Tag Archives: Blessed

♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

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

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

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

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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“Newtown Connecticut Shooting; Jesse Tree; Divinity; Pope Urban V; Blessed Union; Joy; and Fraternity!” – †


 

3rdWednesday of Advent

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

“Where is the HOPE in Newtown, Connecticut – – What should we do?!!”

My response to the vicious attacks on children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut this last Friday (12/14/12).

 

Being an amateur writer of sorts – – and quite often, a poor on at that – – I try to look at what I am writing using the “tried and true” formula:11577584-brainstorming-questions--what-when-where-why-how-who--white-chalk-handwriting-on-vintage-slate-black

“Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.”

This tragic event affected EVERYONE in this country in a uniquely personal and intimate way.  This is true even if you live in other parts of the country and had no direct link to the people involved in this horrific tragedy.

We do know the “who” performing this act of destruction.  I choose NOT to give his name, because I do not want to exploit or make “trendy” his name in any form or way.  Doers of evil should never be idolized; far too many mass-murderers are look upon as “role models” and “iconic stars” in this oft-times messed-up and casually careless society

We also know, per news reports, that this young “boy-man” had a mental problem of some type.  However, we do not know, nor will we probably ever know the true reason, the “why” he felt the need to savagely murder his mother, six teachers, and 20 young children who were just starting their lives in the supposed “safety” of their school (the “where”).  After performing this act of brutal darkness, he finally felt the need to kill himself – – a hopeless act of self-destruction on his own body.  All these deaths happened at the beginning of the new school day (the “when”), and within a 20 minute span of time from – – beginning to end – – at the elementary school.

 TWhat-should-I-dohe only part of my writing formula left is the “WHAT”.  My question:

“What should we do, Lord?”

It’s interesting, and prophetic, that this same question I am asking now, “What should we do”, is asked three separate times in our past Sunday’s Gospel reading (cf., Luke 3:10-18).  John the Baptist’s preaching in this reading – – and his mission and task in life – – was simply to “awaken” the people to God’s “Word”, to “unsettle” them from their contentment, and to “arouse” within them enough good will to “recognize” and receive the Messiah when He appears on the scene. 

We must remember that each and every one of us has a SPECIFIC ROLE to play in God’s salvation plan.  Some will be rescuers, or bystanders, or even victims and martyrs.  Whatever our role in His plan, we need to have a true and real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.  We must ALWAYS offer HOPE – – and be HOPEFUL – – even in the most dismal of circumstances.

Though understandable, anger, and even fear, becoming etched into our minds – – is the WRONG ANSWER – – in God’s kingdom!  What we should do; what we need to do, is to pray for ALL those involved:

  • ·        The children whose lives were snatched from them at far too young an age.
  • ·        The six teacher’s who died while attempting to save (and some successfully) the young charges in556915_10151342239996743_989693953_n their care.
  • ·        The parents, family, and friends, directly and indirectly involved in this tragic assault on humanity.
  • ·        The First Responders (PD, FD, EMS) and Emergency Department personnel  who had to not only witness the results of the carnage, but also had to work within this bloodbath, stabilizing and controlling all aspects of the crime scene and the individual lives (and deaths) entrusted to them by society, law, and ethics.
    • o   As a retired/disabled paramedic of 35 years, I personally know what these brave men and women are – – and will be – – going through in their future personal lives.  I know they had to “swallow” their feelings at the time they were desperately needed, in order to perform their jobs correctly.  Thus, their “caged” emotions are now slowly eating at their bodies and souls, secretively emerging at a later date down the road, usually in very negative and self-abusive ways.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) is extremely prevalent within these highly emotion-charged public service fields.
    • o   So, please pray for these warriors of society who responded to an urgent need that day at that school building.  They will most certainly need these prayers in the days to come.
  • ·        And, finally, for the people of Newtown Connecticut and for the entire nation as a whole, that healing, faith, and hope finds its way into everyone’s body and souls.

Friday, December 28th – – exactly two weeks from the tragedy in Newtown – – is the “Feast of the Holy Innocents” commemorating Herod’s ordering of the “massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity tHolyInnocents(web)wo years old and under”.  Our Christmas Season of JOY is tempered today by a feeling of sadness.  I am sure the Church will look to the “glory and joy” of these children in Newtown – – of these innocent victims – – who are with Jesus, following Him, the “Holy Lamb”, wherever He goes.

Prayer surmounts all evil.  We know not the reason, other than it was an act of profound photo2evil, not of our loving God.  However, God can and will take this tragic event, allowing it to be used as an act for increasing one’s faith, and for bringing others into His awesome and magnificent kingdom.  We should remember that God was (and is) always with these innocent souls, even in the BAD times that occurred last Friday morning at a little school building in a very obscure and small town on the East Coast of the Unites States of America.

Through all – – HOPE ALWAYS PREVAILS!!  I wish to close with a prayer, by an unknown author, circulating on Facebook:photo

“Lord, We pray for the innocent children and all precious brothers and sisters affected by the Connecticut shooting.  Please wrap your arms around these families, and give them strength as they mourn this terrible tragedy.  We pray for peace and perseverance, that they may be able to trust You during this difficult time.  Thank you for your mercy and protection Lord, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

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The Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is a unique Advent tree that can be very useful for teaching children about the Bible at CJesse_Treehristmas, and also a fun activity!  So, what is a Jesse Tree?   The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ.  It tells the story of God’s salvation plan, beginning with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah.  The name comes from the book of Isaiah:

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

Each day of Advent a homemade ornament is added to the Jesse Tree, a small tree made of evergreen branches.  These symbolic ornaments can each represent a prophecy foretelling of Christ.  Other variations include creating ornaments that represent the ancestors in the lineage of Christ, or using the various452px-Tree_of_Jesse_Beauvais_cathedral_2007_06_17 monogram symbols of Christianity as handmade ornaments.

Jesse was the father of the great King David of the Old Testament.  He is often looked upon as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus.

In Church art, a design developed showing the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical personages.  This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse.  The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus.  At the top of the tree were figures of Mary and Jesus.  This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe.  The Cathedral of Chartres (which was dedicated in 1260) has a particularly beautiful Jesse Tree window.

Another development in religious art during the “Middle Ages” was that of “Mystery Plays” – – dramas depicting various Bible stories and/or lives of Saints and Martyrs.  These plays were performed in Churches as part of the liturgical celebrations.  One such play was based on the Bible account of the fall of Adam and Eve.  The “Tree of Life” used during the play was decorated with apples. (This is also the forerunner of our own Christmas tree.)

To make the Jesse Tree ornaments you will need: glue; ribbon or yarn (preferably purple); and crayons, Jesse Tree Ornamentsmarkers, paints or colored pencils; plus cardboard stock to create paper backgrounds for the ornaments.  The ornaments may be decorated with bits and pieces of bright colored paper, cloth, wood, plastic, etc., that you may find around your home.  You will also need a Bible.

It will take planning and work from each family member to make your own Jesse Tree.  The needed materials are usually found around most homes.  The tree itself can be one of several types.  A small artificial tree works fine, as does a tree branch that is anchored in a bucket or a large can of sand or gravel.  The tree branch looks particularly attractive if painted white and sprinkled with silver glitter while the paint is still wet.  Another possibility is a large drawing of a tree on cardboard or poster board that can be hung on the wall.

The other thing needed is a set of ornaments to hang on the tree.  These are best if they are homemade by various family members.  If you decide to use one symbol each day during December, there are 24 symbolic ornaments to make for your Jesse Tree, so each family member will need to make several.  Making the ornaments is a good project for Sunday afternoons during Advent.

To make an ornament, first read the Scripture verses for the day.  Then pick out one or two short verses that give the main idea.  Copy these verses on the back of the ornament.  By this time you will probably be thinking of various ways to illustrate your Scripture verses.

Use lots of creativity in making your ornament!  You can use pictures from magazines or old greeting cards, or draw pictures or symbols yourself.  Color them with crayons, pencils, markers or paint.  Look around the house for bits and pieces that will make your design beautiful!  If you prefer to have a pattern already made, you can find excellent samples and templates on-line. 

Jesse tree scriptures can be found from various websites, including one listed below.

Information from the following websites:
http://christianity.about.com/od/christmas/qt/jessetreeadvent.htm
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=545

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. history colorToday in Catholic History:

†   401 – St Anastasius I ends his reign as Catholic Pope

†   1370 – Death of Urban V, [Guillaume de Grimoard], 1st Avignon Pope (1362-70), b. 1310

†   1749 – Francesco Antonio Bonporti, Italian priest and composer (b. 1672)

†   1744 – Birth of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/West-Friesland

†   1865 – Birth of Saint Tikhon Toropets, Pskov Russia, patriarch of Russian Orthodox church

†   1891 – 1st Black Catholic priest ordained in US, Charles Uncles, Baltimore

†   1914 – Death of Johann F Ritter von Schulte, German Catholic lawyer, dies at 87

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

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. Catholic ApolgeticsCatholic 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, Part 3:

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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. Fran st monkA Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370)

 

In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office.  When the cardinals could not find another stUrbanVperson among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.

The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice.  A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant.  He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege.  Still, he pressed for reform and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries.  Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309 until shortly after his death.  

He came close but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.

As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule.  Shortly before his death in 1370 he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped.

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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. sfo rule tauSecular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 19 & 20 of 26:

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

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20.  The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church.  These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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“David Kauffman; Voting; Faith & Works; Vocation; and Blessed Thomas Florence!”


30thWednesday in Ordinary Time

& Halloween

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I attended a great concert last Friday evening at a neighboring parish.  The musician was David Kauffman, a noted Catholic Christian musician.  He has a new CD, just released, titled “A Hand to Hold”.  His music is available via I-Tunes or through his web page.

I highly recommend any of his music.  I find them rejuvenating, inspiring, and motivating to say the least.  For your convenience, here is a link to his website: http://davidkauffman.com/.

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Voting time is fast coming.  In a short six days, we citizens in the United States will be voting for our religious liberty and constitutional and religious rights, and for the spiritual welfare of our country.  PLEASE, PLEASE VOTE!!  I am posting remarks I made a couple of weeks ago, and recently published in the National Catholic Register:

“Voting and Natural Law”

Catholics should let their faith fashion their political decisions.  Per Jesus Christ, we are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  What we render unto God is our faith.  We can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of natural law in making our political decisions.  We have to make sure, when voting, that officeholders always reflect the moral and religious values found in Holy Scripture and in the teachings of our Catholic faith.

The Catholic Church does not tell anyone how to vote.  Your individual thoughts and opinions are based on many aspects in your life: tradition, family upbringing, education and employment history, and so on.

However, there are non-negotiable aspects to society, especially for those who have a faith in Catholicism.  Opposition to abortion and euthanasia and support for marriage between a man and a woman are non-negotiable tenets of our faith.  Violating these aspects of natural law imposes serious consequences on one’s soul!  However, other issues are negotiable and can be debated: i.e., the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and even helping the poor and marginalized.  All of these negotiable topics are matters for prudential judgment — careful choice, usually not affecting natural law.

We, as humans, are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the moral principles and teachings within society.  Are you saying to God, “Thy will be done” when it really means, “My will be done“?

The former prayer leads toward God, and the later statement turns your back to him.

So, what are we to do when we vote?  The choice is yours; this is free will.  However, it is important to remember that we ought to think logically and to act upon our thoughts with Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith in mind when voting.

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Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1517 – Luther posts his “95 theses” on Wittenberg church, starting the Protestant Reformation

†   1705 – Birth of Clemens XIV, [Giovanni Ganganelli], Pope (1769-74)

†   1705 – Birth of Pope Clement XIV (d. 1774)

†   1919 – Birth of Father Magnus Wenninger, OSB, American priest, and mathematician, author of Polyhedron models

†   1982 – Pope John Paul II becomes 1st pontiff to visit Spain

†   1992 – Roman Catholic Church reinstates Galileo Galilei after 359 years of excommunication

†   1999 – Roman Catholic Church and Lutheran Church leaders sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, ending a centuries-old doctrinal dispute over the nature of faith and salvation.

†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Arnulf; St. Bega; St. Quentin; St.Urban; St. Wolfgang

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

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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.

Faith and Works, Part 1

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

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

***

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Thomas of Florence (d. 1447)

 

The son of a butcher in Florence, Thomas led such a wild life for a time that parents warned their sons to stay away from him.  A rich man in town befriended him and led him deeper into depravity.  Accused of a serious crime that he had not committed, Thomas went to his friend for protection.  The man would not even see him and told him to stay away.  Crushed, Thomas wandered the streets until he met a priest who listened to his story and took Thomas into his home.  Ultimately, he was able to get Thomas declared innocent of the crime.

Thomas broke off his former associations and began to lead a life of prayer and penance.  Filled with grace, he asked to be admitted to a Franciscan friary as a lay brother.  He went on to become a model friar, fasting, keeping vigils, disciplining himself.  He wore the cast-off clothes of his brothers.  He was frequently wrapped in ecstasy.  Though he was never ordained a priest and remained content to serve as a lay brother, Thomas was appointed novice master.  Many young men followed in his path of holiness.

Thomas founded numerous convents of friars in southern Italy.  And Pope Martin V called upon him to preach against the Fraticelli, a branch of heretical Franciscans.  He was also asked to go to the Orient to promote the reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches.  There he was imprisoned and expected to receive the crown of martyrdom.  But the pope ransomed him for a large sum of money.  Thomas returned to Italy and died on a journey to Rome, where he had hoped to receive permission to return to the Orient.

Comment:

When Thomas needed a compassionate listening ear, he found one in a stranger.  Had the priest not heard him out, he might never have achieved a place among the blessed.  Who knows what God has in mind for the person who wants to bend our ear and find a compassionate listener?

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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OFS GENERAL CONSTITUTIONS

CHAPTER I

THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER

Article 2

 

1.        The vocation to the SFO [OFS] is a specific vocation that gives form to the life and apostolic activity of its members.  Therefore, those who are bound by a perpetual commitment to another religious family or institute of consecrated life cannot belong to the SFO.

2.        The SFO is open to the faithful of every state of life.  The following may belong to it:

—        the laity (men and women);

—        the secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops).

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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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“Judge Me Not – – Um, – – Actually, Please Judge Me Lord!” – Matthew 25:31-46†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Last Sunday of Ordinary Time for Liturgical Year

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • 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:

 

One week to the beginning of the Advent Season.  What are your plans to make this Advent personally special and more faith fulfilling for you?  Let me know.

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   284 – Diocletian was chosen as Roman Emperor.
†   1168 – Giovanni di Struma elected “anti-Pope”
†   1342 – Pope Clemens VI names John IV of Arkel as Bishop of Utrecht
†   1437 – Death of Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, cardinal and lord chancellor; excommunicated, reinstated by anti-pope John XXIII (b. 1363)
†   1529 – Death of Karl von Miltitz, papal nuncio to Germany and envoy of Pope Leo X to Martin Luther
†   1621 – Birth of Avvakum, Russian priest and writer (d. 1682)
†   1761 – Birth of Pope Pius VIII, [Francesco S Castiglioni], Italy, 253rd Pope (1829-30)
†   1778 – Death of Francesco Cetti, Italian Jesuit Jesuit priest, zoologist and mathematician (b. 1726)
†   1890 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical on slavery in missions
†   1934 – Birth of Valentine J Peter, Omaha Nebraska, priest (Boy’s Town 1985- )
†   1942 – Birth of Paulos Faraj Rahho, Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Bishop (d. 2008)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Mediator Dei”, suggesting new directions and active participation instead of a merely passive role of the faithful in the liturgy, in liturgical ceremonies and in the life of their parish.

(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:

 

“Every time a parent and child ‘express their love and care for one another,’ wherever that may happen, our world has become a little more perfect.” ~ Chris Lowney, “Heroic Living”, Loyola Press

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that when the Son of Man comes in glory, He will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.  (Judgment of Nations)

  

(NAB Matthew 25:31-46) 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’  37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching discourse with His disciples.  The topic is about the “end of time”, – – the coming of the Son of Man, – – and the Final Judgment: the “Parousia”.  We are hearing today, this description of this “changing” event, at the conclusion of our present liturgical year, “the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King”.  Next week starts a new Liturgical year in the Catholic Church (Cycle “B’, using Mark’s Gospel predominately).  With the ending of Matthew’s Gospel, today’s passage might also be read as a wrapping up of Matthew’s account and testimony on Jesus’ life and ministry as well.  The remaining chapters go on to tell the events of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

Do you remember last Sunday’s parable of “the Talents”?  It goes along with today’s narrative.  The “Talents” parable, along with today’s reading, teaches us that the gifts and graces we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us.  Our final judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones of His creations.  In fact, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served “these least ones”, we have served Jesus Christ Himself.  How awesome is that fact!!  (As much as we might like to judge the parables, the parables, nonetheless, judge us as well.) 

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Today’s narrative of Jesus, which is distinctive only to Matthew’s Gospel, portrays the “Final Judgment” that will accompany the “Parousia”.  Although most people call today’s reading a “parable,” it really isn’t a parable, per se.  The only elements of a parable are the 1) depiction of the “Son of Man” as a “shepherd”, and 2) of the “righteous” and the “wicked” as “sheep” and “goats” respectively (Matthew 25:32–33).  

In today’s reading, Jesus describes to His disciples the scene of the Final Judgment of the “Son of Man”, Jesus Christ.  “All the nations” will be assembled before Him, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture.  The “Final Judgments” made by Jesus Christ, will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  Without a doubt, Jesus Himself, – – who suffered through His scourging, and who died a painful death on the Holy Cross, – – identified (and still identifies) Himself with the “least ones” of His flock.  The decisive factor of “judgment” will be the deeds of mercy that have been done for the least of Jesus’ brothers (Matthew 25:40).  

A difficult and important question is how we identify these “least brothers”.  Are they “all people” who have suffered hunger, thirst, etc. (Matthew 25:35-36) or a particular group of such sufferers?  Bible scholars even seem to be divided in their response to this question.  Arguments can be realistically made for either side of the question.  For me, it seems a stronger case can be made for Matthew’s view being that the sufferers are his “Christians”, and probably Christian the missionaries whose sufferings were the result of their preaching of the Gospel.  The measurable criterion of judgment for “all the nations” (verse 32) is revealed by their treatment of those who have heard the message of Jesus Christ, and their ultimate acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ Himself:

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).

So, I think Jesus meant, by saying, “all the nations will be assembled before him”, a reference to the time before the Parousia event when ALL will hear (and thus be responsible) for God’s message:

This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).

Wow!  This means the “Gentiles and Samaritans” will be judged on their response to His “Word” as well.  The phrase “all the nations” includes the Jewish people AND non-Jewish peoples who will be brought to His throne at the “Final Judgment”:

 “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Mt 16:27).

 Т

Goats are animals that will consume ANYTHING.  Jesus states that the “Goats”, will be placed to the left – – not an honorable position.  In verse 41, Jesus says:

Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41) 

The “accursed” (Matthew 25:41) – -the “goats” of today’s reading, will be surprised and dumbfounded that their neglect of “the sufferers” was also – – at the same time – – neglect of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Furthermore, they will receive – – from Jesus Christ Himself – –  a similar response at the “Final Judgment”:  separation from His kingdom.

 

Jesus’ story about the separation of goats and sheep must have unsettled His audience, nearly everyone either being shepherds or related in some way to shepherds.  In the barren and parched lands of Palestine, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day because green pasture was sparse indeed.  These animals were only separated at night, as goats apparently need shelter.  Goats were also less submissive and meek; more often “on edge” than sheep are.  Goats even came to symbolize evil, and the expression “scapegoat” has become a common expression for someone who is made to take the blame for others. 

There is even an Old Testament passage eluding to this “scapegoat” expression, and of the ritual expulsion of the “sin-bearing” goat on the Jewish “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur):

When he has finished purging the inner sanctuary, the tent of meeting and the altar, Aaron shall bring forward the live goat.  Laying both hands on its head, he shall confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and their trespasses, including all their sins, and so put them on the goat’s head.  He shall then have it led into the wilderness by an attendant.  The goat will carry off all their iniquities to an isolated region.” (Leviticus 16:20-22)

Jesus is telling us that separation is an inevitable consequence of His judgment.  The Day of “Final Judgment” will reveal who showed true compassion and mercy toward their neighbor (the sheep), and those who have not (the goat).  

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At any banquet of Jesus’ time, the preferred place of honor was ALWAYS to the right of the host.  In today’s reading, the “sheep” will be placed in the place of honor at God’s heavenly banquet.  This expression of the “place of honor” can be seen throughout Holy Scripture, and medieval art.  In the famous painting of the last supper, Simon Peter was immediately to the right of Jesus.  St. Dismas, the good thief, is shown crucified to the right of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus’ throne in Heaven is to the right of God the Father:

“From this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:69)

This right hand “place of honor” is so important of a position that ONLY God the Father can grant such a place hold:

My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left [, this] is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:23)

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So, what are we to “DO” to gain entrance to His kingdom?  Jesus gives more than a hint in verse 35-36:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) 

The Church calls the actions that Jesus described in today’s Gospel the “Corporal Works of Mercy”.  These works are:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit those in prison
  7. Bury the dead

The “righteous” will be amazed to know that in caring for the needs of “sufferers”, they were actually ministering to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as well.  We have to remember the famous verse from Matthew 10:

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42).

 Jesus Christ is going even further in saying:

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

Not only are we to see Jesus in all who we meet, we also “DO” to Jesus whatever we “DO” to each and every person we see.  Hmm, what does that mean when you curse at someone, “flip the bird” at another, or do something immoral or inappropriate toward a neighbor, friend, or family member? (You know the answer!)

Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for others as a role we should endeavor in as faithful Catholics.  God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done, but also for what we have failed to do!! 

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Verse 41 of today’s reading has a scary and prophetic message for all of us, especially thegoats” among us.  I personally do not like the hot weather of St. Louis summers, so this image of a “fiery” hell truly scares me.  This image scared the Jewish people as well.  1 Enoch 10:13 (an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally attributed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah) says of the evil angels and their leader:

When their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is forever and ever is consummated.  In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined forever.  And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all.” (1 Enoch 10:12-14)

I highly recommend a book titled, “23 minutes in Hell”, written by Bill Wiese.  It is an extremely eye opening personal account of someone given the “grace” of being placed at the entrance to hell for a very short period.   Not an enjoyable “read”, but well worth the time.  It may literally scare “the hell” out of you!!

Is there an example of how to live this “doing” to others?  Well, when Saint Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier from the 4th century AD, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he did an unbelievable thing for that time period.  He stopped at the man, cut his coat in two, and gave half to the stranger.  That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak.  One of the angels asked Jesus, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?”  Jesus replied, “My servant ‘Martin’ gave it to me.”  Martin’s disciple and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, states that as a consequence of this vision, Martin “flew to be baptized”. 

 

In the chapters that follow, in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn the great and boundless extent to which Jesus Christ identifies with the least ones; to the point of giving up His life for the least among us.  In accepting a horrible and excruciating death on the cross, Jesus Christ shows Himself to be one of the hungry, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  To accept Jesus IS to accept Him – – who suffered and died on the Cross –as one of the least ones.

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To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that we will be judged on only one thing: one’s acts of mercy, which we have shown to the least among us.  Knowing the answers will not suffice; “DOING” the answers is all that counts!!  Jesus identifies with the least ones; thus we serve Him whenever we serve one of the least ones!!  In these actions, these “Corporal Works of Mercy”, we show God’s compassion and mercy to those “least one’s” in need of faith, hope, and love.

God’s boundless love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness.  When we do something for one of Christ’s least and marginalized ones, we do it for Christ Himself.  Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love – – as Jesus Christ has treated you?

Reread the list of the “Corporal Works of Mercy” mentioned earlier.  What are some concrete examples of how you might “DO” these actions in your community?  Why is it important that we “DO” these things, especially for others?  Why does Jesus say we ought to – – need to – – DO these works of mercy?  (The answer is simply because whenever we show mercy to another person, we are also showing mercy to Jesus himself.)  Choose one “Corporal Work of Mercy” to “DO” this week; then add to it each week.  Pray that you will always see, and always serve, Jesus Christ in the least and marginalized ones among us.

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

“O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Edmund Rich (1175 – 1240)

 

Archbishop of Canterbury England, who battled for discipline and justice, also called Edmund of Abingdon.  Edmund was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on November 30, 1180.  He studied at Oxford, England, and also in Paris, France.  He taught art and mathematics at Oxford and was eventually ordained to the priesthood.  

He spent eight years teaching theology and became Canon and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral.  An eloquent speaker, Edmund preached a crusade for Pope Gregory IX and was named archbishop of Canterbury.  He became an advisor to King Henry III and presided in 1237 at Henry’s ratification of the Great Charter.  When Cardinal Olt became a papal legate with the patronage of King Henry, Edmund protested.  

A long-lasting feud between Edmund, the king, and his legate led him to resigning his See in 1240.  He went to Pontigny, France, where he became a Cistercian Priest.  He died at Soissons, on November 16, 1240.  Edmund was canonized in 1246 or 1247.  A hall in Oxford still bears his name.

Patron of: Abingdon, Oxfordshire; Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth; St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

Information from Wikipedia

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and His Message

 

If Saint Francis were writing a letter to your local SFO Fraternity, what do you think he would include in that letter? – Make a list.

Using this idea, can you make up a letter from Saint Francis to your Fraternity?

What inspiration(s) have you found in the letters of St. Francis?  (If you haven’t. you should.)

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

 

20.  The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church.  These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

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21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

“Now Where Did I Put Those Darn Keys Anyhow?!” – Matthew 16:13-20†


 

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • 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:

 

I will be going on my yearly Regional SFO (Secular Franciscan Order) Retreat for the St. Clare Region this weekend.  That is why I am posting this retreat a couple of days early.  Please pray for all of our intentions, for great weather, and for a time of spiritual renewal for all at the retreat, and at home.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1153 – Death of Bernard of Clairvaux, French theologian (b. 1090)
†   1567 – Birth of Francois de Sales, French bishop of Geneva/writer/saint
†   1760 – The church (later, a Cathedral) of “Our Lady of Candlemas of Mayagüez (Puerto Rico)” is founded, establishing the basis for the founding of the city.

(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:

 

“A Christian is a keyhole through which other folk see God.” ~ Robert E. Gibson

 

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Today’s reflection is about Simon Peter acknowledging Jesus as “the Christ”, and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

(NAB Matthew 16:13-20) 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his Apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  19 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.”  20 Then he strictly ordered his Apostles to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

It is important to read today’s Gospel and next week’s Gospel (Jesus’ speaking of His future Passion, and rebuking of Peter) as two parts of a single story, for these readings are pivotal points in Matthew’s Gospel.  Today, we hear Jesus Christ name Simon Peter as the “rock” (No, not the wrestler or movie star) upon which He [Jesus] will build His Catholic Church.  Next Sunday, we will hear Jesus call Simon Peter “Satan” when he reacts negatively to Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion and death at the hands of others.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His Apostles what people are actually saying about His identity.  They indicate that most people believe that Jesus is a “prophet” of Israel, like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  With this answer from His cherished and close followers of nearly three years, Jesus asks who THEY believe that He is.  Simon Peter answers this probing question for the group: identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

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Matthew significantly modifies Mark’s affirmation of Jesus as “Messiah”, made by Peter as “spokesman” for the other Apostles.  Simon Peter’s affirmation is reported in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:27–29; Luke 9:18–20):

Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way He asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’  And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said to Him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:27–29);

And,

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the Apostles were with him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”’  Then He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said in reply, ‘The Messiah of God.’” (Luke 9:18–20).

Peter’s affirmation is an pronouncement of Jesus being both “Messiah” and “Son of the living God” (verse16).  Jesus’ response, drawn chiefly from material distinctive to Matthew, attributes Peter’s affirmation to a divine revelation granted solely to him (verse 17), and makes him the “rock” on which Jesus Christ will build His Catholic (Universal) Church (verse 18).  Peter also realizes that he will be the Apostle whose authority (and his successors) in the church – – on earth – – will be (and continues to be) confirmed in heaven by God (verse 19).

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Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon.  Today, the city is no longer inhabited, but is an archaeological site located within the present Golan Heights.  Caesarea Philippi is situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory was ruled by Philip in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Philip was a son of Herod the Great, who was “tetrarch” from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34.  When Herod died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it, Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan.  Philip rebuilt the town of Paneas (where the legend of the mythical “Pan” originated), naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea.  

Т

Jesus tests his Apostles with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am?  After all, He was widely recognized in Israel as a mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”(verse 13).  What a direct question to ask to the men who had accompanied Jesus for nearly three years.  Although the question in Matthew differs from Mark’s parallel verse:

 “Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” (Mk 8:27),

the meaning is the same in both Gospels: Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man (verse 15).

 

Their first response was, “John the Baptist”.  Why?  Well, let us look at how John the Baptist was seen by the 1st century Jews, along with prophesies foretold in the Old Testament:

This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:2);

And,

“You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.” (Sirach 48:10).

 

The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread.  Most Jews believed John the Baptist was the returned “Elijah”.  Some believe Jesus was yet another John the Baptist or Elijah, continuing the work of re-establishing the tribes of Israel, and preparing people for the coming “Messiah”.

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Jesus repeats the question.  Peter, always quick to respond, exclaimed that Jesus was the “Christ”, “the Son of the living God”:

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The addition of this exalted title to Peter’s affirmation (and not found in Mark’s Gospel) eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title “Messiah” connected to Jesus Christ.  

Т

In verse 17 of today’s reading, Jesus says to Simon Peter:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and bloodhas not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew16:17).

Two profound statements are pronounced by Jesus in this one verse.  I have chosen to separate these two statements with a hyphen in the above verse.

Flesh and blood” is a Semitic expression – – (a group of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic) – – for human beings, especially in regards to weakness.  We know Jesus spoke, or at least had a working knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, (along with Greek as well), and He understood the significance of this particular phrase very well.  (I don’t believe He ever said anything without a purpose and ever-current meaning.)

Jesus also said immediately after the above phrase, “Has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”.  Simon Peter’s faith is spoken of – – by Jesus Christ Himself – – as NOT developing through human means, but instead, through a divine revelation from God the Father.  No mortal human could have revealed to Simon Peter this divine revelation about Jesus Christ; but only God the Father. 

Simon Peter’s revelation about Jesus is similar to St. Paul’s (Apostle to the Gentiles) description of his dramatic revelation and recognition of whom Jesus Christ “truly” was:

But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, l so that I might proclaim Him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15–16).

The weakness of our human frailties and iniquities prevents us from truly realizing the divinity of Jesus Christ, without divine assistance.  Only through the Holy Spirit emitting from God the Father can we find the “true” Jesus Christ dwelling inside each of us, His creations.

Т

What happens next is probably one of the greatest things to happen to the Catholic Church: its foundation is set firmly on earth!!  This foundation is created by the following words of Jesus, spoken directly to Simon Peter:

You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would ever defeat. (For me, this last sentence is a proclamation and statement of hope and trust for us all.)

 

Jesus plays on Peter’s name which is the same word for “rock” in both Aramaic and Greek.  To call someone a “rock” is one of the greatest of compliments to be given for first century Palestinians.  You may not know that there was a saying at the time of Jesus that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I have discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  And, through Abraham, God established a nation for Himself.

The Aramaic word “kepa’” means “rock”, and transliterated into Greek as “Kephas (or Cephas)”.   Kephas is the name by which Simon Peter is called by St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians:

“… Paul or Apollos or Kephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you.” (1 Corinthians 3:22);

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5);

He appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:5);

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:18);

And,

When they recognized the grace bestowed upon me, James and Kephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars …” (Galatians 2:9, 11, 14);

The only exception to Paul using the word, “Kephas”, is in Galatians 2:7–8:

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised, for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles…” (Galatians 2:7-8)

 John instead chooses a separate word; it being “Petros” (“Peter”):

Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (John 1:42).

The accepted Aramaic of Jesus’ statement is, in English, “You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church.”  The original Greek text probably indicates the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun “petros”, and the feminine noun “petra” (rock) may be simply due to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as a proper name for a male.  Although these two words (Petros and Petra) were generally used with slightly different degrees, they were also commonly used interchangeably for the word, “rock.”  

Т

Simon Peter is the “rock” the Catholic Church will be built upon.  Verse 18 is the first occurrence in the Gospels for the word “church”.  This word (in the original Greek: “ekklēsia”) occurs in the Gospels only here and later in Matthew:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 17).

There are several possibilities for an Aramaic origin for this word, “church”.  Jesus’ “church” means the community that He will gather, and, like a building, will have Simon Peter as its strong and solid, well-placed, everlasting foundation.  The function of Simon Peter consists in his being the definitive witness to Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, the “Son of the living God” (verse 16).  

 

Finally, I come to the last specific phrase quoted in verse 18: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.  The “netherworld” (in Greek, meaning “Hades”, the abode of the dead) is believed to be a walled city whose gates will not converge upon the Universal (Catholic) “church” of Jesus Christ, at the time of Matthew writing his Gospel in the late first century.  This “netherworld” will not be overcome by the power of death (Satan), but will be kept submissive to, and by, the power of the “true” Trinitarian God.

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Jesus Christ gives Simon Peter a special authority, symbolic “keys” to the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  Simon Peter will play an important role in the early Christian community as a spokesperson and “church” leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

The image of the keys, “The keys to the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19), is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15–25 wherein Eliakim is made successor to Shebnah as master of the palace.  He is given “the key of the house of David” for which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts”:

I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open” (Isaiah 22:22).

Today’s reading uses very similar words:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

There are many instances in Jewish literature of a “binding-loosing” imagery.  Of the several meanings given for this metaphor, two may be of special importance in regards to this Gospel: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The promise of “the keys” is given SOLELY to Peter (and his successors); not to any of the other Apostles present there on that day.  Interestingly, all the Apostles are given the power of binding and loosing later in Matthew:

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)

However, the context of this verse just mentioned above hints that only the power of excommunication is intended.  “The keys” are those to the kingdom of heaven and Peter’s authority in the “church” on earth, and confirmed in heaven.  Jesus’ giving to Simon Peter “the keys” shows an important and intimate connection between the “true” “church” on earth and the “kingdom of heaven”.

Т

Matthew makes Jesus explicit about a strong and absolute prohibition of telling others of Him being the “true” “Messiah”.  This episode, reflected on today, is the turning point in Jesus’ public earthly ministry.  Jesus acknowledges His identification freely to His Apostles, but, I believe, prohibits them from making His messianic office known to others – – by them – – in order to avoid confusing the “true” “Messiah” with unclear, imprecise, and contemporary ideas on the nature of whom and what the Messiah was believed to be, per traditional first century Palestinian Jewish beliefs.

Popular opinions at the time of Jesus regarded Him as a “prophet” like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The Apostles by contrast believed – – and KNEW – – Him to be the “true” “Messiah”.  

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In summary, Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ identity is attributed to a divine revelation by God – – a grace.  This “gift” of the Holy Spirit will contrast sharply with Jesus’ rebuke of him (Simon Peter) in next week’s Gospel.  Next week, when Simon Peter rejects Jesus’ prediction of His passion and horrific death, he is said to no longer be thinking as God does, but as humans do.  How often are we given a “gift”, only to lose it?  How often do we each lose our faith and trust in God?  I believe this loss of faith is much more prevalent than the lines at Sacrament of Reconciliation show!!

Peter, in this Gospel is being credited as the strong base, the foundation, for the Catholic Church; a special privilege granted to him – – alone among the Apostles – – because of his recognition of Jesus’ identity.  He becomes the first Pope in a non-broken line in the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church continues to this day to be grounded in the faith, love, and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

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In conclusion, today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic Church is built on the strong and unbreakable foundation of faith, trust, and love in Jesus Christ.  Simon Peter announces the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, who came to deliver from our sins, and into the arms of His heavenly Father.  The “church” family, the domestic church, still has this same belief and faith as its foundation.

Think of people whose faith has helped you to be a member of the Catholic Church.  Think about what you have learned from “leaders” in our Church today.  What role did Simon Peter play in the early Christian community?  What can we learn from Simon Peter, and his “profession of faith” about Jesus’ nature?  

Through faith, Simon Peter grasped who Jesus Christ truly was.  Simon Peter was the first Apostle to recognize Jesus as the “Anointed One” (the Messiah and Christ), and the only “Son of God”.  The New Testament describes the “church” as a spiritual house or temple, with each member joined together as “living stones”:

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

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones.  Lord, please let me be a tiny pebble skipping forever along the sea of your grace, hope, and love for me.

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Faith

 

“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Pius X (1835-1914)  [And a Secular Franciscan]

 

Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.

The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at 68, one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.

Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.”  He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court.  “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend.  To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices.  They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”

Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved.  One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.

In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.

While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.

On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I.  Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him.  “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me.  I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.”  He died a few weeks after the war began.  He was canonized in 1954.

Comment:

His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely.  He gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus.  In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds.  Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior.  If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people.  Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.

Quote:

Describing Pius X, a historian wrote that he was “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everyone.”

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does a fraternity show “family spirit” on the part of the members?   How is this “spirit” manifested regularly?

Do your monthly meetings become a means of spiritual nourishment in the Franciscan (SFO) way?   Why, or why not?   What needs to be added to your meetings, if anything?

How do you make my judgments when it comes to elections in your fraternity?

Why are there term-limits?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 21 & 22 of 26:

 

21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

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



♫“Sow, Sow, Sow Your Faith, Gently Down His Path!”♫- Matthew 13:1-23†


 

 

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Starting next Wednesday, July 13th, I will begin my yearly “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, popularized and created by St. Louis de Monfort.  I will be posting the prayers for the four sections on both my blog and Facebook sites.  All you need to add is the 10 or so minutes each day, and a proper heart and soul.  So, please join me.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   983 – Death of Benedict VI, Italian Pope (974-83)
†   1086 – Death of Knut IV, the Saint, king of Denmark (1080-86), murdered
†   1609 – Catholic German monarchy forms Catholic League
†   1900 – Birth of Sampson Sievers, Russian Orthodox Christian monk, priest and wonder-worker (d. 1979)
†   1998 – Roman Catholic sex abuse cases: The Diocese of Dallas agrees to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who claimed they were sexually abused by former priest Rudolph Kos.

(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:

 

 

“When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.” ~ Unknown author

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed that has been sown on good soil.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 13:1-23) 1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  12 To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’  14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  15 Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’  16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  17 Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

 

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Gospel Reflection

 

Today’s Gospel marks the beginning of a lengthy teaching or dialogue (His third discourse in Matthew) given by Jesus.  Over the next few weeks at Mass, the Gospel readings will cover of the whole of Matthew’s 13th Chapter. 

 

What was (and still is) the best and easiest way to help people understand God’s kingdom?  Like the Temple leaders and Rabbis of first-century Palestine, Jesus very often used “parables” – – short stories and images taken from everyday life – – to communicate “unknown” truths about the kingdom of God.  Jesus was a skilled artist of speech and imagery; a great orator and teacher.  Through His words, He etched in the listeners mind, vividly brilliant and unforgettable images.

A well-constructed image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words.  (Remember the old adage: “A picture says a thousand words.”)  Jesus epitomized this saying by using the ordinary everyday well-known images of everyday life and nature as a way to point to a different (and hidden) order of reality.  Jesus, through the use of parables, points to a different, visible order of reality for those who had “eyes to see” and “ears to hear“, and those who heard with faith.  

Jesus communicated His teachings with vivid and dramatic images, such as soil conditions, plants, and trees.  These images, these parables, grabbed ahold of the imagination of His audience more powerfully than any nonfigurative talk ever could.  His parables were like a “buried treasure” waiting to be discovered:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44).

(Note the inspiration of that salesman – – his “JOY”!)

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching of “parables” is known as the “third great discourse” of His ministerial life.  It makes up the second of three parts of Matthew’s Gospel as well.  Matthew used only two of a set of three, and this one is number two of the three.  Matthew uses five other parables taken from other sources known collectively by Biblical Scholars as “Q” and “M”.  The authors of these two documents are unknown; that’s why they are indentified as “Q” and “M”.

In addition to Matthew’s seven parables, Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 13: 1-53, gives the reason why He uses a “parable” approach to teaching the faith and way of God:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because “they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.”  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”’” (Matthew 13: 10-15).

Jesus declares the “blessedness” of those who understand His teaching:

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 16-17):

He then goes on to explain the “parable of the sower”:

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  (Matthew 13: 18-23):

In verse 24 through 53 (not included in today’s reflection), Jesus explains the parable of the weeds, and ends with a concluding summary statement of teaching to His disciples.  He is stating in His summary that we are all to be “Scribes” in the new kingdom of God:

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52)

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What can a parable about “seeds” and “roots” teach us about the kingdom of God?  Well, any successful farmer (I am not one!  I have a black thumb – even killing a cactus once) will attest to the extreme importance for the need of “good soil” to supply the necessary nutrients for growth and fruit production.  After all, a plant gets all necessary food, water, and other nutrients by its roots?  

Holy Scripture repeatedly uses the image of “fruit-bearing” plants or trees to express the principles of spiritual life and spiritual death.  Here are just two examples from the Old Testament:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8);

And,

They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

Т

 

There are different ways of accepting God’s “Word”, which, hence, produce different kinds of “fruit” as a result.  There is the opinionated “hearer”, who shuts one’s mind to differing views.  Such a person is, in reality, non-teachable, and “deaf” to what ne could hear, and blind to what lies behind what he sees.

Then there is the “shallow” hearer.  This person fails to meditate, reflect, and think things out completely.  They lack a “depth” of faith, knowledge, and openness to God’s “Word”.  They may initially respond with even a strong emotionally charged reaction; however, when this feeling wears off, their mind begins wandering to something else which will give them another “charge” without much effort.

A third type of hearer is the person who has many interests or concerns, but who “lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important”.  Such people are too “busy” to pray, or too “pre-occupied” to study and meditate on God’s “Word”.  Their focus is totally on the “here and now”.

Finally, there is “the one whose mind is open”.  This person, this disciple, is willing to listen and to learn – – AT ALL TIMES, ever looking for the spiritual truth lying beneath the surface of what they heard and see.  They are never too “proud” or too “busy” to learn the message and teachings of God; instead they listen with anticipation to His Word, in order to understand Him and His kingdom they will inherit.  

God gives a great gift, a great grace, to those who search for, yearn for, and hunger for His “Word”.  They are “consumed” in Him so that they may understand His will, His way, and His truth.  And, through His “Word”, they have the strength to live according to God the Fathers plan for salvation and redemption.   

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In Palestine, sowing (sort of loosely planting the seeds) was often preceded by plowing.  In “sowing” seeds, the seeds are literally thrown from the hand (similar to spreading salt/calcium on an icy driveway).  Much of the seed is thus oft times scattered on ground unsuitable for any growth.

Yet while many of the seeds are “wasted”, the seed which falls on “good” ground bears “fruit” in an exceptionally large amount.  The point of Jesus’ parable of the “Sower” is that, in spite of some failure, (usually because of opposition and indifference to His message), the trusting and hopeful “true” message of Jesus Christ, about the coming of His kingdom, will have an enormous success – – in those who, like little children, hear Him with faith:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

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The word “parable” (from the Greek, “parabole”) is used to translate the Hebrew word, “mashal”, a designation for a variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitude’s, and allegories.  What these literary forms have in common is a “hidden message” for the receiver.  The New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ Himself, consciously use “mashal” and “parable” to designate and illustrate comparisons and inter-relatedness of “kingdom truths” and everyday life events.  Sometimes, these everyday life events have a strange element quite different from an otherwise “usual” experience of everyday life: for instance, in the parable of the yeast, Matthew 13:33, the enormous amount of dough was produced by adding a small amount of yeast.  Thus, “parables” are meant to sharpen and hone the curiosity and interest of the hearer to leads them to internalize the “true” meaning of the parable.

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In today’s reading, Jesus told His disciples that not everyone would gain an understanding of His parables.  Do you think He was deliberately confusing and/or hiding the meaning of His parables, His stories, His message, from His listeners?   I don’t believe so.  

Jesus was speaking from experience – – past, present, and future experience!  His “experience” is not only internal, but His awareness of “experience encompasses ALL time at ONCE!  He is aware of all things and all times.   He is aware that “some” who hear His parables would refuse to understand them.  It isn’t that these people could not understand them; but rather that their hearts would be hardened, shut, closed, and blinded to what Jesus Christ was really saying.  In reality, they had already made up their minds NOT to believe.  What a pity, as God can only reveal the hidden truths of His kingdom to those who are not blinded spiritually.   God can only reveal the hidden truths to those individuals who have a deep hunger for Him and His “Word”, and humbly submit to His truth and Word.  As He Himself said to them:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Also, in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father the following prayer of praise:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  (Matthew 11:25)

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Since a parable is “figurative speech” requiring an amount of reflection for its understanding, only those who are open and prepared to explore and discover its true meaning can come to know it, and to internalize its meaning.  To understand Jesus’ teachings and parables is a gift (a grace) of God Himself, “granted” to His disciples, yet, not to those in the crowds when Jesus said:

“… it has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”Matthew 13:11)  

In reading this verse, it is evident that both Jesus’ disciples’ understanding of His parables and the crowd’s ignorance to their meanings are both attributed to God’s will.  The question of human responsibility for a lack of knowledge is asserted in Matthew 13:13:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13). 

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Jesus mentions the “mysteries” in verse 11.  This word can also be found in Luke and Mark’s Gospel:

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’” (Luke 8:10);

The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.” (Mark 4:11).

And, the word “mystery” can even be found in the Old Testament:

They might implore the mercy of the God of heaven in regard to this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he blessed the God of heaven. In the king’s presence Daniel made this reply: ‘The mystery about which the king has inquired, the wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers could not explain to the king but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what is to happen in days to come; this was the dream you saw as you lay in bed..’” (Daniel 2:18, 19, 27-28);

The word “mystery” is used to designate a divine plan or declaration affecting the course of history; which can only be known and understood when revealed by God.  Knowledge of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven means recognizing God’s kingdom present in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His ministry.

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 “To anyone who has, more will be given” (verse 12).  Throughout the New Testament this axiom of practical “wisdom” is used several times:

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29);

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:25);

“Take care, then, how you hear.  To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18);

And,

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26).

Its reference goes beyond one’s original gaining time, talent, and treasures.  In essence, God declares a granting of a further understanding of His kingdom to all who accept His “revealed” mystery.  And, from the one who does not accept or use His graces, He takes it away (The ultimate “use it or lose it” principle!)

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Jesus speaks in “parables” so that the non-believing crowds may not understand:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13);

 And,

They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12),

Making the parables so that the non-believers cannot understand them is looked at by me as a form of discipline to the “crowds” (non-believers).  This “lack of understanding” is allowed them, by God, because He respects their “free will” in choosing not to accept His teachings.  

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In verse 14, Jesus’ cites Isaiah:

“Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand!  Look intently, but you shall know nothingYou are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6: 9-10).

The “old” truly lives in the “new”, and the “new” truly FULFILLS the “old”!!

 

I find it interesting and confusing that there are people who are, or become, fruitless and/or uncaring of God’s “Word”!!  Differing priorities, believed more important than God, can distract some from what is truly important and worthwhile.  Allowing our hearts, minds, and souls to be consumed with material items and secular ideals can easily weigh us down, drawing us away from God’s eternal heavenly “treasure”.  

We all need to realize and keep current in our minds that God’s “Word” can only take root in a receptive and humble heart, mind, and soul; a heart, mind and soul, ready and willing to “hear” what God has to say to each of us, personally and intimately.  The parables of Jesus make clear to us what we need to know in order to grow in faith and life.  We need to approach His teachings with an attitude ready to let His teachings challenge us. (No pain, no gain!)  Can you submit to God’s “Word” with the love, trust, and obedience He wishes for you to have?

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Gross is the heart of this people …” (verse 15)!  “Gross” is a strong word that can mean the following: disgusting, unpleasant, foul, vulgar, nasty, uncivilized, repugnant, and grotesque.  This is definitely NOT a pleasant or hopeful image for the person who chooses to be blinded to the “mysteries” and “wonders” of a true and total faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Unlike the non-believing “crowds” of people accompanying Jesus, His true disciples, – – His true followers of the way, – – have seen the reality, revelation, and fulfillment of the prophets and the “righteous” people of the Old Testament (the Old Covenant).  These “chosen” people searched and yearned to “see”, without having their search and yearning being fulfilled during their “earthly” time of life.

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The four types of persons visualized in today parable of the “Sower and the Seed” are:

  • Those who never accept the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19);
  • Those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (Matthew 13:20-21);
  • Those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (Matthew 13:22);
  • Those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (Matthew 13:23).

Jesus’ emphasis on the various types of soil on which the seed falls is an explanation on the “dispositions” with which one “sees” and “hears” Jesus’ preaching’s and teachings.  Similar stories and emphasis of the “Sower Parable” can be found in Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15.

 

Let’s look at the second and third types of “sown” seeds from Matthew’s parable:

Seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

And,

Seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” (Matthew 13:22)

These two can be explained in such a way as to support views held from many bible scholars that these examples derive not from Jesus Christ directly, but from an early Christian “reflection” on apostasy (a refusal to accept religious beliefs anymore) from the Catholic faith.  This “apostasy” became a major real-time consequence of first-century Christian persecutions, and the secularism of human society at that time.  

However, other scholars maintain that the explanation of these two situations comes from Jesus even though it was developed in the light of later Christian experience.  (Can we say, “Grace of the Holy Spirit!”)

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In conclusion, throughout Jesus’ teachings or dialogues (called a discourse), He offers several “parables” to His followers, illustrating in their (and our) minds what He means by the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  He begins His teaching in Chapter 13 of Matthew with what appears to be a rather straightforward parable of the “Sower and the Seeds”. 

Even “urban dwellers” (such as me) know seeds grow best in good soil.  Seeds which miss the soil, sown on rocky ground, or sown among other plants will not grow to harvest.  However, even with the loss of so many “seeds”, there is still a great and overwhelming “yield” from seeds sown on good soil.

 Jesus explains why He uses parables.  He suggests that He uses “parables” to teach because the meanings of parables are not self-evident without some reflection to find the true meaning.  Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand, willing to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit, will be rewarded with the discovery – – the revelation – – of the message, yielding much fruit.

Jesus interprets the parable of the sower to His disciples in order to show what can be revealed in His teachings via parables.  The different types of soil in which “seeds” are sown are metaphors for the disposition with which each individual hears the teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Some will be easily swayed away from the kingdom of heaven. Some will receive it for a time but will lose it when faced with difficulties. Some will hear the word but will then permit other cares to choke it out. Yet some will receive it well, and the seed will produce abundant fruit.  (AND THAT’S US!! – – Hopefully!!)

 

One lesson from today’s parable is made clear to all of us, even today: a great “harvest” is sure to come!  While some “seed” will fall away, never to bloom or fully grow to fruition, a harvest will most certainly come (at a time unknown to us):

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  (Matthew 24:36).

The seed that falls on good soil, – – on one’s heart, mind, and soul receptive to His “Word”, – – will produce bountiful fruits.  God is continuously ready to speak to each of us, personally and intimately, wanting so dearly to share with us an understanding of His “Word”.  

 

Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order for God’s “Word” to take root in us and produce abundant fruit, we must strive to be like the good soil in today’s parable.  Families, friends, peers, spouses, and the Catholic Church all have a responsibility for “preparing ‘your’ soil” so that the seeds of God’s Word can grow strong in you, producing a great harvest.  How can we “prepare the soil”?  Hold true to our Faith and Traditions in which our faith is celebrated, prayed, and fed by reading Holy Scripture (the Bible – it doesn’t bite), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In these ways, you will fulfill the promises made at your Baptism when you received the lighted candle:

For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism.” (CCC, Paragraph 1254).

Please reflect on today’s Gospel reading and also on the Sacrament of Baptism for a short time.  Look at any pictures that may have been taken of the event.  Remember that one of the promises made at one’s Baptism is to grow in the practice and tenets of our Catholic faith.  How important is this promise to you?  How do you practice your faith (daily prayer, Mass attendance, religious instruction, etc.)?  We do these things and actions as a “family of God” in order that God’s “Word” can take root in our lives and produce an abundant awesomely tasteful fruit.  

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 “Psalm 65

 A prayer of praise to God for his abundance

 

“You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile.  God’s stream is filled with water; with it you supply the world with grain.  Thus do you prepare the earth: you drench plowed furrows, and level their ridges.  With showers you keep the ground soft, blessing its young sprouts.  You adorn the year with your bounty; your paths drip with fruitful rain.  The untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy.  The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy.  Amen.” (Psalm 65:10-14)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

 

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.

Veronica was born in Mercatelli, Italy.  It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.

At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins.  Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun.  In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary and sacristy and also served as portress.  At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years.  When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days.  Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death.  Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.  She offered her sufferings for the missions.  Veronica was canonized in 1839.

Comment:

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica?  God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives.  The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before.  It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.

Quote:

Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart.  And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211).

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Holy Scripture

 

How do you use Holy Scriptures in your daily life?

Have you read the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (presented to us at Vatican Council-II)?  Here is the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Have you come to know the differences of Catholic interpretation of the Bible from that of Christians of other faith traditions?  What are the differences?

What is the difference between Divine Revelation and Sacred Scripture?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

 

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

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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.