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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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“Let’s Have Some ‘Passion’!” – (Matthew 27:11-54 – – shorter form)†


 

“Palm Sunday”

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Today’s Content:

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

WARNING:  Today’s reflection about Jesus’ Scourging and Crucifixion is very graphic.  My reflection today may be too graphic in detail for the faint of heart, or those with “weak stomachs.”

I purposely did not hold back on what truly happened to Jesus from a physiological (physical) and psychological viewpoint.  In doing so, hopefully you may gain a greater insight into what our Lord Jesus Christ did FOR US!

Please let me know your thoughts after reading this recognizably long reflection.

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Here is an easy way to make crosses from the palms you will receive at Mass today.  Go to this website for easy step-by step directions, with illustrations:

http://midsouthdiocese.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/can-you-make-a-palm-leaf-cross/

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Today in Catholic History:

†   617 – Death of Donnán of Eigg, Celtic Christian martyr, patron saint of Eigg
†   858 – Death of Benedict III, Italian Pope (855-58)
†   1272 – Death of Zita/Cita, Italian maid/saint, at about 59 years of age
†   1492 – Spain and Christopher Columbus (a third order Franciscan) sign a contract for him to sail to Asia to get
spices.
†   1573 – Birth of Maximilian I, duke/ruler of Bayern (Catholic League)
†   1865 – Birth of Ursula Julia Ledochowska, Polish-Austrian Catholic saint (d. 1939)
†   1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy (a Roman Catholic).
†   1970 – Death of Sergei U S Aleksi,patriarch of Russian-Orthodox church, at age 92
†   Feasts/Memorials: Pope Anicetus (died 166); Saint Stephen Harding (d. 1134), Simeon Barsabae and companions

(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’ crucifixion, and His body being placed in the tomb.

 (NAB Matthew 27:11-54 –short form) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Jesus said, “You say so.”  12And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.  13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”  14 But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.  15 Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one
prisoner whom they wished.  16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called (Jesus) Barabbas.  17 So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?”  18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over.  19 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”  20 The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.  21 The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!”  22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”  23 But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!”  24 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.”  25 And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”  26 Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.  27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  28 They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  29 Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  30 They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.  31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.  32 As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.  33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull), 34 they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.  35 After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; 36 then they sat down and kept watch over him there.  37 And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.  38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.  39 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, (and) come down from the cross!”  41 Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.  43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”  44 The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.  45 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  47 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”  48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a
reed, gave it to him to drink.  49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”  50 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.  51 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.  54 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

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Today is the beginning of Holy Week, the days during which we journey with Jesus on His “way of the cross” in anticipation of His Resurrection on the morning we know as Easter.  Today’s liturgy begins with a procession with palms to remind us of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.

Palm, or Passion, Sunday begins the most sacred week of the Catholic Church year – – Holy Week.  During these days, we prepare ourselves for Easter by prayerful reflection upon the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.  To help you prepare, why don’t you place a crucifix next to your television, on the kitchen table, or by the front door for this week.  Use it as reminder of the redemption and salvation Jesus Christ won for us through His death and Resurrection.  Use the crucifix also as a reminder and focal point for special prayers during Holy Week.

The events of Jesus’ Passion are proclaimed in their entirety in today’s Liturgy of the Word (at Mass).  These events will be proclaimed again, in the gospel reading, when we celebrate the liturgies of the Triduum – – Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Easter Vigil (There is no Mass on Holy Saturday).

In communities that celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (RCIA) with catechumens (Our parish has three catechumens this year), these liturgies of the Triduum take on special importance because they invite the catechumens and the community to enter together into the central mysteries of our faith.  These special days are indeed profound and holy ones in the Catholic Church.  In Cycle A of the Liturgical reading rotation, we read of the Passion of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Matthew on Palm Sunday, often called Passion Sunday.  On Good Friday, we will read the Passion of Jesus from the Gospel of John instead of Matthew.  The story of Jesus’ Passion and death in Matthew’s Gospel focuses particularly on the obedience of Jesus to the will of His Father: God, instead of the actual event particulars.

I have elected to write my reflection on the shorter form of the Gospel reading for this reflection.  Even at dealing with “only” 44 verses instead of two chapters, please be prepared to sit and drink some coffee or another favorite beverage, and enjoy God’s word.  You may even wish to break this reflection up over a couple of days.

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Not specifically covered in my reflection will be the happenings of Jesus sending His disciples to prepare for Passover, and His indication (in the Garden) that the events to come are the will of God the Father “He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.‘” (Matthew 26:18).

In Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, He prays three times to God the Father to take away His “cup of suffering”.  Yet, each time, He concludes by affirming His obedience to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39-44).

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’  When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, ‘My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!’  Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.  He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. (Matthew 26:39-44)

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Another theme of Matthew’s Gospel is to show Jesus as the fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  Throughout the Passion narrative, Matthew cites, hints, refers to, and alludes to Old Testament Scripture in order to show the events of Jesus’ Passion and death are in line with all that was prophesied of the “Messiah”.  Matthew is stressing the fact that if the events of Jesus’ Passion story were foretold and fulfulled, then God must be in control.  In addition, Matthew is particularly concerned that his readers do not miss the fact that Jesus IS the “Suffering Servant” of the Old Testament.

Jesus acts in obedience to God the Father – – even in death – – so OUR sins may be forgiven.  Matthew makes this clear in the story of the Lord’s Supper.  As Jesus blesses the cup, he says:

“. . . for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

The evangelist places the responsibility for Jesus’ death on the “Sanhedrin”, the “chief priests and elders” (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) who were responsible for the Temple.  However, the enmity, hostility, and malice that these Jewish “leaders”, along with the Jewish “mob”, displayed toward Jesus should not be interpreted in a way that blames the Jewish nation (or people as a whole) for Jesus’ death.

Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, the Passion narrative reflects the tension that probably existed between Matthew’s early Christian Catholic community and their Jewish contemporaries.  At the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers made clear that all sinners share responsibility for the suffering and death of Jesus and that it’s wrong to place blame for Jesus’ Passion on the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus, or on the Jewish people today.

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My reflection starts with Jesus before the governor who is questioning Him:

Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11)

 “King of the Jews” was a title used [of Jesus] only by the Gentiles.  Matthew used this title only several times, and always as coming from a Gentile:

 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Matthew 2:2);

And,

“Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’   And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  (Matthew
27:29, 37)

I believe Matthew is equating this title with the more accepted Jewish title of “Messiah”.  In the following verses, Matthew changed “king of the Jews” found in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 15:9, 12) to “(Jesus) called Messiah”:

“’Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’  Assembling all the  chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” (Matthew 2:2, 4);

 And,

“So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?’   Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?’  They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Matthew 27:17, 22)

The normal political nuance, association, and implication of either title (King or Messiah) would be of concern to the Roman governor who did not want dissention and uprising among the Jewish population, or for anyone to be claimed as a “king” from a group of people ruled over by the Romans.

Jesus’ answer, “You say so” (verse 11) is unique to only Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus’ response is not a total “yes” to the governor’s question.  It is, at best, a half-affirmative response.  The emphasis on Pilate’s question is placed on the pronoun “You”.  The answer implies Jesus’ statement would not have been made if the question had not been asked.  I believe, Jesus does not answer the question completely, because His kingship is something Pontius Pilate could not understand it to be, even if He did answer the question in a total and full affirmative response: YES I AM.

Jesus, a man of great faith, preaching, and charisma, could verbally destroy the accusations against Him with little effort.  Yet He chooses to remain quiet; to allow God’s plan of salvation to take place, even when ordered to speak:

The high priest rose and addressed him, ‘Have you no answer?  What are these men testifying against you?’”  But Jesus was silent.  Then the high priest said to him, ‘I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’” (Matthew 26:62-63).

As in the trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus’ silence may be meant to recall what was written in the Book of Isaiah:

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

The governor’s being “greatly amazed” is an allusion to another verse of Isaiah:

“Even as many were amazed at him— so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals– so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.” (Isaiah 52:14-15).

The choice that Pontius Pilate offers the crowd, Barabbas or Jesus, is believed to be a standard practice agreed upon between the Roman government and Jewish nation; a custom of releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd, at the time of Passover.  Matthew denotes that this release is done at the time of “the feast”:

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

The custom of releasing a prisoner is also mentioned in Mark 15:6 and John 18:39, but not in Luke.  Your bible may have the following Lucan verse:

He was obliged to release one prisoner for them at the festival.” (Luke 23:17)

However, it is not part of the original text of Luke and is not found in many early and important Greek manuscripts.

Outside of the Gospels, there is no direct evidence or confirmation of this practice of releasing a prisoner.  Per NAB footnotes, scholars are divided in their judgment of the historical reliability of the claim that there was such a practice.

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There was another Jesus at this event: “[Jesus] Barabbas”?!  Jesus was a common Jewish name then, and still is now within the Mexican culture.  The Hebrew name Joshua (Greek Iesous) is a first century translation for the name Jesus, meaning “Yahweh helps”, and was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”

“[Jesus] Barabbas” is found in only a few texts, although its absence in most all other writings can be explained as an omission of the word “Jesus” for reasons of reverence to the name, the person, and the God who is instantly imaged in saying the name.

Two little trivia’s of fact: The name [Jesus] is bracketed in today’s reading because of its uncertain textual proof in relation to Barabbas.  The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”.  How ironic was Pilate’s choice which was offered: Barabbas (son of the father) and Jesus (Son of God), the “true son of the Father.  I wonder; was the distinction and meaning in the names known to Matthew’s first century Christian Catholics?

Have you ever wondered why “envy” was such a deadly and reviled sin in the Catholic Church?  Here is a great example as to why.  Out of envy, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes sought out evidence and conspirators against Jesus, solely due to His status within the Jewish community.  They found and paid Judas Iscariot to hand Him over:

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.” (Mark 14:10).

Verse 16 through 18 of today’s reading is also a prime example of the tendency, found in all the Gospels, to present Pontius Pilate in a somewhat favorable light.  It also emphasized the hostility of the Jewish authorities which eventually poured out to the people caught up in a type of “mob mentality”.

Jesus had friends in high places, even in the governor’s mansion.  Jesus’ innocence was declared by a Gentile woman: the governor’s wife.  She told her husband what was related to her “in a dream”.  If you remember from Matthew’s infancy narrative, dreams were a means of divine communication:

“Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.’” (Matthew 1:20);

And,

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.  When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.  When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.  But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.   Because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.” (Matthew 2:12, 13, 19, 22).

Even the governor, Pontius Pilate, believed that Jesus would have been the most appropriate prisoner to be released.  Jesus, by far, would also have been the safest for Him in a political way as well.  Barabbas was a well-known instigator of public actions against the Roman Government; something Pontius Pilate did not want to happen.  It is also an event (unrest and riot) Pilate did not want higher ups in Rome to get “wind” of, as it would be dangerous for him personally and politically.

With a “crowd mentality” well established and riled-up, the Temple leaders persuaded the crowd to start yelling “Let him be crucified”!  The crowds, incited by the chief priests and elders demanded that Jesus Christ be executed by crucifixion, – – the most horrible form of capital punishment, – – and reserved only for the fewest of dangerous criminals.

Marks parallel verse from his Gospel is in the active case, making Pontius Pilate more implicated in the decision to crucify Jesus’:

Crucify him” (Mark 15:3).

Matthew changed His verse to the passive case in order to emphasize the responsibility of the crowds in the decision:

“They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’” (Matthew 27:22)

Again, only found in Matthew’s Gospel the following verse appears:

“… [Pilate] took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24)

This verse reminds me of the following from Deuteronomy:

“If the corpse of a slain man is found lying in the open on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you to occupy, and it is not known who killed him, your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distances to the cities that are in the neighborhood of the corpse.  When it is established which city is nearest the corpse, the elders of that city shall take a heifer that has never been put to work as a draft animal under a yoke, and bringing it down to a wadi with an ever flowing stream at a place that has not been plowed or sown, they shall cut the heifer’s throat there in the wadi.  The priests, the descendants of Levi, shall also be present, for the LORD, your God, has chosen them to minister to him and to give blessings in his name, and every case of dispute or violence must be settled by their decision.  Then all the elders of that city nearest the corpse shall wash their hands over the heifer whose throat was cut in the wadi, and shall declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, and our eyes did not see the deed.  Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel, whom you have ransomed, and let not the guilt of shedding innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.’  Thus they shall be absolved from the guilt of bloodshed.” (Deuteronomy 21:1-8).

Hand washing was prescribed in the case of a murder when the killer was unknown.  The “elders” of the city nearest to where the corpse (the dead body) wash their hands, declaring, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”

Pontius Pilate goes further in saying, “look to it yourselves”.

“I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? Look to it
yourself
.’”
(Matthew 27:4).

The crowd, “the whole people”, the entire people (Greek “laos”) of Israel say:

His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (Matthew 27:25)

In this verse (Mt 27:25), Matthew is referring to the Old Testament prophesy from Jeremiah:

“But mark well: if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens.  For in truth it was the LORD who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.” (Jeremiah 26:15).

The responsibility for Jesus’ death was accepted by the Jewish leadership and nation, God’s special possession, God’s own people, and they thereby lose that singular high privilege:

“Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine.” (Exodus 19:5);

“On that day I will respond, says the LORD; I will respond to the heavens, and they shall respond to the earth” (Hosea 2:23);

And,

“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 21:43).

The “people that will produce its fruit” are the “believing” Israelites and Gentiles, the church of Jesus.

When Mark’s Gospel was written in the late first century, there still was a controversy between Matthew’s Catholic (universal) church and the Pharisees Judaism about which “faith” group was the “true” people of God.  For me, this is overtly and obviously reflected in Matthew’s writings.

As the Second Vatican Council had pointed out, guilt for Jesus’ death is not attributable to all the Jews of Jesus’ time, or to any Jews of later times.

“True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.  Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.  All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.” (Pope Paul VI, Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, 10/28/1965)

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Crucifixion is a horrible and humiliating way to die.  To start with, Pontius Pilate “had Jesus scourged”! Scourging is an act which usually prefaced the crucifixion itself.  Scourging is the first act of public humiliation and pain for the condemned prisoner. Matthew does not go into detail about Jesus’ actual scourging, yet we can all imagine the violence, humiliation, and misery that Jesus went thought, so far, – –  for US!!  He was tied to a tree or pillar in public view, stripped of His clothes, forced to be naked, without any protection or humility before all on-lookers and revelers of that Jewish/Gentile society.  He was struck up to 39 times (Roman law forbade more) with devices like wooden and leather rods, and the
infamous  “Cat of nine tails”, a mace type of whip made of multiple leather strands.  At the end of these strands of leather was a bent piece of metal.

With each strike of this tool of “pain and destruction”, the metal pieces would imbed into the skin and muscle of Jesus Christ, only to then be yanked out of His body, taking chunks of flesh and muscle with each pull.  No part of His body was spared: head, torso, arms, legs, buttocks, face, and genitalia were all affected!  I imagine that Jesus literally looked like raw hamburger after His scourging – – His beating!

After the scourging, Jesus was taken into the inner depths of “the praetorium”: the residence of the Roman governor.  In reality, Pontius Pilate’s usual place of residence was at “Caesarea Maritima” on the Mediterranean coast.  As the local “governor”, he went to Jerusalem during the great Jewish feasts, as the Roman representative.  Whenever there was an influx of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem, there was always an inherent increase in the danger of nationalistic riots from the Jewish populace and other instigators.

More trivia: It is disputed among scholars whether the praetorium in Jerusalem was, in reality, the old palace of Herod located in the west of the city proper, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the temple area.

Verse 27 relates that the “whole cohort” was present “around Him” in the praetorium.  That is a lot of people, considering a cohort was normally six hundred Roman soldiers.

A humiliating act, though not a public humiliation this time, was the forceful tearing away of Jesus’ clothes, His stripping.  Jesus was forced to first stand among His tormentors naked again – – with NO protection again; then to have a “Scarlet military cloak” thrown about Him, most certainly with great force in the process.  Jesus was truly “manhandled” by these strong and innately violent men.

The color of the “military cloak” is reported for a purpose.  Royal purple was significant in this era:

They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.” (Mark 15:17);

And,

“And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak.” (John 19:2).

Purple cloth was expensive and hard to acquire.  The color purple (not the movie) was reserved for nobility in the society.

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Being spit on is gross!  Picture being “Spat upon” by 600 nearly unruly men intent on wanting to defame and destroy you.  He had already been subjected to similar humiliation and pain by the Sanhedrin:

“Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him.” (Matthew 26:67)

This spitting and striking Jesus is the manifestation found in the prophesy of Isaiah:

“I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6).

The “crown out of thorns” was probably made of long thorns that grew in the bushes of the area.  The “crown” was fashioned so that the thorns stood upright as to resemble a “radiant” crown (a crown with points along the top, or a diadem [wreath] with spikes worn by Hellenistic kings).

The soldiers’ purpose at this time was one of mockery and humiliation, and not necessarily that of torture (per se, from their warped minds). They wanted to bully Him and to treat him in a harassing way; a way we would consider to be the epitome of hazing.   Also, for this reason, “a reed” (thick stick) was placed in His hands a mock scepter, the symbol of a ruler.  Matthew is the only Evangelist to write about a reed being placed in Jesus’ hand. Now, imagine the pain of wearing a crown of thorns.  Imagine
600 strong soldiers, in turn, taking reeds and striking His head and the associated thorns resting upon His head.  These thorns pierced His skin – – penetrated His skin, muscle, and bone – – with an intensity unknown to most of us.  Those thorns were not just ON TOP of His head.  Thorns on the forehead region were violently pushed into the skin of His forehead, AND into His eyebrows, nose, EYES, and even His cheeks and teeth.  The thorns on the side of his head penetrated His ears, and possibly went through the very thin bones of the skull located just in front of the ears and into His BRAIN.  The thorns on the back of His head most likely could not go through the skull in that region (too thick), but I am sure they burrowed and scraped along the bone surface with each hit of His head.  Also these same thorns could have easily been pushed down into the neck and shoulder regions.

Sadly, this act, along with the previous scourging, was only leading up to the actual death sentence – – Crucifixion.  It is hard for me to even picture something that could be more terrifying and painful.

After His Scourging, Jesus was forced to put the torn rags of His clothing back on, and then too carry a heavy piece of wood (similar to a present day rail-road  tie) along the rough city streets of Jerusalem.

The “human” Jesus was far too weak to accomplish the task of carrying the instrument of His physical death – – the Holy Cross.  The soldiers forced into service “a Cyrenian named Simon” to carry Jesus’ cross.  By Roman law, Roman garrisons in Palestine had the right to requisition the property and services of the native population without mutual consent for any reason.

Where did this man named Simon come from, and why was he chosen to pick up Jesus’ mission?  From a map and atlas, I found the area of Cyrenian on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene as its capital city.  It also was a Roman Province.  The area had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews.  Simon may have been actually living in Palestine at this time, or may have simply come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim.  Scholars believe however that Simon was known among the early Christian Catholics.

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Dying by crucifixion is a brutal death.  Jesus Christ was again stripped naked, and laid out on the cross placed on the ground.  Nails similar to thin railroad spikes were driven through the bones near the wrists and ankles, using a sledge hammer.  If they missed the nail, striking the hand, arm, foot or leg – – oh well!!  The arms were stretched out, using multiple men and ropes, till they literally popped out of their sockets (dislocating them).

The specific placement of the nails was not only chosen for being the best place to hold a person’s weight without ripping out (the nail is surrounded by many small bones and associated tissues), it also was an area where many nerves grouped together (a nerve plexus).  Going through the nerves in this area would cause a severe shocking-type of cramping pain throughout the entire extremity, extending into the shoulder and pelvis regions.  This pain and cramping would last intensely and continuously, until the prisoner (Jesus) died.  Have you ever had a several muscle cramp in your calf; one so severe that it made you stand up to “work it out”?  Imagine this same type of pain and cramping throughout the entirety of all four extremities, AND all at once, AND continuing for the three hours Jesus was alive on the cross.

Now, Jesus (attached to the cross) has hoisted into the air where gravity took effect.  Jesus’ own weight would cause His torso to stretch out with the arms and chest extended fully.  If have to explain some physiology in breathing.  We breathe (inhale and exhale) by the use of two muscle groups: muscles in the chest wall, and the diaphragm muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities.  The chest wall can no longer expand and contract (go in and out) any longer, so only the diaphragm is working
somewhat.  Thus, Jesus is literally suffocating – – very slowly.

There are other physiological things going on in the body of the scourged and crucified body, for which I will not get into detail in this reflection.  I believe I have given you the idea of how much abuse, torment, humiliation, and pain Jesus went through for US!

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While hanging on the cross, Jesus was offered “wine to drink mixed with gall.”  Mark, in a parallel verse has the wine mixed with a narcotic drug:

“They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.” (Mark 15:23).

I wonder if Matthew is attempting to make a vague reference to Psalm 69:

“Instead they put gall in my food; for my thirst they gave me vinegar.” (Psalm 69:22).

Psalm 69 belongs to the class of psalms called the “individual laments”, in which a persecuted “just or righteous” man prays for deliverance during great pain and suffering.  The theme of the suffering “Just One” is frequently applied to the sufferings of Jesus in the passion narratives.

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By Roman tradition, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioners, the soldiers that are physically killing our Lord Jesus Christ.  The description of the procedure in Jesus’ case, and found in all the Gospels, is plainly inspired by Psalm 22:

They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18).

However, only John quotes Psalm 22:18 verbatim:

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

The offense of a person condemned to death by crucifixion was written on a tablet that was displayed on his cross.  In Jesus’ case, the charge against Him was that he had claimed to be the “King of the Jews”.  It was written in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Crucified on either side of Jesus were two “revolutionaries”.  These two individuals were criminals, just as Jesus was found to be a criminal.  Interesting for me, is that John’s Gospel uses the same word (revolutionary) in the original Greek for Barabbas.

“They cried out again, ‘Not this one but Barabbas!’  Now Barabbas was a revolutionary(John 18:40).

Matthew does not get into much detail about the two thieves who are experiencing the same horrible death as Jesus.  We know from tradition that one verbally abuses and taunts Jesus, and the other (St. Dismas) eventually repents for his sins, and asks Jesus for forgiveness (a true confession and remorse of his sins).  One will die in body and spirit, and the other “good thief” will die in body, yet live forever in paradise.

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Why did the people that passed by Jesus “revile him, shaking their heads”?  The answer can be found in Psalm 22:

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

They certainly did mock Him in their yelling out to Him, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days… come down from the cross!” just as the Sanhedrin had done earlier in the Passion narrative:

“They found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two  came forward who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.'” (Matthew 26:60-61).

The words these people mocking Jesus, “If you are the Son of God” are the same words as those of Satan during the temptation of Jesus at the very beginning of His public Ministry:

“The tempter approached and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread. … If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.’  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” (Matthew
4:3, 6).

Jesus started His public life, and is now ending His public life with the same question being asked of Him.

The Pharisees and Scribes mocked Jesus by sarcastically calling Him “the King of Israel!”  In these words, the members of the Sanhedrin call themselves and their people not “the Jews” (as individuals) but instead “Israel” (as a nation).  (I guess the irony and joke is on them!)

Members of the Sanhedrin continued to mock and tease Jesus.  Distinctive to Matthew’s writing style is the verse:

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. (Matthew 27:26)

Psalm 22 is again being referred to by Matthew:

“You relied on the LORD–let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you.” (Psalm 22:9).

Matthew having the Temple leaders saying, “He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” is   most likely a hint to the Book of Wisdom wherein the theme of the suffering “Just One” appears:

“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.  To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways.  He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.  Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.  For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.  With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”  (Wisdom 2:12-20).

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A little known prophet of the Old Testament is Amos (No relationship to Andy).  Amos prophesied that on the day of the Lord “the sun will set at midday“:

“On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9).

Why would Jesus Christ cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”  He is actually crying out the words of Psalm 22 (again Psalm 22):

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm 22:2).

In Mark’s Gospel, the verse (Psalm 22:2) is cited entirely in Aramaic.  Matthew, however, partially retains some of the original Aramaic, but changes the invocation of God is changed to the Hebrew word “Eli”.  Matthew may have done this so his readers could more easily relate to the following verse about Jesus’ calling for Elijah in today’s reading:

“Some of the bystanders who heard it said, ‘This one is calling for Elijah.’” (Matthew 27:29).

The expectation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread among the Jewish people.  Elijah was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, taken up into heaven in a most unusual way:

“As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11).

Do you think Elijah was abducted by a UFO? (he, he)  Seriously, the Jewish people believed Elijah would come to the help of those in distress.  For this reason, I believe that is why they said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”

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Three hours after being hoisted into the air, hanging on the cross, Jesus “gave up His spirit”.  Mark says that Jesus “breathed His last“:

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” (Mark 15:37).

Matthew’s use of different words, “Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit” articulates both Jesus’ control over His destiny and His obedience in giving up of His human life to God; in doing God’s will.

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At the moment of Jesus’ human death, “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” Mark and Luke use the exact same or similar words:

“The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38);

And,

“Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.” (Luke 23:45);

Interesting to me, is the fact that the Evangelist Luke puts the tearing of the veil immediately before the death of Jesus.

There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle, the outer one at the entrance of the “Holy Place” and the inner one before the “Holy of Holies”:

“You shall have a veil woven of violet, purple and scarlet yarn, and of fine linen twined, with cherubim embroidered on it.  It is to be hung on four gold-plated columns of acacia wood, which shall have hooks of gold and shall rest on four silver pedestals.  Hang the veil from clasps.  The ark of the commandments you shall bring inside, behind this veil which divides the holy place from the holy of holies.  Set the propitiatory on the ark of the commandments in the holy of holies.  ‘Outside the veil you shall place the table and the lamp stand, the latter on the south side of the Dwelling, opposite the table, which is to be put on the north side.  For the entrance of the tent make a variegated curtain of violet, purple and scarlet yarn and of fine linen twined.’” (Exodus 26:31-36).

Only the high priest could pass through the latter and ONLY on the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus:

“After the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died when they approached the LORD’S presence, the LORD spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the propitiatory on the ark; otherwise, when I reveal myself in a cloud above the propitiatory, he will die.  Only in this way may Aaron enter the sanctuary.  He shall bring a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a holocaust.  He shall wear the sacred linen tunic, with the linen drawers next his flesh, gird himself with the linen sash and put on the linen miter.  But since these vestments are sacred, he shall not put them on until he has first bathed his body in water.  From the Israelite community he shall receive two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a holocaust.  Aaron shall bring in the bullock, his sin offering to atone for himself and for his household.  Taking the two male goats and setting them before the LORD at the entrance of the meeting tent, he shall cast lots to determine which one is for the LORD and which for Azazel.  The goat that is determined by lot for the LORD, Aaron shall bring in and offer up as a sin offering.  But the goat determined by lot for Azazel he shall set alive before the LORD, so that with it he may make atonement by sending it off to Azazel in the desert.  Thus shall Aaron offer up the bullock, his sin offering, to atone for himself and for his family. When he has slaughtered it, he shall take a censer full of glowing embers from the altar before the LORD, as well as a double handful of finely ground fragrant incense, and bringing them inside the veil, there before the LORD he shall put incense on the fire, so that a cloud of incense may cover the propitiatory over the commandments; else he will die.  Taking some of the bullock’s blood, he shall sprinkle it with his finger on the fore part of the propitiatory and likewise sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times in front of the propitiatory.  Then he shall slaughter the people’s sin-offering goat, and bringing its blood inside the veil, he shall do with it as he did with the bullock’s blood, sprinkling it on the propitiatory and before it.  Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilements and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness.  No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community,  he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. Taking some of the bullock’s and the goat’s blood, he shall put it on the horns around the altar.’” (Leviticus 16:1-18).

The veil that is torn in two as described in the Passion narratives was probably the inner one, if not both.  What significance can be found in the veil separating the Holy of Holies?  To me, the meaning of the veils tearing, thus exposing the “Holy of Holies”, is a symbol that with Jesus’ death all people have now access to the presence of God at all times.  God is no longer segregated from people or from society.  Or, can another representation be made that with Jesus’ – – the Son of God’s – –  death on the Holy cross, the tearing of the veil in the Temple allows all to see the “holiest” part standing exposed, making it profane and no longer needed in God’s kingdom, and foretelling that it will soon to be destroyed (in the year 70 AD)?

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Matthew included many things to the Passion narrative that the other Evangelists did not.  This includes the following:

“The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared too many.”  (Matthew 27:31)

The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age of man.  In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake:

“The earth quaked, the heavens shook, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.” (see Psalm 68:9);

And,

“The thunder of your chariot wheels resounded; your lightning lit up the world; the  earth trembled and quaked.” (see Psalm 77:19).

Earlier in Matthew’s (the 24th chapter), Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” signifying the beginning of the conclusion of the old world:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place.  All these are the beginning of the labor pains.” (Matthew 24:7-8).

For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, we should look at a favorite of Jesus’ Old Testament books, Daniel:

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.  At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.  But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:1-3).

The “end” of the old age has not come about:

“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

However, the new age has broken in with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as “the world” and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes His final “coming” in glory:

The field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” (Matthew 13:38, 41).

The “coming” is not the “parousia” (The second coming of Jesus Christ), but rather, the manifestation of Jesus’ rule “after His Resurrection.”  Matthew uses the words, “After His Resurrection”, because he wishes to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection.

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There was an obvious and dramatic change in many of the witnesses to Jesus’ death.  Even non-believers instantly changed in heart, mind, and soul.

When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’ (Mark 15:39)

At this uniquely reverential and special time, when most of Jesus’ followers including His Apostles and Jewish brethren has abandoned Him, a Catholic profession (or, a statement at least) of faith is made by the same Pagan, Gentile, Roman Soldiers that physically mocked, jeered, beat, and put Jesus to death.

The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54)

Not only the “Centurion” immediately believed this “Act of Faith”, as in Mark’s Gospel, but the other soldiers who were keeping watch over Jesus believed in His divinity as well.

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In Summary, there are many vantage points from which to imagine and reflect on Jesus’ Passion.  In the characters of Matthew’s Gospel, we can find expressions of ourselves and the many ways in which we respond to Jesus Christ.  Sometimes we are like Judas Iscariot, betraying Jesus and then regretting it.  Then there are times when we are like Peter by denying Him; or like His Apostles who fall asleep during Jesus’ darkest hour but then act rashly and violently at His arrest.  There are times we are like Simon (the Cyrenian), who was pressed into service to help Jesus carry His cross. And finally, we are often like the Temple leaders who feared Jesus, and/or like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of the whole affair.

After reading, examining, and studying on the Passion, we are left with one final mission for this Lenten Season – – to meditate and reflect on the events in today’s Passion narrative and on the forgiveness that Jesus’ obedience won for us.

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Act of Faith


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

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

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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. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783)

Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God’s special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest.  Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life.  Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.

He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms.  He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor.  Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called “the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion” and “the beggar of Rome.”  The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did.  His excuse to himself was that “our comfort is not in this world.”

On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house.  Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint.

He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.

Comment:

In a modern inner city, one local character kneels for hours on the sidewalk and prays.  Swathed in his entire wardrobe winter and summer, he greets passersby with a blessing.  Where he sleeps no one knows, but he is surely a direct spiritual descendant of Benedict, the ragged man who slept in the ruins of Rome’s Colosseum.  These days we ascribe such behavior to mental illness; Benedict’s contemporaries called him holy.  Holiness is always a bit mad by earthly standards.

Patron Saint of: Homeless

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues I

What are virtues?

How do you explain what a virtue is, to someone who asks?

How many virtues do you think St. Francis had?

What are the fundamental virtues given to us as starters at Baptism?

How essential are these virtues given as Baptism?

How often do we use the Baptismal virtues, consciously or implicitly?

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 17 & 18 of 26:

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.

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18.  Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

“With Water, You CAN Catch On Fire!” – Matthew 3:1-12†


 

 

The Second Sunday of Advent

Twenty days till the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Let us all remember the “Reason for the Season.”
Please, Please, keep “CHRIST” in CHRIST-mas!!

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, the “Dr. Oz Show” will be about Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s)

 

Jeffrey Smith will be on the show to discuss the health dangers of genetically modified foods.  Also on the show will be Dr. Michael Hansen, a scientist from Consumers Union who has been an avid critic of GMOs for two decades, and Dr. Pamela Ronald, a pro-GMO scientist who has been proposing that organic foods include GMOs. This is a rare national coverage on this extremely important topic – that truly influences everyone.  GMOs will be discussed during the first 15 minute segment.

Show times for Missouri are below.  Please refer to your local directory for other areas:

Missouri: 

ST. LOUIS:  NBC 5 KSDK  11:00 AM
SPRINGFIELD: ABC 33 KSPR @ 3:00 PM
JOPLIN  FOX: 14 KFJX @ 5:00 PM
ST. JOSEPH: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM
KC AREA: NBC 41 KSHB @ 3:00 PM; & IND 38 KMCI
COLUMBIA, MO  NBC 8 KOMU @ 1:00 PM and 12:00 PM

Thanks go to Gale Thackrey, who is the “Justice Ministry Coordinator” for the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in st. Louis Missouri. (www.fsmonline.org)

 

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

        
†   663 – Fourth Council of Toledo takes place.
†   749 – Death Saint John of Damascus, theologian
†   1301 – Pope Boniface VIII’s degree Ausculta fili (only nominee)
†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II (d. 1513)
†   1484 – Pope Innocent VIII issues the Summis desiderantes, a papal bull that deputizes Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany and leads to one of the severest witch hunts in European history.
†   1492 – Christopher Columbus, a Secular Franciscan, becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
†   1590 – Niccolo Sfondrati chosen Pope Gregory XIV
†   2008 – Death of Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church (b. 1929)
†   Feast Day: Saint Abercius

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Franciscans emphasize the dignity of the human person, especially in its social nature.

 

Although all creation is the “footprint of God,” the Franciscan tradition understands that human beings are also created in the very image and likeness of God. Humans represent in a special way God who is Trinity, and therefore we achieve our personal fulfillment in relationship to God and in community rather than in the isolation of individualism. 

“Her life was an instruction and a lesson to others: in this book of life some learned the rule of living, in this mirror of life others learned to behold the paths of life.”  Papal Decree of the Canonization of St. Clare

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

 

 

Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist, the last prophet before Jesus Christ’s appearing in Judea; and his preaching of a message for repentance.

 

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2 (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”  4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6 and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.  9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  10 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  12 His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  (NAB Matthew 3:1-12)

 

This week’s Gospel (and next’s) bids all of us to think about John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus.  Today, Matthew describes the work and preaching of this “forerunner” to the Messiah, called “John the Baptist.”  Unlike Luke in his Gospel, Matthew does not impart on us any details of John the Baptist’s origins, and does not declare John as a relative of Jesus.  Matthew brings forward the sequence of Jesus’ ministry found in the Gospel of Mark with the preliminary preaching, teachings, and actions of “John the Baptist”.

John’s life was fueled by an intense, burning, and all-consuming passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom.  John was led by the Holy Spirit into an austere life in the “wilderness” well before to his “ministry.”  The “desert of Judea” was (and still is) a barren area west of the Dead Sea extending up and into the Jordan valley.  As Jesus (John’s cousin) will be tested in the desert, John was also tested by Satan.  John matured in the “Law”, the “Word”, and the “Presence” of God in his life, and he completed the cycle of holy prophets begun by Elijah.   

John makes absolutely obvious and plainly clear that his relationship to the “Messiah yet to come” (Jesus) was one of service and submissiveness. This was made evident in his declaring that “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals”.   

Holy Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41).  When Mary visited Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb, filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).  The fire of the “Holy Spirit” lived and “burned brightly, intensely, and fully” in John the Baptist, and made him the prophesized “forerunner” of the coming Messiah as described in Isaiah 40:3:

“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

I have a problem with the translation of the above verse, which is not uncommon in using the “NAB” Catholic Bible for me recently.  In this instance, I have chosen to go back to the origin Greek.  The Interlinear Greek Bible actually translates Isaiah 40:3 directly as:

utoV  gar  FOR THIS estin IS o HE WHO rhqeiV WAS SPOKEN upo BY hsaiou ISAIAH tou THE profhtou PROPHET legontoV SAYING fwnh THE VOICE bowntoV OF ONE CRYING en IN th THE erhmw WILDERNESS etoimasate PREPARE thn THE odon WAY kuriou OF THE LORD euqeiaV STRAIGHT poieite  taV MAKE tribouV  autou HIS PATHS taV MAKE tribouV WITH PATHS tou THE qeou OF GOD hmwn US.” 

(The bold is not Greek.  Apparently, it does not convert from word to WordPress.)

(Pretty cool and poetic though, isn’t it!!  The original Greek gives me a whole new meaning.  I love learning new “old” thinks.)

John the Baptist’s preaching is not meant to be a type of “finger-pointing” ultimatum, in an attempt to “scare” the “unholy hell” out of us.  He is simply calling for a change of heart and behavior through repentance.  John preaches of a turning from a life of rebellion to one of absolute and complete obedience to God.  He characterizes the conversion of those – – who sought him out in that enormous barren desert of Judea, – – with a “baptism” of repentance.  John’s baptism should be understood by us as a belief, hope, and anticipation of baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In today’s Gospel, John himself even alludes to the difference between his baptism and the “one yet to come” in saying:

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who scolded the Jewish people for their lack of faith.  Living among a “proud” people who seemed to be unconcerned with the “things of God” (secularization), it was John’s mission to awaken them, unsettle them, and arouse in them enough willingness to recognize and receive the “Messiah” when He arrived!   

John declares that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  For John, this word “heaven,” was a proxy for the name of “God”, a name always avoided (still even today) by devout Jews out of reverence and respect.  Interestingly, the expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew, and points to the actual and authentic power and reign of God over His people.  

In its fullness and completeness, the “kingdom of heaven” not only includes one’s obedience to God’s word but the joy and victory of God over earthly, human, and physical evils – – particularly over death of the body and soul.  John shared the Jewish belief that the “kingdom” was to be ushered in by a judgment from God, in which sinners would be condemned and perish.  Catholics have modified this belief somewhat, wherein the “kingdom” is seen as being established in a form or type of stages, ending with the Parousia (Second Coming) of Jesus.

John the Baptist was one of, and the last of, the great holy prophets of Israel.  He preached “repentance” of sins to the people of Israel.  The description of John’s being, spirituality, and presence found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the great prophet, Elijah.  The “hairy” garment of John was considered by the Jewish people as a sign of an ascetical (somebody who is self-denying and lives with minimal material comforts) and prophetic calling, similar to Elijah’s demeanor, physical being, and calling.  It recalls the austere garment of Elijah, as found in 2 Kings 1:8:

’Wearing a hairy garment,’ they replied, ‘with a leather girdle about his loins.’ ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite!’ he exclaimed.”

The belief, hope, and anticipation of the return of “Elijah” from heaven in order to prepare the Jewish people for the final manifestation of God’s “kingdom” was prevalent and well-known among John’s audience,the first century Jewish people.  According to Matthew, this expectation was fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry.  In Matthew 11:14, it is written:

And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.” 

Also, in Matthew 17:11-13, it goes on to say:

He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’  Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

“Ritual washing” was practiced by various groups in Palestine for at least 400 years (around 150 B.C. to 250 A.D.).  John’s acts of baptism very well may have been related to the purifying washings of the ascetic Jewish community called the “Essenes” who lived in an area called “Qumran” (about a mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea).

The “Pharisees and Sadducees” that John the Baptist saw and talked to were Jewish temple leaders, who also had responsibilities outside the religious aspects of their jobs, giving them responsibilities very similar to our present day political leaders in their society.  The Pharisees were intensely devoted to the “Mosaic Law”, both written and oral.  Most scholars believe that another group called the “Scribes”, who were considered the experts in the Mosaic Law, also belonged predominantly to this “party” of Temple leaders.  

The Sadducees were a priestly “aristocratic” party, well entrenched in Jerusalem.  This group or party only accepted as “Scripture” the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah or Pentateuch).  The Sadducees followed the “letter of the law”, and rejected any oral traditions (the main way of teaching the Jewish and historical faith).  Most interesting for me is that they were defiantly opposed to any teachings NOT found in the Torah such as “resurrection of the dead.”  For me, no hope in a resurrection definitely would make one “Sad-You-See!”

Matthew links all three of these religious/political groups together as “enemies” of Jesus.  The threatening words of John in verses 7 through 12 are addressed to these Temple Leaders who were present, rather than to “the crowds” as is found and reported in Luke 3:7.  “The coming wrath,” that John is declaring in verse 7, is the “final judgment” that will bring about the eternal destruction for non-repentant and non-remorseful sinners. 

So, go to confession, and go often.  It’s an awesome experience!  Every time we turn to God in reconciliation, He RUNS to us, and allows us to see a small glimpse of heaven – His kingdom – thus filling us completely with hope and joy.

Fire in the Bible, is regularly connected with God, with His acts in the world, and in the lives of His people.  God manifested His actual presence with the use of fire, such as with the non-consuming “burning bush” when God spoke to Moses, as written in Exodus 3:2.  The image of fire is also used to symbolize God’s glory in Ezekiel 1:4 and 1:13, His protective presence in 2 Kings 6:17, His holiness in Deuteronomy 4:24, His righteous judgment in Zechariah 13:9, and even His wrath against sin as in Isaiah 66:15-16. 

The baptism via water from John was be followed by a washing away of the persons sins via a cleansing power of the Holy Spirit of God.  Some believers of that period saw the Holy Spirit and fire as synonymous.  Jesus was said to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.   The first Catholic communities believed the “Holy Spirit and fire” was to be understood, in actuality, in the context of what happened at Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:1-4:

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim

In John the Baptist’s preaching though, the “Spirit and fire” was in regards to their purifying and refining characteristics as found in Old Testament books of Ezekiel 36:25-27 and  Malachi 3:2-3.

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”

and

“But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Our baptism in Jesus Christ, “by water and Spirit”, results in a new birth and entry into God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (see John 3:5).  Do you want to experience that feeling of being on fire for God?   Do you want to be on fire for God and for the return of the Lord Jesus when he comes in His magnificence and glory?  Hell Yes!! (Wait; actually it should be “Hell NO!! – I think.  Hey, you know what I mean.)

The judgment between the “good” and “bad” is compared to a procedure in which a farmer separates wheat and chaff.  The “winnowing fan” was a farming tool, a forklike shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, which was blown clear by the wind, was then gathered and burned up.  My sons do the same activity every fall with our brightly colored and browned fallen leaves, but only after I have meticulously created neat and tidy piles in preparation of picking them up.

Today’s Gospel will be followed next Sunday by Jesus’ baptism celebrated and witnessed by this Holy prophet, John; an event that is attested to in ALL of the Gospels, and acknowledged by all as the start of Jesus’ “public ministry.”  

God wants to do much more than pardoning our sins.  He wants to open up heaven and give us His unrelenting love, healing, and peace.  John’s preaching of the “coming of the Lord” is an essential theme for the Advent season.  John’s message prepared the way for Jesus in the early first century.  Today, we are also “called” to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming.  We must respond in repenting our iniquities, and in re-forming our lives into the mold of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are also called “to be prophets of Christ”, loudly and publically announcing the coming of the Lord.

It seems that “Messianic” prophesies are never vague in nature.  They always point to a hope that can be fulfilled in the human heart and soul.  Wars, terrorism, poverty, and useless death through the pitiful actions of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty smothers hope.  As Catholics, our hope is for peace, healing, and generosity in ourselves, and in others.  In essence, – what we pray for, we must also work for!  For me, this is exactly how we must approach preparing for the “advent” of our personal and intimate relationship with God in His “kingdom”!

We do an enormous amount of chores in order to get ourselves ready for the “secular” Christmas.  We purchase gifts, prepare Christmas cards, decorate our homes, and so on.  John the Baptist’s call for repentance in preparation for Jesus’ Parousia, should remind us that “our repentance” is another essential way to prepare for the “Lord’s coming” and our celebration of the Actual and True Christmas experience.  

Are you eager to hear God’s word and to be changed by it through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you point others to Christ in the way you live, work, and speak?

Parish communities usually offer a “communal” celebration of the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” during the Advent season.  Participate in this communal celebration – – it is such a beautiful Sacrament.  If you cannot attend a communal celebration, please seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation on an individual basis.

 

 

Act of Contrition

 

“My God, 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.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

 

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Sabas (b. 439)

 

Born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery. While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue.

At age 18 he traveled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer. At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labor in the form of weaving baskets. Following the death of his mentor, St. Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.

Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first he refused. But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year —consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

Over the years Sabas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church. At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression. He fell ill and, soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba. Today the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and St. Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Comment:

Few of us share Sabas’s yearning for a cave in the desert, but most of us sometimes resent the demands others place on our time. Sabas understands that. When at last he gained the solitude for which he yearned, a community immediately began to gather around him and he was forced into a leadership role. He stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others—that is, for all of us.

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

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 5 & 6 of 26:

 

5.     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.

 

 

 

 

6.     They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

 

 

“Walk the Talk; That Is All I Ask Of You!”–Luke 11:42-46†


 

ENCOURAGING PREDICTIONS FOR 2011: With all the problems the World is facing, it can be unsettling!

 
The Top 10 Predictions for 2011:

 1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
 2. Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on Earth.
 3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
 4. God will still honor the praises of His people.
 5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
 6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
 7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
 8. There will still be room at the Cross.
 9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

 
Isn’t It Great To Remember Who Is Really In Control, and that; “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”  ( 1 Peter 1:25 )
 
I hope you found this encouraging!   I did!  Sometimes we need a reminder of just “WHO” is really in control.

     

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1492 – Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) and his crew land in the Bahamas
†   1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
†   1878 – Birth of Patrick Joseph Hartigan, Australian Roman Catholic priest, educator, author and poet. (d. 1952)
†   1917 – The “Miracle of the Sun” is witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal.
†   1958 – Burial of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII on the 41st anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun”.
†   In the Roman Catholic Church – translation (1163) of Saint Edward the Confessor; memorial of Saint Gerald of Aurillac; optional feast of Our Lady of Fatima

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Sweep first before your own door, before you sweep the doorsteps of your neighbors. — Swedish Proverb

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus confronting the Pharisees and Scribes for their hypocrisy.

 

42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others.  43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.  44 Woe to you!  You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”  45 Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”  46 And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.  (NAB Luke 11:42-46)

 

Do you think Jesus is angry?  This is the first of three woes against the Pharisees found in Luke’s Gospel.  But, it is actually as much an expression of sorrow and pity as much as it is anger towards the temple officials.  Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because they failed to “hear” God’s word, and they failed to lead the people in the “true” ways of God’s personal love and relationship with each of His people.

(Trivia time: Do you know the origin of the expression “Oh woe is me?”  It is straight from the Holy Bible.  You can find it Job 10:15, “If I am wicked, woe to me!”–NRSV.)

What was meant by Jesus calling the Pharisees “unseen graves?”  Well, any contact with the dead or with human bones and/or graves brought upon that person a ritual impurity, separating him/her from worshiping in the temple.  Spelled out in Numbers 19:16: “everyone who in the open country touches a dead person, whether he was slain by the sword or died naturally, or who touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.”  This Biblical book called “Numbers” is one of the five books of the “Pentateuch.”    The Pentateuch (Greek for “having five books”) is itself, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – and enjoys a particular prestige among the Jewish people as the “Law,” or “Torah.” It is considered the concrete expression of God’s will in regard to Judaic faith.

Jesus portrays the Pharisees as ones who have slowly and subtly led the Jewish people astray through their misconceived perception and attention to the “law.”  To me, Jesus is calling out the Pharisees as hypocrites who profess one doctrine, and live another of selfishness and elitism.

The “Scholars of the law” were experts in the Mosaic Law, the Torah, and were probably a member of the group identified in Luke 5:21 as the Scribes.  The Scribes devoted their lives and “vocations” to the study and interpretation of the “Torah:” the Law of Moses.  The Scribes took the Ten Commandments and expanded their interpretations, creating over fifty large books of instructions containing thousands of specific rules, regulations, and practices.  So exacting were their interpretations of these instructions and directions, that in attempting to “live them out,” it left very little time for anything else, including worship and prayer!  In the Pharisees and Scribes foolish fervor, they required superfluous and taxing rules and practices which obscured the more important matters of religious life: love of God and neighbor.  

In response to the remark from this Jewish legal expert, the probable Scribe, about Jesus daring to insult them and the Pharisees, Jesus illustrates the superiority of God in recognizing the Pharisees and Scribes movement away from the personal relationship with God through Jesus, and towards only “following rules” without regard to a deeper meaning and reason for the laws.  Jesus is literally “calling out” the Pharisees as ones that He considered “ritually impure” through their own misconceived actions and attitudes.

Jesus wants people to “walk the talk.”  He wants people to lead by example; to love – unconditionally – both Him and all others of His Creations.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s Gospel have forgotten this very basic tenet of their faith.  There are still many of these types of “pseudo-Pharisees and pseudo-Scribes in our midst even today.  Could any of us reading this reflection today possibly be considered “ritually impure” by Jesus?  Hmm – food for thought!!

 

For the Lord’s Cleansing, Defense, and Governance of the Church 

 

“May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690)

 

Margaret Mary was chosen by Christ to arouse the Church to a realization of the love of God symbolized by the heart of Jesus.

Her early years were marked by sickness and a painful home situation. “The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.” After considering marriage for some time, Margaret entered the Order of Visitation nuns at the age of 24.

A Visitation nun was “not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary,” but the young nun was not to enjoy this anonymity. A fellow novice (shrewdest of critics) termed Margaret humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction. She could not meditate in the formal way expected, though she tried her best to give up her “prayer of simplicity.” Slow, quiet and clumsy, she was assigned to help an infirmarian who was a bundle of energy.

On December 21, 1674, three years a nun, she received the first of her revelations. She felt “invested” with the presence of God, though always afraid of deceiving herself in such matters. The request of Christ was that his love for humankind be made evident through her. During the next 13 months he appeared to her at intervals. His human heart was to be the symbol of his divine-human love. By her own love she was to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of the world—by frequent and loving Holy Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer every Thursday night in memory of his agony and isolation in Gethsemane. He also asked that a feast of reparation be instituted.

Like all saints, Margaret had to pay for her gift of holiness. Some of her own sisters were hostile. Theologians who were called in declared her visions delusions and suggested that she eat more heartily. Later, parents of children she taught called her an impostor, an unorthodox innovator. A new confessor, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit, recognized her genuineness and supported her. Against her great resistance, Christ called her to be a sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of her own sisters, and to make this known.

After serving as novice mistress and assistant superior, she died at the age of 43 while being anointed. “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

Comment:

Our scientific-materialistic age cannot “prove” private revelations. Theologians, if pressed, admit that we do not have to believe in them. But it is impossible to deny the message Margaret Mary heralded: that God loves us with a passionate love. Her insistence on reparation and prayer and the reminder of final judgment should be sufficient to ward off superstition and superficiality in devotion to the Sacred Heart while preserving its deep Christian meaning.

Quote:

Christ speaks to St. Margaret Mary: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament” (Third apparition).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

   

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

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

  

14.     Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

 

 

 

“Knock, Knock. Who’s There? God; Drop Your Crap & Follow Me NOW!” – Luke 14: 25-33†


    

Another beautiful Sunday is in store today for the great mid-west.  Yesterday, I literally spent the entire afternoon sitting in the backyard with the bar-be-que.  A St. Louis deliciously: “Pork Steaks,” are so scrumptious when slowly grilled. (For those not in the St. Louis mindset, pork steaks are just sliced [about ¾ inch] pork butt.)  Pork Steaks go great with toasted ravioli, gooey-butter cake, and Ted Drewes ice cream – more St. Louis treats.

 

 

Next Saturday is the ninth anniversary of terrorism showing its evil head on US soil with a devastating outcome for the entire world.  Unofficially known as “Patriot’s Day,” it needs to be remembered by all.  Please fly you’re flags proudly on this day as a symbol of unity by all.

 

 

I am coming up on my one-year anniversary of writing this blog.  I am embarrassed by my earlier works; please do not read the first ones if you choose to read older ones.  Not only has my writing style and format for this blog matured, so has my love for, wonder, and awe for our magnificent Lord.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the near future.

 I wish to thank everyone that has read this blog through the year.  I want to expressly thank one individual, John H. for being my sounding board, editor, and spiritual director these last few months.  John, you have pushed, prodded, and loved your way into my heart and soul.  In you is the perfect example of someone trying to live as a “little Christ:” a Christian.  God has blessed you, and has blessed me with you.

Everyone, please give me input on what you like, didn’t like, would like, or any other “like” I may have missed!  I am totally serious – I am writing this for you as much as for me.  I truly need your input!!!  Please leave a comment on this blog site, or on my Facebook page.  Thank you again, I love you all.  Dan

            

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   1933 – Birth of Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, Chilian catholic archbishop

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Heck is a place for people who don’t believe in Gosh.

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ demand of all His disciples:

   

25 Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, 26 “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  28 Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sits down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?  29 Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him 30 and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’  31 Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?  32 But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.  33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.  (NAB Luke 14:25-33)

 

This collection of the sayings of Jesus, most of which are distinctive to Luke, focuses on the total dedication necessary for a disciple of Jesus: His conditions for discipleship.  Just prior to these verses, in Luke 14:16-24, emphasis was placed on the absolute gratuity and love of God wanting to share His banquet feast with us.  These verses in today’s Gospel reading are the other side, the flip side, of the coin; God requires a full-hearted and totally absolute response on the part of the disciples.  No attachments to family or possessions can stand in the way of this total commitment demanded of a disciple towards God.  Also, this acceptance of the call to be a follower of Jesus demands a readiness to accept persecution, suffering, and a realistic assessment of the hardships and costs of following Him.

With Jesus saying the words “Hating his father…,” a total commitment was stipulated by Jesus for all wishing to follow him.  A similar declaration is found in Mt 10:37-38: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”  In Matthews Gospel, this is the first mention of the cross explicitly meant for the disciple, but implicitly foretold what was awaiting Jesus when He said “and follow after me” in last Sundays Gospel reading.

The two parables about building a tower and a foundation concentrate on the absolute need to reflect before acting.  One must weigh the cost of decisions and actions.  The last verse in today’s Gospel reading is not a command that all disciples, all followers of Jesus, just recklessly or spontaneously renounce their possessions.  The comparison between the two parables and the last verse is that of the fate of those who are not able to see a decision or action through to the end, its conclusion.  A true disciple of Jesus cannot withdraw from the sacrifice required of them for their faith!  A disciple of Jesus follows Him to the end, even if it means sacrificing all their possessions, including their life!

A disciple’s family must take second place to the absolute dedication involved in following Jesus.  This may sound pretty harsh by today’s standards.  I believe it was equally as harsh during Jesus’ time on earth.  Realize though that Jesus is not telling one to abandon one’s family and friends, as that might be a wrong and imprudent action.  What He is saying is that one’s priorities need to be focused first on God in every action and major decisions we need to make!  By taking up our cross – our responsibilities, duties and sufferings, all in the name of Jesus, we come a bit closer to the love of the Holy Trinity.  Let’s remember that Jesus promised to send another advocate, a Paraclete, to be with us and to help us.  By living our lives through and with the Holy Spirit, we can bring a stronger love to all those we encounter.

Several years ago, I was a very successful paramedic, educator, and administrator.  Then I became sick, very sick, and literally, “circling the drain” in regards to my health.  I had to retire from a vocation – a profession – of 30 years, which I had chosen and loved nearly more than life itself.  With this turn of events, I became extremely angry at anyone and everyone.  My anger was most importantly, directed to God who “put me in this position.”

Over a period of time my anger diffused and dissipated.  God was a focal point for me (out of desperation at first).  I decided to pick up my cross and start down that path, my own “Via Dolorosa.”  In my pain and illness, I discovered a God I never knew before, a God of love for me regardless of my feeling towards Him! 

How can one not be moved by the beauty of God’s creations in this world, and in knowing that this is just a pittance of the visions and love we will see and encounter when we leave this existence, to be in His presence for eternity?  I am happy to say that I am now on a new path in my life, and have been as of that moment of discovery.  This path was not of my choosing, but of God’s.  Mine is now a much harder path in many ways, but a better fit for me.  I can now see with a more open eye, and can see Jesus in all creation.  How can one not want, or love what I can see now?   

There is a Roman Catholic Priest in my area that was a naval officer aboard nuclear subs before becoming a priest.  He actually helped develop nuclear torpedoes to be used in warfare, and other tools of total human destruction.  With advanced degrees in nuclear sciences, this man was destined for a spectacular career in the US Navy and in the secular world.  Instead, he turned his back on his supposed future and his past life of material wealth.  He not only took and picked up his cross, he embraced it with the love only found through abandonment of self to the promised Holy Spirit.  Our lives are a gift – a great grace – from God.  What we want to do may not be what God wants us to do; then, maybe it is!  The way we learn the difference is by the grace and whisper of the Holy Spirit when we ask God for help.  Let the Holy Spirits grace lead us all to a truly God-centered life, since our relationship with Him is our first priority.  I truly believe God cannot lead anyone down the wrong path!

 

“Just For Today”

 

“Oh, God, give me grace for this day.  Not for a lifetime. Not for this week. Not for tomorrow, but just for this day.

Direct and bless everything I think and speak and do for just this one day, so that I have the gift of grace that comes from your presence.

Oh God, for today, just for this day, let me live generously & kindly, in a state of grace and goodness that denies my many imperfections, and makes me more like you.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the tiny woman recognized throughout the world for her work among the poorest of the poor, was beatified October 19, 2003.  Among those present were hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, the Order she founded in 1950 as a diocesan religious community.  Today the congregation also includes contemplative sisters and brothers and an order of priests.  

Born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje, Macedonia (then part of the Ottoman Empire), Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu was the youngest of the three children who survived.  For a time, the family lived comfortably, and her father’s construction business thrived.  But life changed overnight following his unexpected death.

During her years in public school Agnes participated in a Catholic sodality and showed a strong interest in the foreign missions.  At age 18 she entered the Loreto Sisters of Dublin.  It was 1928 when she said goodbye to her mother for the final time and made her way to a new land and a new life.  The following year she was sent to the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling, India.  There she chose the name Teresa and prepared for a life of service.  She was assigned to a high school for girls in Calcutta, where she taught history and geography to the daughters of the wealthy.  But she could not escape the realities around her—the poverty, the suffering, the overwhelming numbers of destitute people.

In 1946, while riding a train to Darjeeling to make a retreat, Sister Teresa heard what she later explained as “a call within a call.  The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.”  She also heard a call to give up her life with the Sisters of Loreto and, instead, to “follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”

After receiving permission to leave Loreto, establish a new religious community and undertake her new work, she took a nursing course for several months.  She returned to Calcutta, where she lived in the slums and opened a school for poor children.  Dressed in a white sari and sandals (the ordinary dress of an Indian woman) she soon began getting to know her neighbors—especially the poor and sick—and getting to know their needs through visits.

The work was exhausting, but she was not alone for long.  Volunteers who came to join her in the work, some of them former students, became the core of the Missionaries of Charity.  Other helped by donating food, clothing, supplies, the use of buildings.  In 1952 the city of Calcutta gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which became a home for the dying and the destitute.  As the Order expanded, services were also offered to orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging and street people.

For the next four decades Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor.  Her love knew no bounds.  Nor did her energy, as she crisscrossed the globe pleading for support and inviting others to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor.  In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On September 5, 1997, God called her home.

Comment:

Mother Teresa’s beatification, just over six years after her death, was part of an expedited process put into effect by Pope John Paul II. Like so many others around the world, he found her love for the Eucharist, for prayer and for the poor a model for all to emulate.

Quote:

Speaking in a strained, weary voice at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II declared her blessed, prompting waves of applause before the 300,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.  In his homily, read by an aide for the aging pope, the Holy Father called Mother Teresa “one of the most relevant personalities of our age” and “an icon of the Good Samaritan.”  Her life, he said, was “a bold proclamation of the gospel.”

 

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 5 & 6 of 26:

  

#5 — 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.

 

#6 — They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

 Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.