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


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

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

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!” – John 18:33-37†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ the King

 Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The Five Stages  of Persecution

by Dan Halley, OSF

This article is strongly based on a web-blog posting by Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington [State].  Here is the link to his article:

http://blog.adw.org/2012/11/some-thoughts-on-the-five-stages-of-religious-persecution.

It is a mystery for me to see how once respected segments of American life – – Catholics and other Christians – – are becoming vilified and hated, almost overnight.  The Catholic Church, along with many Protestant denominations, have become increasingly “marginalized” and out-right “hated” by many in society today.  I believe things are only going to get more difficult for the Catholic Church in, at least, the near future. 

This is a significantly rapid, and scary, transformation.  Usually, the time for transformation – – from “respect” to one of “vilification” – – moves in stages over long periods of time, growing in intensity as it follows its destructive path. 

There are five general or basic stages of persecution.  The first is “stereotyping”.  Not everyone engages in stereotyping to the same degree, but there are basic catchphrases of stereotyping to look out for when talking to, or observing others.  The general environment, conditions, and perception of stereotyping set the foundation for each of the next four stages which follow.  They are at the heart of all stereotyping, and then feed off of the stereotyping dynamic building upon each step. 

These “Five Stages of Religious Persecution” originated with a talk given to a group in Washington DC, by Johnette Benkovic of the “Women of Grace” show (shown on EWTN).  Ms. Benokovic puts across a sober vision of how we have come to this current place wherein our Countries culture is increasingly, and overtly, “hostile” to Christians – – and to Catholics particularly.  These stages are from her talk:

1. Stereotyping the Catholic Church & other Christians, individually, & as a group

  • We are exaggerated in the media as “Bible thumpers”, haters of science, hypocrites of others, self-righteous, old-fashioned, and many other negative metaphors;
  • We are accused of harboring a phobic guilt, a hatred and an aversion to sexuality” and, of being part of a “sexist tradition”; 
  • Catholics are “stuck in the past”, having too many rules, being rigid, controlling, and even dictatorial in the “rules”; Catholic clergy are categorized as sexually repressed; and are further stereotyped as ALL being homosexuals or pedophiles;
  • We are seen as a sad, angry, boring, backward, and repressed group.  Moreover, we are seen as a laughable group who are tragically caught in a superstitious mindset and an out-dated past, incapable of throwing off the shackles of an “old and antiquated” faith.

Sounds bad already; and we just started!  From here, we go to the second step: “vilification”:

2.  Vilifying the Catholic Church with alleged crimes and/or misconducts

  • Catholics are described as “close-minded” and “harmful” to others’ dignity and freedom; 
  • We are labeled as “intolerant”, “hateful”, “bigoted”, “unfair”, “homophobic”, “reactionary” – – and just plain “mean”;
  • The Catholic Church’s past actions, such as the crusades and inquisitions, are constantly brought-up in conversations, intended to demean the Church, while forgetting about ALL the good works produced by people of the Catholic Church; 
  • We Catholics supposedly “feared” and “hated” Galileo – – and ALL of the physical sciences. 

After “stereotyping” and “vilifying” the Catholic Church and its members, it is a very easy step to “push” us out of the way – – leading to disconnecting and separating the Catholic Church from public intervention.  This leads us to the third step, cited by Ms. Benokovic:

3.  Marginalizing the Catholic Church’s role in society

  • Society (Government, other groups, and/or individual people) will only allow us to have our hymns, worship, rituals, etc. – – as long as they are hidden within the four walls of our own Church buildings, PERIOD!  Displays of any kind of faith must be banished from the public square, and from the public’s eye; 
  • We are told that nativity sets must go; we must remove Christmas trees from the public view; some schools and government buildings even bar the colors green and red at “holiday time”; 
  • In many public schools, students are not allowed to say the words “Christmas” or “Easter” anymore; 
  • Mentioning Jesus, or publicly thanking Him in a valedictorian address, could very well have a Circuit Court Judge forbidding, even penalizing the Catholic Christian for doing so – – BY LAW; 
  • Thanking the “Madonna” is fine, as long as you are referring to “the singer”, a cultural “role model” who publically exhibits approval for sexual promiscuity, public nakedness, pornography, adultery, and so on;
  • Catholic and Christian groups and clubs are forbidden from high schools and colleges, but a “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) group or club is welcomed;
  • These organizations are allowed to set up displays and pass out “rainbow colored” condoms; in contrast, Christian groups are FORBIDDEN to pass out bibles, rosaries, crosses, or any other “Propaganda”; 
  • Here’s a fact!  NO Bibles or Christian pamphlets can see the light of day anywhere in public schools or other government buildings.  Walter Reed Military Hospital had BARRED Bibles and other Christian reading materials and artifacts (for a short time) from the property, not even allowing items to be given away or used during a visit. (This rule was rescinded after a major outrage and protest was made public by veterans groups, citizens, and military clergy – – during an election year!)

The hair on my neck is now standing up.  We have now gone from “stereotyping”, through “vilification”, to “marginalizing”, to an increasingly serious step of not just pushing followers of Christ out of the way, but actually “criminalizing” aspects of our faith:

4.  Criminalizing the Catholic Church and its works

  • The HHS mandate (Need I say any more!);
  • Local governments and courts are attempting to COMPEL Catholic hospitals and “pro-life” clinics to provide information and/or referrals for abortions, even going further, actually demanding these organizations to provideemergency contraceptionupon request; 
  • Catholic Charities throughout the United States have already been “de-certified” by various State and US authorizes.  They are no longer allowed to perform adoption work because these Catholic organizations will not allow children to be adopted by single-sex “couples”; 
  • The State of Connecticut, in 2009, sought to regulate the organization and administration of Catholic parishes itself.  (Is that “separation of Church and state?!  I think not!!  Luckily, the attempt was unsuccessful.); 
  • Recently, a number of Christian valedictorians in various States of the Union were presented with legal “injunctions” – – court rulings and court orders – – when it was discovered that they intended to mention God and/or Jesus specifically in their talks.  These legal injunctions banned them from doing so under severe penalty of law!!

Not only are Catholics and other Christians being “stereotyped”, “vilified”, “marginalized”, and “criminalized” for being “seen” displaying our faith, but also, Catholics can be (and are) sought out specifically FOR persecution by the government and the larger society.  This leads us to our last step:

5.  Persecuting the Catholic Church out-rightly and overtly, as a single religious group, as well as independent individual citizens of faith

If current trends continue:

  • Catholics and other Christians, especially the religious leaders – – out-spoken Priests, Bishops, and even the Pope – – will be straining under their personal cross of heavy fines and incarceration for their faith, and for their “sheep”. 
  • Already, in Canada and parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic Doctrine and other teachings on such topics as homosexual activity.
  • Individuals in St. Louis, Washington DC,  and or cities have been arrested and charged with various trespassing, loitering, and “hate crimes” for “praying, and witnessing” – – PEACEFULLY – – at abortion clinics, and in front of the White House and other government buildings as well.

There are more examples for each of these progressive steps.  After reading this SHORT list of anti-Christian, anti-Catholic stages of persecution, I feel disheartened about our current societies’ (and politicians’) approach in scrutinizing and segregating the Catholic Church as a societal and political ENEMY of the American society at-large.  Many believe true Christians and Catholics are an “out-dated” group no longer needed – – or wanted – – in America today.  Even supposed “Catholic” politicians – – and not just Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden – – have decided to “pick and choose” which tenets and Catholic beliefs to follow within the changing culture of America.

In closing, let’s keep always on our lips the following prayer, given to us by an angel who appeared to three children of Fatima (Portugal) in 1916, just before the outbreak of WWI in 1917:

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the OUTRAGES, SACRILEGES, and INDIFFERENCES by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

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 Joke of the Day:

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 Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by Pilate about the charge brought against Him – – that He is “King of the Jews”.  So, who’s the true “Royalty”?

(NAB John 18:33-37) 33 Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”  35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?”  36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”  37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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  Gospel Reflection:

Today is the last Sunday of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year. On this specific Sunday, we celebrate (and reflect on) the “Solemnity of Christ the King”.  On this day in the Church year, we read a portion of the “Passion” from John’s Gospel, the very same reading proclaimed each year on Good Friday.

In today’s reading, Pilate questions Jesus about the accusations brought against Him by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish “Supreme Court” that He is a “king”.  Caiaphas, the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest, and Jesus’ major antagonist, along with the other high priests, have charged Jesus with a religious and political crime – – a crime requiring a death penalty.  

Pilate, in his words and actions, seems to be attempting to distance himself from the Jewish leaders who are accusing Jesus of a very heinous crime: blasphemy.  Pilate is a Roman and not a Jew.  In reality, he probably wanted very little to do with this Jewish affair, but was forced to participate over a fear of rebellion.

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Pilate asks THE question many in Jerusalem were asking to themselves or under their breaths:

Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33)

In response, and in knowing of the “rumors” and accusations rampantly spreading among the populace, Jesus answers by asking:

Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” (John 18:44).

Pilate, a proud Roman, in saying he is “not a Jew”, is relating to Jesus that he had even heard the talk about Jesus’ claim of being a “king” in His own right.  Pilate also wanted to make clear to Jesus that His OWN people – – Jewish people – – have brought the Roman government’s wrath upon Him, for execution purposes:

“I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?” (John 18:35).

I love Jesus’ response to Pilate’s finger pointing; his putting the blame for Jesus’ arrest (and future crucifixion) on others of His “clan”:

My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here” (John 18:36).

Jesus is identifying a final proof that His kingdom is not of this world.  If His kingdom were of this world, then there would be people fighting to save Him (and winning).  In this regard, we hear echoes of John’s “theme” – – salvation is worked out through a cosmic battle.  It is helpful to return to the first chapter of John’s Gospel to understand the context for Jesus’ words to Pilate:  

He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him” (John 1:10).

I personally believe this statement in today’s Gospel, about being “not of this world”, had to throw a bit of mental confusion into Pilate’s thinking.  For me, and probably for Pilate as well, this statement from Jesus was a verbal puzzle, a divine “head trip” of sorts.  In reality however, Jesus is simply speaking the truth.  John reiterated this fact of faith twice before: the aforementioned verse (John 1:10), and this verse from chapter eight of his Gospel:

 “He said to them, ‘You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above.  You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world” (John 8:23).

In John’s symbolic language, the “world” he mentions prefers the darkness, and that the light will not be overcome by the darkness:

Through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

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I believe Pilate tired of the “head games” and the humbleness being presented to him by Jesus while questioning Him.  Pilate wanted a simple “yes or no” answer to his questions.  He also perplexed about the accusation being brought against Jesus by His fellow Jews and Temple leaders.  So, Pilate sarcastically concedes, inquisitively, to Jesus:

Then you are a king?” (John 18:37).

However, Jesus is not done with His teaching of the faith through this unique moment of opportunity graced to Him by His Father in heaven.   He does not actually say He ISthe king”, but this verification is inferred and hinted to in His word dynamics:

You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37)

By saying, “You say I am a king”, Jesus is, in a way, offering a veiled affirmative answer to Pilate’s (and many others) inquiry about Him and His “nature”.

Jesus also states another revelation, to Pilate, along with His “vague” “yes” answer during this dialogue:

“You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truthEveryone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37)

Jesus Christ is testifying to His truth, AND to the “truth” found in “hearing” and following Him, belonging to Him in every way possible:

Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God” (John 8:47);

John is not the only one in Holy Scripture to write about “truth”.   Paul writes in His awesome first letter to Timothy, warning against “false teachers” who stress knowledge, teaching Timothy to focus on the persistent “hearing” of Jesus’ truetruth”:

I charge [you] before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:13).

How good are YOU doing at following His true “truth”?  Personally, I find it very difficult quite often; but then I ask Him for help.

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In Jesus’ responses to Pilate’s questions, Jesus distinguishes His kingdom from the political powers of this world.  “King” and “kingdom” may be appropriate terms for Jesus’ mission and promise, but only by similarity.  Jesus ISking”, but not the kind of king we typically imagine or expect!  And, He certainly was not the kind of “king” Pilate worried about or feared.

 Jesus submits to Pilate His [Jesus’] “kingdom” is “not of this world”.  Recall, in His prayer during the Last Supper discourse (cf., John 17:6-18), Jesus prayed for His disciples who are in the world – – but do not belong to the world: His faithful believers.  However, like Jesus, they also were (and are) sent into the world – – for the world’s salvation.  (I feel humbly important now, um, I think?!)

OK, let’s go on.  “Truth” is an important theme in John’s Gospel.  We see it emphasized in today’s conclusion during the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate.  Those who “know the truth” will recognize Jesus as “king” and will know how to interpret this truthful perception and self-awareness given to us by Him personally.  However, Jesus’ kingship was hidden from many of His contemporaries, even His own disciples and Apostles.  His kingship is still hidden to many even today.  Only the “chosen”, those who have the “eyes” and “ears” of faith, are able to see and hear the “truth”.   As contemporary disciples of Jesus, we also struggle at times to recognize Jesus as “MY” “king”, personally.  We are being invited to “see” and “hear” with eyes and ears of faith so that we might recognize that Jesus, through His crucifixion and death, truly is indeed the true “king” of me, and for me, and the “Messiah Savior King” of ALL mankind.

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Understanding today’s “Feast of Christ the King” may be particularly challenging for some of us “faithful”.  While most of us do not have a direct experience with kings or royalty (such as me), we possess a sense and image of kings and royals (again, such as me).  We know that royalty have sovereignty (rule and power) over their “kingdoms”.  We know that those who are subjects (someone ruled) to royalty offer them allegiance and honor.  (Who hasn’t seen a knights and damsels in distress movie?  That’s the way it works – – in this world!)  

To understand how Jesus Christ is “our king”, we need to extend and magnify – – amplify – – what we know to be proper and “true” from the best of human royalty.  Jesus Christ’s kingship extends to ALL places, ALL people, and ALL times – – past, past, and future.  Jesus manifests His kingship through His death on the Holy Cross, a death He offered to us for redemption and salvation to EVERYONE who believes and hears Him.  Those who can see and hear with eyes and ears of faith truly recognize Jesus Christ to be the proper and “true” heavenly king we need.

As you celebrate today the “Feast of Christ the King”, let’s ask, what does it mean to be a king or queen – – royalty (such as me)?; How do those who are subjects behave toward royalty?; Does Pilate treat Jesus like royalty? [Nope.]; What does Jesus say about His kingdom? [It is not of this world.].  

So, how then do you honor and obey our “king”, Jesus Christ?   (Yea, I can improve as well.)  Let’s ask God the Father to help us act in ways which show we do truly recognize and honor His Son, Jesus Christ, as “King”, as our “King”,  and as “MY Personal King”.

P.S. – – Re-read the title of today’s blog posting:

“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!”

What was your FIRST impression of this title?  Has it NOW changed? 

Please let me know

I would like to know for a special reason.  Remember, I feel there is basically NO wrong answer because it comes from the Holy Spirit working though YOU, if reflected on, and answered, sincerely.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Prayer To Christ The King

Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the universe.
All that has been created has been made for You.
Make full use of Your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism,
when I renounced Satan
and all his pomps and works,
and I promise to live a good Christian
life
and to do all in my power
to procure the triumph of the rights of God
and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus,
I offer you my efforts
in order to obtain that all hearts
may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,
and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace
may be established throughout the universe.

Amen.”

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“FedEx or UPS May Have Been Easier, But Not As Fulfilling!” – Matthew 2:1-12†


 

The “Epiphany” of the Lord

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Blessing of a Home at Epiphany

 

Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who live here.

Leader: Bless, O Lord, this household and family, and allow all of us who live in this home to find in it a shelter of peace and health.  Inspire each of us to develop our individual talents and to contribute wisdom and good works for the benefit of the whole family.  Make our house a haven for us all, and a place of warmth and caring for all our friends who come to visit us.  Enlighten us with the brilliance of your Epiphany star, so that, as we go into the world, we might clearly see our way to You and discover You in our work and play.  This we ask to your glory and in the power of your kingship. All: For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever, Amen.

Then, bless the house with the sign of the cross.

After the blessing, the initials of the Magi (traditional names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) are written with chalk over the main door way of the house, like this: 20 + C + M + B + 12 (the + is a cross; the “12” stands for 2012; change the year accordingly).

Adapted from commonly used parish prayer

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Today in Catholic History:

†   482 – Death of Severinus, German monastery founder/saint, dies
†   1100 – Death of Antipope Clement III (b. 1029)
†   1198 – Death of Coelestinus III (aka, Pope Celestine III), [Giacinto Bobo], pope (1191-98)
†   1198 – Lotario di Segni elected Pope Innocentius III
†   1456 – Death of St Lawrence Justinian, Italian bishop and first Patriarch of Venice (b. 1381)
†   1635 – Birth of Luis Manuel Fernández de Portocarrero, Spanish Archbishop of Toledo (d. 1709)
†   1735 – Birth of John Carroll, American Roman Catholic archbishop (d. 1815)
†   1892 – Death of John Heykamp, old-catholic archbishop of Utrecht, dies at age 67
†   1894 – Birth of St Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (d. 1941)
†   1904 – Pope Pius X banned low cut dresses in the presence of churchmen
†   1905 – Birth of Franjo Cardinal Seper, Croatian Catholic cardinal (d. 1981)
†   1932 – Death of Eurosia Fabris, Italian Catholic (b. 1866) †   Feasts/Memorials: Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the Roman Catholic 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:

 

 “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Magi seeking out the child Jesus and doing Him homage

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the “official” Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

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

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

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In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the “Magi” occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  It is apparent Matthew tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the infancy narrative – – covering the actual birth of Jesus Christ, – – Matthew barely tells us little more than:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod.” (Matthew 2:1)

Other differences in covering Jesus Christ’s infancy event, between Matthew and Luke, are found in the:

(1) Census being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and
(2) Visit of the “Magi” only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel (today’s reading).

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; AND Jesus’ acceptance by the “Gentiles” (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (actually, retrojected) into the scene and circumstances of today’s reading.

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If Jesus truly is who He claims to be, “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, and ‘Savior’ of the world”, then why was He not recognized by everyone who hears His “Word” and sees His works?  John the Evangelist states that when Jesus came into the world:

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

 Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only the lowly shepherds recognized Him at His birth.  However, some “Magi” also found their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn “King” of Israel.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the “great” Messianic King when He appeared.  

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge” (Hence, the term the term frequently used for them: “Wise Men”).  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly – – and apparently – – quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi.  We know they came from “the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the star) which was of some type of “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening” across the desert to the little town, Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  In their diligent search these “three Kings” were led to the source of true knowledge — to Jesus Christ, the Light and Wisdom of God the Father.  When they found the newborn King they humbly worshiped Him and gave Him gifts fitting for a “King”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this Messianic King?  It was a confident and assured faith in the promise God the Father gave to send a Redeemer, a “King” who would establish God the Father’s reign of peace and righteousness:

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

 

We base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the “three gifts”, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of “strange landsto represent the Gentiles’ search for a Messianic Savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses which may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

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

And,

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

These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: be it secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the Messiah King Himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the “Word” being written in the heavenly stars.  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the “Magi”.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge AND getting no preemptive warning about this “NEW” king in “his” territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare, prestige, and life, with a “Messiah” king, again, in “his” territory.  So, he immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his personal presence. (Hmm, Biblical pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

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

The “three kings” travel to Bethlehem, from King Herod’s presence, in response to prophetic Hebrew Scriptures, which the “chief priests and scribes” also shared with these first Gentile believers through an unlikely envoy: Herod:

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

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Let’s Continue.  Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

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

These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for knowing this “heavenly” announced “God”.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their personal quest of discovering and knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.   (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it in Hollywood or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their activity, the three “Magi” serve as a model for contemplative listening.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, their action flowed directly from their personal – – and focused – – discernment of divine guidance.  The “Magi” set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in the star which announced:

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

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

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

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

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, they made a gift of their individual, unique, and personal “lives” with each step of their journey in search for the “Messiah King”.  Matthew’s account of this event eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” search and quest:

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

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires to meet this singular “King of Kings”.

 

And, after giving homage and gifts to the newborn infant “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them, in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod and “they departed for their country by another way“:

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

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Faith is an entirely free gift that God the Father makes and imparts to us.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – who moves the individuals heart and opens the individuals soul and mind – – that we are able to understand, to accept, and to believe the real divine “truth” which the Godhead reveals to us personally, and uniquely.  With “trust”, “love”, and “faith”, OUR human will and intellect cooperate with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

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

To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  In the encounter of the Magi “Wise Men” “Kings” – – with and towards Jesus Christ – – we see the divine plan of God the Father giving His only-begotten Son as the Messiah King and Savior, – – not just for the Jewish people – – but for ALL the nations and ALL peoples.  Jesus Christ came so both Jew and Gentile might find true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND each other.  

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In conclusion, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the “Magi”.  For this reason, in many cultures, even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on Christmas Day.  This makes me think, we should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES”!!  Our three “special” gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do in our lives!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  Interiorly (and exteriorly), how can we offer our very “selves” more fully to God the Father’s love and personal plan He has for each of us, personally and collectively?  

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

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift giving”.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that making it special, was it the thought that went into it, or even the person who gave it to you making it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress.)  Do you bring the “light of Jesus Christ to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impart” to others throughout your personal and public path in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of their personal journeys path of life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” in search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

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

The Liturgy of the Hours

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 

Faith and Works

 

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James. 2:17). RSV

So faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.(James. 2:17). KJV

*

 “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (James. 2:20). RSV

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James. 2:20). KJV

*

 “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James. 2:24). RSV

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James. 2:24). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Kolbe

OFM Conventional (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)
Feastday: August 14

 

Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan.  He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady.  After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled “The Knight of the Immaculata” and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.

Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement.  In 1936 he returned home because of ill health.  After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time.  But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father.  And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14th.

from Wikipedia:

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.  Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.

In Italian he is known as “San Massimiliano Maria Kolbe”; his given name in Polish is “Maksymilian”, in French, “Maximilien”.

Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

From “Catholic Online” Website
http://www.catholic.org/saints

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Our Mother Mary

Reflect on the following Franciscan prayer”

Antiphon to Mary

“Holy Virgin Mary, among women there is no one like you born into the world: you are the daughter and the servant of the most high and supreme King and Father of heaven: you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us with Saint Michael and the Archangel and all the powers of the heavens and all the saints to your most holy beloved Son, the Lord and Master. Amen”

 

What points of honor does Saint Francis call our attention to in his esteem of Mary? … And, in this antiphon?

Do you know how often this Antiphon to Mary was indicated to be used by the friars?

What does our SFO Rule, article 9 tell us?

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

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

 

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


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

 Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

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Today in Catholic History:    

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verse six of John’s reading today is:

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

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

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

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Let’s go on to another verse: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verse 15:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTinMASS!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Glory Be to the Father

(Doxology)

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Faith and Works, Part 1

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues and Poverty

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

Why did Saint Francis call poverty a royal virtue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Ok, Already; I Forgot the Music for the Passover Meal! So Crucify Me!” – Matthew 26:14-25†


 

Wednesday of Holy Week

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:

I want to thank you Lord for extending to us your graces.  Please be with all of us in all our endeavors, thoughts, and dreams.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
†   1314 – Death of Clement V, [Bertrand Got], pope (1305-14) move papacy to Avignon
†   1317 – Death of Agnes van Montepulciano, Italian mystic/saint
†   1534 – Death of Elizabeth Barton, English nun (executed)
†   1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
†   1884 – Pope Leo XIII published encyclical “On Freemasonry”
†   1884 – Pope Leo XIII publishes the encyclical, Humanum Genus.
†   1999 – Death of victims of the Columbine High School massacre
†   2007 – Death of Michael Fu Tieshan, Chinese bishop (b. 1931)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Agnes of Montepulciano; Saint Theotimus (d. 407); Blessed Oda (d. 1158)

(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:

 

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master
Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher.
Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer.
Had no army, yet kings feared Him.
He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world.
He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him.
He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.

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Today’s reflection is about the planning and provision for the “Last Supper” and pronouncement of Judas’ disloyalty, deceit, and betrayal.

 (NAB Matthew 26:14-25) 14 Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”  They paid him thirty pieces of silver, 16 and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.  17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples  pproached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”  19 The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.  20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve.  21 And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  22 Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”  23 He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.  24 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  25 Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”  He answered, “You have said so.” 

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Have you ever wondered why Judas betrayed his “Master”, his “Rabbi”, his “dear” friend?  I know I have!  This specific question is towards
the top of my list of questions that I plan on asking some day (yet, hopefully not soon though).

Judas Iscariot” is an Apostle that is not really made as factually well-known to us as some of the other major disciples of Jesus Christ.  I believe he was a “zealot”, and possibly even a member of the same group of Jewish rebels who attempted the military overthrow of Roman rule in Palestine in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.  The name Iscariot, per NAB footnote) may mean “man from Kerioth”, a city of Judah.

What was his reason for his actions?  Were Judas’ deceitfulness, disloyalty, and treasonous actions toward Jesus Christ provoked by greed?
Was he disappointed with Jesus because of an action or non-action?  Or did he come be disillusioned in Jesus’ message, and way?

It could be that Judas never intended for Jesus Christ to die (though he should have known the consequence of his actions).  Maybe he wanted to “push” Jesus into some type of action – – a stimulus plan of sorts.   Did Judas think Jesus was proceeding too slowly and/or not acting forcefully and violently enough in His setting up of the “messianic” kingdom on earth?  Perhaps Judas simply wanted to force Jesus’
hand by forcing and coercing Him to start an armed, substantially physical, act of some unknown type.

What we can surmise, however, is that Judas somehow could not accept Jesus Christ as He was, and in the plan of His humanly divine mission.  But, aren’t we tempted to use God for our own purposes as well, at times?  We have to remember, it is not God who must change to fit our needs.  We must be changed by Him, so we can fulfill His needs.

The motive of greed is introduced by Judas’s question, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” in regards to the price for betrayal.  Curiously, this sentence is absent in Mark’s Gospel:

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.  When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.  Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Mark 14:10-11).

Hand him over”, however, is in both accounts (Matthew’s and Mark’s).  The same Greek verb is used to express the saving purpose of God the Father by which Jesus Christ is handed over to death, and the human malice that hands him over:

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” (Matthew 17:22);

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and
they will condemn him to death.”
(Matthew 20:18);

And,

“You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2).

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The chief priest’s intent was to put Jesus to death.  They plotted for a long time, yet delayed their thirst for His death out of fear of Jesus’ following in society and out of the fear of the crowds around Him nearly continuously.

There are many references to “thirty pieces of silver throughout Holy Scripture.  “Thirty pieces of silver” (about 21 ounces) was the price Judas agreed upon with the Temple leaders in his contract of betrayal; in his being a traitor of Jesus.  The amount of money paid to Judas
is found only in Matthew’s account.  It is derived from the Old Testament Book of Zechariah, where it is the wages paid to the rejected shepherd:

I said to them, ‘If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, let it go.’ And they counted out my wages, thirty pieces of silver.  But the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it in the treasury, the handsome price at which they valued me.’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD.” (Zechariah 11:12-13).

The amount: “thirty pieces of silver” was also the compensation paid to one whose slave has been gored by an ox:

But if it is a male or a female slave that it gores, he must pay the owner of the slave thirty shekels of silver, and the ox must be stoned.” (Exodus 21:32).

Interesting for me is that five shekels was the price Mary and Joseph had to pay at the Temple (by Mosaic Law) for Jesus’ redemption, at
the time He was “Presented” to the Temple at eight days of age (cf., Luke 2:22-40).  It is now thirty shekels (about 21 ounces of pure silver) that officials of the same Temple are paying to condemn Jesus Christ to death – – and for OUR redemption.

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Unleavened bread took the form of loaves which had to be eaten over a seven day period, in commemoration of the unleavened bread which the Israelites had to take with them in their hurry to leave Egypt:

The people, therefore, took their dough before it was leavened, in their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks on their shoulders.” (Exodus 12:34).

In Jesus Christ’s time, the Passover supper was celebrated on the first day of the week of Unleavened Bread.

Most Catholics do not understand this Jewish festival.  Both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two separate events, co-mingled.  The two festivals are reflected in the following Old Testament verses:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened BreadFor seven days at the prescribed time in the month of Abib you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you; for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt.” (Exodus 34:18);

“These, then, are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate at their proper time with a sacred assembly.  The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month, at the evening twilight.  The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’S feast of Unleavened Bread.  For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work.  On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD. Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work.” (Leviticus 23:4-8);

“’Tell the Israelites to celebrate the Passover at the prescribed time.  The evening twilight of the fourteenth day of this month is the prescribed time  when you shall celebrate it, observing all its rules and regulations.’  Moses, therefore, told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover.  And they did so, celebrating the Passover in the desert of Sinai during the evening twilight of the fourteenth day of the first month, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.  There were some, however, who were unclean because of a human corpse and so could not keep the Passover that day.  These men came up to Moses and Aaron that same day and said, ‘Although we are unclean because of a corpse, why should we be deprived of presenting the LORD’S offering at its proper time along with the other Israelites?’  Moses answered them, ‘Wait until I learn what the LORD will command in your regard.’  The LORD then said to Moses: ‘Speak to the Israelites and say: If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean because of a corpse, or if he is absent on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’S Passover.  But he shall keep it in the second month, during the evening twilight of the fourteenth day of that month, eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and not leaving any of it over till morning, nor breaking any of its bones, but observing all the rules of the Passover.  However, anyone who is clean and not away on a journey, who yet fails to keep the Passover, shall be cut off from his people, because he did not present the LORD’S offering at the prescribed time.  That man shall bear the consequences of his sin.  ‘If an alien
who lives among you wishes to keep the LORD’S Passover, he too shall observe the rules and regulations for the Passover.  You shall have the same law for the resident alien as for the native of the land.
’ (Numbers 9:2-14);

On the fourteenth day of the first month falls the Passover of the LORD, and the fifteenth day of this month is the pilgrimage feast. For seven days unleavened bread is to be eaten.” (Numbers 28:16-17);

And,

Observe the month of Abib by keeping the Passover of the LORD, your God, since it was in the month of Abib that he brought you by night out of Egypt.  You shall offer the Passover sacrifice from your flock or your herd to the LORD, your God, in the place which he chooses as the dwelling place of his name.  You shall not eat leavened bread with it.  or seven days you shall eat with it only unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, that you may remember as long as you live the day of your departure from the land of Egypt; for in frightened haste you left the land of Egypt.  Nothing leavened may be found in all your territory for seven days, and none of the meat which you sacrificed on the evening of the first day shall be kept overnight for the next day.  ‘You may not sacrifice the Passover in any of the communities which the LORD, your God, gives you; only at the place which he chooses as the dwelling place of his name, and in the evening at sunset, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt, shall you sacrifice the Passover.  You shall cook and eat it at the place the LORD, your God, chooses; then in the morning you may return to your tents.  For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh there shall be a solemn meeting in honor of the LORD, your God; on that day you shall not do any sort of work.’” (Deuteronomy 16:1-8).;

Every male adult Jew was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at some time in their life.  If possible, the Jewish people living near Jerusalem were to celebrate Passover every year in Jerusalem.

This annual feast commemorated the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12).  On that night the angel of death slew the first-born of the Egyptians; but he “passed over” the homes of the Israelites, because the wooden beam and jams of their doors were smeared with the blood of an unblemished lamb sacrificed for the occasion.

Jesus Christ was also an “unblemished” (sin-free), “lamb” (human offering) sacrificed at Passover, and His blood was smeared on the wooden beams of the Holy Cross.

The “Feast of the Unleavened Bread” was continued from Nisan 14, through Nisan 21 (7 days of the Hebrew Calendar), a reminder of the suffering and difficulty the Israelites experienced, and of the haste surrounding their departure from Egypt.  Praise and thanks to God for His goodness in the past year were combined at this “dual festival”, along with the hope of future salvation in the coming years.

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Matthew and Mark have parallel and similar versions of sending disciples into the Jerusalem for the acquisition of a room for the
Passover meal:

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”(Matthew 26:18)

In comparison to,

“He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, ‘Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.’” (Mark 14:13-15)

By Matthew leaving out much of Mark’s version, along with adding “My appointed time draws near”, plus, turning His question (in Marks Gospel) into a statement (in Matthew’s), the passage is presented in a formal, solemn, and majestic way, making his presentation far greater (for me) than is presented in Mark’s version.

The passage from today’s reading (verse 18) refers to an “unknown” person as the one to approach in order to acquire a place for the Passover meal.  In reality, I believe Jesus gave this person’s real name.  After all, Jesus was not unknown in Jerusalem, and had been there many, many times.  He was “connected” in that city.  From what the other Evangelists write, Jesus most certainly gave enough information to enable His Apostles to find a place.

“He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.’” (Mark 14:13);

And

“And he answered them, ‘When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water.  Follow him into the house that he enters.’” (Luke 22:10);

What do you think?  Did Jesus’ disciples go without any knowledge what-so-ever, are did they go with some sort of instructions?

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Given Matthew’s interest in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, I wonder why he leaves out Mark’s words of the “betrayer” being present at the very table eating with them; of Jesus’ betrayer being an Apostle, as in Mark’s version:

“And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’” (Mark 14:18),

However, they both do allude to Psalm 41 in their words.  However, Mark’s words are closer in comparison:

Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me.” (Psalm 41:10).


For me, the shocking fact is that the “betrayer” was one of the twelve Apostles, chosen personally by Jesus Christ.  The truth is that a “betrayer” who shared the same table and same fellowship with Jesus Christ and His followers, who listened to His teachings and was in His loving embrace – – daily, – – would purposely choose to knowingly hand Jesus over to a certain death.

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His resurrection at “Easter” will teach the Apostles so much more about who Jesus Christ truly was.  However, this glorious, magnificent, and miraculous event had not occurred as of this time in first century Palestine.  Their faith was growing, strengthening.  It was being fortified and deepened during the course of Jesus’ public ministry, and though their continual contact with Him and His divine graces which He had imparted on them.

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

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

And,

“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.’” (Matthew 16:17).

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I could never even imagine giving up a friend as dear as Jesus Christ.  The evilness, ruthlessness, and horror of Judas’ actions were such that it would be better for him not to exist than to do what he had done.

It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24).

Jesus in saying, “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him …” is referring to the “truth” that He will offer Himself up freely to pain, suffering, and death.  In so doing He was fulfilling the will of God, as prophesized, centuries before:

Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me.(Psalm 41:10);

And,

“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.(Isaiah 53:7).

Although our Lord Jesus Christ goes to His death willingly, and of His own free will, this does not reduce the seriousness of Judas’
treachery.

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The advance warning of Judas being the traitor was not noticed by the Apostles:

“Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.’  So he dipped the morsel and (took it and) handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.  After he took the morsel, Satan entered him.  So Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’  (Now) none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.  Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast,’ or to give something to the poor.’” (John 13:26-29).

Distinctive to Matthew is the half-affirmatives, “You have said so” found several times in his Gospel, including verse 25 from today’s reading:

“Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”  He answered, ‘You have said so.’” (Matthew 26:25),

along with two others:

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘You have said so.  But I tell you: From now on you will see “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power” and “coming on the clouds of heaven.”'” (Matthew 26:64);

and,

“Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’  Jesus said, ‘You say so.’” (Matthew 27:11).

These “half-affirmative”, (sort of “Yes’s”), emphasize the pronoun “you”.  Jesus’ answer implies that His statement – – His near “yes” – – would not have been made if the question had not been asked in the first place.

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In Summary, It was at Passover time that Jesus came to Jerusalem knowing he would be betrayed and put to death as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Jesus fulfilled the Passover prophesies.  His new covenant – – fulfilled the old.    His death and resurrection happened at the time of Passover solely in order to redeem US from our life of sin, death, Satan, and worldly needs.

His blood on the wood of the Holy tree, like the blood of the first Passover lamb just prior to the Exodus, protects God’s people from the angel of death and the oppressive power of Satan.  “Easter” is the Catholic Christian Passover:

“Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened.  For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Are you celebrating this Holy Week, this Catholic Passover, with sincerity, love, and truth in your heart?

Jesus knew before the earth existed what would transpire at this time.  As Jesus ate the Passover meal with His twelve Apostles, and saying, “one of you will betray me”, He taught them (and us) to examine theirs, (and OURS), consciousness and actions.  He taught US also to examine ourselves in the light of God’s truth and grace.  We need to ask Him to strengthen our faith, hope, and love (the intentions of the first three “Hail Mary” beads on the rosary) DAILY, so we may not fail Him or abandon Him when tempted.  Pray with confidence, love, hope, and trust the words Jesus gave us to pray for deliverance from evil.

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The Our Father

“Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

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 third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

“Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

Which may be used instead of the English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Conrad of Parzham (1818-1894)

Conrad spent most of his life as porter in Altoetting, Bavaria, letting people into the friary and indirectly encouraging them to let God into their lives.

His parents, Bartholomew and Gertrude Birndorfer, lived near Parzham, Bavaria.  In those days this region was recovering from the Napoleonic wars.  A lover of solitary prayer and a peacemaker as a young man,

Conrad joined the Capuchins as a brother.  He made his profession in 1852 and was assigned to the friary in Altoetting.  That city’s shrine to Mary was very popular; at the nearby Capuchin friary there was a lot of work for the porter, a job Conrad held for 41 years.

At first some of the other friars were jealous that such a young friar held this important job.  Conrad’s patience and holy life overcame their doubts.  As porter he dealt with many people, obtaining many of the friary supplies and generously providing for the poor who came to the door.  He treated them all with the courtesy Francis expected of his followers.

Conrad’s helpfulness was sometimes unnerving.  Once Father Vincent, seeking quiet to prepare a sermon, went up the bell tower of the church.  Conrad tracked him down when someone wanting to go to confession specifically requested Father Vincent.

Conrad also developed a special rapport with the children of the area.  He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children.

Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers.  The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.

Comment:

As we can see from his life as well as his words, Conrad of Parzham lived a life that attracted others because of a special quality, something Chesterton alluded to when he wrote, “The moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand” (Orthodoxy, p. 71).  If we want to understand Conrad, we have to know where he fixed his heart.  Because he was united to God in prayer, everyone felt at ease in Conrad’s presence.

Quote:

“It was God’s will that I should leave everything that was near and dear to me.  I thank him for having called me to religious life where I have found such peace and joy as I could never have found in the world.  My plan of life is chiefly this: to love and suffer, always meditating upon, adoring and admiring God’s unspeakable love for his lowliest creatures” (Letter of Saint Conrad).

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)

Т

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues II

What virtues were given to us with the Sacrament of Confirmation?  How often are we aware of trying to use them?

In our spiritual life, is it better (more wholesome) to concentrate on practicing virtues, rather than trying to eradicate vices? What is the practical difference?

Discuss one or two outstanding virtues that impress you about your favorite Saint…

How do these individual virtues compare to societal values today?

Т

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’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.

“Are We There Yet? We Left the Receipts for the Gifts At Home; Hope He Likes ‘Em!” – Matthew 2:1-12 †


 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for
JANUARY 2011

 

General Intention:

That the riches of creation be preserved, valued, and made available to all, as precious gifts from God to mankind.

 

Missionary Intention:

That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany Proclamation 2011

(to be read after the Gospel at Mass today)

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the twenty-first day of April and the evening of the twenty-third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twenty-fourth day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday — the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.  From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the ninth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the second day of June.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the twelfth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, forever and ever.  Amen.”

 

 

 

“Home Blessing”

 

There is a custom that has developed over time for commemorating the Magi’s visit to Jesus’ birth “home”.  It is to bless one’s home during the week of the Epiphany.

The blessing includes marking the first initials of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) at the top frame of the home door (possibly with holy water), along with the year, plus crosses between the numbers and letters.  This year’s marking would look like this:

20 + C + M + B + 11

Here is an example of a prayer that can be used during the blessing, if you wish:

“Be my shelter, Lord, when I am at home, my companion when I am away, and my welcome guest when I return.  And at last receive me into the dwelling place you have prepared for me in your Father’s house, where you live forever and ever.  Amen”

From the “Little Blue Book”
Diocese of Saginaw, MI

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   533 –
Mercurius becomes Pope John II, the first pope to adopt a new name upon elevation to the papacy.
†   1585 – Spain & Catholic France sign Saint League of Joinville
†   1873 – Birth of Thérèse de Lisieux, French Roman-Catholic nun and saint (d. †1897)

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Starting with this first reflection of 2011, I will be posting a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html.) 

 

Part 01 of 13 Parts

“The letter of the 6th of May [2010] from His Eminence Card. Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, addressed to the Minister General, Encarnacion del Pozo and to the entire Secular Franciscan Order, is a document of great importance and merits, therefore, the particular attention of each and every member of the SFO.”

“It should be remembered that the SFO is directly dependant on the Holy See, and the Pope in particular, through the CICLSAL.  In Cardinal Rodé’s letter, therefore, it is this same Hierarchical Church which speaks to the Order and does so in consistent continuity with the Magisterium of the Popes for the SFO.”

(Continued on next published blog)

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

  

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the Magi (the Three Kings) seeking out Jesus, and paying homage to Him.

 

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

 

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Christmas Season officially.  Though it is true that the magi were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

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

In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the Magi occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  As is not totally unusual or unique, Matthew’s Gospel tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the part of the infancy narrative covering the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew barely tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1).  Other examples of the difference in coverage of the infancy events between these two Gospels are found in (1) the census only being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and (2) the visit of the Magi only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel.

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; and Jesus’ acceptance by the Gentiles (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (retrojected) into the scene of today’s reading.

King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he made have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  He was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  He was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Magi” was a designation originally used for the Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge”.  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi” from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq) were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly and quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi. We know they come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign of some type of importance to them.  We base there being “three” Magi solely on the naming of their three gifts, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of strange lands to represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

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

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

These Magi from far away foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the king himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the Magi.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge and getting no preemptive warning about this NEW king in his territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare and prestige.  So, he calls all his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his immediate presence.  (Biblical pagers and cell phones were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the chief priests and scribes have a very strong similarity to a Jewish non-biblical legend (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warns the Pharaoh about the imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt, and the king makes plans to destroy him.  (Moses and Jesus seem to have identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

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

These Magi, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, and their friends and family, in their intense hunger for knowing this “heavenly” announced God.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their quest of knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.  (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars” and did not have to buy it in Hollywood!)

We have come to consider the gifts they brought as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be “Christological” in nature.  Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial (offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death).

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death.  They are made special to Him (and to us) because in giving them, the Magi (those unknown men from foreign lands and cultures) acknowledged who Jesus was to be: our Savior!  

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the Magi.  For this reason, in many cultures still today, gifts are exchanged on the Feast of the Epiphany instead of on Christmas Day.  We can still offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY in the future!  Our three special gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanks-giving!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know God personally.  In the Magi encountering Jesus, we see God’s plan for salvation.  This plan was (and is) to give his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for all mankind.  God gave to us this truly and fully – – both human and divine – – person (in the singular), for not just solely the Jewish faithful, but for all people everywhere.    Do you bring Jesus Christ to others in your path?  Do you actively LOOK for Jesus Christ in others along your path, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak words, and performs acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement.  He rejoices when our words and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes of immense size.

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of gift giving.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special, or was it the thought that went into it or even the person who gave it to you that made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”)

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “give off” to others.  

We Three Kings

 

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

[Refrain for after each verse]
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen (329-379)

 

Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and his principles influence Eastern monasticism today.

He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of his suffragan bishops, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.

One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”

He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.

Basil was best known as an orator. His writings, though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.

Quote:

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

 

Gregory Nazianzen (329-390). After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his archdiocese.

His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”

COMMENT: It may be small comfort, but turmoil in the Church today is a mild storm compared to the devastation caused by the Arian heresy, a trauma the Church has never forgotten. Christ did not promise the kind of peace we would love to have—no problems, no opposition, no pain. In one way or another, holiness is always the way of the cross.

QUOTE: “God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.”

Patron Saint of: Russia

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

 
    

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

“John, Don’t Lose Your Head Over My Divinity! You Are Great In Your Own Right!” – Matthew 11:2-11†


  

We are Half-Way though the Advent Season today; only thirteen (13) days till the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken becomes first in US to approve local Marian apparitions from 1859

 

CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of Third Order Franciscan sisters and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

Apparitions have taken place throughout history “as a sign of God’s providence, to remind us of what God has already revealed,” said Father Doerfler. “As a loving mother would remind her children about things that are important, so our Blessed Mother Mary has appeared throughout history to remind us of things that are important for our salvation and to draw us closer to her Son.”

Read the full story at:
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1005014.htm

 

 

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle.  This day is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism. [A sad and lowly part of Church history]
†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (St. Basil of Ostrog), Bishop of Zahumlje in Herzegovina (d. 1671)
†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926)
†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
†   Feast Day: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans witness to a genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable.

“For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast.  This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.”  Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discrimination of one form or another.  We are called to be in solidarity with them in their struggle to have their God-given rights honored by others.  We are called to develop a lifestyle that brings us close to the poor and makes us sensitive to those who are most vulnerable.” 

“Francis went around the cities and villages, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching peace.”  Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 36

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

…if you think God’s presence is always strongest in the back three pews.
…if you judge the quality of the Mass by the length of the Homily.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him; and praises John as more than a prophet.

 

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  8 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  9 Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (NAB Matthew 11:2-11)

 

This week’s Gospel continues a reflection on the personhood, ministry, and message of John the Baptist.  Last week at Mass, John spoke about his relationship to Jesus, the coming “one” prophesized in the Old Testament.  This week, we have Jesus’ message to John, who is imprisoned (and a message to us as well).  Jesus’ message is about the signs of the kingdom found in John’s ministry.  Jesus’ examines, and praises John’s “role” in salvation history and in the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the perceived undertone present in today’s Gospel reading?  There seems to be a subdued, yet noticeable and growing opposition to Jesus, if you “read between the lines.” From this point on, there will be more disputes, challenges, and attacks relating to “faith” and “discipleship” in reference (and preference) to Jesus in the future readings.

John the Baptist is now “in prison”.   Upon finding out of John’s capture and imprisonment, Jesus withdrew to Galilee (Matthew 4:12).  According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned – – and then executed – – John because he feared that John the Baptist’s influence over the people could possibly enable him to lead a rebellion.  The murder of John (see Matthew 14: 1-2) by Herod Antipas foreshadows the death of Jesus (see Matthew 17:12).  

John stood in the doorway between the Old and New Testaments.  He stood in the doorway between the Old and New Covenants of God.  For me, John the Baptist was the bright “light stream” in the vast desert pointing vividly to the safe and lovingly calm harbor of Jesus, similar to the light stream of a lonely lighthouse pointing the lost in the vast seas to a safe, calm, and loving harbor of safety.  John points to the “door” of Jesus moving inwardly from the “Old” – – towards the “New” – – kingdom of God.

John foretold and prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  At the Jordan River, He also pointed his own followers to Jesus when he extolled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John knew early on in His ministerial life what Jesus the “Messiah” would accomplish through His death on that Holy Tree of crucifixion.

Nearing the end of His life, today’s Gospel shows us how John queried whether Jesus was truly the “promised Messiah”.  Jesus retorted to John’s uncertainties by recounting the firm proof of facts about his ministry.

While in prison, why did John send his followers to question Jesus as he was sitting in prison knowing was going to die soon, at the hands of King Herod.  In verse 3, the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” expressed a doubt from John the Baptist.  He wanted to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come”.  The reason: because Jesus’ mission had NOT been one of a “fiery judgment” as John (and almost all Jewish people) had expected, but rather one of simple repentance.  John knew prophesies of the Old Testament.  In Malachi 3:1, it read:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that He has worked.  He says that His miracles, actions, and words about the kingdom of God is proof enough in recognizing the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  

In his rabbinic teaching style, Jesus also returned one question with another to Him and his followers: What do you see in John the Baptist?  His response to John’s question was also rabbinic in nature as it was taken from the Old Testament.   He took passages from Isaiah that pictures the time of salvation as being marked by deeds and acts, such as those that Jesus is doing. These passages were a caveat and warning to John the Baptist to NOT disbelieve solely because he believes his own expectations have not been met.

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”  (Isaiah 26:19)

“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:18-19)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.”  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus’ rebuke of John for questioning His divinity is offset by His reminder to the crowd of the greatness of John the Baptist’s role and function in salvation history (verses 7-11).  Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus – – the “MESSIAH!”

Why does Jesus contrast John with a “reed”?  Unlike a reed, which is spineless and easily bruised, John the Baptist stands as a truth of faith because his heart, soul, and body – his entire being – was surrendered to God.  John the Baptist burns brightly, warmly, and intensely with the fire of God’s truth and love for all mankind.

There was a common belief among the Jewish faithful that there had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi.  The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited among all Jewish people.  Jesus basically sanctions that John was that prophet, sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah that all was waiting.  John was the precursor of the “one” who would bring in the new and final age.  John was the last of the prophets to announce Jesus’ coming.  In leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, John was also the first witness to Jesus’ divinity(along with Mary and Joseph)!

John’s preeminent greatness lies in his purpose of announcing the nearness of the “kingdom”.  Jesus is telling all hearing that the “kingdom” of God is so great a privilege, pleasure, and joy, – – that the least in God’s kingdom – – is greater than the last and greatest prophet: John the Baptist.  All who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John – and even greater!

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This Gospel reading is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already present to us, but also yet to be fully fulfilled.

Someone who is “tepid” – careless, half-hearted, and lukewarm – can be easily influenced and converted by others.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, we must surrender our heart, soul, and body to Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  There is absolutely NO room for compromise on this matter of faith and fact.  We are either for Jesus and His kingdom or against Jesus and His kingdom – no fence walkers are allowed.  

Salvation is already in our midst as apparent in the miracles demonstrated by Jesus so many years ago, and in the Church today.  But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God.  

Look at our society and the societies around us.  Look at what is happening around the world today.  Though we can find glimpses of God’s work among us, it would so very easy to become disheartened and depressed by the apparent and obvious secularization of society.  The “absence” of God and His salvation is prevalent in today’s families and societies (even so-called Catholic ones).  Jesus’ excruciatingly painful death on the “Holy Tree” captured our hearts and souls, and opened the doorway to heaven.  We cannot truly know why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.  But, we do know that Jesus walked that same path during His time of humanity on earth.  And He is accompanying us on our path still today, especially close to us in times of pain and suffering.  That is why He is called Emmanuel: “God is with us!!”

 Advent is a season of “hope.  We should acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present in our world, and yet to be fully and truly fulfilled in the unknown future.  We are also expected to help prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our own actions, words, and prayers.

Reflect on John’s question to Jesus: “Are you the One?”  Jesus does not answer his question directly (he was a great therapist – without a couch though), but points to the signs of the kingdom present around Him.  Try looking through your local newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in your world and neighborhood.  

Each of us has times when we questioned God’s love, mercy, and attention to us.  There are times when we feel ambiguous or unsure about following Jesus on His path.  At these times, Jesus gives us the exact same answer he gave to John the Baptist: “Review your life.”  Try to remember the beautiful, wonderful, and awe inspiring things you have seen the Lord do in your life, in others, and in nature.  Keep hold of your trust, faith, and love for God – even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at that time.  Eventually, you too will be vindicated by God’s love for you!!

 

Our Father

 

“Our Father, who art in Heaven; hallowed by Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…”  (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

 

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

 

 

 

 

As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.