jesus is the true “One” sent by God the Father – – who alone – – has the “Words” of eternal life.  

Promises are decisions; and we make numerous small decisions every day (and a few significantly important ones) which determine the course of our (and others) lives.  Being a parent, I have recently been reminded (with brutal honesty) that young people can hardly wait to be free of their parent’s – – to make their own choices.  We, as adults, learn (sometimes painfully) that certain decisions have consequences so serious that they should not be made lightly.  Just as some disciples in today’s reading did then, some people still today find it easier to give their decision-making responsibilities over to another: i.e., someone in the household, a politician, a religious leader, and so on.  In today’s first reading at Mass (from Joshua’s 24th chapter), Joshua doesn’t mince words:

“… decide today whom you will serve …” (Joshua 24:15).

Do NOT put off to another day, but decide now, today, about your faith.  Remember, Joshua’s people, reminded of all God had done for them, decided to:

 … serve the Lord, for He is our God (Joshua 24:18b).

Today’s Gospel account opened with Jesus’ disciples murmuring:

This saying is hard …” (John. 6:60).

Hard”, without a doubt – – and Jesus knew it is “hard”.   His “good news” – – the “Word” – – is not for lukewarm, fair-weather, or timid followers.  Because of this “hard saying” in today’s reading, many of Jesus’ followers became disillusioned and left Him.  The decision of the “Twelve” to stay with Jesus was NOT made because they had no other choice – – all of them had homes and families to whom they could have returned – – but was made because Jesus had “the words of eternal life“.  They were convinced and knew without any conditions that Jesus was truly the “Holy ‘One’ sent from God the Father.”

Many of Jesus’ “Words” are not easy to hear; they actually are quite challenging to one’s faith-life.  It is difficult to “love your enemies”, “lose your life for His sake”, and so on.  Like Simon Peter, those who follow Jesus Christ today, do so out of love for this Holy “One” who has the “Words” of eternal life, even though some “Words” are very “hard” and challenging indeed: yet, they are all trustworthy and BELIEVEABLE!

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Reflection Prayer: 

“O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen”

(Collect Prayer for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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“Who Are You, Lord, And Who Am I?!” – John 6:24–35†


 

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am asking for some input from my readers in regard to my blog format.  It is trying for me to amass all the information I needed for each blog normally posted on Saturdays.  For this reason, I have decided to change my format somewhat.  Starting next week, I will be splitting my blog sections between Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On Wednesdays, I will post the following sections:

  • ·        (on occasion) Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Catholic History Today
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on an article of  the OFS Rule

Then, on Saturdays, I will continue to post these sections:

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

Please let me know your opinions on this matter, and if I should add or totally delete sections from my blog.  After all, this blog is as much yours as it is mine, because it is for YOU.

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Do not forget to vote on Tuesday, August 7th, (in Missouri at least).  Although a “Party Primary” election, local and state issues may also be on the ballot.  Voting is a “right” every eligible American should be proud to participate in as a citizen of this great “Godly” country.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1579 – Death of Stanislaus Hosius, Polish Catholic cardinal (b. 1504)
†   1900 – Death of James Augustine Healy, black Roman Catholic bishop, dies at 80
†   1912 – Birth of Abbé Pierre, French Catholic priest (d. 2007)

(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: Jesus teaches the crowds that He is the “bread of life.” We know who He is: the question I’m supposing is, “Who Are WE??!!”  Ask yourself this question: “Why are you seeking out Jesus?”

 

(NAB John 6:24–35)  24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”  28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?  31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:  ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.   33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday, we heard about Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish, leaving enough leftover to fill twelve wicker baskets.  Between last Sunday’s Gospel and today’s Gospel is the short story of the disciples leaving for Bethsaida for Capernaum by boat as Jesus leaves for “the mountain alone” (John 6:15).  After an unknown amount of time (probably several hours at least):

the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

This Sunday we continue to read from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, but not in continuity with last Sunday’s Gospel.  What we are not told (and what the “crowd” did not see) is the story between these two readings: Jesus’ walking on water (cf., John 16-21).  This event will be explored, and possibly revealed, in my reflection blog at a later date.

In today’s gospel, upon discovering the absence of Jesus and His closest of disciples, the crowd went in search for them:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

Upon finding their “New Moses” (please refer to my reflection from last week), they inquired of Jesus how He arrived there, and arrived there BEFORE them (since they knew Jesus went into the mountains):

When they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25)

In the dialogue that follows, Jesus unfolds for us the gift of “Himself”, which He gives to us in and through the Holy Eucharist.

The crowd had come by boat, the fastest way possible for them, knowing Jesus would have had to walk to Capernaum since there were no other boats available for Him to use.  However, Jesus’ answer was NOT the one they were expecting to hear:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:25). 

Amen, Amen” – – Interesting words indeed!  A little trivia time: did you know there are 25 “Amen’s” in John’s Gospel alone (with only 52 “Amen’s” total in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels)?  So, why do you suppose Jesus decided to start a sentence with a word never before used at the beginning of a statement?  These initial “Amen’s” are truly unique to Jesus, and are unparalleled, otherwise unknown in any other Hebrew writings.  Why (?) – – the reason is that “Amen” – – at the beginning of a sentence – – does not refer to the words of a previous speaker as one would assume (I bet His English teacher was mad at Him for such usage!).  I believe Jesus used the combined (and amplified) words “Amen, Amen” to introduce a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.  In this case, the new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom is in seeing and believing His signs of His divine nature.

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Jesus goes on to say in today’s reading:

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal(John 6:27).

Jesus is telling all who come to Him (then and now) to change their priorities, both in life and in death.  Our secularized and materialistic world will someday perish.  I am sure we have all heard the axiom, “You can’t take it with you”.  This axiom references the materialistic, worldly items we accrue though life.  What you WILL take with you on your day of judgment is the way – – the “how” – – you USED these materialistic items, and the “way and how” of using ALL of God’s graces, powers, and “Words” given to you freely and FREE!  (Jesus has already paid the cost!!)

Jesus answers the crowd, saying who HE truly is:  “the bread of life”:

“This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:50, 51, 54, 58).

Only through Jesus Christ’s grace, can you, I, or anyone else, enter into God the Father’s Kingdom.  Only through Jesus Christ are we provided the life-sustaining food (and water) which endures and gives eternal life:

Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

The above verse (John 4:13) gives a new meaning to Christ being present – – truly and fully – – in each morsel and drop of both “species” of the Eucharist: the body and blood of the Risen Jesus Christ!

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Having heard what Jesus just said, the crowd wanted to know:

What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” (John 6:28).

Jesus answered:

This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” (John 6:29)

That just seems to be a little too simple, maybe even cunning or crafty, in the simplicity of His “Words”.  Many believe that ALL you have to do is simply “believe Jesus is the ‘one’ sent by God”.  However, there is a “little” more to this statement than just “believing”; for to believe, one must also accept the premise that Jesus is truly “the one sentas prophesized in Jewish scripture.  In reality, in order to believe Jesus is truly “the one sent”, you must also believe ALL that the prophets had to say about this “one sent”.

  

Image from the following website:
http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/
prophecies-concerning-jesus-and-their-fulfilment\

In believing, the crowd would be accepting that Jesus IS (and STILL IS) fulfilling EVERY prophecy made from the entirety of the great Prophets of old; where and who He would be born to, His work and mission, how He would die, His resurrection, and His ascension into heaven.  Through Jesus Christ, these prophecies of a “kingly” and “suffering” Savior Messiah had arrived to this crowd (and to US!)! 

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This crowd wanted even further proof from what they had already seen – – as a perfect sign in itself – – with the multiplication of the bread and fish.  So, the crowd says to Jesus:

What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” (John 6:30).

Haven’t they seen ENOUGH to prove who Jesus truly and fully was (and is)?  Oh, those of so little faith!!  Then again, they were not the first ones to ask for proof from Jesus regarding His divine nature.  They were not the first to ask for, nay, demand a sign.  So, when:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1);

Then, Jesus responds thusly:

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ ” (Matthew 16:4).

Luke further elaborated on this:

 “While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation’” (Luke 11:29–30).

The “Son of Man” was a “sign” to this generation (and ours) as Jonah was a “sign” to the Ninevites of his generation.  Jonah is the “sign”, and his message was repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural dimension of their lives.  Jesus is the “sign”, and His message was also that of repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural divine nature of the “Son of Man”.

The Jews of the Exodus story demanded a “sign”, demanding bread from Moses – – and God gave them “manna”.  The crowd demanded from Jesus what the Israelites demanded of Moses – – a “sign” – – the “bread from heaven”:

 “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). 

For the Jews of His day, Jesus is declaring that He IS the prophesized “sign”, the “bread from heaven” as revealed in Exodus:

 “Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. …  But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. … Moses then told Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to keep it for your future generations.’” (Exodus 16:4-34)

 This “bread from heaven” – – the “manna” – – was a divine sign, a gift from God the Father to His children.  This “manna” is similar to a natural substance, still found today in small quantities, on the Sinai Peninsula, and is associated with the honey-like resin from the tamarisk tree.  However, God’s “manna” is clearly an extraordinary, supernatural sign of God’s providence toward His “chosen” people, who needed His help.  Per Jewish tradition, the “manna” – – the “food” from heaven – – was (and is) expected to reappear miraculously at Passover, during “the last days”.  Christian tradition regards the “manna” of Exodus as a type of the Eucharist which Jesus fulfilled and is still fulfilling today.

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In verse 6:31, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”, Jesus now starts referencing a single, specific, part of the prayer He taught to His disciples during the “Our Father” prayer:

Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

St. Francis of Assisi explained this specific portion of the “Our Father Prayer” in a beautiful and succinct way:

“Give us today our daily bread: Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to remind us of the love God showed for us and to help us understand and appreciate everything that He did or said or suffered.”

Jesus Christ IS OUR DAILY BREAD!!  (I can’t say this fact enough!)  Through Jesus in the Eucharist, we are reminded and showed to understand and appreciate the true, and full totality of His life, death, resurrection, ascension, promises, hope, love, trust, and return – – in our lives NOW!!.  HOLY WOW!!!  HOLY AWESOME!!!

The “manna” of the Exodus story prefigured, and pointed to, the superabundance of the unique “bread” of the Eucharist which Jesus gave to His disciples on the eve of His sacrifice.  The “bread” Jesus offers His disciples still sustains us not only on our journey to His heavenly paradise; it also gives us the abundant supernatural life of God Himself, sustaining us now and for all eternity.  

When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ Himself, who makes us sharers in His body and blood, thus partaking in His divine life.  The Holy Eucharist is the “supernatural food” of healing – – for both body and soul – – and gives us strength for our journey to the paradise of God’s heavenly banquet (cf., Hebrews 12:18-24).

After initially answering the crowds question for a “sign”, Jesus then directly and unequivocally says:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

I believe Jesus could not have been much clearer.  The people present certainly knew Jesus was referring to the prophecies in Isaiah and Amos among others:

 “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy?  Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.  Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.  I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the steadfast loyalty promised to David.”  (Isaiah 55:1–3);

“See, days are coming—oracle [revelation] of the Lord GOD— when I will send a famine upon the land: Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. … On that day, beautiful young women and young men shall faint from thirst” (Amos 8:11–13).

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true “bread of heaven” which can satisfy the deepest hunger, thirst, and longing every human being experiences in life.  We must believe in Christ, listen to His “Word”, pay attention to Him – – and most importantly – – “come to” Him in the Eucharist!!

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In today’s Gospel, there are four exchanges between Jesus and the crowd.  In the first, the crowd, after finding Jesus already at Capernaum, before them, asks a very “matter of fact” question: “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus replies by identifying their motivation in pursuing Him: their being fed earthly, worldly, bread.  Jesus acknowledges their physical feeding, yet challenges them to see beyond their material needs.  Instead, they (and we) should be seeking out Jesus because He can give eternal life!

As the second dialogue begins, it seems that the crowd might be on their way to accepting Jesus and His mission.  They ask: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  Jesus replies that the “works of God” is that they “BELIEVE” (have faith in) the one sent from God.  

Notice, Jesus is clearly declaring that He IS the One sent by God the Father – – the “New Moses”!!

However, in the third dialogue, the crowd reveals their inability to see Jesus’ true identity; the crowd reveals their “blindness”.  They ask Jesus for a sign so that they might know Jesus is truly sent from God the Father.  This request for a sign sounds strange since Jesus had just fed more than 5000 people, and for the most part, the SAME people now asking for a “sign” again.  I must add, what more is expected from Jesus to prove His true divine nature?  (Maybe He needs to raise someone from the dead!  Um … wait; He does, including Himself!)

The crowd cannot see beyond the surface of the “sign” Jesus gave in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  By their description, they identify Jesus with Moses.  So, just as Moses gave the people “manna” in the desert, the crowd wanted Jesus to give them a sign so they will know Jesus was truly from God.  They were looking to identify Jesus as a “prophet” without realizing “God the Son” was standing before them.  

As God “fulfilled” the crowd’s ancestors’ needs in the desert, so God still provides food for eternal life (and still provides NOW TODAY)!   In the bread which they received from Jesus, they received physical nourishment as well as spiritual nourishment.  Jesus wanted the crowd then (and wants us today) to see beyond the surface – – to the One who provides true nourishment, God the Father through God the Son working through the Holy Spirit, even through material things.

The conclusion of the dialogue also further reveals the crowd’s “blindness”: they CANNOT “see” the divine Christ in their midst.  They asked for what Jesus had just told them they have found: “Sir, give us this bread always” (verse 34).  Jesus answers plainly that He Himself IS the “Bread of Life” they are seeking; the Bread of Life who will satisfy every hunger and thirst.  We can understand this fact better when we remember that God revealed His name to the “chosen” people of Israel as “I am” – – “Yahweh”.  Jesus claims this name – – “I AM” – – for Himself!!  Jesus’ claim [to fame] will bring many into His kingdom.  On the other hand, Jesus’ claim – – though it is true – – will have a negative effect as well, for some.  In the weeks ahead, in the Gospel readings at Mass, we will see how this claim offended others in the crowd.

Jesus offers a new relationship with God, a new life – – a life of sacrificial love, selfless service, and the forgiveness of others – – corresponding to God’s mercy, goodness and loving kindness.  This new life is a life of holiness, purity, and truth, corresponding to God’s holiness.  This new life is a life of obedience and trust, corresponding to God’s offer of abundant life, peace, and happiness.  This is the true definition of “work” which Jesus directs us to do, and enables us to perform through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am truly hungry for the “bread” which comes down from heaven; and I thirst for the “Words” of everlasting life in, with, and through God!!  (What about you?)

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Sometimes, we don’t recognize the wonderful things our Trinitarian God has done for us in ours, and in others, lives.  Sometimes, out of habit or need, we simply forget and ask for further evidence of His love and care.  Pray that God, in these times, will remove our “blindness” so that we can receive and appreciate – – with thanks, praise, and love – – all the wonderful things which God truly accomplishes in our lives.

St. Francis said, Who are You, Lord, and who am I?”  The “manna” from heaven and John’s supernatural Christology (nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) draws out the theme of nourishment from God, and especially, the new life we receive through Christ, who is the “Bread of Life”.  How awesome and wonderful is it that we ALL have a Trinitarian God who is close to us – – truly one of us – – through the “Risen” human flesh of Jesus, and as near and physically present as in the Holy Eucharist.  We need to come to realize that the importance of the immanent nature (God existing in, and extending into, all parts of the created universe) of God is truly and absolutely important for our daily spiritual lives!!

The second half of Saint Francis’ question above, Who am I?” is as equally important as the first half, Who are You, Lord.  I might rephrase this question as: “Who am I that I can relate to my (and your) immanent God and His call to freedom and a new life?”  Like the Israelites, we actually sometimes desire a bondage to our personal addictions or societal failings.  Let us remember that we do have choices.  We can choose to feed on the “Bread of Life”; or we can feed on the “dry bones” of an exploited, materialistic, and secularized human existence without everlasting life.  (Here Fido, you take the bone and I’ll take the bread!)

It is interesting for me that, often, we are not only complacent with oppressive situations and rewards in life, we are also even sometimes “grateful” for the mere “scraps” we receive in life.   We need to remember that in times of trials and tribulations, the “scraps” of worldly materialistic items and conveniences are no match for the overwhelmingly bounty of God – – through the “Bread of Life”, Jesus Christ!

Recall the wonderful gifts God has given you, and the remarkable deeds God has accomplished in and through you.  Remember, it is truly important to stop and count our blessings.  We can all easily miss recognizing all of the wonderful things God has done (and does) for us on a daily basis.  Recall that we have this gift from Jesus – – in the Eucharist – – TODAY and FOREVER!!  (and even in heaven!)   Thank God for all He had (and has) given to us. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Bread of Life Prayer

 

“Bread of Life, you feed
us through word and sacrament.
The bread we share
a remembrance
of your presence with
us. Strengthen us for
service, that seeds we sow
in fertile places
might grow and flourish,
that food we share
in fellowship
might nourish and revive,
that words we share
in our daily walk
might glorify your name.
Bread of Life, you feed us
through word and
sacrament that we might feed others.
Blessed be your name!  Amen.”

http://www.faithandworship.com/Jesus_bread_of_life.htm

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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 who inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3) RSV.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3) KJV.

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But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom. … And, ‘Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands’” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) RSV.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  … And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands (Hebrews 1:8, 10) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint [Commemoration] of the Day:  Dedication of the Church of St. Mary Major Basilica

 

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431.  Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary.  Standing atop one of Rome’s seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica.  Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine’s era.  Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church.  St. John Lateran represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark; St. Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary’s, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

One legend, unreported before the year 1000, gives another name to this feast: Our Lady of the Snows.  According to that story, a wealthy Roman couple pledged their fortune to the Mother of God.  In affirmation, she produced a miraculous summer snowfall and told them to build a church on the site.  The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome every August 5.

Comment:

Theological debate over Christ’s nature as God and man reached fever pitch in Constantinople in the early fifth century.  The chaplain of Bishop Nestorius began preaching against the title Theotokos, “Mother of God,” insisting that the Virgin was mother only of the human Jesus.  Nestorius agreed, decreeing that Mary would henceforth be named “Mother of Christ” in his see.  The people of Constantinople virtually revolted against their bishop’s refutation of a cherished belief.  When the Council of Ephesus refuted Nestorius, believers took to the streets, enthusiastically chanting, “Theotokos!  Theotokos!”

Quote:

“From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, in whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs.  Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the People of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation…” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 66).

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 5 & 6 of 26:

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

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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.

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“Doubting Thomas Came To Believe in Jesus – – AND – – Also In The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus And …!” – John 20:19-31†


    

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

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 SFO Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1220 – Death of Adolf of Altena, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1250 – Pope Innoncent III refuses Jews of Cordova Spain to build a synagogue
†   1610 – Death of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (b. 1546)
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church
†   1793 – Death of Ignacije Szentmartony, Croatian Jesuit missionary and geographer (b. 1718)
†   1853 – Protestant church questions king Willem III Roman Catholic Bishops
†   1889 – Death St. Father Damien, Belgian missionary to Hawaii Leper Colony (b. 1840)
†   1902 – Pope Leo XIII encyclical “On Church in US”
†   1942 – Birth of Francis X. DiLorenzo, American Catholic prelate
†   1945 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Communium interpretes dolorum”
†   1949 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Redemptoris nostril”
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox 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 or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

 

(NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles.  This detail alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in today’s reading.  This particular Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday Eve) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on an Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  And, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time. 

Thomas, for me, was a bona fide, natural pessimist.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

 “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (as all the Apostles did) to stand with Him, Jesus, during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples, after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and saw the empty tomb; they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, and then commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself, by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same, now and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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 Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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 John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

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).

Now, Mark says:

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15).

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and missionThe office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18).

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”,  were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’” (Mark 16:15-16)

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, His Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the First (Old) Testament (the first Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God, and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by this particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

Many of us have heard the saying, “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this maxim really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.  It is simply a matter of FAITH!!

In our normal “human” lives there will be presented to each of us many opportunities for conflict.  Jesus did not promise us the absence of conflict in our lives, and on our paths to Him.  Instead, He gave us the grace and gifts of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in order to reduce our personal and unique conflicts.  The measure of a true Catholic Christian is not the absence of conflict, but the manner in how conflict is resolved in our lives.  Filled with the race, the gift, of the Holy Spirit, we ask Jesus to help us to bring peace and forgiveness to situations of conflict in our daily lives.

Today, right NOW, take this opportunity to examine how you resolve conflict.  Recall a recent argument or disagreement and how the conflict was resolved.  Was the conflict resolved peacefully, in the way and spirit of Jesus Christ’s example?  If not, what alternatives might be tried in the future for a proper Christian response to conflict?  We have each received Jesus’ grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit imparted to the first Apostles helps each of us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, to be people who forgive ALL others and seeks peace in their life and their world.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  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.

Purgatory:

“Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) RSV.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) KJV.

***

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey …” (1 Peter 3:18-20) RSV.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient … “ (1 Peter 3:18-20) KJV.

***

But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life..” (Revelations 21:27) RSV.

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelations 21:27) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Caesar de Bus (1544-1607)

 

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life.  After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career.  He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

For a time life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman.  He was confident he had made the right choice.  That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.

He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life.  By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest.  Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places.  His efforts were badly needed and well received.

Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis.  The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops.  Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.

One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, was published 60 years after his death.

He was beatified in 1975.

Comment:

“Family catechesis” is a familiar term in parish life today.  Grounded in the certainty that children learn their faith first from their parents, programs that deepen parental involvement in religious education multiply everywhere.  There were no such programs in Caesar’s day until he saw a need and created them.  Other needs abound in our parishes, and it’s up to us to respond by finding ways to fill them or by joining in already established efforts.

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 (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.

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“The ‘Pagan’ Had It Right; Jesus Truly IS the ‘Son Of God’ – And So Are We!” – Mark 15:1-39 (Shorter Form)†


Palm Sunday

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 SFO Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This week is known throughout the Church as “Holy Week”, with the last few days being days full with ceremonies and of special notice.

Today is Palm Sunday (or, “Fig Sunday” by some):

On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Worship services include blessing of the palms and a procession.  The liturgical color is red. 

Spy Wednesday:

This is an old and uncommon name for the Wednesday of Holy Week, which commemorates Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus (cf., Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16).

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

 The name “Maundy Thursday” is derived from Jesus “mandate” to love one another as He loves each of us.  This day celebrates the institution of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Ordination.   Some may also know it as “Shear Thursday.”

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

Good Friday is an obligatory day of fasting within the Catholic Church.  This day commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the Holy Cross.  Worship customs include Veneration of the Cross, communion from the reserved Maundy Thursday host, and the singing or preaching of the Passion (reading or singing excerpts of the Passion story from John’s gospel).  In the Catholic Church, the liturgical color was formerly black, but is now red.

Holy Saturday:

 This is the final day of Holy Week.  There are few specific customs associated with Holy Saturday, except that it is the final night before the Feast of the Resurrection, which begins at the Great Easter Vigil.

Other customs and events, including “Tenebrae” (a ceremony in which the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited), have developed as Holy Week customs.  Generally, Holy Week is a busy time for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as we build up to the Queen of all Church Feasts, Easter (Pascha).

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Here is a link to a sight for making crosses out of the palms received at mass today (with pictures and “how to” video):

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Palm-Frond-Cross.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   705 – Greek pope John VII chosen as successor to John VI
†   1283 – Birth of Ludwig IV of Baveria, Roman Catholic Bavarian emperor (1314-47)
†   1682 – Death of Franz Egon of Fürstenberg, Bavarian Catholic archbishop (b. 1625)
†   1939 – US recognizes Franco government in Spain at end of Spanish civil war.  Pope Pius XII congratulates Generalissimo Franco’s victory in Spain
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Hugh of Grenoble; Saint Waleric

(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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In today’s reflection, Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified.  The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death declares, “This man was the Son of God.”

  

(NAB Mark 15:1-39 [Shorter Form]) 1 As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.  2 Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He said to him in reply, “You say so.”  3 The chief priests accused him of many things.  4 Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer?  See how many things they accuse you of.”  5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  6 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  7 A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  9 Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  12 Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?”  13 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”  14 Pilate said to them, “Why?  What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.  16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  17 They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  18 They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.  21 They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  22 They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).  23 They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.  24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  27 With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.  28 29 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself by coming down from the cross.”  31 Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”  Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.  33 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  34 And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  38 The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

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Gospel Reflection:

 This Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of our faith’s Holy Week.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, are together called the “Easter Triduum”, three special days that are a highlight of the Catholic Church Liturgical year.

 There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass.  The first Gospel (with two choices) is just prior to the procession with palms, and tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem (cf., Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16).  Riding on a borrowed “colt”, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they blessed God and shouted “Hosanna!” in His presence – – ALL filled with GREAT JOY being in His presence.  A few days later, the crowd is not “hailing” Jesus, they are instead “mocking and jeering” Him, calling for His death.

Mark presents Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the cross as the consequence of an on-going tension between the Jewish authorities (both Temple and secular) and Jesus Himself.  This tension escalates throughout His public ministry, culminating in the events of today’s reading.  The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” occurred when Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple (cf., Mark 11:15).  After this event, the chief priests and Scribes began secretly seeking a way to put Jesus to death. 

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Today’s Gospel starts with the WHOLE Sanhedrin gathering together to plot against Jesus; they “Held a council” (verse 1).  In the original Greek, “held a council” comes from the verb, “poieō” which can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.”  In today’s reading, I prefer a variant form of this verb, meaning “reached a decision”.  Today’s event is the climax of Temple authorities plan’s, started a long time before Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for THIS particular  Passover celebration:

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counselwith the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (Mark 3:6).

Mark 14:64 (In the long form of today’s reading) describes this “council” as happening as a “trial” during the night (is this sneaky or what?!).  Matthew, unlike Mark, did not consider the Sanhedrin as judging Jesus in a night session. Even so, the handing over of Jesus to the chief government official, Pilate, is because the Sanhedrin did not have right or ability to put their “plotted” sentence of death into effect.

When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish “court” – -the council of Jewish priests, scribes, and elders – – He was charged with “blasphemy” (disrespect for God or sacred things), citing His threat in the Temple:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19).

Mark states one reason for Jesus’ arrest and prosecution.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “three” false accusations were leveled against Jesus (cf., Luke 23:1-2).  The first charge: Jesus stirred-up sedition within the community.   Secondly, Jesus encouraged people not to pay taxes to Caesar.  And lastly, Jesus took on the title, “King”.   When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the “chief priests” presented His crime as a purely political one (and not a religious), claiming that Jesus said He was “the king of the Jews”.  

So, the Sanhedrin “handed Him [Jesus] over to Pilate”, simply because they lacked the authority to condemn and execute their wishful sentence:

You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die.” (Mark 14:64).

With this “evidence” in hand, the Sanhedrin sent Jesus to Pilate.  Through this Roman prelate, Jesus was tried, beaten, and put to death:

Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15);

John goes into greater detail, reporting why the Sanhedrin could not complete their plan, and why they used Pilate to bring their dubious design to fruition:

“Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.’  The Jews answered him, ‘We do not have the right to execute anyone” (John 18:31).

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

 “Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” (Mark 15:2)

In the accounts of the four evangelists a certain irony surrounded the use of this title, “king of the Jews”.  It is used in today’s reading as an accusation against Jesus.  While Pilate himself uses this “accusatory” – – but correct – – term three times in today’s reading (Mark 15:2, 9, 12).  Jesus is aware of the irony in their false accusations, and in their evil reason for the chief priests to hand Jesus over for a quick trial and condemnation:

“For he [Jesus] knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.” (Mark 15:10).

Their worldly influence and power overtook their role as leaders of the Jewish faith.

Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “the King of the Jews” three times, and I have no doubt that he did so three times just to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

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The crowd at Jesus’ “trial” had to be different from the one meeting and hailing Him with palm branches, at the city gates a few days earlier.  This crowd was angry, wanting Barabbas released over Jesus.  So why did the crowd want Barabbas released rather than Jesus?  And, who was the violence-oriented Barabbas”, and how could a crowd be coerced into calling for his release over Jesus?  The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”.  The irony of the choice offered by Pilate, between “Barabbas” and Jesus – – the “TRUE” son of the Father – – would be evident to those present.  Barabbas was a bandit known for violence. 

Jerusalem was filled with zealots and insurrectionists.  This is why so many Roman forces were always in Jerusalem during the Passover time, it being a time of high tension and religious fervor among the crowds.  Barabbas was probably part of a insurrectionist group known for murder and assassination (making him NOT a friend of either the Jewish nor Roman authorities).  With this little fact in mind, the crowd present, calling for his release, was very likely supporters of Barabbas (like a first century “Robin hood” type cult figure).  The crowd who came on this occasion, very like came because they believed that Pilate may offer Barabbas’ release at the time of the feast.

With Jesus’ situation being incited by the “chief priests” (Mark 15:11), the crowds demanded loudly for Jesus to be executed by crucifixion, a peculiar and terrifyingly horrible form of Roman capital punishment.  

What finally coerced Pilate to sentence a just man such as Jesus to death?  Pilate did not want report being sent to Rome in which he is accused of supporting a dangerous man “known” for inciting the people to accept Him as their “true king” and thus assisting in a revolt against Roman authority in Palestine.  (Political blackmail occurred in the first century, just like today.)  So, Pilate relented in order to avoid having a charge brought against Him in Rome (Any charge against him would not be healthy for him).  Pilate sacrificed justice – – and Jesus Christ – – in order to save his face within the government, his job, and potentially, his life.  Are you personally willing to sacrifice YOUR reputation and position for truth and justice, or, are you willing to go the way of Pilate? 

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None of us can avoid the inevitable — our own death.  We can try to avoid it, even trying to block it from our minds, but the truth is WE WILL ALL DIE SOMEDAY (I believe).  Dying usually involves at least some mental and physical suffering, along with some type of loss and separation for most of us.  We can choose to live well, and we can choose to die well, through a life-long spiritual undertaking (Sounds hard, and may be for most in living in this materialistic world.  Fortunately for each of us, there is something stronger than death – – and that is free and unlimited love:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus embraced the Holy Cross knowing it was His Father’s will, and knowing His Father’s way for Him was to die for our salvation.

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Let’s get back to Pilate’s actions with Jesus’.  The choice Pilate offers the crowd, between Barabbas and Jesus (verse 15), is in accordance with the Roman custom of the time for releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd present, at the Passover feast:

Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished.” (Matthew 27:15).

This custom of the Roman government in Jerusalem is also mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and John (cf., Mark 15:6; John 18:39), but not in Luke’s Gospel.  Actually, outside of these three Gospels, there is no direct confirmation or evidence for this “freeing” practice by Pilate.  Scholars are divided in the historical reliability of such a practice as releasing a prisoner at Passover.

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Scourging was the usual preliminary “event” for anyone being crucified.  I wonder: was Jesus forced to experience a more “thorough” and brutal scourging than the other two “criminals” chosen to be hanged with Him that day?  (I am going to put this one on my “to ask” list for when I meet Him. [I pray I meet Him!])

After Jesus is condemned by Pilate, and “scourged”, He is taken to the “Praetorium”.  The “Praetorium” was the residence of the Roman governor when in Jerusalem; his usual place of residence being at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast.  The Roman governor went to Jerusalem during the great feasts, when the influx of pilgrims posed the danger of a nationalistic riot by partisan zealots.  Some scholars believe the “Praetorium” in Jerusalem may have been, instead, the old palace of Herod in the west of the city, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the Jewish Temple area.

Jesus is in the “Praetorium” and obviously was given some “special” treatment, since “the whole cohort” was assembled to mock, jeer, and beat Him.  A Roman “cohort” usually numbered about six hundred soldiers.  (That is truly a lot of “special” treatment!!)

After the mockery and beating of Jesus by the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium, AND after Jesus had previously been scourged by the Roman torturers, Jesus began His “death walk” to Golgotha; His personal way of the cross.  Jesus was so weakened, the soldiers:

Pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian … to carry His cross (Mark 15:21)

I need to note that a condemned person suppose to carry his own instrument of torture and death, usually the crossbeam of the cross.  The Roman soldiers chose a man known as “Simon”.

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Before we continue, let me give a little geography lesson: Cyrenaica was a Roman province on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene being its capital city.  Cyrene had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews.  “Simon” may have been living in or near Jerusalem, or may have come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim.  

So who was “Simon of Cyrene”, and why was he picked to assist Jesus on His death walk?   Mark’s recording the precise name, “Simon”, was probably due to his being known among early Christian believers; his being among Jesus’ first disciples.  We know Simon came from a long distance, Cyrene (in North Africa, present-day Libya), for the Passover feast. Once he was picked by the soldiers, he really had no choice in the matter at hand, since Roman authority could not be challenged without serious consequences.  

Mark also records that “Simon” was the father of “Alexander” and “Rufus” (Mark 15:21).  Since Mark wrote his gospel for the Christian community at Rome, it is likely that the two sons of Rufus were well-known to the Church in Rome as fellow Christians.  

WOW!!  Here, in this event found in today’s reading, a “theme” comes to the forefront with the “Simon of Cyrene” event.  He takes up Jesus’ cross, and follows Him.  Likewise, a large crowd comprised of fellow followers of Jesus also followed Jesus on His “way” of the Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  Just think, Christian disciples were (and still are) to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the Holy Cross (and beyond).  

Who knows what would have happened if “Simon” had not been required to carry Jesus’ cross.  “Simon” may never have been challenged with the true message of the cross, or the personal and intimate spiritual meaning of the Christian faith found in the Holy Cross.  Perhaps “Simon” became a believer and passed on his faith to his family as well through this encounter with Jesus.  How often do you take up your cross willingly to follow Jesus in His way of love and sacrifice for others?

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The Romans reserved crucifixion for their worst offenders.  It was designed to be the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful way they knew for execution.  The criminal was stripped and nailed to a cross erected in a public place, usually along a roadside or highway near the town where the criminal was known and could be viewed by everybody who passed by him.  On the cross, a healthy man could live for several days before he expired from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, along with the mental psychosis associated with hours to days of constant torture.  Crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death, usually succumbing to asphyxiation.  The victim was hung on the cross in such a fashion that his lungs quickly filled with fluids (pulmonary edema) and he could not breathe unless he pulled his chest upward and gasped for breath.  Every movement brought excruciating, nerve-racking, pain due to the large nails that purposely severed major nerves in the arms and legs.  Eventually, exhaustion led to the criminal’s asphyxiation.  If the soldiers wanted to speed the process up, they broke the victim’s legs to prevent ease of breathing (cannot lift themselves), causing asphyxiation to occur more rapidly.

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.” (Mark 15:24)

Per Roman custom, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioner(s).  The description of this procedure in Jesus’ case, and written in all four Gospels, is clearly inspired by a Psalm found in the Old Testament:

They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:19).

However, this Psalm verse is actually quoted ONLY in Johns Gospel:

So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,’ in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled [that says]: “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.”’” (John 19:24_.

John has each line of the Psalms poetic match literally carried out in two separate actions, in the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant brought in by Jesus Christ.

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So, Jesus is on the Holy Cross.  Pilate had the criminal charge against Jesus – – the reason for His execution – – nailed above His head on the cross.  The inscription, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek said:

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

Jesus’ death was a falsely charged penalty for political reasons, by questionable enemies of His.  The charge against Jesus was that He had “claimed” to be “the King of the Jews”, the “Messiah”.  The inscription, which hung over the crucified Jesus, differs with slightly in each of the four Gospels.  John’s account is more detailed, and gives the equivalent of the Latin:

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

(So that’s what “INRI” means!  Jesus being a man, I thought it meant “I Never Read Instructions”!)

It seems only John mentions its multilingual character, and Pilate’s role in keeping the title unchanged:

Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that he said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’  Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’” (John 19:20–22)

The crowd, witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion, says to Him:

You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” (Mark 15:19-30)

The crowd’s reaction and words toward Jesus also is reminiscent of a verse from the Psalms:

All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me (Psalm 22:8).

The authorities deliberately executed Jesus besides two known criminals.  This was also designed to publicly humiliate Jesus even more, ranking Him with properly accused robbers before the crowds. 

Wow!! Can you picture the mental torment Jesus went through, along with the physical pain he experienced?!  Jesus had been mocked first by the Sanhedrin, then in a way by Pilate, followed by the soldiers during the scourging and in the Praetorium, then along his “death march”, and finally while on the cross by another crucified criminal AND with individual witnesses, Scribes, and Temple Priests.  Jesus endured this physical, emotional, and spiritual torture for about six hours of hanging on the cross.

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The Jews wanted a “king” who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination.  Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king.  Little did they understand what kind of “kingship” Jesus claimed to have!  Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.  

Jesus died not only as King of the Jews, but King of ALL nations as well.  His victory over the power of sin, Satan, and the materialistic world, was accomplished through His death on the cross AND his resurrection.  In today’s reading, Jesus exchanged a “throne of glory” for a “cross of shame” solely in order to restore us to glory with God the Father as His adopted sons and daughters.  Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your personal King and Lord Savior?  Do you exalt His name as truly holy?

 

Throughout his Gospel, Mark depicts Jesus’ disciples as rarely being perfect models of faith, thus doing little to invoke confidence in their capacity to continue Jesus’ ministry after His death.  They fare no better in Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death.  

I will give several examples of “poor” discipleship.  The first example can be found in the Last Supper narrative, when the disciples insisted that none among them would betray Jesus.   

Also, when Jesus predicted that His Apostles faith would be shaken in the events ahead (those reported in today’s reading), Peter and the other disciples protested vehemently.  Yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned three times to find them sleeping.  Jesus prayed in agony over His impending fate while His disciples slumbered through the night.  

Finally, and just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus, AND, nearly every one of His disciples were absent during Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross.  Only the women who had followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee were present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  However, they also remained at a distance.

Just think about this for a while.  The Holy Cross brings us face-to-face with Jesus’ suffering, personally and up close.  We need to remember that Jesus was alone on the cross; all His disciples (except John, the “beloved” disciple) had deserted Him except for His mother and three women.

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At about three in the afternoon (per Mark), Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34)

What Jesus cried out is an Aramaic interpretation, and restated, from the Psalms:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:2).

In Mark’s Gospel, the verse, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”, is cited entirely in Aramaic.  Matthew partially retains the verse, but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew “Eli” (instead of “Eloi”), thus making the verse more easily related to the statement of the following verse in today’s Gospel (Mark 15:35) about Jesus’ calling for Elijah:

Look, he is calling Elijah”  (Mark 15:35).

In this verse (Mark 15:35), some of the crowd believe Jesus is calling to “Elijah” from the Holy Cross.  This is how “some in the crowd” took Jesus, who yelled out “Eloi” (verse 34), as saying, “Elijah”.

We have to also remember that at the Transfiguration of Jesus, His disciples had actually seen Elijah (and Moses).  Elijah is as important to the Jewish faith as is possibly the Holy Spirit is to Christians.  “Elijah” himself was taken up into heaven (cf., 2 Kings 2:11), and he is also believed by the Jewish faithful as coming to the help of those in distress.

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Let’s get back on track with today’s reading.  When Jesus was nailed to the cross He was already more than half-dead.  The scourging, along with the crown of thorns beaten into His skull, had already nearly killed Him prior to His crucifixion.  In such a state, it is all the more remarkable to see Jesus with a clear sound mind and a tranquil heart when approaching death after six hours on the cross. 

Jesus was offered some wine mixed with myrrh to ease His pain, and He refused it.  He willingly embraced His suffering and death for OUR sake because He knew and loved us all when He offered His life as an atoning sacrifice.  Through His scourging, crucifixion, and death, Jesus truly shows us the depths of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness for each of us. 

When Jesus “breathed His Last”, all Hell broke loose (maybe literally).  “The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (verse 38).  There were two “veils” in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The outer “veil” was at the entrance of the Holy Place, and the inner “veil” separated all from the “Holy of Holies” (cf., Exodus 26:31–36).  Only the high priest could pass through the latter “veil”, and then only on the “Day of Atonement” (cf., Leviticus 16:1–18).

The “torn veil” in this reading was probably the inner “veil” (the ultra-important one for the pious Jews).  The meaning of this particular “veil” may be that with Jesus’ death, ALL people – – EVERYONE – – now have “access” to the presence of God PERSONALLY!!  It could also signify that the Temple, with its “holiest” part now standing exposed, is irreverent in God’s new covenant and kingdom, and will soon be destroyed; which it was in 70 A.D. (some 40 years later).  

To tear a curtain (“veil”) as big, thick, and heavy as the one in the Temple of Jerusalem had to be a truly miraculous event indeed.  Early Jewish tradition states that the Temple veil was as thick as a man’s hand (about four inches), had to be opened by three-hundred priests working together, and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  (Information was taken from the Talmud, Josephus’ writings, and other Jewish literature.)

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Jesus’ death was agonizing and humiliating.  Remember, normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross.  Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and had a crown of thorns pounded into His skull.  It is no wonder He died by mid-afternoon.  I am somewhat surprised He even made to the cross.  Mark graphically describes what occurred at His end – – His death – – as “darkness coming over the whole land”

 “At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” (Mark 15:33). 

This was Satan’s hour as he saw the Son of God dying on the cross.  But that death was also his surprising undoing as well.  Through His obedience unto death, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience, winning freedom and pardon for us:

“He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24).

One of the great consequences of sin is that it separates us from God.  Since Jesus bore the weight of OUR sins upon Himself, He experienced in His agony on the Holy Cross what this separation was truly like. 

 

Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His spirit” knowing that the battle over sin and death was won.  Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory.  What God the Father sent Him into the world to do has now been fully accomplished.  Jesus Christ offered Himself “without blemish” – – the sacrificial lamb – – to God, and he defeated sin by the sacrifice of Himself:

 “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf.  Not that He might offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice.” (see Hebrews 9:24-26).

There is no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

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In a way, the ending of today’s Gospel returns to the theme of its beginning:

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].?” (Mark 15:2);

Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

In the “Gentile” (non-Jewish, PAGAN) Centurion’s declaration upon Jesus’ climatic death, he came to believe Jesus was “TRULYthe “Son of God”.  This Centurion’s dramatic and instantaneous conversion of faith indicates the fulfillment of the good news announced in Mark’s prologue:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].” (Mark 1:1).

This Centurion’s conversion can also be seen as the “first-fruit” of Jesus’ Passion and death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  What a harvest for God’s kingdom.

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Let’s wrap up this long reflection with a nice bow.  Mark, throughout his Gospel, challenges his audience to consider the claim with which his Gospel begins: “Jesus is the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  When we read his account of Jesus’ Passion, we begin to understand and internalize the deeper theological statement being made with Jesus’ death.  

Per Mark, Jesus understood His death to be preordained as part of His Father’s plan.  Jesus humbly accepted His death in obedience to God’s will.  Jesus foresaw His betrayal by Judas, and Peter’s thrice denial of Him as well.  At His arrest, Jesus acknowledged that the preordained “time had arrived”, remaining confident, yet silent, before His accusers.  After He was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until His final cry from the cross, at which time the bystanders misunderstood, and believed that He was calling for Elijah (in His need for help).  The Roman Centurion, however, affirmed that “Jesus is truly the Son of God”.  For me personally, nowhere in Holy Scripture is this concept revealed more fully than in His death on the Holy Cross.

Meditate on the Holy Cross for a short time.  What does it means to make a statement of faith in Jesus, and in His obedient suffering and dying, which revealed Himself to us as God’s “Only-Begotten Son”.

Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week; Easter is nearly here (and I can have coffee again!).  During this week, prepare yourselves for Easter by prayerfully reflecting on the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.  Why not display a crucifix in a prominent place (such as right next to the television or computer monitor) as reminder of the redemption and salvation that Jesus Christ won for us through His sacrifice, for humbly following God’s way and plan.  In this way, the entire week can become a personal and intimate “way of the cross” for you!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

“I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, He rose again.
He ascended to Heaven and is seated
at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living
and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.  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.

The Papacy

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’  And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15-17) RSV

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Hugh of Grenoble (1052-1132)

 

Today’s saint could be a patron for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world that we don’t know where to begin.

Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start.  Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance.  After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill.  He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.

Ironically, Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character.  In conflicts between Church and state he was an unflinching defender of the Church.  He fearlessly supported the papacy.  He was eloquent as a preacher.  He restored his own cathedral, made civic improvements in the town and weathered a brief exile.

Hugh may be best known as patron and benefactor of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order.

Hugh died in 1132. He was canonized only two years later.

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 (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

01.  The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

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02.  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.

 

 

“Moo-ve Over Animals, A NEW Sacrifice Is In Town; Look At The ‘Signs’!” – John 2:13-25†


 

Third Week of Lent

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:

 

We are in our third week of Lent; only 28 days till Easter Sunday.  How are you doing with the Lenten requirements; prayer, fasting, sacrifices, and alms-giving?  This Lenten season has been a special time for me.  I feel a little closer to God more so this year than I have in the past.  Praise be to God for opening my eyes a little wider and seeing all of you with me on my journey of faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   638 – Death of Sophronius of Jerusalem, saint/patriarch of Jerusalem
†   859 – Death of Eulogius of Cordoba, Spanish Bishop and Christian Martyr
†   1513 – Giovanni de’ Medici is elected to the Papacy, and becomes Pope Leo X
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Vindician, Blessed John Righi, Saint Alberta, Saint Aurea

(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:

 

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” ~ CCC, no. 2558, citing St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits Autobiographiques, C 25r

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus driving out the money changers from the Temple and poses to them a “mysterious” challenge: “destroy the temple and I raise it up again.”

 

(NAB John 2:13-25) 13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near,Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.  15 He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, 16 and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  17His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  18 At this the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them,“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  20 The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”  21 But He was speaking about the temple of His body.  22 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.  23 While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.  24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel we learn about how Jesus overturned the “tables” of the “merchants” and the “money-changers” in the Temple at Jerusalem.  In order to understand the relevance of Jesus’ action, we need to know a little bit about the activities that went on in and outside the Temple area.  Worship at the Temple in Jerusalem included animal sacrifices as part of some of the rituals.  So, merchants sold sacrificial animals to Jewish worshipers to be used in ritual sacrifices per Mosaic Law.  The “money-changers” exchanged “pagan” Roman coins – – with its image of the Roman emperor, – – for the Temple coins needed to pay the Temple tax.

 Jesus’ radical action at the Temple in Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels (a true rarity, happening in only 11 out of the 234** chronologic events found in the four Gospels).  What happens in this Gospel reading is among the key events which will eventually lead to Jesus’ arrest, trial, Scourging, and Crucifixion.  Unlike the other Gospels, John’s Gospel places this MAJOR event much earlier in Jesus’ public ministry, occurring at the very beginning of His ministry, just after His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana (cf., John 2:1-12).

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place the cleansing of the Temple toward the last days of Jesus’ life (Matthew, on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem; Mark, on the next day).  We need to remember that the “order” of events in the Gospel narratives is often determined more by “theological” motives than by “chronological” data.  The Gospels were written with a specific audience in mind.  For me, this is the WHY we should read each narrative story from all the Gospel books when provided. Here is a link to an excellent site which lists the scriptural readings from all four gospels about the same event, beginning with Jesus’ birth and 233 other events in chronological order:

**http://fourgospelstogether.com/chronological.html

We ALWAYS need to read the Gospel of John carefully, especially in Jesus’ relationship to the authorities of the Judaic culture of the day.  John tends to suggest a greater tension and animosity between Jesus and the Jewish authorities (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes) than is shown in the Synoptic Gospels.  In this regard, let us remember that John’s Gospel was the last of the four Gospels to be written (believed to be written in the 90’s A.D.); and its narrative reflects the growing divide between the Jewish and early Christian communities – – after the destruction of the Temple had already occurred in A.D. 70.  Thus, a greater emphasis on the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism is found in John’s Gospel than in the Synoptic Gospels written much earlier.  More often than the other Evangelists, John mingles “post-Resurrection” reflections of his Christian community in his Gospel narrative.

John is reflecting upon the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), recalling Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and Jesus’ prophesy regarding its destruction.  John uses this earlier story to interpret the later event of the Temple destruction and associated gruesome murders.  John explains to his early Christian community Temple worship would no longer be necessary.  Temple worship was surpassed through the events of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection forty or so years PRIOR to the Temple’s destruction.  

Does today’s event (destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days) indicate a foretelling of the post-resurrection replacement of the Temple by the person of Jesus Christ?  I believe it certainly does!

Today’s story starts with Jesus and His disciples traveling to Jerusalem for “Passover”.  The Temple in Jerusalem was understood and firmly believed by the Jewish people and nation as the dwelling place of God among His “chosen” people.  All faithful and pious Jews were to make a pilgrimage to the Temple each year at the Passover time if at all possible.  This particular event presented in today’s reading is the first of three “Passovers” mentioned in John’s Gospel (cf, John 6:4; 13:1). Taken literally, the number of documented “Passovers” Jesus participated in points to a public ministry of at least a minimum of two years or a maximum of no more than three years.  We have always learned that Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years.  Here is the proof scripturally.

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The “Oxen, sheep, and doves” which were being sold in the Temple were intended for sacrifice.  The “doves” were the usual offerings of the poor:

If, however, the person cannot afford an animal of the flock, that person shall bring to the LORD as reparation for the wrong committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a purification offering and the other for a burnt offering.” (Leviticus 5:7).

Mary and Joseph used the “poor persons” offering in “consecrating” the infant Jesus on the day of His presentation in the Temple”:

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, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ 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.” (Luke 2:22-24)

The “Money-changers” of today’s reading were the people who took the “Temple tax” paid by every male Jew more than nineteen years of age.  This tax was usually a “half-shekel” coin:

The LORD also told Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites who are to be enrolled, each one, as he is enrolled, shall give the LORD a ransom for his life, so that no plague may come upon them for being enrolled.  This is what everyone who is enrolled must pay: a half-shekel, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel contribution to the LORD.  Everyone who is enrolled, of twenty years or more, must give the contribution to the LORD.  The rich need not give more, nor shall the poor give less, than a half-shekel in this contribution to the LORD to pay the ransom for their lives.  When you receive this ransom money from the Israelites, you shall donate it to the service of the tent of meeting, that there it may be a reminder of the Israelites before the LORD of the ransom paid for their lives.” (Exodus 30:11–16).

An interesting note of trivia: before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obligated to make an annual contribution to its upkeep.  After the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Roman occupiers forcibly imposed upon the Jewish nation an obligation of paying that same “tax” for the upkeep of the temple for “Jupiter Capitolinus” (AKA, Jupiter Optimus Maximus), the most important temple in Ancient Rome, located on the Capitoline Hill.  (The picture above is of that Roman temple.)

In both John’s and Mark’s Gospel, Jesus referred to the “Temple” as His Father’s house being made into a “den of thieves” or a “marketplace”:

Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”?  But you have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17);

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

Jesus’ respect for His Father’s House and the Holy Scriptures of Moses’ inspired Jesus’ use of physical force to expel the “money-chargers”.  The prophecy of Malachi foretold the coming of the Lord unexpectedly to His Temple in order to clean or refine it:

The lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire … He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:1, 3).

It’s clear that Jesus knew Himself to be “that Lord” prophesized by Malachi.  His behavior is part of the living reality of the LIVING “Word”!

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So, in today’s Gospel reading, the disciples saw with a grace to see with more clear eyes Jesus as the Messiah who burned with “zeal” for God’s house.  The “blind” Jewish authorities, however, wanted proof that Jesus had divine authority to act as He did at the Temple.  They demanded a “sign” from God to prove that Jesus was right in His actions.  Otherwise, the “authorities” would treat Jesus as a fraud and a usurper of THEIR authority.  Jesus replied that the “sign” God would give would be His resurrection (however, NO ONE could understand what he meant by saying):

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19).

What a powerful, yet misunderstood verse this is from today’s Gospel (And I believe in ALL of Holy Scripture!).  Maybe it is because there are many verses about the destruction of the Temple occurring, in various forms, throughout the Bible.  Here are a few examples of the Synoptic Gospel’s (and in ACTS as well) speaking of the same event:

He [Jesus] said to them in reply, ‘You see all these things, do you not?  Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down’; ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!(Matthew 24:2; 27:40);

Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down’; those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,save yourself by coming down from the cross.’”  (Mark 13:2; 15:29);

All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6);

And,

“We [Sanhedrin] have heard him [Stephen] claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:14).

However, in John’s Gospel, there is a figurative or symbolic contrast with the “NEW” Temple from that of Mark’s Gospel:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19);

I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands” (Mark 14:58).

Today’s reading from John is symbolic of Jesus’ prophesy of His own resurrection and His resulting “NEW” community, His new “Living” Temple – – the Catholic (Universal) Church – –

He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” (see John 2:21).

Interestingly, I found an Old Testament expression for the words “in three days” meaning a short, indefinite period of time:

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

Regarding Jesus Christ, Hosea’s three days became a literal reality.  So, as I say often, the “Old” lives in the “NEW” Hosea’s prophesy.

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From today’s reading, you learned that it took forty-six years to build the Temple in Jerusalem.  Here is a little history lesson.

Forty-six years” (John 2:20), based on references found in the books of a first-century Jewish historian, “Flavius Josephus” (cf., Jewish Wars 1, 21, 1 #401; Antiquities 15, 11, 1 #380) AND Holy Scripture, places the possible date of today’s reading happening during the spring “Passover” of the year “28 A.D.”.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene …” (Luke 3:1).

Tiberius succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor in A.D. 14 and reigned until A.D. 37. The fifteenth year of his reign would have fallen between A.D. 27 and 29.  Pontius Pilate was the Prefect (a kind of mayor) of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.  Herod, a Tetrarch (Governor), ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39.  Philip was Tetrarch of the territory to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34.  Nothing is known about “Lysanias” who is said here to have been Tetrarch of Abilene, a territory northwest of Damascus (Syria).  All these dates from Holy Scripture fall into an accepted range of A.D. 27 – 29.  Per the data in Holy Scripture, Flavius Josephus is probably correct concerning the year “28” as the year of this awesome event.  (I LOVE math, as you can see!!)

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Let me ask you a question: Can I use the anger of Jesus showed in today’s reading in order to justify my own episodes of anger?  I guess it depends, doesn’t it?  We need to remember that “anger” is one of the “Capital” sins.  However, we have to remember that it was a COMPASSIONATE Jesus who took a whip to clear the Temple of the “money-changers” and the animals present there for sale:

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

During His public ministry Jesus is oft-times criticized, slandered, and denounced.  He is eventually betrayed by one close to Him, resulting in His being arrested and scourged prior to His death sentence.  Even through all this horribly brutal treatment, Jesus never responded with any type of anger when the attacks were directed against Him personally.  So, why did He “go postal” at the Temple in today’s reading?  I believe it is because His “Father’s house of prayer” – – His Father’s HOME – – was desecrated by business affairs and money, and not for proper worship.  (You can “diss” me, but don’t ever “diss” my mom or dad!)  Also, animal sacrifices were to be no longer needed in the NEW Temple: Jesus Christ!!

Does Jesus’ anger, clearly displayed in today’s Gospel, justify my own angry moments, whether petty such as when a driver cuts in front of me, or serious such as when someone misrepresents or slanders me?  In reality, I probably think not!  Food for thought: when anger is self-righteous and self-serving, it is never justified. 

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In summary, after clearing the Temple of the “merchants” and the “money-changers”, John’s Gospel tells us that the people asked for a sign of Jesus’ authority for doing such a risky and presumptuous act as disrupting the “normal” course of business in the Temple.  In response to the Temple leader’s indictment, Jesus foretold His own death and Resurrection when He said:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19).

Throughout John’s Gospel, the language of miraculous “signs” is distinctive.  The people of Jesus’ time, and still today, look to these “signs” for proof of His authority.  In today’s reading, we learn that the “sign” of the highest quality – – and above ALL others – – will be Jesus Himself, and the events of His betrayal, Passion, Crucifixion, death on the Cross, – – and His Resurrection – – ALL of these signs – – for our sake!!

Think about places and times when you have experienced God’s presence personally and intimately.   After His Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples finally received the grace to understand that Jesus was present with them as they gathered to pray and share a meal.  Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel that He is “God’s presence with us”!!  Thank you my Lord God for Jesus’ presence with us, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

During this Lenten season, reflect upon the meaning of this “sign” (His death and Resurrection) for You and Your world.  Take this opportunity to consider the quality of your prayer and worship.  Remember that in prayer, we seek to deepen our relationship with the “person” of Christ, Jesus Himself.  In worship “with the community”, we gather to experience anew the “Passion”, death, and Resurrection of Jesus AND its significance in our lives!  Jesus Christ promises to be present with us whenever we gather for prayer, even if we are not physically with each other, such as in the “Divine Office” prayer.  NOW, that’s a miracle!!

I feel today’s Gospel invites us to reflect upon OUR worship of God.  The Temple was an important and holy place for Jesus and His Jewish contemporaries; a place where they gathered to worship God together.  Our Catholic – Christian understanding of “worship” was transformed – – made fuller – – in light of Jesus’ “Resurrection” on that special Easter morning in Israel.  In the Catholic – Christian understanding, God is worshiped in the “person of Jesus Christ”.  As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus Himself “IS” the “Temple” destroyed AND raised up again in three days!!  (Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

  

Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

“Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope
and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things
act according to Your Holy Will.  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.

Real Presence in the Eucharist

“’For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). RSV

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). KJV

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Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). RSV

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Saint Constantine

 

Constantine was king of Cornwall.  Unreliable tradition has him married to the daughter of the king of Brittany who on her death ceded his throne to his son and became a monk at St. Mochuda monastery at Rahan, Ireland.  He performed menial tasks at the monastery, then studied for the priesthood and was ordained.  He went as a missionary to Scotland under St. Columba and then St. Kentigern, preached in Galloway, and became Abbot of a monastery at Govan.  In old age, on his way to Kintyre, he was attacked by pirates who cut off his right arm, and he bled to death.  He is regarded as Scotland’s first martyr. His feast day is March 11th.

Catholic Online
(http://www.catholic.org/saints)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

11. Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly.  Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs.  Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

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12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.