Tag Archives: Caesar

“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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“Is It Tax Time In God’s Kingdom?!” – Matthew 22:15-21†


     

 

Twenty-Ninth 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 Psalm
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

On this day, in 1940, the Nazi’s established the “Warsaw Ghetto”.  Ironically, six years later (1946) – on this date – ten Nazi war criminals of the Second World War, were condemned to death in the “War Trials” (Nuremberg), and are immediately hung.

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Seventy days left till most of us celebrate CHRISTinMASS.  I personally try to celebrate CHRISTinMASS as often as possible.  How ‘bout you?!

 

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1333 – Death of Nicolaas V, [Pietro Rainalducci], Italian anti-Pope (1328-30)
†   1591 – Death of Gregory XIV, [Niccolo Sfondrati], Italian Pope, at age 56
†   1594 – Death of William Cardinal Allen, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1532)
†   1690 – Death of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint, at age 43
†   1755 – Death of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (b. 1725
†   1855 – Birth of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1890 – Birth of Maria Goretti, Italian saint (d. 1902)
†   1978 – Pope John Paul II is elected in Rome.
†   Pope John Paul II Day in Poland

(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 the Pharisees sending their disciples to test Jesus with a question about paying census taxes to the Emperor: Herod.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:15-21) 15 The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.  20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Payment of taxes is not likely to be a disputed issue in your life.  After all, Mark Twain’s famous saying is that the two “absolutes” in life are, “to pay taxes and dying”.  Yet, we can still learn something from today’s Gospel reading.  The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in the religion versus State issue.  Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians redirected their question to focus on the issue of greater importance: loving and honoring God.  Taking this perspective in our daily lives can help us make good judgments in dealing with conflicting issues of importance.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem (especially the Pharisee’s) continue their anxious, nervous, and stressed exchange of questions and challenges toward Jesus and His teachings.  They are afraid of Him, they know He is powerful, and they had to silence Him.  The point of today’s reading, the followers of the Temple Pharisees, along with the Herodians (the followers of Herod) consciously and maliciously try to entrap Jesus by their question with regard to the payment of census taxes.  This is not the first “clash” however.  The first encounter Jesus had with the Temple officials is described in Matthew 21, let’s look at it first:

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?’  Jesus said to them in reply, ‘I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?’  They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘If we say “Of heavenly origin,” he will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?”  But if we say, “Of human origin,” we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.’  So they said to Jesus in reply, ‘We do not know.’ He himself said to them, ‘Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Matthew 21:23–27).

In today’s reading, and in relating future disputes with the Temple leaders, Matthew follows Mark’s Gospel with few variations.

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Matthew, in this reading, puts together an unusual and uniquely strange partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans.  His collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law.  Along with his concessions, the Herodians and the Pharisees also made financial concessions.  The Herodians were willing to bend their interests, placing political over religious beliefs.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught a scrupulous and painstaking observance of Mosaic Law, and strongly opposed Roman occupation.  Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it.  In this reading, there are two severely opposing beliefs coming together for a common purpose: to destroy!!

Though Matthew maintains a joining together of the Pharisees and Herodians in this account, he clearly wished to emphasize the Pharisees’ part in the plot to discredit Jesus and His movement.  The Pharisees are solely mentioned in the first verse of today’s reading (Matthew 22:15).  The Herodians (followers of Herod) are joined with them only in the prepositional phrase of Mt 22:16:

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (Matthew 22:16)

The Pharisees wanted to “entrap Him [Jesus] in speech”.  With a covert intent, they posed a question, trying to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that would bring Him into conflict with the Roman authorities in Jerusalem.

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The help of the “Herodians”, supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, seemed to be needed in the deception of Jesus.  The Herodians were a political (and not religious) faction, who favored payment of the Roman imposed census taxes. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not favor the imposed taxes.  The Pharisees and Herodians were not friendly toward each other, and possibly even hostile toward each other, under “normal” circumstances.

So, why did they come together to trap Jesus in some sort of perceived “slanderous” statement?  The answer is quite easy: Jesus Christ was a common enemy to both of them.  To the Pharisees, He questioned their authority and teaching.  To the Herodians, He was a potential threat to their societal structure: He was revealing that both groups have gone astray from following the “Torah” of God the Father.  So, Jesus was perceived as “stirring the pot”, creating dissention within the Temple and Societal leadership itself. 

These men were as familiar with regard to Herod the Great was, 32 years prior (at Jesus’ birth), in regards to Old Testament prophecies of the “coming Savior Messiah”.  Both the Pharisees and the Herodians liked their lifestyles, and feared any change.

Per the Old Testament prophecies, the “Messiah” would:

1) come from David’s family and be heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalms 89:3-4, Psalms 110:1, Psalms 132:11, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-5, and Jeremiah 23:5);

2) have “Kings” bow down to Him (Psalms 72:10-11);

3) would bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and announce the release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1);

4) would enter the Temple “with authority” (Haggai 2:7-9, Malachi 3:1 );

And,

5) would be the cornerstone of God’s Messianic Community (Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22-23 ).  

Both, the Herodians and the Pharisees saw the people believing that Jesus of Nazareth was living out the Old Testament requirements of God’s Messiah.

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The Jewish people resented their foreign rulers and despised paying any taxes to Caesar.  So, the Pharisees posed an “impossible (tricky) question” to test Jesus to see whether He was loyal to them and to their (misguided) understanding of religion, or not.  (Nothing is impossible with God; nor is anything too tricky for Him!)  

The Herodians and the Pharisees approached Jesus, asking that He take a side in their dispute. They appear to be asking Him for His Rabbinic wisdom, yet (in reality) only wishing to trap Him in a “catch-22” situation.  If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Caesar.  If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested.  

So, why the BIG deal over a few coins?  Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power.  Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them.  In a certain sense, the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler.  Where the coin was valid, and used, the political “ruler” held political control over the people of the region.  Since the Jews used the Roman currency, it was the property of the Roman leader, Caesar.

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The Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful to pay census taxes according to “the law of God”.  Both groups thought that Jesus would be “trapped” either way He answered.  If he said “Yes”, the Pharisees would say he was paying alms to the Romans and not the church.  If He said “No”, they would call Him a “revolutionary” and report Him to Herod.

Jesus, in a classic Jewish rabbinical way, answers the question by asking a question:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18)

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Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap Him publically exposed the astuteness and cleverness of His inquisitors.  From His first words in response to their questions, Jesus showed that He is very much aware of what they were trying to do: to entrap Him.

’Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin.” (Matthew 22:19) 

Jesus asks for a “Roman coinand it is readily and immediately provided to Him.  It probably came from the hand of a Herodian in attendance (which for me is the only reason they are mentioned in this Gospel reading), yet, the Pharisees showed themselves to be quite willing to freely accept a compromise made with the Herodians and the Roman government.  Remember, Jesus had already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites in an earlier reading (Matthew 21:23–27, mentioned earlier).

They [the inquisitors] were ready to produce money for Jesus to hold.  Picture the image of Jesus holding money, and stating either, “No, don’t pay these taxes” or “Yes, you must pay Herod”!  Either would be devastating from a public perception viewpoint.  Their readiness to supply a visual image to their question – – money – – implies another proof of acceptance by the Pharisees, of the financial “advantages”, of the Roman administration in Jerusalem and Palestine as a whole.

Jesus then takes His response one step further.  He asks the Pharisees and Herodians:

 “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  (Matthew 22:20)

His inquisitors examine the coin and agree it is Caesar’s image on the coin.  This “Caesar” was the emperor “Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus” (A.D. 14–37).  

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Jesus’ answer cunningly avoids taking any sides in the question of the “lawfulness of the tax” by saying:

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)

With simple logic, Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians the coin belongs to Caesar, avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether. Going further, then, Jesus tells them that their obligation is also to pay to God that which belongs to God!

In saying to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Jesus raises the Pharisee’s debate to a new (and super-natural) level (ha, ha).   The Pharisees and Herodians hypocritically asked about taxing in respect to its relationship to the “law of God”; but instead, should have rather been concerned with repaying God the Father with the “good works” which are due to Him. 

If they don’t pay attention to this requirement, hear what Jesus had said earlier, in another parable, He recently told:

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:41, 43)

No wonder they were trying to “trap” Him!

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Holy Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due, and to owe no one anything, except to love one another:

“Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.  Love fulfills the Law.  Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:7-8)

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees in today’s story, suggests the proper ethics, a principle or belief directing one’s behavior, that Catholic Christians should adopt in their lives.  Jesus’ “Words” of “paying to God which belongs to God” should remind ALL of us the importance of keeping things of this earth in their proper perspective!!  How many of us are attached to worldly (materialistic) things at the expense of the love and honor which we owe to God?

Make a list of the activities which you spend time doing, such as household tasks, jobs, academics, and recreational activities, and so on.  What is the true importance of each of these activities?  What would happen if there were an imbalance in your attention to these activities, spending too much time on one activity at the expense of another?

Today, we are reminded of the necessity of giving things their proper importance.  The Herodians and Pharisees were giving too much importance to the issue of the payment of taxes.  Jesus Christ reminds the Pharisees and Herodians (and us) that loving and honoring God is of greater importance than ANY thing on earth.  We do many important things; but we need to remember that God is of the greatest importance in our lives!!  Pray that you will learn – – and continue – – to keep things in a proper perspective while remembering to keep God first in your lives.

 

For me, today’s Gospel reading has another deeper meaning as well.  We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in His own likeness:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.  God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female* he created them.” (Genesis 1:26,27).

We rightfully belong – – not to ourselves, – – but to God (just as Caesar’s coins belonged to him):

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

 

Let me finish today with what Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1). 

Do you acknowledge that your life – – and everything you possess – – belongs to God the Father, and not to yourself?  Do you give to God what rightfully belongs to Him?  I try every single day (and some days, I succeed!!)!!

 

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 96

Sing praise to the Lord.

 

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.  For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods.  For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place.  Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name!  Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.  Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king.  The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.  He rules the peoples with fairness.  Amen.” (Psalm 96:1,3-10)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We presently say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, we will say:

 “It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)

 

Margaret was born of farming parents in Laviano, Tuscany.  Her mother died when Margaret was seven; life with her stepmother was so difficult that Margaret moved out.  For nine years she lived with Arsenio, though they were not married, and she bore him a son.  In those years, she had doubts about her situation.  Somewhat like St. Augustine she prayed for purity—but not just yet.

One day she was waiting for Arsenio and was instead met by his dog.  The animal led Margaret into the forest where she found Arsenio murdered.  This crime shocked Margaret into a life of penance.  She and her son returned to Laviano, where she was not well received by her stepmother.  They then went to Cortona, where her son eventually became a friar.

In 1277, three years after her conversion, Margaret became a Franciscan tertiary.  Under the direction of her confessor, who sometimes had to order her to moderate her self-denial, she pursued a life of prayer and penance at Cortona.  There she established a hospital and founded a congregation of tertiary sisters.  The poor and humble Margaret was, like Francis, devoted to the Eucharist and to the passion of Jesus.  These devotions fueled her great charity and drew sinners to her for advice and inspiration. She was canonized in 1728.

Comment:

Seeking forgiveness is sometimes difficult work.  It is made easier by meeting people who, without trivializing our sins, assure us that God rejoices over our repentance.  Being forgiven lifts a weight and prompts us to acts of charity.

Quote:

“Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we free ourselves from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.  ‘O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!’ (Psalm 95:6).  The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).  There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it” (Letter of Saint Basil the Great).

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:

 

Saint Francis and the Spirituality

 

What is Saint Francis’ description of “true obedience”?

Why did Saint Francis say that moving to a “hermitage” would be an “escape”?

Does his reason resonate with us in some of our frustrations?

 

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

 

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

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

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

“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.”  They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”  So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

A 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.  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”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

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

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:
   

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

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

 

 

“Caesar versus Donkey; Who’s More Stupid?!” Lk 2:1-5


Today is the fourth, and last  Sunday of Advent.  Jesus is just about to arrive.  

O Antiphon:

O key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal kingdom:  Come and free the prisoners of darkness!

Week "4" of Advent

4 days till the BIRTH of CHRIST, 
and this is the 22nd day of the ADVENT season.
“HO, HO, HO-ly God, We Praise Thy Name!”

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  

Some minds are like concrete: thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

  

Today’s Meditation:

  

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.  And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

(NAB Lk 2:1-5)

  

Jesus’ Davidic background is noted in these verses.  Joseph had to go to his families ‘home’ city for the census.  Bethlehem is the city of David (and his home still stands, as I understand).  Interestingly, Bethlehem is translated into english as, “House of God!”  So, Jesus is coming into the world in the city known throughout the Roman empire as the “House of God!”  WOW!!!! 

Mary did not walk the many miles to Bethlehem.  She was VERY pregnant at this time, so she rode a donkey.  I have personally had the priviledge of riding a donkey; and it is in no way like riding a horse.  Donkeys are stubborn and very bony.  They have to be forced to move, and to go the way you want them to travel.  It is a lot of hard work! 

But that donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem, carried Jesus.  A dumb and stubborn animal; carrying a young virgin, who carried God.   The donkeys bells were the first church bells, as Mary was the first Church, and her womb; the first tabernacle, holding the body of Christ.”  Tradition has it that all donkeys have a cross shape on their backs as a remembrance of this donkeys assistance and sacrifice in bringing Jesus to Bethlehem, and fulfilling Old Testament prophesies. 

Luke, combined Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, with a census under Quirinius, to signify Jesus’ birth for the whole Roman world.  Through Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, peace and salvation were to come not only to the empire, but to the entire world. 

Caesar Augustus was regarded in the Roman Empire as “savior” and “god,” and he was credited with establishing a time of peace throughout the Roman world during his long reign.  It is NOT by chance that Luke relates the birth of Jesus to the time of Caesar Augustus.  The real savior (Luke 2:11) and peace-bearer (Luke 2:14 & Luke 19:38) is the child Jesus, born in Bethlehem.  The earthly ‘savior and peace maker’ is to be succeeded immensely by the heavenly ‘King, Savior, and Peace – Bearer, JESUS CHRIST!’  

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO

  

*****

  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #20:

  

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