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“Bible History: 103! How Well Do You Know Your Bible Rulers and Prophets?!” – Luke 3:1-6†


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2nd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

 

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D. pencilan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

The Real and TRUE Santa Claus

 

Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply “Santa”.  Santa Claus is also known as “de Kerstman” in Dutch (“the Christmas man”), and “Père Noël” (“Father Christmas”) in French. 64680_535815893112792_1263747424_n He is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical, and folkloric origins.  In many western cultures, he brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. 

As you see in the picture of “Santa”, he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – – sometimes with spectacles – – wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and.  This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” along with caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s depiction.  This image has been maintained and reinforced in contemporary society through song, radio, television, children’s books, and films.

However, that is not the TRUE “Santa Claus”!! 

The modern “Santa” was derived from the Dutch figure of “Sinterklaas”, which, in turn, is partly based on hagiographical (reverent or saintly) tales concerning the historical figure of a Christian Bishop and gift giver: “Saint Nicholas”.  Greek Orthodox and Byzantine Christian folklore has a nearly identical story, attributed to Saint Basil of Caesarea.  Basil’s feast day, on January 1, is considered the time of exchanging gifts in Greece.

Saint Nicholas of Myra” is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of “Sinterklaas”.  He was a 4th cSaint_Nicholasentury Greek Christian Bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia (now in Turkey).  Bishop Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, and, in particular, presenting three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. 

Nicholas was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity.  In the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Germany, he is still usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes.  “Saint” Nicholas is the patron saint of many diverse groups including archers, sailors, children, and pawnbrokers.   He is also the patron saint for two major metropolitan cities, Amsterdam and Moscow.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas (“Sinterklaas“, often called “De Goede Sint” – – “The Good Saint”) is depicted as an elderly, stately, and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard.  He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop’s alb and sometimes red sinterklaasstole, dons a red miter, and holds a gold-colored crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top.  He traditionally rides a white horse.  His feast, on December 6th, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts, and is still called “St. Nicholas Day”.  Saint Nicholas is believed to ride his white horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas’s aides who carry jute bags and willow canes for that specific purpose.

Later, in another location, older images of the “gift-giver” from both church history and folklore – – notably “St Nicholas” and “Sinterklaas” – – merged with the British character “Father Christmas”.  This merger produced a character known to Britons and Americans as “Santa Claus”.  As an example, in Washington Irving’s “History of New York” (1809), “Sinterklaas” was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the American press in 1773); however, this image portrays Santa Claus without  his bishop’s apparel (Can you guess why?!).  So, in Great Briton and the United States, Santa Claus was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Washington Irving’s book was a satire of the Dutch culture of New York of his era; and much of this satirical portrait is his joking invention.

With all this information in mind, let’s not forget the REAL HERO of the CHRISTinMASS Season:

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(Information from Wikipedia)

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Quote of the Day:

 

“John the Baptist was supposed to point the way to the Christ.  He was just the voice, not the Messiah.  So everybody’s ‘calling’ has dignity to it – – and God seems to know better than we do what is in us that needs to be called forth.” ~  James Green 

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist preaches repentance, baptizing in the region of the Jordan.  Ready to get wet?

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(NAB Luke 3:1-6)  1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.  3 He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday and next, our Gospel readings invite us to consider John the Baptist’s relationship to Jesus.  John the Baptist is part of the tradition of the great prophets, preaching repentance* and reform* to the people of Israel.  To affirm this, Luke purposely quotes – – at length – – from the prophet Isaiah.

**       (The process or “repentance”, and the beginning of “reform”, is a four stage, step-by-step, process:

1)    Acknowledging faults and endeavors to give a lesser good, or something harmful – – IS SIN!
2)    Confessing what you did (or DO), and what you are not happy about.
3)    Believing in God’s IMMEDIATE mercy and forgiveness.
4)     Receiving – – through faith – – the confidence’s in God’s faithfulness to forgive.)

The Synoptic Gospels – – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – – attest to the importance of the baptism of Jesus by John in Jesus’ pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagereparation for His earthly mission.  However, only in the Gospel of Luke, do we see the connection between these two men, Jesus and John, related to their births. The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel contain the “Infancy Narrative”, relating each of their births.  

In today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist is presented as THE preeminent prophetic figure who bridges the time before Christ the Messiah Savior, to the first prophet who prepares the pencil-pusher-564x272way for the expected Jewish Messiah, who John the Baptist knew to be Jesus Christ in His saving and redemptive ministry of salvation, not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world.

Just as Luke’s Gospel began with a long sentence (cf., Luke 1:1–4), so too does this opening verse of this section:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1–2).   

Here, Luke reveals the “calling” of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic calling:

“…the Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert(Luke 3:2)’

This calling of John extends and amplifies similar verses, from the same “prophet” of Old, when Luke reports:

A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his pathsEvery valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made lowThe winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’” (Luke 3:4-6).

250px-Isaiah_(Bible_Card)This prophet, which John the Baptist is amplifying, is Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

In doing so, Luke presents his theme of the “universality of salvation”, which he announced in an earlier chapter – – in the words of Simeon:

My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:30–32). 

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Luke relates the story of “salvation history” to events in contemporary world history of Jesus’ time.  He is connecting his “salvation’ narrative with the current events happening right in front of their eyes, portraying Jesus in the light of tsistinehese prophetic events.  There is a cornucopia of historic information given solely in the first sentence of today’s reading:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). 

This one sentence, two bible verses, has seven items of historical and prophetical significance for discussion.  They are underlined above and I will discuss each one individually.

(1) “Tiberius Caesar” (born Tiberius Claudius Nero in 42 B.C.) succeeded Augustus as emperor of ALL Roman territories in 1steve11/people25/134 A.D., and reigned until his death in 37 A.D.   Therefore, his “fifteenth year of reign”, depending on the method of calculating his first regal year, would have fallen somewhere between 27 A.D. and 29 A.D.  Tiberius was one of Rome’s greatest generals.  However, he is remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler.  A renowned Roman person of influence, “Pliny the Elder”, describes Tiberius as a “tristissimus hominum”, “the gloomiest of men” (Pliny the Elder, “Natural Histories” XXVIII.5.23).   Eventually, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left his governments administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous “Praetorian Prefects”.  Caligula, Tiberius’ grand-nephew and adopted grandson, succeeded the emperor upon his death in 37 A.D.

(2) “Pontius Pilate” , mentioned next, was the “prefect” of Judea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.  The Jewish historian “Josephus” describes Pontius Pilate as a “greedy and ruthless prefect” who had little regard for the local Jewish PilatePicpopulation and their religious practices.  Luke describes Pontius Pilate’s sacrileges behavior:

At that time some people who were present there told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices” (see Luke 13:1).

The slaughter of the Galileans by Pilate is reported much later in Luke’ Gospel.  However, Josephus reports that such a slaughter would be in keeping with the “character and personality” of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate even disrupted a religious gathering of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, slaughtering the participants (Antiquities 18, 4, 1 #86–87).  On another occasion, Pilate killed many Jews who had opposed him when he appropriated money from the Temple treasury in order to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem (Jewish War 2, 9, 4 #175–77; Antiquities 18, 3, 2 #60–62).

(3) Next in descending order of royal importance is “Herod Antipas”, the son of Herod the Great.  Antipas ruled over Galiherodantipaslee and Perea from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D.  His official title, “Tetrarch”, literally means, “Ruler of a quarter”.  It came to designate any subordinate prince of the Roman Empire.  

We are now half-way through the first sentence from today’s Gospel.   A huge sum of political/societal/historical information has been given; and there is still more to come.  We need to remember that, when reading Holy Scripture, we should do so while keeping the following four principles in mind:

  • The social and historical circumstances;
  • The relationship between allegorical truths (Parables and other stories) and literal truths;
  • The past and present theological beliefs, their influence on faith’s perspective; and,
  • Application, how this reading applies to me and you NOW, today, – – and in the future.

So, let’s mosey on to the fourth person mentioned in this first verse of today’s Gospel:

(4) “Philip” was a son of “Herod the Great”, as was Herod Antipas.  His birth name was Philip “ben” (son of) Herod.  The Herod family line was partially Jewish.  As a “Tetrarch” over a large portion of territory – – to the north and east of the 552758Sea of Galilee – – from 4 B.C. to 34 A.D., Philip had a bad reputation.   

He married “Salome”, who was a member of the Herodian dynasty, as he was.  Thus, Salome was his niece.  She will become more well-known in connection with the execution of John the Baptist (cf., Matthew 14:3-11).

It is known that Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the city of Caesarea Philippi, calling it by his own name to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the sea-coast, which was the seat of the Roman government.  He died in the year 34 A.D. (only one year after Jesus’ Crucifixion and death).

(5) “Lysanias” is an aloof character in history and in the Bible.  Nothing is truly known about him other than He is believed to have been Tetrarch of “Abilene”, a territory somewhere northwest of Damascus.

After situating the call of John the Baptist in the time of the “civil rulers” of Jesus’ era, Luke now goes on to mention the “religious leadership” of this same time period.

(6) “Annas and Caiaphas” were the “high priests” at the time of Jesus’ public ministry.  “Annas” had been high priest frhigh priestsom 6 A.D. to 15 A.D.  After being deposed by the Romans in the year 15 A.D., Annas was succeeded by various members of his family and eventually by his son-in-law, “Caiaphas”, who was the Jewish high priest from 18 A.D. – 36 A.D.  Luke refers to “Annas” as “high priest” at Jesus’ time of public ministry, possibly because of the continuing influence of Annas or because the title continued to be used for the past-high priest’s.  According to John’s Gospel:

The band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas firstHe was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people” (John 18:12-14). 

We finally get to the seventh – – and main character – – of this first verse, “John the Baptist”.  He is the true predecessor and herald of Jesus Christ. This is the one about whom scripture says: john-baptist-001

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you” (Luke 7:27).

John the Baptist was God’s chosen transitional figure, inaugurating the period of “the fulfillment of prophecy and promise”:

“The child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80).

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The last aspect I wish to discuss in regard to this lengthy first verse is about “the Word” coming to John:

The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:2).

Luke, among the other New Testament writers, is alone in linking the preaching of John the Baptist as a true “calling” from God the Father.  Therefore, Luke is thereby identifying John with the prophets of Jewish Holy Scripture – – our Old Testament – – whose own individual ministries also began with very similar calls.  Luke amplifies John the Baptists calling however.  In later verses from Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist will be described, by Jesus Himself, as “more than a prophet”:

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

Wow!! Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, his brother Tetrarch Philip, Tetrarch Lysanias, High Priests Annas agods-redemptive-plan1nd Caiaphas, along with John the Baptist are all truly historically correct people.  All had important roles in the salvation mission of Jesus Christ among His Jewish Brethren AND His Roman neighbors.  Some roles were more pronounced and more important than others.  Some roles were to be truly cruel and callous in fact, but they ALL hold a place in the historically REAL redemptive mystery of Christ dying in order to save us from Adam’s and Eve’s sins.

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Let’s go on with the rest on today’s story (which will not be as long as the first part).  John travelled throughout ALL of Jordan, acting out and living out his special mission:02advientoC2

He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).

John knew his role in Christ’s plan; he knew he would be the predecessor to herald – – to proclaim – – the messiah’s coming, with an enthusiasm and excitement only he could harbor and exhibit.  Also, he knew his mission of baptizing and preaching forgiveness made him a strong focus and religious figure in his 1st century society.  John probably also knew the religious authorities would recognize the prophets meaning of his beginning at the “Upper Jordan River”.  This is the exact location where Joshua led the Jews out of the desert, across the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, thus initiating a new phase of prophecy and promise “fulfilled” (cf., Joshua, Chapters 3 and 4)!  Moreover, with pious humility, John the Baptist still knew God’s royal role was NOT for him, but for the one coming AFTER him:

“John heralded His {Jesus} coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I amI am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25);

What did John the Baptist mean by his preaching of repentance and forgiveness?  Well, I believe he was (and still is) calling for a change of heart and conduct in one’s life – – a “true” conversion.  He is insisting that everyone continuously turn from a life of rebellion to that of obedience towards God the Father – – on a daily, even hourly basis!! 

John, being a strongly pious Jew, was very familiar the expectations found in Jewish apocalyptic writings: God’s kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was also THE expectation shared by John the Baptist.  

JohPrepareTheWayn the Baptist (and Luke) were well-versed in Prophetic literature, especially those of Isaiah:

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”’” (Luke 3:4).

This verse from Luke, in today’s reading, is nearly identical to a verse found in the Book of Isaiah:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORDMake straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

Isaiah is actually describing the return, to Jerusalem, of the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity.  The language used by the prophet Isaiah is figurative, describing the route the ex-exiles will take home.  In this allegorical description,captivity “the Lord” leads them, so their route lies straight across the wilderness rather than along the well-watered routes usually followed from Mesopotamia to Israel.  Luke, in his Gospel, parallels this allegory, symbolizing his verses to represent the witness of John the Baptizer and his mission to that of Jesus’ redemptive mission of salvation for ALL.  John is leading the Jewish faithful across the dangerous wilderness, both physically and spiritually, to that of the true Savior Messiah of Israel, Jesus Christ.

John’s Gospel, unlike Luke, even goes so far as to not only imply this mission, but also to say it desertwww_washington_edunewsroomdirectly:

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

The last two verses continue this allegorical, symbolic, description which Luke is borrowing from Isaiah:

Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:5-6).

Again, Luke’s words are nearly identical to Isaiah’s:

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5).

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I. summarize titlen today’s Gospel we note Luke’s attention to political and historical details.  Luke shows that “salvation” is for all people and is situated in world events.  Therefore, Luke lists the political and religious leaders at the time of John the Baptist’s appearance in the desert.  “Salvation”, for Luke (and me), is understood as God’s encroaching into this political and social history, and working Salvation2intimately from within this historical background.

John the Baptist stood at a pivotal juncture in the history of God’s dealing with His “chosen” people.  He was responsible for bridging the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets whose mission was to point the way to the Messiah Savior.  He is also the first of the New Testament “witnesses” AND “martyrs”.  John was a “prophet” – – a “called spokesman” – – for God Himself, and was the preeminent “Servant of the Word”, Jesus Christ – – the true “Word” of God who became flesh for our sake and for our salvation (cf., John 1:1).  

John the Baptist’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of our present Advent season.  As John’s message prepreparepared the way for Jesus, we too are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We respond to John’s message by repentance and reform in our daily lives (hopefully).  We, as John the Baptist was, are also “called” to be “prophets” of Christ, announcing and witnessing by our personal and public lives the coming of the Lord, just as John did in his life.

We know that during the Advent season, we celebrate the promise of fulfillment in the coming of Emmanuel (“God-with-us”) manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ AND in His return in glory at His second coming (the Parousia).  We see so much around us – – and within us – – contradicting the “selfless love” of the infant Jesus Christ.  We see so much in this world contradicting the authority of the Universal “Christ the King”.  At the same time, we also want so very much to experience the “fullness of this fulfillment” – – Christ Himself – – and to see the salvation of God the Father as well.

Let’s joyfully remember the Apostle Paul’s faith, and how it can encourage us: t_1cb51300-5993-11e1-bb75-053d1da00004

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Although we cannot achieve this completion on our own, we can join in Paul’s prayer:

That your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Philipians1:9-11)

May our EVERY thought, word, and deed “witness” to Jesus Christ as we prepare for Christmas and for ALL times.  Let’s keep Christ in Christmas – – CHRISTinMASS!!

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Durin. conclusiong the season of Advent, we choose to add many activities to our schedules in order to prepare for our Christmas celebration.  John the Baptist reminds us that our “repentance” is another way in which we can and SHOULD prepare for the Lord’s coming – – as significant and substantially a vital part of our celebration for each and every Christmas Season.  Parish communities often offer a communal celebration of the prioritiesSacrament of Reconciliation during the Advent season.  You can choose to participate in the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or you can seek out this Sacrament on an individual basis.  Whichever you choose – – DO IT – – please!!!

Reflect on how John the Baptist called upon the people to prepare the way of the Lord through repentance.  On a nightly (or daily) basis, in a peaceful and prayerful area (perhaps near the Advent wreath), pray silently, asking God to forgive your sins.  Then, finish by praying your own version of the “Act of Contrition”.  (If you do not know one, you can use to old “tried and true” version below. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God377983_10150459373288643_96426468642_8348446_1692711191_n, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.”

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“5 Loaves + 2 Fish = 5000+ Meals?! It Just Doesn’t Add Up!, OR, Does It? This Sounds Fishy To Me!” – John 6:1-15†


Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For August, 2012

General Intention (For Prisoners):

For prisoners, that they may be treated with justice and respect for their human dignity.

Missionary Intention (Youth Witness to Christ):

For young people, that they may be called to follow Christ, and willing to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel “to the ends of the earth”.

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I just finished reading a new book on prayer (for me at least).  I conscientiously try to read at least one or two books on prayer, church history, liturgy, peace and justice, the various religious orders, or so on each month.  My all time favorite book (not including the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church) is “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn.  I have literally given away at least 50 copies, at my own expense, in the past few years.

This “new” book, which I have just completed, is by Bruce Wilkinson and David Kopp, titled:

“Prayer of Jabez: Break Through the Blessed Life”

I was awed and captivated by this inspiring, scripturally based, and motivating book of faith and prayer.  Though it is not a book written by a Roman Catholic, it was truly a work of inspiration from the Holy Spirit.  It is an easy book to read and not full of what I call “those 10 dollar words” which have a tendency to turn people off.

Jabez is the name of a person listed in the long list of people from the genealogy of the kings’ tribe of Judah.  The author of 1 Chronicles paused in this long list to give Jabez a place of honor in this very long list of Kings and their associated lineage.  Jabez prays to God for blessing and was answered.  It is said God answered his every prayer when using his unique prayer:

 

Please do not take my word for the great message of this book.  Take some time and either get on-line and search for this book, check it out from the library (if available), or buy a copy (you will eventually anyway; you won’t want to read it just once!), and READ IT.  It is transformative and will “enlarge” your capabilities.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1099 – Death of Pope Urban II [Odo van Lagery], French Pope (1088-99)(b. 1042)
†   1179 – Lando Sittino proclaimed (anti-)pope Innocent III
†   1644 – Death of Pope Urban VIII [Maffeo Barberini], Pope (1623-44), (b. 1568)
†   1968 – Pope Paul VI, in an encyclical entitled “Humanae Vitae” (Of Human Life), declares any artificial forms of birth control prohibited
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Eugenius, king [Magdeburg]; Saint Felix I, pope, and companions (Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix, (siblings)), martyrs; Saint Ladislas, king, confessor [Hungary];  Saint Lupus, bishop of Troyes, confessor [Cologne, Constance, Metz, Paris, France]; Saint Olaf II of Norway, king of Norway, martyr, patron of woodcarvers [Sleswig, Scandinavia] – celebrated in Norway as Olsok (St. Olav’s Day); Saint Pantaleon [Paris]; Saint Beatrice of Nazareth; Saint Martha, host of Christ, sister of Lazarus, patron saint of cooks, domestic staff and dieticians; Saint Serafina

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

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 Joke of the Day:

  

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Today’s reflection: Jesus feeds the crowd of more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (and they were hungry – – physically and spiritually).  Christ physically fed them with food in the form of bread and wine.  Scripturally, Christ was revealing (and still reveals today) the special nature of His love and power.

 

(NAB John 6:1-15) 1 After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias].  2 A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.  3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.  4 The Jewish feast of Passover was near.  5 When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”  6 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.  7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].”  8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”  10 Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.  11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.  12 When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”  13 So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.  14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”  15 Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Over the past two Sundays, in Mark’s Gospel, we heard how Jesus sent His disciples to share in His mission on earth.  We leave Mark’s Gospel for the next several weeks and instead present events from the Gospel of John, starting with a great fish story.  Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is presented as a sign of His authority and divinity, signifying the multiplication miracle as a sharing of Jesus’ “Body and Blood”: the true Eucharist.  For this reason, John’s sixth chapter is sometimes called the “Bread of Life Discourse”.

In many important ways, John’s Gospel uses the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes to teach about the Eucharist.  Like the Last Supper, this miracle occurs near the time of the Jewish feast of Passover.  Also, Jesus’ language in today’s reading is similar to the language He used at “the Last Supper” as reported in the three Synoptic Gospels:

Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them” (John 6:11).

John’s description of this event anticipates the Messianic banquet of heaven, with the crowd reclining and all hungers satisfied, with an abundance remaining.  This connection of Jesus and the Messianic banquet is further amplified by the response of the crowd, who wants to make Jesus a “king”.  John, through today’s reading, is teaching us that each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are truly anticipating the eternal banquet of heaven.

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Today’s story of the multiplication of the loaves is the fourth of seven signs or miracles found in John’s Gospel attesting to Jesus’ divine nature and His claim to be Israel’s true Savior Messiah:

1. Turning water into wine in Cana (John 2:1-11);
2. Healing an official’s son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54);
3. Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-18);
4. Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (John 6:5-14);
5. Walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-21);
6. Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (John 9:1-7); and:
7. Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany (John 11:1-45).

Today’s related sign (or miracle) is the ONLY “miracle” story found in all four Gospels (and occurring twice in the Gospels written by both Mark and Matthew).  The principal reason for this sole “sign” being told in all four Gospels can be seen as an anticipation of both the “Holy Eucharist” and the “final banquet in the kingdom” and is the central core common belief among all disparate (different or distinct) Christians:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven … I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”  (Matthew 8:11; 26:29).

Today’s story not only looks forward, but backward as well: to the feeding of Israel in the desert, with the heavenly supplied manna, at the time of the Exodus (cf., Exodus 16).  The feeding with “manna” was a miracle, which in some contemporary Jewish expectations would be repeated in the “Messianic age” (to come):

** “And it shall come to pass at that self-same time that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years, because these are they who have come to the consummation of time” (2 Baruch 29:8).

**(2 Baruch, “THE BOOK OF THE APOCALYPSE OF BARUCH THE SON OF NERIAH”, is a Jewish text believed to have been written in the late 1st century AD or early 2nd century AD, after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.  It is attributed to the Biblical Baruch, and thus associated with our Old Testament.  Yet, it is not regarded as scripture by Jews or by most Christian groups; however, it is included as part of the Bible of the Syriac Orthodox tradition.)

The feeding of the 5000, in today’s reading, may also be meant to recall Elisha’s feeding of a hundred men with very small provisions:

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people to eat.’  But his servant objected, ‘How can I set this before a hundred?’  Elisha again said, ‘Give it to the people to eat, for thus says the LORD: You will eat and have some left over.’  He set it before them, and when they had eaten, they had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.” (2 Kings 4:42–44).

The loaves of bread remind us that God the Father feeds and nourishes us, fulfilling our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.  So, the “loaves and fish” in today’s reading symbolize the “food” really available through Jesus, both physically and spiritually.  The miracle of multiplication of the loaves of barley bread and fish truly signals the NEW Exodus; definitely having Eucharistic overtones meant for all of God’s people.

John’s Gospel notes a significant detail; the loaves of bread – – blessed and shared with the crowd – – are “barley loaves”, a food of the poor.  So, the New Exodus and the Eucharist is given to us for Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, man and woman alike.

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Today’s reading reveals the second of three times John mentions the “Passover” in his Gospel:

The Jewish feast of Passover was near (John 6:2).

The other two are found in the following two verses:

“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 2:13);

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

Taken from a literal viewpoint, these three specific “Passovers” prove that Jesus’ earthly ministry was at least two years in length chronologically.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the disciples take the initiative of asking about feeding the crowd.  In John’s Gospel however, Jesus takes the initiative:

He [Jesus] said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?’” (John 6:5)

For many of the crowd present with Jesus at this sign, He was the embodiment of the “New Moses” returning for a “New Exodus”:

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world” (John 6:14)

However, this time, the Exodus will not be physical in nature necessarily, but spiritual instead.  It won’t cost anyone money for this travel; it will only cost your life, given up to God instead.

Speaking of money, a day’s wage (mentioned in verse 7) during Jesus’ time was a “denarii”, a Roman coin:

After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:2).

So, for Jesus and the disciples to feed all the people present there on this mountain (or hill) – – the bare minimum: just “a little [bit]” – – would cost more than half a year’s wages for this ONE meal!  Wow, that is even more than the taxes the IRS takes in today’s time (but barely)!!

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This 10th verse relates “5000” men were present at this event:

“Jesus said, ‘Have the people recline.’  Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.” (John 6:10).

This number of 5000 only included adult males, and not females or children.  I personally believe there were probably at least double that number present (anecdotally), making the true number somewhere in the area of 10 – 12 thousand actually present.  That is a LOT of people Jesus preached to, taught to, and ultimately fed.  An attendance of this magnitude of people – – present at one event – – is rare, only occurring within the Catholic faith at such major events such as a Pope’s visit, major conferences such as the annual youth conference, and Eucharistic conventions, wherein people travel from area to area and/or country to country.  (Jesus, in Bethsaida where this event took place, truly had the first recognized “mega-church” EVER!!)

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To change the subject (and miracle) slightly, please recall from the Lenten Season that John’s Gospel tells the story of “the Last Supper” differently than the three Synoptic Gospels.  Instead of describing the meal and Jesus’ actions with the bread and cup, John describes how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.  In both stories about the Eucharist in John’s Gospel – – the washing of the disciples’ feet and the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes – – Jesus (through John) teaches us that the true Eucharist is “an action” – – an active and living Sacrament of the Church.  Our word “Eucharist” is actually taken from the Greek, describing an action: “to give thanks.”  In the Eucharist, we are fed by Jesus Himself, AND we are also sent to serve othersIn the Eucharist, “WE” are sent to serve the poorest among us!!  (Whoa, how many knew this part of our faith?  I bet, not many!)

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Verse 14 of today’s reading talks about Jesus being “truly the Prophet” as prophesized by Moses:

“When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14).

They saw Jesus as being a prophet like Moses.  Their seeing Jesus as the “prophet” reminds me of an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

So they asked him, ‘What are you then?  Are you Elijah?’  And he said, ‘I am not.’  ‘Are you the Prophet?’  He answered, ‘No.’” (John 1:21).

So, is He (?), or isn’t He, the promised “prophet”? 

On top of calling Jesus a “prophet”, by saying that He was “the one who is to come into the world”, they became more specific, stating He was “Elijah”, as promised in Malachi:

“Now I am sending my messenger — he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts.  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

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Finally, the last verse tells of the crowd wishing to make Jesus their “king” after this miraculous “multiplying” sign was revealed to them.  However, it was not yet His time or place to be “king”.  Jesus will not be the worldly “king” they expected!! 

“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.’” (John18:36).

Jesus will be “king” of heaven, including His heaven on earth; however, not in a worldly, governmental, or materialistic way.  He is a “king” of something much greater and grander than found in these human limits.  He is the “king” of the paradise called heaven, constantly with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, the angels, the celestial court, and the community (communion) of saints.  His kingdom is truly, totally, and fully AWESOME indeed!!!

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To summarize, the story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes recalls a particular aspect of our Catholic Mass, the Eucharist.  In today’s Gospel miracle, Jesus transforms a young boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish into a “meal” for ALL.  In the offertory at our Mass, we present the fruits of our labors, represented by the bread and wine given to the priest at the altar.  These gifts, given to us first by God as grain and fruit, are transformed and now returned to God by our offering of thanksgiving.  God, in turn, transforms our gifts, making the gift of bread and wine the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself.  At the same time this happens, we also offer ourselves in a divine exchange (A transformation of us individually and in communion, at the very moment of the  transubstantiation, by the miraculous changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ!).  We are, in fact, transformed by the Eucharist we receive, thus making us fully-filled, with the grace of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ Himself, for a unique moment of time – – thus experiencing a supernatural heaven on earth here and now!!  This is why the “Eucharist” is truly the “Source and Summit” of all our experiences we can have on this earth – – (and in heaven).

Later on in this sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus makes a claim only God the Father can make:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heavenI am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:32,35)

Jesus is the “true bread of heaven”, satisfying the deepest hunger we can ever experience.  The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God AND His great care and kindness towards us.  When God gives, He gives abundantly!!  He gives more than we ever need for ourselves so that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what is needed in their lives.  God takes the little, the miniscule amount we have and multiplies it multifold for the good of others.  God’s provision for you is enough to always share freely with others, especially those who lack!! 

While inadequate food seems to be the cause of hunger, solutions are provided by a providential God, a God not of scarcity, but a God of abundance.  With what people have to offer, insufficient as it may be – – through a willingness to share and trust in God’s compassionate power – – there will not only be enough, but more than enough to share.  Our abundant God teaches us to give from our own abundance, even if it is only five loaves and two fish:

The hand of the Lord feeds us; God answers all our needs” (cf., Psalm 145:16).

In today’s world, if we focus on scarcity, we will be tempted to hoard and not share.  However, if we are generous in sharing with a neighbor in need, or with hungry people across the world, there IS enough for all to be fed.  Of course we must address the challenges of poverty (along with that of violent conflicts, climate change, and refugees) in our society and world; however, at the same time, we need to trust in God’s abundance, care about the hungry in the world, and act to share what wehave with others.

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In conclusion, I think we can all empathize with the disciples’ protests about feeding the humungous crowd when Jesus asked where food might be bought.  I believe we can actually empathize with Philip’s and Andrew’s feeling of inadequacy as they assessed their meager and limited food resources, especially in the face of such great need.  We sometimes share these same feelings when facing of our family’s and friends’ needs, in regards to our own material possessions, and our emotional and spiritual resources.  For me, John is a Gospel of “hope” in times of inadequacies, which is all too frequent in today’s parenting/family life.

As Jesus made the “five barley loaves and two fish” sufficient to easily meet the needs of more than five thousand people (with leftovers), He also will work with what “we have” in order to provide for our personal needs.  When we offer our efforts to God, we are asking Him to transform these efforts, and thus become more than adequate for the tasks and needs at hand in our lives.  Think about the things you need, starting with the basics – – food, shelter, safety, and so on.  Continue by naming other things needed to be happy and healthy – – time together with friends and family, cooperation, patience, and so on.  Reflect that sometimes we can feel as if we don’t have enough of the time and things we need or want.  Remember, Jesus provided plenty of food for the crowd with just five barley loaves and two fish.  With faith, Jesus will take what we have and make it enough to satisfy and fill all our needs and the needs of others.  While praying your morning prayers, ask for a personal blessing when offering to God the work and words of each day.  Ask God to make fruitful your works and words (and ours) each and every day.  (You can use the “Jabez Prayer” I mentioned at the beginning of this blog today as a good starting place.)  (I hope you do!)

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“O God, protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide
we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

(Prayer for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) RSV.

I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) KJV.

**

“For in him [Christ] the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians. 2:9) RSV.

“For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians. 2:9) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Martha      

 

Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus.  He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee.  The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death.

No doubt Martha was an active sort of person.  On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner.

Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.”  The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “…[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a).

Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death.  “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?’  She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).

Comment:

Scripture commentators point out that in writing his account of the raising of Lazarus, St. John intends that we should see Martha’s words to Mary before the resurrection of Lazarus as a summons that every Christian must obey.  In her saying “The teacher is here and is asking for you,” Jesus is calling every one of us to resurrection—now in baptismal faith, forever in sharing his victory over death.  And all of us, as well as these three friends, are in our own unique way called to special friendship with him.

Quote:

“This great company of witnesses spurs us on to victory, to share their prize of everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Preface of Holy Men and Women I).

Patron Saint of: Housewives, waiters, waitresses

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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Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.

Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:

“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).

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“Hey, Let’s Go Fishing; We Have The Best Hook Possible: ‘J’esus!” – Mark 1:14-20†


 

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote or Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer or Psalm
  • 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:

 

It is less than 290 days till the day we elect President of the United States, and many other Legislative positions for Federal and State offices.  I would like to share a prayer I have been praying daily since before our last election for President, in 2008.

An Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA 

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.

Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.

Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.

Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen.”

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1588 – Pope Sixtus V decrees “Immense AeterniDei” (Reformed curia): Reorganized the Roman Curia, establishing permanent congregations of cardinals to advise the pope on various subjects.
†   1850 – Death of Vincenzo (Vincent) Pallotti, Italian saint, dies at age 54; He was the founder of the Pious Society of Missions (the Pallotines)
†   1913 – Birth of William Cardinal Conway, Northern Irish clergyman (d. 1977)
†   1922 – Death of Benedictus XV(Benedict XV), [Giacomo Markies D Chiesa], pope (1914-22), dies at 67 (b. 1854)
†   2007 – Abbé Pierre, French priest (b. 1912).  He was a French Catholic priest, member of the Resistance during World War II, and deputy of the Popular Republican Movement (MRP). He founded in 1949 the Emmaus movement, which has the goal of helping poor and homeless people and refugees.
†   Feast/Memorial: St. Vincent, Anastasius of Persia.

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus calling “fishermen”: Simon and Andrew, along with James and John, to be His disciples and “fishers of men”.

 

(NAB Mark 1:14-20) 14 After John had been arrested,Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  20 Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

When a “king” had “good news” to deliver to his subjects, he sent messengers throughout his kingdom making a public announcement.  Examples would include the birth of a new king, the winning of a major battle, or the defeat of an invading army.  God the Father sent His prophets (Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist just to name only a few) to announce the coming of His “Messiah” (meaning “anointed one”) “King”.  After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River – – and “anointed” by the Holy Spirit – – He begins His public ministry: teaching and preaching the “Good News” – – the Gospel – – AND proclaiming the “kingdom of God” was NOW at hand for any and ALL ready to receive it.

Mark’s Gospel begins by reporting on the preaching and ministry of the last “prophet” prior to the Messiah, John the Baptist.  He is “the voice in the wilderness” who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  Immediately after describing the works and “words” of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ “baptism in the Jordan River”, and His “temptation in the desert”.  Mark wants his audience to understand the important connection between the end of John the Baptist’s ministry and the beginning of Jesus’ own earthly ministry.  We need to remember that Mark’s audience was predominately “Gentile” and unfamiliar with Jewish customs, hence:

The Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves.  And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds]. … Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God).”  (Mark 7:3–4, 11).

Jesus preaches the “Kingdom of Godin continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist.  Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the “kingdom” is a “call to repentance”.  

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Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus called His first disciples.  Today’s reading also stresses the immediacy with which these men dropped everything to follow Him.  We can only begin to imagine what Jesus’ presence must have been like in invoking such a response in these four disciples.  While a few of us might relate to such a radical conversion, many of us would find such a sudden change in ourselves, or in another person, troubling and worrisome (Wow!  Would we say in response to this happening: “He became a ‘bible thumper’”!).  There are very few things for which we would willingly drop everything.  Yet, this is the immediacy with which these first disciples responded to Jesus.  These first disciples were willing to drop everything, making Jesus Christ and the “Kingdom of Godthe most important things in their lives.

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Today’s reading starts with John the Baptist. We are told that he had just been arrested.  In God’s plan, Jesus was not to proclaim the “good news” of salvation prior to the termination of John the Baptist’s “active” mission. (Hmm, think about that one.)  There is very little over-lapping between the two.

The “calling” of the first disciples of Jesus Christ promised them a share in Jesus’ work and entailed abandonment of family, and their former way of life.  Three of the four Disciples, “Simon (Peter)”, “James”, and “John”, are distinguished among all the other “Apostles” in having a closer, more intimate, relationship with Jesus:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1);

And

He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John], and began to feel sorrow and distress.” (Matthew 26:37). 

Andrew is the one disciple from today’s reading not mentioned often in Holy Scripture.  In reality, he is only mentioned three times.  However, when mentioned, Andrew is performing an interesting and especially unique function in his ministry: bringing people TO Jesus, and instituting an important “function” in the Universal (Catholic) Christian Church:

1)  Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, the one to be the leader of the Catholic Church:

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).”  (John 1: 40-42);

2)  At the Multiplication of the Loaves, Andrew brings to Jesus the boy having the bread and fish used in instituting the Holy Eucharist and the first Mass:

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish …” (John 6:9)

And

3) When Andrew and Phillip brought some “Greeks”, who had “come to worship” – – with Jesus – – at the Passover festival.  In actuality, they were probably Gentiles, signifying Jesus’ role of bringing ALL mankind to God the Father, and not just the Jewish “chosen people”.

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. … They asked, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’ … Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.” (John 12:20-22)

In today’s reading, the disciples’ response is motivated by Jesus’ personal and direct invitation, an element that emphasizes His mysterious power and divinity.

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The first sentence, the first two verses (14 & 15), have important facts and statements of faith within these few words

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15)   

As I said in my opening, the last “prophet” prior to Jesus Christ: John the Baptist had just been arrested and in prison.  I am sure Jesus was upset, disheartened, and concerned personally for John the Baptist and for His (and John’s) disciples’ welfare.  Both Jesus and John the Baptist were in “Galilee”, the location for the major portion of Jesus’ “public” ministry prior to His arrest, trial, scourging, and death on the cross outside the gates of Jerusalem.  Interesting for me is that John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him.  However, God the Father’s “good news” could not (and cannot be silenced).  As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His testimony in Galilee, His home district.   

Jesus proclaimed the time is “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John the Baptist’s message and mission of “repentance”, calling His disciples to “believe in the gospel” – – the “good news” – – which He came to deliver PERSONALLY!!  

What is the “good news” which Jesus is STILL delivering?  It is the “good news” of:

1)  Peace and restoration of OUR personal relationship with God the Father:

Stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15),

2)  The hope of heaven and everlasting life:

Provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.” (Colossians 1:23),

3)  The truth in God the Father’s “Word” being true and reliable:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.  Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel” (Colossians 1:3-5),

4)  The promise of reward to those who seek Him:

When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:4-6),

5)  Everlasting life:

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10),

And,

6)  The “good news” of salvation: liberty from sin, and freedom to live as children of God the Father:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:13).

The “Gospel” (the “good news”) which Jesus “proclaimed” is God the Father’s “Word”.  It is not only the “good news” from God the Father, but is also “about” God the Father “at work” in Jesus Christ Himself.  

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What did Jesus mean by saying, “this is the time of fulfillment”?  Well, He is expressing the time of “God the Father’s promises” being fulfilled – – in, with, and through – – Jesus Christ, the Messiah Lord.  “Fulfillment” includes not only human obedience to God the Father’s “Word”, but also the triumph of the Godhead over physical and spiritual “evils”; especially over physical and spiritual death.  

Jesus’ preaching is GREATER than John the Baptist’s preaching.  Jesus is beginning the “time of fulfillmentNOW!  The “Kingdom of God” is already here!!  Jesus’ “fulfilling” God the Father’s promises was demonstrated many times by Jesus, both in His “Words” and in His actions.  Jesus’ “healings” and “forgiveness” of sins were (and still are) truly magnificent, exceptional, and revealing signs of the “Kingdom of God”.

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So what is the “kingdom of God”?  The word “kingdom” means much more than a territory or land mass.  It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign”, and the power to “rule”: to employ authority.  The many “prophets” announced that God the Father would establish a “kingdom”, not just for one nation or people, but for the entire world and for ALL peoples!!

Holy Scriptures tell us God the Father’s “throne” is in heaven and His rule and power is over ALL:

Bless the LORD, all you His angels, mighty in strength, acting at His behest, obedient to His command.” (Psalm 103:19).

His “kingdom” is far bigger, greater, and more powerful than anything we can imagine; it is TRULY “universal” (Catholic) and everlasting:

So I issued a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me to give the interpretation of the dream.” (Daniel 4:3).

God the Father’s “kingdom” is full of glory, power, and splendor:

“They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your mighty works, making known to the sons of men your mighty acts, the majestic glory of your ruleYour reign is a reign for all ages, your dominion for all generations.  The LORD is trustworthy in all His words, and loving in all His works.” (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, we are told that His “kingdom” will be given to the “Son of Man (Hmm) and to the saints:

He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.  But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.  Until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived for the holy ones to possess the kingship.  Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High, whose kingship shall be an everlasting kingship, whom all dominions shall serve and obey.” (Daniel 7:14,18,22,27).

Jesus goes on to say, “The kingdom of God is at hand ….”  He is literally meaning, “heaven”.  “Heaven” is a Jewish proxy for the name “God”, which was strictly avoided by devout Jews, out of respect and reverence.  The expression, “the kingdom of God”, in reality, means the effective rule of God the Father over His people.

Per Jewish apocalyptic literature, the “kingdom of God” is to be ushered in by a “judgment” in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  This was the message of John the Baptist: to repent for the “kingdom of God” is coming SOON!!  The Christian understanding of the “kingdom of God” is seen as being established in stages, concluding with the “Parousia” of Jesus’ return (the Second Coming).

NO ONE knows when this “Parousia” event will happen, including Jesus Christ:

Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32).

So, we must follow John the Baptist’, AND Jesus’ instruction, “RepentNOW, NOW, NOW!!

Repent, and believe in the gospel”  (Mark1:15).

John the Baptist called for a “change of heart” (a daily “conversion”), and also, a change of conduct.  He called for a turning of one’s life from rebellion, upheaval and revolt to a life of obedience, humility, and trust towards, and in, God the Father.  

How do we enter the “kingdom of God”?  The answer is in announcing the “good news”.  Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the “kingdom of God”: repent and believe.  When we submit to Christ’s power and rule in our lives, and believe His “good news” message, Our Lord Jesus Christ will give us His grace and power to live a “new” and specially unique way of life – – as residents of His “kingdom”.  

Through repentance and belief in His power and majesty – – His “Word” – – God gives us the grace to renounce the evil and sad kingdom of darkness, ruled over, and powered, by sin and Satan (the father of lies):

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). 

This is “why” true repentance is the very first step to entering His “kingdom”.  Jesus Christ needs to be the Lord, King, and Master of one’s heart and soul, – – instead of sin, selfishness, and greed.  If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin which is controlling us.  True repentance requires a contrite heart, sorrow for sin, and a firm resolution in order to avoid repeating the sin in the future:

Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” (Psalm 51:17).

Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is: a rejection of His love and wisdom in and for our lives, and a refusal to do what is good in accord with His “will”.  Jesus’ grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything keeping one from His love and truth.  

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In contrast to last week’s Gospel in which the first disciples seek Him out, Jesus takes the initiative in calling His first disciples.  As mentioned last Sunday in the Gospel reading, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for students to “seek out” rabbis, asking to be their disciples.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus breaks with this tradition and “invites” His disciples to learn from Him.  

Jesus is said to have first called four “fishermen”: Simon, Andrew, James, and John (Two sets of brothers).  Jesus promises that He will make them “fishers of men.”  .  Mark does not report Jesus’ words of invitation verbatim, but He does report they left their fishing “immediately”, leaving their father, Zebedee, behind in the boat.  It was obviously an urgent request for these four men to leave everything NOW.  Is it of urgency to you to follow Jesus Christ as well?

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To conclude: to believe is to take Jesus at His “Word” and to recognize that God the Father loves us so much He sent His Only-begotten Son to free us from the dreadful bondage of sin, destructive desires, and everlasting death.  God made the supreme sacrifice of His beloved Son on the holy cross in order to “ransom” us back to a relationship with Him.  

God is our heavenly Father, and He wants us to live as His children.  God the Father loved us first, still loves us dearly, and invites us in, and with love, to surrender our lives to Him.  Do you believe that the Gospel – – the “good news” of Jesus Christ – – has power to free you from the bondage to sin, fear, and death?

When Jesus preached the Gospel message, He “called” many others to follow as His disciples (including each of us).  He gave them (AND US) a mission: “to be ‘fishers of men’ for the kingdom of God”.  

Why did he choose these ordinary people like these fishermen (Smelly, slimy, dirty fishermen!), and even each of us, to be disciples?    In the choice of the first “Apostles”, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He purposely chose very ordinary people!!  These first Disciples of Christ were non-professionals, having no wealth or position in society.  They were chosen from the “common people”, doing ordinary things, having no special education, and with no social advantages in life.  

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well.  He chose (and STILL chooses) individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming with His grace, direction, and power.  When the Lord calls us to serve, we need not think we have nothing to offer.  The Lord takes what we can offer and uses it for greatness in His “kingdom”.  Do you believe that God the Father truly wants to work through, with, and in YOU – – for His glory?

As I just inferred, Jesus Christ is still speaking this same message to us today.  We should strive to “fish”, and “catch” people for the “kingdom of God”.  All we need do is to simply allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine in and through each of us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  God the Father wants others to see the light of Christ in each of us in the way we live, speak, and witness to the joy of the “good news” in our daily lives.  Paul the Apostles says:

Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place.  For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Do you “witness” the joy of the Gospel to those you meet?  Do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives so they may come to know Our Lord Jesus Christ and to grow in knowing of His love?

Jesus calls us to seek the true “good” and “light” of each person, including those complicit in social sin.  Let us testify that God’s justice flowing through and from us with love and joy:

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way” (Psalm 25:8).

Let us turn from sin and invite others to journey with us on the way to the “fulfillment” of, and in, God’s “kingdom”.

For me, Mark’s Gospel is conveyed with a great feeling of urgency and immediacy.  Jesus Christ is a person of “action”, and events in Mark’s Gospel occur in rapid succession.  Time is of essence; the fishermen “immediately” put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ first “Apostles”.  The “Kingdom of God” is here and now!!  The “time of fulfillment” is here and now!!  How might your life be different if you more fully shared this sense of immediacy in God fulfilling His “kingdom” with Jesus’ “Second Coming” (the Parousia)?  (The fuse is lit!  Are you ready for the “big bang”?)

Think of circumstances in which you have had to “drop everything.”  It could be the call to pick up a sick child from school, the cry of a hurt or angry child, or something else.  How did you feel about having to change your plans in each of these situations?  How do you feel when someone asks you to drop everything to help him or her?  For many, it is not easy to drop everything in order to respond to the needs of another.

Imagine what Jesus’ presence and invitation to these first followers must have been like.  Remember, they “immediately” responded by leaving their business, their occupation, and their livelihood, to become one of His disciples.  How might OUR life change if we understood the “Kingdom of God” to be as important and immediate in our lives as did these first disciples?  Let’s ask God to help each of us personally experience and encounter the “Kingdom of God with such immediacy as these first disciples.

Here I am Lord!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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.”

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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.

 

Christ’s Divinity, Part 1:

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah. 9:6). RSV

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6). KJV

*

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-17).  RSV

“Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17). KJV

*

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

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

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Vincent (d. 304)

When Jesus deliberately began his “journey” to death, Luke says that he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  It is this quality of rocklike courage that distinguishes the martyrs.

Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius.  His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler.  But St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on St. Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him.  We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.

According to the story we have (and as with some of the other early martyrs the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life), Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend St. Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain.  The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity.  Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia.  Hunger and torture failed to break them.  Like the youths in the fiery furnace (Book of Daniel, chapter three), they seemed to thrive on suffering.

Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound like those of World War II were tried.  But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself.  He had the torturers beaten because they failed.

Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict?  He would not.  Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself.  Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer.  Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.

Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest.  When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.

Comment: The martyrs are heroic examples of what God’s power can do.  It is humanly impossible, we realize, for someone to go through tortures such as Vincent had and remain faithful.  But it is equally true that by human power alone no one can remain faithful even without torture or suffering.  God does not come to our rescue at isolated, “special” moments.  God is supporting the super-cruisers as well as children’s toy boats.

Quote: “Wherever it was that Christians were put to death, their executions did not bear the semblance of a triumph.  Exteriorly they did not differ in the least from the executions of common criminals.  But the moral grandeur of a martyr is essentially the same, whether he preserved his constancy in the arena before thousands of raving spectators or whether he perfected his martyrdom forsaken by all upon a pitiless flayer’s field” (The Roman Catacombs, Hertling-Kirschbaum).

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:

 

Prayer

Create an image, in your mind, of St. Francis in prayer.  What is he offering in prayer in your image?

St. Francis does not picture himself alone in loving God.  He sees himself as a partner with all the members of the whole “Communion of Saints”.  Is this a wholesome way to approach prayer and living the Christian faith?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 22 & 23 of 26:

 

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

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23.  Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule.  The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living.  The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

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


 

Second Sunday of Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

We are the Cup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

Four in the afternoon” (John 1:39).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have already found – – what we seek!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Lamb of God

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Trinity:

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Preaching

 

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

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

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

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

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 Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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

 

 

“Mercy Me, Please, Mercy Me!” – Matthew 18:21-35†


 

 

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is Patriot’s Day.  Please keep all individuals involved (directly or indirectly) with the evil of terrorism in your prayers today, and every day.  2,977 souls lost to 19 hijackers on four planes.  In addition, 6,294 people were reported to have been treated in area hospitals for injuries related to the 9/11 attacks in New York City.  Individuals from more than 90 countries were directly affected on this ill-fated day.  Please Lord, let us not forget these brave souls, and their sacrifice at the hands of pure evil.

(Information obtained from Wikipedia.)

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Wednesday September 14 is the Feast of the Cross.  According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the true Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.

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September 14th It is also a very important day for Franciscans.  It was on this feast that St. Francis of Assisi received the “stigmata”.  During the Lent of 1224, two years before his death, his mind and heart turned frequently to meditate upon the suffering of Christ and His obedience to the Father.  Retreating with Friar Leo into the wilderness, Francis agonized over the great pain that Jesus experienced and thanked our Lord for the supreme sacrifice that He had endured.

On 14 September 1224, in the solitude of prayer on Mount Alverna, while praising God and pouring out his love for Him, Francis beheld the crucified Christ borne aloft by six wings.  In this moment of seraphic ecstasy, he who had sought to imitate Christ in all things, received the marks of his Lord’s crucifixion—the stigmata—on his hands, feet, and side, two years before Sister Death came to him.

And so, when the world was growing cold, Christ renewed the marks of His passion in the flesh of Saint Francis to rekindle our love for God.  By bearing the marks of the crucifixion in his body, Francis experienced an even deeper union with Jesus.  Thus, the God whom Francis had cherished, both as the child of Bethlehem and as the victim at Calvary, brought the Saint into more perfect conformity with His Son.

“Heavenly Father, you gave your servant Francis the grace of intimate union with your crucified Son.  Help us with the cross we bear that, united with you, we too may know the peace and joy that Francis received.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.”

(from the website: http://www.shrinesf.org/francis08.htm)

 

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   506 – The bishops of Visigothic Gaul meet in the Council of Agde.
†   1226 – The Roman Catholic practice of public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass spreads from monasteries to parishes.
†   1279 – Death of Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. c. 1215)
†   1557 – Catholic & Lutheran theology debated in Worm
†   1838 – Birth of John Ireland, American Catholic archbishop (d. 1918)
†   1914 – Birth of Patriarch Pavle, Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church
†   1987 – Shoot out at Jean-Bertrand Aristides’ (former Catholic Priest) church in Haiti, 12 die
†   2001 – Coordinated attacks resulting in the collapse or severe damage of several skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destruction of the western portion of The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and an intentional passenger airliner crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Two thirds of rescuers (FD, PD, EMS) in New York were Roman Catholics.
†   2004 – All passengers are killed when a helicopter crashes in the Aegean Sea. Passengers include Patriarch Peter VII of Alexandria and 16 others (including journalists and bishops of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria).
†   Feasts/Memorials: Beheading of John the Baptist in the Eastern Orthodox tradition (Julian Calendar); Feast of Neyrouz, the New Year’s Day in the Coptic calendar

(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:

 

 

“He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven: for everyone has need to be forgiven.” ~ Thomas Fuller

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that we must forgive one another AS God has forgiven us.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 18:21-35) 21Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  22Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  23That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  24When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  25Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  26At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  27Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  28When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  29Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  30But he refused.  Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  31Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  32His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  33Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  34Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  35So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Today’s Gospel reading is known as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.”

This is the final section (of three) of Jesus’ “Discourse on the Church”, and deals with forgiveness which His disciples are to give to fellow disciples who sin against them.

Today’s Gospel reading directly follows last week’s Gospel in which Jesus taught the disciples how to handle disputes and conflict within the first-century Jewish (predominately) Catholic (Universal) Christian community.  In today’s reading, Peter asks Jesus how many times one should give forgiveness to another.

Jesus also gives a lesson on how mercy and justice go together.  In the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, the prophet “Amos” speaks of God forgiving transgression three times, but warns of God punishing for the fourth:

For three crimes of …, and now four— I will not take it back.”(see Amos 1:3-13; 2:1-6). 

Peter proposes a reasonable number of times, i.e., perhaps “seven”.  Jesus Christ replies by expanding Peter’s proposal by an “enormous” amount; not just seven times should one forgive, but 77 times (perfectly complete AND completely prefect and complete [will explain a little later]).  Through the parable, we come to understand the depths of God’s mercy toward us and the results of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

 

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To the question Peter asks about how often forgiveness is to be granted (verse 21), Jesus answers that it is to be given without limit (verse 22).  He further illustrates His answer with a parable about the unmerciful and unforgiving servant (verses 23–34).  Through this parable, Jesus is warning ALL OF US that His heavenly Father will give those who do not forgive the same treatment as that given to the unmerciful servant (verse 35). 

Matthew 18:21–22 corresponds to Luke 17:4:

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:4).

However, today’s parable and Jesus’ final warning are distinctive to Matthew’s Gospel.  It is suggested by some biblical scholars that today’s parable did not originally belong to this situation.  This reason is that it really does not deal with repeated forgiveness, which is the point of Peter’s question and Jesus’ reply.

 

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Why does Peter ask Jesus (in verse 21) if he must forgive someone “as many as seven times”?  For part of the answer, let’s look at the meaning of the number seven in Holy Scripture. (Information obtained from http://www.BibleStudy.org.)

Seven, in Hebrew, is “shevah”.  It is from the root, “savah”, meaning to be full or satisfied.  Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root meaning of fullness and complete satisfaction.  On the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation.  His creation was full and complete, and good and perfect.  Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it.  Hence the word, “Shavath”, means to cease, desist, rest, and “Shabbath”, “Sabbath”, is the “day of rest”.  

It is seven, therefore, that impresses (and means) perfection and completeness in connection with which it is used.  It marks off the week of seven days, which, arbitrary as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance among all nations, and in all times.  A “Seven Day Week” passes on an eternal “Sabbath-keeping”, which “keeps on” for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.

 

In the creative works of God, “seven” completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow; it satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In both, the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Another meaning of the root, “Savah”, is to swear, or make an oath.  This oath is clear from its first occurrence in Genesis:

“This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there.” (Genesis 21:31),  

in which this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs“:

“Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, and Abimelech asked him, ‘What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’  Abraham answered, ‘The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.’ (Genesis 21:28-30),

points to the idea of satisfaction or fullness in an oath.  

 

The Greek translation of “Seventy-seven times” (verse 22) corresponds exactly to a verse in Genesis:

“If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:24).

There is a probable reference, though by difference, to limitless vengeance implied in the verse relating to “Lamech” in the Genesis text.  However, Jesus’ answer demands “limitless forgiveness” – – Perfectly AND Completely – – on the part of His disciples!!

 

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The “Master” in today’s parable decides to settle accounts with his servants.  We are told that one particular servant owed him an “enormous” sum of money.  Although the servant promises to repay everything, it is unlikely that he would ever be able to repay the debt that he owes.  However, the Master listens to his servant and is moved by the humility of his pleading, and mercifully forgives the entire debt.  

God will settle our account which we have with Him, in the SAME way we settle our accounts with others.  Let us all remember the “Golden Rule”:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

So, how much did this servant owe.  You will be amazed at what I found out about this debt.  A huge amount, per biblical scholars, literally meant, “ten thousand talents” (per NAB footnotes).  The “talent” (A Hebrew coin) was a unit of coinage of high, yet varying value, depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only in today’s reading, and in the “Parable of the Talents” (cf., Matthew 25:14–30).

To emphasize the worth of a “talent”, it took 8883 denaii (=/-)* to make ONE talent.  One denarius (a Roman coin) was the usual payment for an entire days work.  Thus, ten thousand talents was equivalent to payment for slightly over 204,203 YEARS of work (I assume pre-taxed).  In Jesus’ time, this amount would have been greater than the total revenue of an entire province!  (This “Master” must have been the “Bill Gates” of his day.)  [* per “Talents (Biblical Hebrew) to Denarius (Biblical Roman) Conversion Calculator”]

 

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In those days, justice was swift.  Justice will also be swift at the “Final Judgment” (the Parousia) as well.  At the Parousia, it will be TOO LATE to justify your account; it needs to be taken care of NOW!!

The servant says to his master, “I will pay you back in full” (verse 26).  This is a grossly empty promise, given the size of his “enormous” debt.  As I said a moment ago, there was no probable way he could ever repay such a large amount.

There is no offence which can be done to us that would compare with OUR debt to God the Father!  We have been forgiven a debt way beyond all paying, just like the servant in this reading.  In order to ransom our debt of sin, God the Father gave up His only begotten Son.  And God the Son (Jesus Christ) paid our debt (my debt and your debt!)!  If God forgave each of us our debt to Him, which was (and still is) very great, “enormous” in fact, then we too must forgive others the debt they owe us, completely and perfectly!!

The servant asked for forgiveness, and his “Master” granted his request.  All we have to do is two things.  First, acknowledge our sins and call it by name.  And second, to ask sincerely for forgiveness.  God, our Father, our Master, will certainly grant our personal request as well.  Do not hesitate: go to confession NOW!! – – (PLEASE!)

 

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Rather than displaying gratitude for this forgiveness, the servant confronted a fellow servant who owed him a small debt, a pittance when compared with the amount owed to his Master.  The unmerciful servant refused the pleas of his fellow servant, sending him to prison.

Did this servant show the same kindness and mercy toward another that was shown to him? … NO!!  He “sought out” another who owed him a debt of just a few hundred denarii: “a much smaller amount” (verse 28).  Remember, a denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer, and the difference between these two debts is enormous.  This comparison (or actually, a lack of comparison due to the enormous difference in amount) signals a lesson in the absurdity and travesty of the conduct from a Catholic Christian who has received a great grace (a beautiful gift) of forgiveness from God the Father, then refuses to forgive the relatively minor offenses done to him by others.

“I wouldn’t do that!” may be your response.  Well, remember this reflection the next time someone does something nice for you, and you repay by ridiculing, slandering, or defaming another only a short time later.  Have you ever received Christ in the Eucharist, and then thought poorly of another in the communion line; or, said (even yelled) a swear word to another while driving home from THAT mass?  Hmm!!

 

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Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven.  If we do not forgive our fellow man we cannot expect God to forgive us.  If we want mercy shown to us, we must be ready to forgive others as God the Father has already forgiven us (Because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, His investment in us.).

Remember, your actions have repercussions.  If you treated others of God creation with disrespect, why would you expect “respect” from God the Creator?  If you disregard others, God will most certainly disregard you as well.  Hmm, think of these words: “disrespect” and “disregard”.  If you “dis-” others, God the Father will “dis-” you as well. 

 

Then, a few other servants tell the merciful Master about the unforgiving actions of his servant.  Then the Master calls his servant to an account; and punishes the “unforgiving servant” because he refused to show the same kind of mercy given to him previously from his Master.  Jesus, in today’s parable, concludes by declaring emphatically that this is how it will be with God the Father toward those who refuse to forgive another.

Just like Santa Claus, God the Father knows who has been “Naughty and Nice”.  He doesn’t need a checklist or a group of “elves” to keep track of our sins and iniquities since they are written on our souls.  Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can wipe the soul totally clean.

 

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The servant’s Master in today’s reading was “dissed” with the servant’s actions towards another as well.  He summoned him, he judged him; and he sentenced him.  It was too late for repaying any debt, any amount.  Since this “sinners’ debt was so great as to be realistically un-payable (verse 34), his punishment would be endless.

Interestingly, in this thought, I find some relative comfort and hope.  If our sins are too great, our reward will obviously be eternal damnation and separation, the ultimate “dis-” appointment.  However, knowing I am not an angelic being (my mother and wife call me a “fallen” angel anyway), I know that a small amount of sin will not permanently separate me from my Lord.  There is hope in knowing that a small amount of sin and iniquities can be purified in “purgatory” prior to ascending to the highest heaven.  There are many references in both the Old and New Testaments to a place we know as “Purgatory”.  Here is just two:

Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:26)”,

And,

Nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies.  Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelations 21:27).

(Regarding “purgatory”, please review the following: Matthew 5:48, 12:32, 12:36; Hebrew 12:14; James 1:14-15, 3:2; 1 John 5:16-17;  2 Samuel 12:13-14; 2 Maccabees 12:44-46; 1 Corinthians 3:15, 15:29-30; 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6; and 2 Timothy 1:16-18.  (If you know of others, please let me know.)

 

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To summarize, God the Father’s forgiveness has already been given to us through Jesus’ Sacrificial investment in me and all of us, through our baptism, and continuing through the special graces of all the Sacraments which perfectly complete and mature us as members of the Catholic Church, God’s family on earth.  Jesus made it very clear that God the Father will also withdraw His mercy and forgiveness at the “Final Judgment” for those who have not imitated His forgiveness by their own actions during their earthly life:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

 There is an ever-present temptation to quantify forgiveness as Peter tried to do.  But, Jesus’ point is one of forgiveness – – NOT in quantity, (the number of times we extend forgiveness to another) – – but in the quality of attitude, i.e., in perfect and complete mercy (forgiveness) to ALL, even unto our enemies.   

 

In today’s parable, the Master’s forgiveness is analogous to God’s forgiveness toward us.  His forgiveness and mercy should be used to transform us, (inside – outside), helping us to be as forgiving as God the Father is toward us.  The lesson, the moral of the story, is exceptionally clear: If we hoard God’s mercy while showing no mercy to others, we, in fact, forfeit the effects of God’s mercy in our lives.

The Evangelist James says that judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy:

“Judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:13). 

Mercy is a true gift – – a grace – – offered in a way in which “justice” is not disregarded.  Mercy “seasons” justice as “salt” seasons meat and vegetables, giving them flavor.  Mercy follows justice, and “perfects” it.  Mercy, with justice, is a delightful meal to consume, and is exactly what we obtain with each Eucharistic celebration. 

 

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To conclude, we learned (and continue to learn) to trust God’s mercy and forgiveness through experiencing forgiveness from those closest to us, our family and friends.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that forgiveness is measured by its quality more than its quantity.

Consider times recently when you or another sought the forgiveness of another.  Were any statements made, putting “conditions” on forgiveness, such as “I will do this if you do that” or “I will accept your apology if or when ….”  

Do you sometimes “keep count” or “put conditions” on your forgiveness of another?  Do you find yourself sounding like Peter, concerned with quantity of forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness abundantly and unconditionally? – – rather than offering forgiveness perfectly and completely?  This is something you may be doing without even realizing, so please reflect on your attitude, as well as your behavior when offering forgiveness. 

What does the servant do to make his Master so angry, so “dissed”?  Well, the answer is simple: he refuses to forgive his fellow man’s debt.  Because we have all received God’s forgiveness, God the Father expects that we will also be forgiving toward others.  Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?  Please, please, PLEASE release these vices, these hindrances, and these malice’s toward others, before it is TOO LATE!!

Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times to forgive another, at the end of today’s parable, is found in the attitude and intention to forgive, as described in the following words:

“… forgives his brother from his heart(Matthew 18:35).

Therefore, the number of times we forgive another is, in reality, less important than the depth of our forgiveness.  So, we must forgive one another from the heart, and with unconditional love – – perfectly and completely! – – Because God has forgiven us from His heart, with unconditional love, perfectly and completely – – FIRST!!

 

 

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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.

 

A second option for the “penitential rite” (the “Confiteor” being the first option) has been revised.  This second form had been little used in recent years.  The second option is presently:

Lord, we have sinned against you:|
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

It will now read as follows:

The priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
The people respond, “For we have sinned against you.
Then the priest says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,”
and the people respond, “And grant us your salvation.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1840)

 

A sermon he heard at age 15 inspired today’s saint to become a missionary in China.  There he met a brutal death on a cross for refusing to renounce his faith.

Born in France in 1802, Jean-Gabriel became a Vincentian priest.  He displayed so many gifts and had such fine personal and spiritual qualities that, for a time, his religious order kept him busy closer to home.

He finally received permission to begin his missionary endeavors in 1835.  After a 1,000-mile trip by boat and foot across three provinces, he arrived in central China.  In one early letter written to his community in Paris he described himself as a curious sight: “my head shaved, a long pig-tail, stammering my new languages, eating with chopsticks.”

He soon joined the Vincentians in helping to rescue abandoned Chinese children and in educating them in the Catholic faith.  He was arrested in 1839 under an edict that banned Christianity.  He was tortured and interrogated for months.  Almost one year later he was executed by strangling while hanging on a cross.

St. Jean-Gabriel was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.  Chinese government officials denied permission for any public Mass commemorating the new saint.

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:

 

Peace

 

What does the liturgy at Mass mean when it uses the word “Peace” several times before Communion?

Is the “sign of peace” at Mass – only a gesture? … Or, is it a prayer? 

What meanings do I give the “sign of peace” at Mass?

Do we (do I) let Christ “guide our feet into the way of peace”?

How do examples and principles of prominent people (and neighbors) in our lifetime fulfill your call to peace? 

Can you give examples?

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

“May the Best Man Lose His Life – – to Jesus!” – Matthew 18:15-20†


 

Twenty-Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Popes Prayer Intentions for September

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asks that we join him in prayer for the “concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the missions.”  These are our Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

GENERAL INTENTION:
That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

MISSIONARY INTENTION:
That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

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Next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of this country’s attack by fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists.  Please pray for all the affected souls (dead and alive) from this disaster of pure hated.  Lord, please be in our prayers, hearts and mind, on this sad, yet glorious day.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   422 – St Boniface I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1085 – Death of Irmgarde van Keulen, German countess of Aspel/saint
†   1571 – Catholic coup in Scotland
†   1781 – Los Angeles, California, is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion) by 44 Spanish settlers.
†   1918 – Jhr Ch Ruys de Beerenbrouck, Jhr. Charles Joseph Maria Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (1 December 1873 – 17 April 1936) was a Dutch nobleman and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1918 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933, who becomes 1st Dutch Catholic premier

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 

(NAB Matthew 18:15-20) 15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship?  Jesus offers His disciples a special grace of spiritual freedom and power for restoring the broken or injured relationships within His faith community.  He makes it very clear that His followers should not tolerate a break, infringement, or outright violation in relationships among themselves.

This reading gives direction to the actions of Jesus Christ’s reputable disciples toward those who have strayed from their teachings and practices.  Today’s discourse is the “how-to” for dealing with someone who sins, and yet continues within the community (Sort of like many of our present day Catholic Legislators).  Them, and many others in the Catholic Church today are “Catholics Only In Name”: “COINs”!!

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from a part of Matthew’s book which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order discourse”.  In this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly, openly, and frankly about Catholic (Universal) Church discipline and Church order.  

Today’s reading is only one of two instances wherein Jesus uses the word “church” in Matthew’s Gospel.  In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ “Word” and teachings, we can also hear and experience reverberations of the kinds of questions and problems faced by the first-century Catholic Christian community for whom he wrote.

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Not in today’s reading, but found immediately prior to this reading (Matthew 18:1-14), is the first part of the “discourse on the Church.  Matthew addresses the Catholic Christian community’s concern about hierarchy.  In this previous “first” part, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  His response indicated that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children!!  He further cautioned the “church leaders” who might lead His disciples going astray – – off path of salvation, by accident or purposely.

Next is today’s part, the second section of Jesus’ “discourse on the Church”, Matthew 18:15-20.  Here, Jesus addresses a very common occurrence in the early Christian community: a dispute between two or more members of His Catholic Church.

Sin must be confronted, and help must be offered, in restoring a damaged personal or communal relationship of love, trust, and faith.  When these relationships between brothers and sisters of Christ are damaged, then we must spare no effort; we must use all resources – – human and divine – – to help the brother or sister “at fault” to see their error, and to set the relationship “just and righteous” again.

Regardless of the decision in dealing with one in error, the church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven – – by God the Father Himself.  The three-step process of rectification in today’s reading relates (though not exactly) to the Qumran community procedures found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8).

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In the conclusion of today’s reading, Jesus ends with a proverb about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to a very small number of prayers (Hope hopeful is this!!).  Jesus Christ is always in “the midst” of any gathering of His disciples, no matter how small.

After reading and reflecting on this Gospel reading multiple times, I wonder whether this context of prayer, as portrayed in today’s reading, has anything to do with the preceding judgment of the unrepentant sinner.  It seems uncertain in context, but not in concept.  Let’s see what I say about this, in detail, later.

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Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters in a fair way; a procedure which continues, in a very similar form, to this day.  First, the victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement.  If this fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront – – in a loving manner – – the “offender” again.  If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire church community.

Finally, and sadly, if the offender refuses to adhere to the restoration arranged by and approved by the church community, then Jesus Christ Himself suggests the “offender” may be expelled from the Church, – – “excommunicated”.

 

Jesus starts His discourse with a profound and heavily-laden theological sentence:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) 

Your brother”, from verse 15, is the colloquial term for a Catholic Christians fellow disciple in Christ.

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8).  

The bracketed words, “against you”, (also in verse 15) are words widely attested to in many versions of Holy Scripture.  However, they are not in the ancient manuscript texts, “Sinaiticus” and “Vaticanus”, nor in some other written documents.  Their omission in these important documents only broadens the type of sin in question to ANY type of sin!  

Still in verse 15, “Won over” literally means “gained.”  Saying, “we won over this person”, means this person has come too understood, and corrected his fault.  In doing so, he has gained his own personal insight, and, at the same time, you gain a friend and companion on your faith journey.

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Taking two or three with you as witnesses (verse 16) when confronting a person who is in error, is not a new concept.  In actuality, this exact model is even covered in Moses writings, the Torah:

One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

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What is meant by the word “church” (verse 17) in this reading?  The words, “the church” is the second of the only two instances of this specific word in Matthew’s Gospel; the other being Matthew 16:18:  

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

Here, it refers not to the entire church of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 16:18, but instead, to the local congregation instead.

 

Also in verse 17, what did Jesus mean when He said, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”?  Well, history shows that in first-century Palestine, observant and pious Jews avoided any interaction with “Gentiles” and “tax collectors” – – “heathen sinners”!!  In the same way, Catholic Jewish-Christian disciples of this biblical time also had to separate themselves from the arrogantly un-repented, sinful member who refused to repent, even when convicted of his sin by the whole church (his brothers and sisters in Christ).  This person was (and still is) to be put outside the fellowship of the Catholic Church community; he or she is “excommunity-cated”.

 

The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector points to a stage in Matthew’s first-century Catholic (Universal) Church, wherein, it was principally composed of Jewish Christians.  Though this period of a “Jewish-only” Catholic Church has long since passed, the principle of exclusion (including the severest form, excommunication) for such a sinner remains to this day, and has spread from Matthew’s local church, to the entire worldwide church community.  Saint Paul even made a similar demand for excommunication in his first letter to the Corinthians (Corinthians 5:1-13), in regards to incest and pride:

“It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.  And you are inflated with pride.  Should you not rather have been sorrowful?  The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2).

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus’ instruction (and if anyone knew about sin, he did!!):

 

When any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound.  Therefore ‘rebuke him between thee and him alone,’ intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.  For it may be that through shamefacedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse.  ‘Rebuke him’ therefore ‘between him and thee alone.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;’ because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it.  But ‘if he: will not hear thee,’ that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, ‘take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’  Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren.  But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected.  For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.” (Sermon 82.7)

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What can we learn from today’s reading, along with the above passage from St. Augustine, about how to repair a damaged relationship?  

If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus Christ says the first step is to speak directly, yet privately, to the individual who has done you harm.  The worst thing one can do is dwell on any grievance, poisoning the mind, heart and soul.  Retaining grievances (resentment) makes it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.  If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it “face-to-face” and “heart-to-heart”.  

If this fails to resolve the issue, then the second step is to bring another person (or persons) to help in the “repair of the relationship”.  This “witness” should be mature, wise, and compassionate person rather than someone who may be equally hot-tempered and/or judgmental.  Remember, the goal is not to put the “offender” on trial, but to persuade the “offender” to see his error, and to be reconciled with each other (and the church).  

If this loving (and second) interaction fails, we still must not give up.  Instead we should seek the help of the entire Catholic Christian community – – the “Church”.  Notice the emphasis and importance is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Catholics, who will pray, seeking a solution for reconciling the matter, based on Christian love and wisdom rather than relying on coercive force, threats, and legal action.

Lastly, if the church fails to bring about reconciliation, what else is there to do?  Jesus Christ says we have the right to abandon stubborn and inflexible offenders, treating them like social outcasts.  

The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religiously pious Jews.  However, we know from Holy Scripture that Jesus was often a companion and friend of tax-collectors; He ate with them, and even praised them at times!  Even if excommunicated, we should always hope and pray for a conversion of heart in the “offender”, and reconciliation with the church family.

 

Jesus does not discourage, in any way, disagreements within the Church community.  After all, being human in nature, disagreements are inevitable.  He even acknowledged the reality of conflict and error in our world, and offers His disciples a specific, respectful, and loving means for addressing such matters.  

I love what Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said about disagreeing with the “infallible teachings” of the Magisterium:

“You have two choices if you disagree with the Church’s infallible teachings:

1)  Change your mind, or
2)  Change your mind!!”

(Bonus Trivia Question:  Can you name ALL the “infallible” teachings of the Catholic Church.  You may be surprised at how many there are in fact.  The answer will be at end of today’s reflection.)

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Let’s go on to the next verse:

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

Except for the use of both singular and plural verbs for “bind” and “loose” in verse 18, it is practically identical with Mathew 16:19b:

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

Many bible scholars take it as a granting (a grace given) to all Jesus’ disciples what was previously given to Peter (the first Pope) alone.

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It is in the conclusion to today’s reading (verses 19 & 20) that a great message of hope is found: Jesus is “truly” present with the Catholic Church community, and will guide His Church community in its relationships.  If decisions are taken to Him in prayer, then His church community can be assured of the Holy Trinity’s assistance.

 

Some bible scholars take verses 19 and 20 as relating to “prayer” when the church community gathers in order to deal with the specific un-repentant sinner of verse 17.

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

Unless an “a fortiori” argument (argument “from [the] stronger [reason]”) is assumed, this seems unlikely to me.  After all, God’s answer to the prayer of “two or three” (as stated in both verse 19 AND 20) envisions a different situation than prayer involving the entire church body (the congregation).  In addition to this argument for a separate meaning and purpose, the object of “prayer” in today’s reading is expressed in the most general of terms, as it expresses “anything for which they are to pray”, and is not specific to the un-repentant sinner.

 

However, this last verse of today’s great message is one of “hope inspired by a grace”, from Jesus Christ Himself:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

His presence guarantees the value, merit, and importance of prayer.  This verse is similar to one attributed to an unknown Rabbi, executed in 135 A.D., at the time of the second Jewish revolt:

“…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3).

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In conclusion, conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family, church, and societal life.  Yet, within these groups, we are given an opportunity to learn how to “fairly” resolve disagreements by treating people with love and respect.

It needs to be reiterated, Jesus Christ refuses NO ONE who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.  A call to accountability is inevitable, and we can’t escape it, both in this life, and at the “Day of Judgment” (the “Parousia”) when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Do you tolerate broken relationships?  Or, do you seek to repair, restore, and amend relationships in the way God gives you, through opportunity and His grace given process?  While we have the opportunity to do so in this life, we must not give up on our stubborn, inflexible, “offenders”.  Instead, take every opportunity and make all effort to win them back into the fold – – with, in, and through the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.  

This week, reflect on your way of resolving disputes at work, and at home.  What kinds of things produce disagreements for you?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples the proper way to handle conflicts within the Catholic (Universal) Christian community – – the Church.  Try to summarize Jesus’ steps He personally proposed for resolving conflicts.  How might today’s Gospel enlighten you in handling disagreements?  

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promised (and still promises) He will help those who pray to Him with their needs.  Pray that you (and your family and friends) will learn to handle inevitable conflicts in a respectful, loving, Christian way.

 

(Bonus Trivia Question Answer:  There are only TWO “ex cathedra” (infallible) teachings in the Catholic Church; both are about the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

First, is her “Immaculate Conception”, declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.  And the second is about her bodily “Assumption” into heaven, declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

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

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

 

 

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 “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, I have greatly sinned and later adds through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

 

Rose achieved sainthood in only 18 years of life.  Even as a child Rose had a great desire to pray and to aid the poor.  While still very young, she began a life of penance in her parents’ house.  She was as generous to the poor as she was strict with herself.  At the age of 10 she became a Secular Franciscan and soon began preaching in the streets about sin and the sufferings of Jesus.

Viterbo, her native city, was then in revolt against the pope.  When Rose took the pope’s side against the emperor, she and her family were exiled from the city.  When the pope’s side won in Viterbo, Rose was allowed to return. Her attempt at age 15 to found a religious community failed, and she returned to a life of prayer and penance in her father’s home, where she died in 1251.  Rose was canonized in 1457.

Comment:

The list of Franciscan saints seems to have quite a few men and women who accomplished nothing very extraordinary.  Rose is one of them.  She did not influence popes and kings, did not multiply bread for the hungry and never established the religious order of her dreams.  But she made a place in her life for God’s grace, and like St. Francis before her, saw death as the gateway to new life.

Quote:

Rose’s dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God.  Live so as not to fear death.  For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”

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:

 

Peace

 

How do you explain what “peace” is? 

What are some different meanings for the word “peace” – among governments, neighbors, in families, relationships?

What did Francis mean by this word: “Peace”?

What does Sacred Scripture mean by this word: “Peace”?

Since we are called to be “peacemakers” by Christ, go line by line and explain how each suggestion (pledge line) of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis [above] helps promote peace.

 

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

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

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.   Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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

 

 

“Lazarus Came Out Of the Tomb and Saw His Shadow. We Now Have Two More Weeks Of Lent!” – John 11:1-45†


 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

  

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

 

Yippee, the Government did not screech to a halt in such a way as to throw the earth off its rotational axis, as many feared.  Yet sadly, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) caved in on his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.  Anti-abortion lawmakers did succeed however in blocking taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia (only 50 States to go).  

President Obama succeeded in forcing Boehner, and other Republicans in Congress, to cave in on dozens of items including Planned Parenthood, while protecting favored programs like education, clean energy and medical research.  Representative Boehner, I consider defunding Planned Parenthood as a favored endeavor, and of the utmost urgency!

Yes, the mutually agreed upon bill will remove close to $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of certain domestic agencies over six months, – – the biggest rollback of such government programs in history.  And yes, it will put the Cabinet operating budgets on a track closer to levels before President Obama took office in 2009.  Yet we (the USA) are throwing God’s miracle in trashcans 3700 times daily, 1.37 million yearly (42 million worldwide)!  Again, how SAD!!

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    
†   847 – St Leo IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1512 – Pope Julius II opens 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1585 – Death of Gregory XIII,  [Ugo Buoncampagni], (b. 1502), Italian Pope (1572-85)
†   1704 – Death of William Egon of Fürstenberg, Bishop of Strassburg (b. 1629)
†   1821 – Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople is hanged by the Turks from the main gate of the Patriarchate and his body is thrown into the Bosphorus.
†   1921 – Birth of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Fulbert of Chartres; James, Azadanus and Abdicius; Saint Paternus

(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:

 

Ben: Dad, why doesn’t the bible say anything about the other three persons that Jesus raised from the dead at the same time as Lazarus?

Dad: Where did you learn that there were three other persons? Lazarus was the only one in that bible story.

Ben: Well Dad, in the bible it says that there were at least four people.

Dad: Where does it say that in the bible?

Ben: Right here Dad (showing him his bible), it says “Lazarus came forth”!

 

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Today’s reflection is about the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

 

 (NAB John 11:1-45) 1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.  3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”  4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.  7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?  If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”  12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”  13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.  14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.  15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”  16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.  19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.  20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”  29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.  30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.  31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  35 And Jesus wept.  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”  37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone.  And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.  So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”  45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

 

Today’s the second longest continuous Gospel narrative in John’s Gospel read at Mass throughout the Liturgical year.  The only Gospel reading longer is the passion narrative.  This reading invites us to reflect upon what it means to call Jesus the “Resurrection and the life”.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead is also the climax of Jesus’ signs (miracles) before His own death and resurrection.  This Gospel reading directly leads up to the decision by the Sanhedrin to eliminate (kill) Jesus out of fear and jealousy and precipitated the literal fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies found in Isaiah and elsewhere.

A theme of “life” predominates throughout this reading.  Lazarus (His name means “God is my help”) is a symbol of the real “life” that Jesus – – through His death and resurrection – – will give to all who believe in Him.  Just think of the irony in the Lazarus story: Jesus’ gift of life to His friend (and to all of us) will ultimately and directly lead to His own death on the Holy Tree of redemption.

Through Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death, God brought glory in, and to, Jesus, His only begotten Son.  Jesus, who raised His friend from the dead, did so in an anticipation of His own death and resurrection.  We should remember these two events (Lazarus’s and Jesus’ resurrections) this week in our participation at the Eucharist, which was given to us as a foretaste of Jesus’ “transfiguration” of OUR bodies, at the Parousia, His appearing and full presence – – His second coming. 

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The background of today’s story, – – the raising of Lazarus, – – is the Jewish leaders’ growing animosity toward Jesus.  He had been in Jerusalem, taking part in the “feast of the Dedication”, which we now call, “Hanukkah”, the “feast of Lights”.  The Jewish people had been pushing him to declare plainly whether or not He was the true “Messiah” prophesized.  Jesus tells them to look to His works (and not faith alone), which will testify to His coming from God (for our sake).  Many do not believe Jesus, and a number of them try to stone Him for the [false] sin/crime of “blasphemy”, claiming equality with God the Father.

While Jesus is evading those choosing to do Him harm, word is sent to Him that His friend is ill; yet He delays His journey, purposefully, for two days.  The delay heightens the drama when He eventually arrives in Bethany.  The delay also shows Jesus’ obedience to God, who is to be glorified through Jesus’ delay and Lazarus’s eventual resurrection.  

 

The story of the raising of Lazarus is not found verbatim in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  However, Luke does record another example of Jesus Christ demonstrating His compassion and His divine authority over life and death, as found in Luke 7:11-17: 

“Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  A large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’  He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’  This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.” (Luke 7:11-17).  

There is another parallel between the Lazarus story and Luke’s parable of the rich man and a “poor man” also named Lazarus:

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’  He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.‘” (Luke 16:19-31).

In both stories, a man named Lazarus dies.  However, in Luke, there is a request that Lazarus return from the dead in order to convince his contemporaries of the need for faith and repentance, while in John, Lazarus does return inspiring a belief in the resurrection, and in Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, in some among them.

 

Bethany was “about two miles” from Jerusalem as stated in verse 18 of today’s reading.  In the original Greek, it was actually about fifteen “stades“.  A stade was a measurement of 607 feet, so with using simple math, this would equate to 9105 feet, or just a tad bit over 1.7 miles.  (Yes, I do love math, and yes I can be a little type “A” when it comes to the subject of math.)

Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters as dear friends, and He often stayed in their home at Bethany.  So, why did Jesus delay in coming to Lazarus’ side when He knew that His friend was gravely ill?

In verse 4, upon hearing of Lazarus’s malady, Jesus says his illness “is not to end in death”.  Do you think this statement was misunderstood by Jesus’ disciples as referring to a “physical”, human death of the body?  In reality, Jesus meant a “NOT – – ending in death”, referring to another kind of death: spiritual death.     

Jesus’ two day delay must have confused and mystified His followers.  However, they seem to be more startled and upset when Jesus finally announced that He was going to Bethany, a town very close in proximity to Jerusalem.  They saw this action as a “suicide” mission of sorts.  Jesus’ followers (and most certainly Jesus) knew the religious authorities (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were set on eliminating the threat to them from Jesus.  

For Jesus to come to a place as dangerous for Him as Jerusalem was, at this Passover time was, an act of courage and an act of total trust and love in His heavenly Father.  Jesus’ explanation given to His disciples was simple and challenging at the same time:

“Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:9)

To paraphrase (a potentially dangerous thing to do with Holy Scripture), Jesus said: “There are enough hours in the day to do what one must do.”  A day, in a chronological form, can never be shortened, lengthened, hurried, or slowed, for it is a fixed period of measurement.  We each have our “day”, or “time”, whether it be short or long (even if it is only “15 minutes of fame”), if we look at a “day” as in the sequential form. 

While time is limited chronologically, there is always enough time for us to accomplish what God intends for us to finish.  Remember, God knows all, and gives each of us an allotted measure of human – – mortal – – life to do what is our part of God’s plan.  So, the choice for us is either to waste it through personal self-gratification, or use it to the greatest ability for God’s glory in all we do and say. 

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Lazarus was “sick”.  Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons.   Jesus attributed Lazarus’ sickness to the glory of God.  The glory which Jesus had in mind, however, was connected with the Holy Cross – – The Holy Tree of Redemption.   He saw the Holy Cross as His supreme glory – – and the path to glory in the kingdom of God.  For Jesus there was no other path to glory except through the cross; this was God the Father’s plan for salvation, for Jesus Himself, for the whole family of Abraham, and for all people of all nations.. 

Jesus knew that if He went to help Lazarus He would expose himself to grave danger from those in Jerusalem who were plotting His destruction.  Jesus was willing to pay that price to help His friend; to give His life for another.  Jesus would explicitly declare this truth in what would be written a few chapters later in John’s Gospel:

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Are you ready to give help – – to give your own life – – for your friend?  That may seem like a relatively easy thing to do (emphasis is on the word “may”!).  Now, let me throw out the proverbial “ringer”: as a Catholic, as a Christian, are you ready to give help? – – to give your own life? – – for one’s enemy?!! 

Jesus did not segregate the two groups; and neither should we!

 

Jesus did not let circumstances or pressure dictate what He would do.  Nor did He permit others to determine His actions or plan for salvation.  He took actions on His own initiative and on His own schedule.  How often do we try to get God to do things in our way and on our self-determined period of time?  One of my favorite old-time sayings which I just made up is:

“We are on God’s time, and His pocket watch sticks occasionally!” (DEH, 2011) 

 

Let’s go back to the reference about 12 hours in a day.  Both the Romans and the Jews divided the day into twelve equal hours from sunrise to sunset.  We would think of this division as starting around 6 AM and ending at 6 PM – – in accord with God’s natural sequence of light and dark.  The day’s work and travel ceased when the daylight was gone – – when darkness fell over the earth.  Jesus made a spiritual analogy using this concept of light and dark in our relationship with God. 

Jesus is the “Light of the World”!  He is the Son Shine that makes the Sunshine.  Remember the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  For those who do not believe in Him, “the light is not in him”!  In the pre-modern scientific world of Jesus’ time, people apparently did not understand clearly the concept of light entering through the eye.  They seem to have thought of light as being in the eye, as illustrated in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels:

If your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Matthew 6:23).

And,

The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.” (Luke 11:34);

While the light of Christ is with us, and actually within us and surrounding us, then, as Paul says, we must live and walk in the truth and grace of His life, which is His light within us.  Sometimes the light within us is darkness when we are not following Jesus Christ as we should, and we then experience the need to be reconciled with God the Father.  There’s a perfect time to be reconciled with God – – NOW!!   

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When Jesus announced that when He was going to the region of Jerusalem after hearing of Lazarus’ death, Thomas showed remarkable courage, as shown in His words recorded by John:

Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” (John 11:16)

This courage, however, was not tempered with faith, trust, and hope in God’s promise to bring a victory out of defeat – – a resurrection out of death.  The proof for this statement is that even though Thomas was a witness to Lazarus’ resurrection, he later abandoned his master, teacher, and dear friend when Jesus was arrested.  He doubted his master’s resurrection until Jesus appeared to him and showed him, directly, the wounds in His hands, feet, and side.  (Hence, how the origin of the description “Doubting Thomas” came about.).  

It is through faith, courage, trust, and love that we get the strength we need to persist through any worldly trial and/or suffering which confronts us in this human and mortal exile.  If we embrace our personal crosses with faith, courage, trust, and love in God, we too will have the assurance that we will see victory and glory made possible through Jesus Christ, our personal and familial Savior.

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When Martha and Mary met Jesus with weeping, they declared to Him that if He had been there, their brother Lazarus would not have died.  They also expressed confidence and faith that God would do whatever Jesus would ask NOW.  They TRUSTED God!  They still TRUSTED Jesus Christ!  They clearly affirmed their belief in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead “in the last days”.

Martha says that she believes Jesus to be “the Messiah”, “the Son of God”, and “the One”.   All of these titles from verse 27 are a summary of the titles given to Jesus found in all the Gospels.  As in any good book (get the pun), there is always a summary of facts just prior to the climax of the story.  The use of these titles summarizes Jesus’ role as the “one” prophesized by Moses, coming to save the “chosen” people of God.

 

Interestingly for me, the shocking phrase, “became perturbed”, in the original Greek, literally means “He snorted in spirit“.  Jesus’ “snort” is defined by Encarta Dictionary as a harsh sound produced by forcing air through the nostrils in order to express feelings, especially feelings of contempt or impatience.  Jesus’ contemporaries were upset with His delay and His slow arrival in Bethany.  But, Jesus too, was upset.  He was obviously impatient at the presence of the evil of physical death present at this scene, and at the “professional” mourners who came from Jerusalem to cry attentively at Lazarus’ tomb.  You know the old adage, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”, and I think it is even more ill-advised to get Jesus “perturbed” at you!  A perturbed Jesus may even trump a perturbed wife; something I personally know well (without even trying most times)!

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Throughout all four Gospels, Jesus regularly refers to God as His “Father”, a translation of the Aramaic word, “abba”.  Jesus regularly addresses God with a concept of filial intimacy as a son’s relationship with, and feelings toward, His parent.  The word “abba” seems not to have been regularly used in earlier or contemporaneous Jewish sources to address God.  Other occurrences of this Aramaic word are only found in the New Testament, in the books of Romans and Galatians:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:15);

And,

As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)

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Jesus asks to be brought to Lazarus’s tomb where He prays and calls Lazarus out from the tomb.  At this sign, – – this miracle – – many come to believe in Jesus, but others take word of the miracle to the Jewish authorities, who begin their plans for Jesus’ death.

Our Lord “cried out in a loud voice” and Lazarus came out of the tomb.  In the drama of this event, I think back to an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” (John 5:28)

Lazarus was still wrapped in his burial strips, and his face was still covered.  This man could not remove his bindings, nor could he remove what blinded him.  He needed the assistance of another, Jesus Christ, to remove his darkness and oppressive wrappings.  SO DO WE!!

In a short time, Jesus Himself will be wrapped in bindings and a cloth will be placed over His face.  However, in three days, those bindings will be found in His rock-hewed tomb untied.  Their magnificent Lord and Savior vanished from the tomb.  The cloth that was draped over His face (I believe it was the tallit, a Jewish religious prayer shawl/robe) was found folded and placed carefully (and reverently) on the shelf which Jesus laid upon, while dead.

 

What a stark difference between the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus Christ.  Lazarus was resurrected to fulfill Jesus’ ministry, God’s plan of salvation for him.  Jesus was resurrected to fulfill completely God’s plan of salvation and redemption for all of us.  

Remember, Lazarus needed help to remove his oppressive and sight-blinding bindings.  Jesus is the “authority” who instructed others to remove such bindings from Lazarus.  He will do the same for us as we allow Him more fully into our lives.   Jesus Christ is the “light of the world” who will open our eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, here on earth, and in heaven.  (Never to be blinded again.)

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Lazarus may be the luckiest and most blessed person that I can think of right now.  He had a personal, direct, and physical relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  Yet, why can’t we as well?  He lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and we can personally, directly, and physically receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration on a daily basis.

Lazarus also gets to experience the gift and beauty of resurrection to bodily form twice.  He experienced a bodily resurrection, as reported in this story; and will again experience a bodily resurrection, at the Parousia.  Twice, he will experience a unique, personal, and extreme love which is emitting from his Creator and Redeemer – – Jesus Christ!  We will be privileged to experience this grace once, yet he gets a double dose!  You know what?  Once will be good enough for me!  And, in a sense, I can’t wait!  (I hope my ticket is stamped “non-smoking”, – – and is up-front, first class.  I’ve had enough of coach.)

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Set against the background of Jesus’ looming death, many elements of the raising of Lazarus prefigure the “good news” of Jesus’ own Resurrection.  Soon to face the tension and clash with Jewish authorities, Jesus acts in complete obedience to God the Father.  In raising Lazarus, Jesus shows His power over death so that when Jesus dies, those who believe in Him might remember, and take hope in His promises.  Just as Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, so too will the disciples find the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

Today, reflect on Baptism as a dying and rising with Jesus.  In Baptism we die to sin’s power over us, rising as children of God.  In Baptism, Jesus joins us to Himself.  As He conquered death once and for all so that we – – who believe in him – – may have eternal life, we are freed from fear of death.  With Martha and Mary, we are called to profess our belief that Jesus is indeed the Resurrection for each of us personally.  Our future will be enjoying completely the unending life in His light.

 

In Summary, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is a fundamental element of our Catholic faith.  Today’s Gospel reading encourages us to recognize, accept, and respond to Jesus’ triumph, power, and victory over death as demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  During this Lenten Season, we need to anticipate and to praise in Jesus conquering death – – once and for all – – by His own dying (never to be repeated), and by His Rising (in a miracle), which each of us will experience on that glorious day, the Parousia.  

We sometimes use examples from nature to help describe this miracle, this gift, this mystery of our faith.  Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself talked about the seed that dies when planted in the ground in order to produce new life:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24).

Using this image of the “grain of wheat dying to produce much fruit”, we find hope and confidence in “Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life”.

Remember Jesus’ promise from today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  What does Jesus mean by this promise in your life?  Are you confident in this promise from Jesus Christ?  Pray that you will be, and will remain confident in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.  Remember what Pope St. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-4: It is by believing “the precious and very great promises” that we “participate in the divine nature” of God.  (We call this Sanctifying Grace.)

The Christian creed, which is the profession of our faith, is a profession, a belief, in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and in the saving power of the Holy Trinity as demonstrated in the Resurrection of Jesus the Son.  That’s why we also proclaim a belief in a resurrection of the dead on the last day, and in an everlasting life.  This IS OUR faith and hope:  This is a biblically based statement of faith declared through today’s Gospel:

“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11).

God gives us the power of His Holy Spirit that we may be made alive in the light of Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can even experience the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives – – NOW – – even today!  The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change, to convert, and to transform us into people of faith, hope, and love; into faith filled sons and daughters.  Amen, and Amen.

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The Creed

(From the “New” Missal starting with Advent, 2011)

 

 

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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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.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be:

“And with your spirit

instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Magdalen of Canossa (1774-1835)

 

Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor.  Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her.

Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it.  At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun.  After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction.  For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes and among delinquent and abandoned girls.

In her mid-twenties Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home.  In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction.  As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged.  Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy.

Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women.  Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers.  Both groups continue to this day.

She died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.

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:

 

Sickness/Death

 

What impression is created by St. Francis calling death his “sister”?  How did St. Francis face death?  What was his mindset?

How does St. Francis’ attitude toward sickness and death compare to your own, and/or the Catholic Church’s?

Why do we act sometimes as if it’s not right that we should be getting sick?

What virtues does Francis ask us to practice when we are sick?

Why do Christians sometimes have the idea that sickness is a punishment for having done things wrong?  Some seem to say: “If I do not picture myself as a big sinner, why should I be suffering this way”? (Reflect on Jesus’ powerful message to the apostles in John’s Gospel, chap.9:3.)

 

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


 

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

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

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