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“The ‘Pagan’ Had It Right; Jesus Truly IS the ‘Son Of God’ – And So Are We!” – Mark 15:1-39 (Shorter Form)†


Palm Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This week is known throughout the Church as “Holy Week”, with the last few days being days full with ceremonies and of special notice.

Today is Palm Sunday (or, “Fig Sunday” by some):

On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Worship services include blessing of the palms and a procession.  The liturgical color is red. 

Spy Wednesday:

This is an old and uncommon name for the Wednesday of Holy Week, which commemorates Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus (cf., Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16).

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

 The name “Maundy Thursday” is derived from Jesus “mandate” to love one another as He loves each of us.  This day celebrates the institution of the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Ordination.   Some may also know it as “Shear Thursday.”

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

Good Friday is an obligatory day of fasting within the Catholic Church.  This day commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the Holy Cross.  Worship customs include Veneration of the Cross, communion from the reserved Maundy Thursday host, and the singing or preaching of the Passion (reading or singing excerpts of the Passion story from John’s gospel).  In the Catholic Church, the liturgical color was formerly black, but is now red.

Holy Saturday:

 This is the final day of Holy Week.  There are few specific customs associated with Holy Saturday, except that it is the final night before the Feast of the Resurrection, which begins at the Great Easter Vigil.

Other customs and events, including “Tenebrae” (a ceremony in which the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited), have developed as Holy Week customs.  Generally, Holy Week is a busy time for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as we build up to the Queen of all Church Feasts, Easter (Pascha).

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Here is a link to a sight for making crosses out of the palms received at mass today (with pictures and “how to” video):

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Palm-Frond-Cross.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   705 – Greek pope John VII chosen as successor to John VI
†   1283 – Birth of Ludwig IV of Baveria, Roman Catholic Bavarian emperor (1314-47)
†   1682 – Death of Franz Egon of Fürstenberg, Bavarian Catholic archbishop (b. 1625)
†   1939 – US recognizes Franco government in Spain at end of Spanish civil war.  Pope Pius XII congratulates Generalissimo Franco’s victory in Spain
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Hugh of Grenoble; Saint Waleric

(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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In today’s reflection, Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified.  The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death declares, “This man was the Son of God.”

  

(NAB Mark 15:1-39 [Shorter Form]) 1 As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.  2 Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He said to him in reply, “You say so.”  3 The chief priests accused him of many things.  4 Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer?  See how many things they accuse you of.”  5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  6 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  7 A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  9 Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  12 Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?”  13 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”  14 Pilate said to them, “Why?  What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.  16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  17 They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  18 They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.  21 They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  22 They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).  23 They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.  24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  27 With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.  28 29 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself by coming down from the cross.”  31 Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”  Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.  33 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  34 And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  38 The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

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Gospel Reflection:

 This Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of our faith’s Holy Week.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, are together called the “Easter Triduum”, three special days that are a highlight of the Catholic Church Liturgical year.

 There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass.  The first Gospel (with two choices) is just prior to the procession with palms, and tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem (cf., Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16).  Riding on a borrowed “colt”, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they blessed God and shouted “Hosanna!” in His presence – – ALL filled with GREAT JOY being in His presence.  A few days later, the crowd is not “hailing” Jesus, they are instead “mocking and jeering” Him, calling for His death.

Mark presents Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the cross as the consequence of an on-going tension between the Jewish authorities (both Temple and secular) and Jesus Himself.  This tension escalates throughout His public ministry, culminating in the events of today’s reading.  The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” occurred when Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple (cf., Mark 11:15).  After this event, the chief priests and Scribes began secretly seeking a way to put Jesus to death. 

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Today’s Gospel starts with the WHOLE Sanhedrin gathering together to plot against Jesus; they “Held a council” (verse 1).  In the original Greek, “held a council” comes from the verb, “poieō” which can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.”  In today’s reading, I prefer a variant form of this verb, meaning “reached a decision”.  Today’s event is the climax of Temple authorities plan’s, started a long time before Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for THIS particular  Passover celebration:

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counselwith the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (Mark 3:6).

Mark 14:64 (In the long form of today’s reading) describes this “council” as happening as a “trial” during the night (is this sneaky or what?!).  Matthew, unlike Mark, did not consider the Sanhedrin as judging Jesus in a night session. Even so, the handing over of Jesus to the chief government official, Pilate, is because the Sanhedrin did not have right or ability to put their “plotted” sentence of death into effect.

When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish “court” – -the council of Jewish priests, scribes, and elders – – He was charged with “blasphemy” (disrespect for God or sacred things), citing His threat in the Temple:

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19).

Mark states one reason for Jesus’ arrest and prosecution.  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “three” false accusations were leveled against Jesus (cf., Luke 23:1-2).  The first charge: Jesus stirred-up sedition within the community.   Secondly, Jesus encouraged people not to pay taxes to Caesar.  And lastly, Jesus took on the title, “King”.   When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the “chief priests” presented His crime as a purely political one (and not a religious), claiming that Jesus said He was “the king of the Jews”.  

So, the Sanhedrin “handed Him [Jesus] over to Pilate”, simply because they lacked the authority to condemn and execute their wishful sentence:

You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die.” (Mark 14:64).

With this “evidence” in hand, the Sanhedrin sent Jesus to Pilate.  Through this Roman prelate, Jesus was tried, beaten, and put to death:

Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15);

John goes into greater detail, reporting why the Sanhedrin could not complete their plan, and why they used Pilate to bring their dubious design to fruition:

“Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.’  The Jews answered him, ‘We do not have the right to execute anyone” (John 18:31).

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

 “Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” (Mark 15:2)

In the accounts of the four evangelists a certain irony surrounded the use of this title, “king of the Jews”.  It is used in today’s reading as an accusation against Jesus.  While Pilate himself uses this “accusatory” – – but correct – – term three times in today’s reading (Mark 15:2, 9, 12).  Jesus is aware of the irony in their false accusations, and in their evil reason for the chief priests to hand Jesus over for a quick trial and condemnation:

“For he [Jesus] knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.” (Mark 15:10).

Their worldly influence and power overtook their role as leaders of the Jewish faith.

Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “the King of the Jews” three times, and I have no doubt that he did so three times just to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

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The crowd at Jesus’ “trial” had to be different from the one meeting and hailing Him with palm branches, at the city gates a few days earlier.  This crowd was angry, wanting Barabbas released over Jesus.  So why did the crowd want Barabbas released rather than Jesus?  And, who was the violence-oriented Barabbas”, and how could a crowd be coerced into calling for his release over Jesus?  The Aramaic name “Barabbas” means “son of the father”.  The irony of the choice offered by Pilate, between “Barabbas” and Jesus – – the “TRUE” son of the Father – – would be evident to those present.  Barabbas was a bandit known for violence. 

Jerusalem was filled with zealots and insurrectionists.  This is why so many Roman forces were always in Jerusalem during the Passover time, it being a time of high tension and religious fervor among the crowds.  Barabbas was probably part of a insurrectionist group known for murder and assassination (making him NOT a friend of either the Jewish nor Roman authorities).  With this little fact in mind, the crowd present, calling for his release, was very likely supporters of Barabbas (like a first century “Robin hood” type cult figure).  The crowd who came on this occasion, very like came because they believed that Pilate may offer Barabbas’ release at the time of the feast.

With Jesus’ situation being incited by the “chief priests” (Mark 15:11), the crowds demanded loudly for Jesus to be executed by crucifixion, a peculiar and terrifyingly horrible form of Roman capital punishment.  

What finally coerced Pilate to sentence a just man such as Jesus to death?  Pilate did not want report being sent to Rome in which he is accused of supporting a dangerous man “known” for inciting the people to accept Him as their “true king” and thus assisting in a revolt against Roman authority in Palestine.  (Political blackmail occurred in the first century, just like today.)  So, Pilate relented in order to avoid having a charge brought against Him in Rome (Any charge against him would not be healthy for him).  Pilate sacrificed justice – – and Jesus Christ – – in order to save his face within the government, his job, and potentially, his life.  Are you personally willing to sacrifice YOUR reputation and position for truth and justice, or, are you willing to go the way of Pilate? 

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None of us can avoid the inevitable — our own death.  We can try to avoid it, even trying to block it from our minds, but the truth is WE WILL ALL DIE SOMEDAY (I believe).  Dying usually involves at least some mental and physical suffering, along with some type of loss and separation for most of us.  We can choose to live well, and we can choose to die well, through a life-long spiritual undertaking (Sounds hard, and may be for most in living in this materialistic world.  Fortunately for each of us, there is something stronger than death – – and that is free and unlimited love:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus embraced the Holy Cross knowing it was His Father’s will, and knowing His Father’s way for Him was to die for our salvation.

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Let’s get back to Pilate’s actions with Jesus’.  The choice Pilate offers the crowd, between Barabbas and Jesus (verse 15), is in accordance with the Roman custom of the time for releasing one prisoner, chosen by the crowd present, at the Passover 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).

This custom of the Roman government in Jerusalem is also mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and John (cf., Mark 15:6; John 18:39), but not in Luke’s Gospel.  Actually, outside of these three Gospels, there is no direct confirmation or evidence for this “freeing” practice by Pilate.  Scholars are divided in the historical reliability of such a practice as releasing a prisoner at Passover.

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Scourging was the usual preliminary “event” for anyone being crucified.  I wonder: was Jesus forced to experience a more “thorough” and brutal scourging than the other two “criminals” chosen to be hanged with Him that day?  (I am going to put this one on my “to ask” list for when I meet Him. [I pray I meet Him!])

After Jesus is condemned by Pilate, and “scourged”, He is taken to the “Praetorium”.  The “Praetorium” was the residence of the Roman governor when in Jerusalem; his usual place of residence being at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast.  The Roman governor went to Jerusalem during the great feasts, when the influx of pilgrims posed the danger of a nationalistic riot by partisan zealots.  Some scholars believe the “Praetorium” in Jerusalem may have been, instead, the old palace of Herod in the west of the city, or the fortress of Antonia northwest of the Jewish Temple area.

Jesus is in the “Praetorium” and obviously was given some “special” treatment, since “the whole cohort” was assembled to mock, jeer, and beat Him.  A Roman “cohort” usually numbered about six hundred soldiers.  (That is truly a lot of “special” treatment!!)

After the mockery and beating of Jesus by the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium, AND after Jesus had previously been scourged by the Roman torturers, Jesus began His “death walk” to Golgotha; His personal way of the cross.  Jesus was so weakened, the soldiers:

Pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian … to carry His cross (Mark 15:21)

I need to note that a condemned person suppose to carry his own instrument of torture and death, usually the crossbeam of the cross.  The Roman soldiers chose a man known as “Simon”.

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Before we continue, let me give a little geography lesson: Cyrenaica was a Roman province on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene being its capital city.  Cyrene had a large population of Greek-speaking Jews.  “Simon” may have been living in or near Jerusalem, or may have come to Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim.  

So who was “Simon of Cyrene”, and why was he picked to assist Jesus on His death walk?   Mark’s recording the precise name, “Simon”, was probably due to his being known among early Christian believers; his being among Jesus’ first disciples.  We know Simon came from a long distance, Cyrene (in North Africa, present-day Libya), for the Passover feast. Once he was picked by the soldiers, he really had no choice in the matter at hand, since Roman authority could not be challenged without serious consequences.  

Mark also records that “Simon” was the father of “Alexander” and “Rufus” (Mark 15:21).  Since Mark wrote his gospel for the Christian community at Rome, it is likely that the two sons of Rufus were well-known to the Church in Rome as fellow Christians.  

WOW!!  Here, in this event found in today’s reading, a “theme” comes to the forefront with the “Simon of Cyrene” event.  He takes up Jesus’ cross, and follows Him.  Likewise, a large crowd comprised of fellow followers of Jesus also followed Jesus on His “way” of the Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  Just think, Christian disciples were (and still are) to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the Holy Cross (and beyond).  

Who knows what would have happened if “Simon” had not been required to carry Jesus’ cross.  “Simon” may never have been challenged with the true message of the cross, or the personal and intimate spiritual meaning of the Christian faith found in the Holy Cross.  Perhaps “Simon” became a believer and passed on his faith to his family as well through this encounter with Jesus.  How often do you take up your cross willingly to follow Jesus in His way of love and sacrifice for others?

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The Romans reserved crucifixion for their worst offenders.  It was designed to be the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful way they knew for execution.  The criminal was stripped and nailed to a cross erected in a public place, usually along a roadside or highway near the town where the criminal was known and could be viewed by everybody who passed by him.  On the cross, a healthy man could live for several days before he expired from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, along with the mental psychosis associated with hours to days of constant torture.  Crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death, usually succumbing to asphyxiation.  The victim was hung on the cross in such a fashion that his lungs quickly filled with fluids (pulmonary edema) and he could not breathe unless he pulled his chest upward and gasped for breath.  Every movement brought excruciating, nerve-racking, pain due to the large nails that purposely severed major nerves in the arms and legs.  Eventually, exhaustion led to the criminal’s asphyxiation.  If the soldiers wanted to speed the process up, they broke the victim’s legs to prevent ease of breathing (cannot lift themselves), causing asphyxiation to occur more rapidly.

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.” (Mark 15:24)

Per Roman custom, the clothing of an executed criminal went to his executioner(s).  The description of this procedure in Jesus’ case, and written in all four Gospels, is clearly inspired by a Psalm found in the Old Testament:

They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:19).

However, this Psalm verse is actually quoted ONLY in Johns Gospel:

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.”’” (John 19:24_.

John has each line of the Psalms poetic match literally carried out in two separate actions, in the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant brought in by Jesus Christ.

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So, Jesus is on the Holy Cross.  Pilate had the criminal charge against Jesus – – the reason for His execution – – nailed above His head on the cross.  The inscription, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek said:

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

Jesus’ death was a falsely charged penalty for political reasons, by questionable enemies of His.  The charge against Jesus was that He had “claimed” to be “the King of the Jews”, the “Messiah”.  The inscription, which hung over the crucified Jesus, differs with slightly in each of the four Gospels.  John’s account is more detailed, and gives the equivalent of the Latin:

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

(So that’s what “INRI” means!  Jesus being a man, I thought it meant “I Never Read Instructions”!)

It seems only John mentions its multilingual character, and Pilate’s role in keeping the title unchanged:

Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that he said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’  Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’” (John 19:20–22)

The crowd, witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion, says to Him:

You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” (Mark 15:19-30)

The crowd’s reaction and words toward Jesus also is reminiscent of a verse from the Psalms:

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

The authorities deliberately executed Jesus besides two known criminals.  This was also designed to publicly humiliate Jesus even more, ranking Him with properly accused robbers before the crowds. 

Wow!! Can you picture the mental torment Jesus went through, along with the physical pain he experienced?!  Jesus had been mocked first by the Sanhedrin, then in a way by Pilate, followed by the soldiers during the scourging and in the Praetorium, then along his “death march”, and finally while on the cross by another crucified criminal AND with individual witnesses, Scribes, and Temple Priests.  Jesus endured this physical, emotional, and spiritual torture for about six hours of hanging on the cross.

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The Jews wanted a “king” who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination.  Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king.  Little did they understand what kind of “kingship” Jesus claimed to have!  Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.  

Jesus died not only as King of the Jews, but King of ALL nations as well.  His victory over the power of sin, Satan, and the materialistic world, was accomplished through His death on the cross AND his resurrection.  In today’s reading, Jesus exchanged a “throne of glory” for a “cross of shame” solely in order to restore us to glory with God the Father as His adopted sons and daughters.  Do you recognize Jesus Christ as your personal King and Lord Savior?  Do you exalt His name as truly holy?

 

Throughout his Gospel, Mark depicts Jesus’ disciples as rarely being perfect models of faith, thus doing little to invoke confidence in their capacity to continue Jesus’ ministry after His death.  They fare no better in Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death.  

I will give several examples of “poor” discipleship.  The first example can be found in the Last Supper narrative, when the disciples insisted that none among them would betray Jesus.   

Also, when Jesus predicted that His Apostles faith would be shaken in the events ahead (those reported in today’s reading), Peter and the other disciples protested vehemently.  Yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned three times to find them sleeping.  Jesus prayed in agony over His impending fate while His disciples slumbered through the night.  

Finally, and just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus, AND, nearly every one of His disciples were absent during Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross.  Only the women who had followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee were present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  However, they also remained at a distance.

Just think about this for a while.  The Holy Cross brings us face-to-face with Jesus’ suffering, personally and up close.  We need to remember that Jesus was alone on the cross; all His disciples (except John, the “beloved” disciple) had deserted Him except for His mother and three women.

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At about three in the afternoon (per Mark), Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34)

What Jesus cried out is an Aramaic interpretation, and restated, from the Psalms:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:2).

In Mark’s Gospel, the verse, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”, is cited entirely in Aramaic.  Matthew partially retains the verse, but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew “Eli” (instead of “Eloi”), thus making the verse more easily related to the statement of the following verse in today’s Gospel (Mark 15:35) about Jesus’ calling for Elijah:

Look, he is calling Elijah”  (Mark 15:35).

In this verse (Mark 15:35), some of the crowd believe Jesus is calling to “Elijah” from the Holy Cross.  This is how “some in the crowd” took Jesus, who yelled out “Eloi” (verse 34), as saying, “Elijah”.

We have to also remember that at the Transfiguration of Jesus, His disciples had actually seen Elijah (and Moses).  Elijah is as important to the Jewish faith as is possibly the Holy Spirit is to Christians.  “Elijah” himself was taken up into heaven (cf., 2 Kings 2:11), and he is also believed by the Jewish faithful as coming to the help of those in distress.

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Let’s get back on track with today’s reading.  When Jesus was nailed to the cross He was already more than half-dead.  The scourging, along with the crown of thorns beaten into His skull, had already nearly killed Him prior to His crucifixion.  In such a state, it is all the more remarkable to see Jesus with a clear sound mind and a tranquil heart when approaching death after six hours on the cross. 

Jesus was offered some wine mixed with myrrh to ease His pain, and He refused it.  He willingly embraced His suffering and death for OUR sake because He knew and loved us all when He offered His life as an atoning sacrifice.  Through His scourging, crucifixion, and death, Jesus truly shows us the depths of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness for each of us. 

When Jesus “breathed His Last”, all Hell broke loose (maybe literally).  “The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (verse 38).  There were two “veils” in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The outer “veil” was at the entrance of the Holy Place, and the inner “veil” separated all from the “Holy of Holies” (cf., Exodus 26:31–36).  Only the high priest could pass through the latter “veil”, and then only on the “Day of Atonement” (cf., Leviticus 16:1–18).

The “torn veil” in this reading was probably the inner “veil” (the ultra-important one for the pious Jews).  The meaning of this particular “veil” may be that with Jesus’ death, ALL people – – EVERYONE – – now have “access” to the presence of God PERSONALLY!!  It could also signify that the Temple, with its “holiest” part now standing exposed, is irreverent in God’s new covenant and kingdom, and will soon be destroyed; which it was in 70 A.D. (some 40 years later).  

To tear a curtain (“veil”) as big, thick, and heavy as the one in the Temple of Jerusalem had to be a truly miraculous event indeed.  Early Jewish tradition states that the Temple veil was as thick as a man’s hand (about four inches), had to be opened by three-hundred priests working together, and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.  (Information was taken from the Talmud, Josephus’ writings, and other Jewish literature.)

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Jesus’ death was agonizing and humiliating.  Remember, normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross.  Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and had a crown of thorns pounded into His skull.  It is no wonder He died by mid-afternoon.  I am somewhat surprised He even made to the cross.  Mark graphically describes what occurred at His end – – His death – – as “darkness coming over the whole land”

 “At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” (Mark 15:33). 

This was Satan’s hour as he saw the Son of God dying on the cross.  But that death was also his surprising undoing as well.  Through His obedience unto death, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience, winning freedom and pardon for us:

“He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24).

One of the great consequences of sin is that it separates us from God.  Since Jesus bore the weight of OUR sins upon Himself, He experienced in His agony on the Holy Cross what this separation was truly like. 

 

Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His spirit” knowing that the battle over sin and death was won.  Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory.  What God the Father sent Him into the world to do has now been fully accomplished.  Jesus Christ offered Himself “without blemish” – – the sacrificial lamb – – to God, and he defeated sin by the sacrifice of Himself:

 “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf.  Not that He might offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by His sacrifice.” (see Hebrews 9:24-26).

There is no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

Т

In a way, the ending of today’s Gospel returns to the theme of its beginning:

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].?” (Mark 15:2);

Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

In the “Gentile” (non-Jewish, PAGAN) Centurion’s declaration upon Jesus’ climatic death, he came to believe Jesus was “TRULYthe “Son of God”.  This Centurion’s dramatic and instantaneous conversion of faith indicates the fulfillment of the good news announced in Mark’s prologue:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].” (Mark 1:1).

This Centurion’s conversion can also be seen as the “first-fruit” of Jesus’ Passion and death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  What a harvest for God’s kingdom.

Т

Let’s wrap up this long reflection with a nice bow.  Mark, throughout his Gospel, challenges his audience to consider the claim with which his Gospel begins: “Jesus is the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  When we read his account of Jesus’ Passion, we begin to understand and internalize the deeper theological statement being made with Jesus’ death.  

Per Mark, Jesus understood His death to be preordained as part of His Father’s plan.  Jesus humbly accepted His death in obedience to God’s will.  Jesus foresaw His betrayal by Judas, and Peter’s thrice denial of Him as well.  At His arrest, Jesus acknowledged that the preordained “time had arrived”, remaining confident, yet silent, before His accusers.  After He was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until His final cry from the cross, at which time the bystanders misunderstood, and believed that He was calling for Elijah (in His need for help).  The Roman Centurion, however, affirmed that “Jesus is truly the Son of God”.  For me personally, nowhere in Holy Scripture is this concept revealed more fully than in His death on the Holy Cross.

Meditate on the Holy Cross for a short time.  What does it means to make a statement of faith in Jesus, and in His obedient suffering and dying, which revealed Himself to us as God’s “Only-Begotten Son”.

Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week; Easter is nearly here (and I can have coffee again!).  During this week, prepare yourselves for Easter by prayerfully reflecting on the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.  Why not display a crucifix in a prominent place (such as right next to the television or computer monitor) as reminder of the redemption and salvation that Jesus Christ won for us through His sacrifice, for humbly following God’s way and plan.  In this way, the entire week can become a personal and intimate “way of the cross” for you!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

“I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day, He rose again.
He ascended to Heaven and is seated
at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living
and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.  Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Papacy

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’  Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’  And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15-17) RSV

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Hugh of Grenoble (1052-1132)

 

Today’s saint could be a patron for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world that we don’t know where to begin.

Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start.  Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance.  After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill.  He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.

Ironically, Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character.  In conflicts between Church and state he was an unflinching defender of the Church.  He fearlessly supported the papacy.  He was eloquent as a preacher.  He restored his own cathedral, made civic improvements in the town and weathered a brief exile.

Hugh may be best known as patron and benefactor of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order.

Hugh died in 1132. He was canonized only two years later.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

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

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

Т

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

 

 

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“Are You Ready To Meet Jesus’ Expectations?! Are You Watching?!” – Mark 13:33-37†


 

First Sunday of Advent

  

 Today’s Content:

 

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

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  Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the “National Day of Listening”.  I have come to realize that though we all “listen”, many of us have lost the grace of actually “hearing”.  I compare listening and hearing to another great sense: peripheral and central vision.  “Listening” is our peripheral auditory sense, making us able to navigate the verbal/audible environment subconsciously and with little effort.  “Hearing” is like our central vision, able to be focused and pinpointed.  Hearing is an active sense that needs to be honed through usage and training.  Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth.  Use the ears twice as often as the mouth.

Т

I attended an excellent meeting/program last Saturday, put on by the Secular Franciscan, St. Clare Region, Executive Committee (REC), titled “Servant Leadership”.  I highly recommend all SFO’s take this program when it becomes available to you.  We had Franciscans participating from all three Franciscan Orders, and from three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Southern Indiana).  The Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, SFO, wrote a very excellent synopsis of this training program, which I would like to share below: 

 “Servant leadership” is a [daily] reflection on a conversion-based, Gospel-centered life.  Our models for “servant leadership” include Jesus, Saint Francis (with his characterizations of being detached, patient, fraternal and ‘in solidarity’, and flexible), and Saint Clare (being reverent, steadfast, and prayerful). [Put all 7-8 characterizations together, and you get a ‘parent’]  The three essential characteristics of Franciscan “servant leadership” are: 

1)  Having a call or commission,
2)  Commitment, and
3)  Vision.  

Leadership should be based on prayer, which flows from – – and results in – – conversion.  Servant Leadership requires a fundamental and genuine dialogue and focused listening skills [See the above article on hearing versus listening.].  The ability to share leadership tasks through delegation should be emphasized.  We should recognize the diversity of gifts, aptitudes, and talents that exists among us all, and be quick and creative in utilizing these graces.  Leaders come in different “flavors,” with each leadership style having certain advantages.  Remember,  a leader’s style will flow from background, personality, etc. ~ from Mike DePue, SFO

 Т

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.  With my wife’s work schedule (she is an Emergency Department Nurse in a large metropolitan area), our families “Turkey Day” is actually today (Sunday).  For me however, every day with her and my children is “Thanksgiving Day”; I love them all more each and every day – – even on the “fowl” [sic] days.

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 Today in Catholic History:    

†   399 – St Anastasius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope

†   640 – Death of Acharius, a 6th-century bishop in Gaul. Bishop of Noyon/saint

†   1095 – Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont.

†   1775 – Birth of Joachim G le Sage ten Broek, Dutch notary/catholic foreman/publicist

†   1894 – Birth of Amphilochius of Pochayiv, Ukrainian Orthodox saint (d. 1971)

†   1934 – Birth of Lawrence Martin Jenco, Servite priest, taken hostage in Beirut by five armed men in January 1985, while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services there, being held for 564 days  (d. 1996)

†   1970 – Pope Paul VI wounded in chest during a visit to Philippines by a dagger-wielding Bolivian painter disguised as a priest

†   2004 – Pope John Paul II returned the relics of Saint John Chrysostom to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Roman Catholic); Barlaam and Josaphat, Apostle Philip, and Gregory Palamas  (Eastern Orthodox—Revised Julian Calendar)

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

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Watch a child.  If a little boy falls in the park and scrapes his elbow, he instinctively runs to his father or mother to make it better.  More often than not, the parent can do nothing except gently kiss the bruised elbow and tell the little one that it is going to be OK.  The amazing thing is that often this is all the child needs.  The kiss doesn’t “fix” it; it just lets the little one know that he is loved, he is not alone, and he is going to be OK.  Sadly, as we grow up we begin to believe that a little kiss or a mere hug isn’t going to fix anything, so we stop asking.  God the Father is inviting you to run to Him with your cut elbows, broken heart or shattered dreams.  No hurt is too little and none is too great.” ~ Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift”, Servant Books

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning His disciples to be watchful and alert, so that they will be ready when the Son of Man comes.

 

(NAB Mark 13:33-37) 33 Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  34 It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the season of Advent, which marks the start of a new liturgical year for the Church.  The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged on a three-year cycle.  Each year features a different Gospel—Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with readings from the Gospel of John interspersed throughout all three years.  With this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, focusing our attention on the Gospel of Mark throughout the year.  

Since this the first week of the new Liturgical Year (cycle “B”), let me give a little history on Mark’s Gospel, based on the introduction to his book from the NAB Bible.

Mark is the shortest of all four Gospels, and is most likely the first of the four to have been written.  His Gospel recounts what Jesus Christ did in a vibrant and dramatic style, where one incident follows directly upon another.  With Mark, Jesus is portrayed as immensely popular with the people in Galilee during His ministry (cf., Mark 2:2; 3:7; 4:1).

The framework of Mark’s Gospel is partly geographical: Galilee (cf., Mark 1:14 – 16:8).  Only rarely does Jesus go into “Gentile” territory (cf., Mark 5:1–20; 7:24–37).  Mark’s Gospel is more oriented toward Christology: Jesus being the “Son of God” (cf., Mark 1:1- 11; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39).

Although the book is anonymous, apart from the heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (in Jerusalem) Catholic Christians assembled:

When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer.” (Acts 12:12).  

This “Mark” was a cousin of Barnabas (cf., Colossians 4:10), and accompanied Barnabas and Paul one of his missionary journeys (cf., Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39).  Traditionally, Mark’s Gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution, and when destruction by the Roman Armies loomed over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.  Mark’s audience seems to have been Gentiles unfamiliar with Jewish customs, as shown in the following verses:

“They [the Pharisees] observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].)  (Mark 7:2–4).

Mark was intended to prepare Catholic Christians to be faithful in the face of persecution (cf., Mark 13:9–13), while proclaiming the Gospel in Galilee (cf., Mark 13:10; 14:9).  In this difficult time, it helped to recall that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties, which Mark does.  Early Christian communities took courage from Jesus’ warning to remain alert and watchful, and they found in His words a way to persevere through suffering.

Т

To begin my reflection on today’s reading I’d like to start with two important Advent themes running though both this week’s and next week’s reading.  Today’s theme is about the Lord’s return at the end of time; and next week’s theme is centered on John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus.

Today’s reading is taken from the end of Mark’s Gospel, the chapter that immediately precedes Mark’s account of Jesus’ Passion.  Having been recently questioned repeatedly by the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus is now questioned by His disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew—who are seeking details about His prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  Jesus answers them with many warnings about the difficulties disciples and their followers and their followers will face in THEIR lives.

This portion of Mark’s Gospel is an “eschatological” discourse (dealing with the coming of the new age – the “eschaton” – in its fullness the “final stage”) about specific events which will precede it.  This Gospel deals also with how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves while awaiting that event which is as certain to happen as its exact time is unknown to all but God the Father:

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

Therefore, Jesus is teaching us the necessity for a continual – – and actively persistent – – alertness, attentiveness, and preparedness for His promised return.  

This vigilant waiting, emphasized in this reading, does not mean an ending of ordinary activity, with a concentration only on what is to come.   Instead, Jesus’ message reveals a continued and faithful accomplishment of present, ongoing, ordinary, day-to-day duties and responsibilities, with a continued and persistent awareness of the coming end, for which all (we ALL) must be ready – – continuously, persistently, and faithfully.  This “time to come” will initiate the “great judgment” (Parousia) in which the everlasting destiny of ALL will be made known to ALL!!

Т

For me, vigilance is another way of saying “LOVE”.  Let me explain what I mean by this statement.  A person who keeps God’s commandments, (big “C” and little “c”), and continuously looks forward to Jesus Christ’s return, rarely looking backward at his past life, is doing exactly what our “Trinitarian God” wishes for us to do!  Our lives are, and should be, a period of faithful hope and waiting, vigilantly: vigilance IS “the way, the truth, and the life” towards our encounter with Jesus Christ our Lord. 

The first Catholic Christians often repeated tenderly the hope, desire, and longing for His return.  That’s why they prayed so frequently:

Come, Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelations 22:20).

By expressing their faith, charity, and longing in this way, early Catholic Christians found the interior “core” strength, optimism, and confidence necessary for fulfilling their family and societal duties and responsibilities, while at the same time, interiorly detaching themselves from earthy (materialistic) goods, with the “self-mastery” which comes from the faith and the hope of eternal life (cf., 1Peter 1:3-9).  Remember, Mark’s audience lived in a time of trial and tribulation, at the cusp of the Temple’s destruction by the Roman Armies, and the severe persecution of any and all Jews and Jewish Christians believers.  I pray daily to grow into their “self-mastery”, their interior “core” strength, and their hope, desire, and longing for Christ’s return.  Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis called this “Daily Conversion”.  Today, Franciscans, indeed, all Catholic Christians, are being called, through this Gospel reading, to “Daily Conversion”.

Т

Jesus Christ entrusts us with His gifts and grace, and He expects us to be ready for action – – prepared for the future.  Our call is not only to believe, but also to watch; not only to love, but also to watch; not only to obey, but also to watch!  So, what are we to watch for?   Answer: the greatest event to come, and ever to happen – – the promised supernatural magnificent return of our Lord Jesus Christ – – when He comes again “in glory” at the end of the age (the Parousia).  

This type of watching which Jesus Christ has in mind is NOT a passive activity.  It is not a “wait and see what happens” approach to, and in, our lives.  Jesus urges us to be ever vigilant and persistent in “active” prayer that His “kingdom may come” and His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf., the “Our Father”). 

We are not only to watch for Christ, but also, we are to watch with Christ!!  The Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on Him and His “Word” daily.  He wants us to be ever-ready for His action and grace in our present lives, and in our present world.  

Those who “wait” for the Lord will not be disappointed.  (That’s a promise: cf., Psalm 27:14, 37:7, and 40:1.)  He will surely come with His sanctifying grace and saving help.  Do you watch for Jesus Christ’s action in your present life? – – with a faith and joyful hope for your future? – – with vigilance and patient awareness?  Are you aware of yourself having “everlasting life” within you – – NOW?  If you’re curious about watching for Jesus in your present life, look up, read, and reflect on what John says in John 6:54, 56* (will be posted at the end of this reflection).

Т

To conclude, today’s Gospel reminds us that Advent is about more than OUR preparation for the Catholic Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas.  Advent is also about preparing ourselves for Christ’s RETURN “in glory” at the end of time: the Parousia!  Like the disciples and the faithful in Mark’s first-century community, we must also stay continuously and persistently vigilant, alert, and watchful for His return.  Our faithfulness to our Trinitarian God, through the good times, and especially through the difficult times, shows us to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In our lives, we try to prepare ourselves for many future events: the next vacation, a marriage, a child’s education, retirement, and so on.  We are careful not to allow ourselves to be caught by surprise.  We prepare so that we can handle any challenges we may face.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are called to be just as attentive and alert to the coming of the Son of Man so that event will not catch us by surprise and unprepared.  This means we are to attend to our spiritual life as carefully as we attend to other important matters we may encounter!!

Try to remember a time when you received surprise visitors at your house.  It could be a neighbor who stopped by, or a relative who arrived unannounced.  Were you prepared to receive this unannounced guest?  What might you have done differently, if you knew ahead of time that this visitor was going to arrive?  Jesus told His disciples that “no one knows when the Son of Man will return, except the Father”.   Are you prepared?!  Pray that through this Advent season you will become more prepared to receive Jesus Christ (in Holy Communion *) AND when He comes again “in glory” – – at the end time.  

 

(*)  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 54, 56)

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

“Optional Closing Prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet”

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.  Amen”

 

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New Translation of the Mass

(This is the Last “New Translation of the Mass” segment.  It will be replaced with a new segment titled, “Catholic Apolgetics” next week) 

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 big change occurs in the text of the “Creed” (Our “Profession of Faith”).  The first obvious change is with the very first word.  Currently we begin with “We believe.” The new, revised text has “I believe” instead of “We”.

Another noticeable change comes in the tenth line, regarding the Son’s divinity.  We currently say Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  The new text will now say Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.”  

Consubstantial is not really a translation.  In reality, It is a transliteration—the same Latin word, spelled in English— of the Latin “consubstantialis”, which literally means “one in being.”  Translation versus transliteration is not the point.  The point is that Jesus is God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal.

A third noticeable change occurs in how we speak of Christ’s human nature.  We currently say, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” The new text will now say, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.

Incarnate means “made flesh.” So, using the term here reminds us that he was human from the moment of His conception and not just at His birth. 

There are several other minor changes in the text of the “Creed” (new version is shown below).  It will certainly take us some time to commit the new version to memory, and to be able to profess it together easily.

The new missal also allows the option of using the “Apostles’ Creed” instead of this version of the “Nicene Creed”, especially during Lent and Easter.  The “Apostles’ Creed” is another ancient Christian creed, long in use by Roman Catholics in our baptismal promises and at the beginning of the Rosary. 

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

(Based on the original Latin versions from the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381).

“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under
Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and
apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the
forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the
resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Francesco Antonio Fasani  (1681-1742)

 

Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695.  After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial.  When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout, and penitential.  He was a sought-after confessor and preacher.  One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.”  Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead!  The saint is dead!”  Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Comment:

Eventually we become what we choose.  If we choose stinginess, we become stingy.  If we choose compassion, we become compassionate.  The holiness of Francesco Antonio Fasani resulted from his many small decisions to cooperate with God’s grace.

Quote:

During his homily at the canonization of Francesco, Pope John Paul II reflected on John 21:15 in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other apostles and then tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”  The pope observed that in the final analysis human holiness is decided by love.  “He [Francesco] made the love taught us by Christ the fundamental characteristic of his existence, the basic criterion of his thought and activity, the supreme summit of his aspirations” (L’Osservatore Romano, vol. 16, number 3, 1986).

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Virtues and Vices

What is a VIRTUE?

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

How are the virtues tied together?

What are the vices contrary to these virtues?

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & 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).

 

“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.

“Chose To Participate and Get More, Or Become Lax and Lose All Now AND In the Future!!” – Luke 19:11-28†


 

Wow, were has this year gone?  We are finishing the “Ordinary Time” of the liturgical year, and only a slight 10 days till the start of another liturgical year with the start of Advent.  Only 38 days till CHRIST- mas.  Are you ready?

 

 

 

Congratulations to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, on his election as head of the USCCB.  An excellent choice was made by our countries other shepherds.

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
      
†   594 – Death of Gregory of Tours, bishop and historian (b. c.539)
†   1231 – Death of Elisabeth of Hungary (Third Order Franciscan), daughter of Andrew II of Hungary (b. 1207)
†   1302 – Death of St. Gertrude the Great (b. 1256)
†   1576 – Birth of Roque Gonzales de Santa Cruz, Paraguayan Jesuit missionary (d. 1628)
†   1681 – Birth of Pierre François le Courayer, Catholic French theologian and writer (d. 1776)
†   1928 – Notre Dame finally loses a football game after nearly 25 years of straight wins.  In 2009, some believe they lost their Catholic identity as well.
Feast Days: Elisabeth of Hungary; Gregory of Tours; Hilda of Whitby; Hugh of Lincoln; Acisclus

(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:

 

Exercise daily — walk with the Lord

 

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

 

Today’s reflection is about being a trusted, faithful, and productive servant of God.

 

11 While they were listening to him [Jesus] speak; he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately.  12 So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.   13 He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’  14 His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’  15 But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.  16 The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’  17 He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’  18 Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’  19 And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’  20 Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,  21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’  22 He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant.  You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; 23 why did you not put my money in a bank?  Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’  24 And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  27 Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'”  28 After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.  (NAB Luke 19:11-28)

 

Disciples MUST take risks in following our “King:” Jesus Christ,- – the “Messiah,” – – in His footsteps and on His path to salvation with eternal life in paradise!!  There is no “SAFE” position on this aspect of Faith.  The only path is to take risks!  How does this “prophetic statement” make you feel?  This reading today needs to be interpreted in its own context: What is to be given to Jesus, the King?

In today’s Gospel, Luke is combining two very distinct parables: (1) a parable about the conduct of faithful and productive servants and (2) a story about a rejected king.  A very similar story about the conduct of servants also occurs (in another fashion) in Matthew 25:14-20.  

The story about the rejected king might have stemmed from a historical event that occurred at that period in time.  After the death of Herod the Great (who ordered the slaughter of the children in the infancy narratives), his son Archelaus had to travel to Rome in order to receive the title of “King.”   A delegation of Jews, resolute that he not be their new king, travelled to, and appeared before Caesar Augustus, in Rome, in order to oppose the request of Archelaus.  Although not given the official title of “king,” Archelaus was made “ruler” over all of Judea and Samaria (which includes the city of Jerusalem).  

The Jews in Jesus’ time had a heightened sense that the Messiah would appear and usher in the kingdom of God on the earth.  In His teachings, Jesus often spoke in messianic and prophetic language about the coming supremacy of God.  Luke uses today’s story to supply a correction to the widely held expectation of the imminent end of the age and of the establishment of the kingdom in Jerusalem (see Luke 19:11 – covered in depth in my previous blog).  

Jesus is not on his way to Jerusalem to receive the power of a king.  There is to be no spectacular “manifestation” of the kingdom of God magically appearing before all eyes in Jerusalem.  For the manifestation of God’s kingdom to happen, Jesus must leave His “land;” and then only after returning from a “distant” place will reward and judgment take place (what a ‘poetic’ reference to the Parousia).  What is being offered by Jesus – – the “King” – – instead is dedication, persistence, and faithfulness, obedient to His Father’s will!

The “they” in verse 11 not only includes Jesus’ follows and admirers, but also His opponents.  Jesus wanted all, even those opposed to Him, to know that at issue in this lesson was how one should use their material possessions in response to the advent of Jesus’ in their lives. 

Jesus is the representation appearing as the “King” in the story line today.  The people, religious leaders, and disciples all respond differently to Jesus as “King.”  The people are anxiously awaiting the Messiah promised in scripture of old.  The religious leaders were adamant that Jesus not be looked upon as the Messiah, the “King”!  And finally, the followers of Jesus are at least suspicious of him, while others are well aware of the true nature of Jesus.

The ten gold coins from verse 13 literally denote “ten minas.”  A mina was a monetary unit that in ancient Greece was equivalent to one hundred drachmas.  So, in doing the “biblical” math, these ten coins mentioned in today’s reading equaled one thousand (1000) days wages.  (Wow – nearly three years worth of pay!)  But – and a big BUT, – this story IS NOT about investment banking!!  It is entirely about spiritual gifts and talents, and how we must share them!

Jesus taught in regards to their desire for a “new kingdom” in this story of a nobleman who went away to receive a kingdom.  The parable reveals something important about how God’s salvation plan, how He brings about the plan, and our purpose in His plan.  It opens with the nobleman’s trust in his subjects.  He leaves them with a large sum of money to use as they think best.  He TRUSTED them with his property.  Though there were no strings attached, he was obviously testing them to see if they would be faithful and reliable in their use of the money that was entrusted to them.  Finally, the nobleman, now a new “King” with his return from a distant land, rewards those who are faithful and punishes those who sit by idly and do nothing with his money.

God gives His kingdom to those who are ready to receive His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in a very personal way.  God trusts us with His gifts and graces.  He gives us the freedom (freewill) to use them as we think best.  With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient grace, resources, and power for using them in a fitting way.  As the parable of “the talents” (in an earlier reading) shows, God loathes apathy, lack of interest, and coldness with His graces, gifts, and talents that He has imparted to us. 

God admires, respects, and awards those of us who use their talents, gifts, and graces for doing His work joyfully and willfully. “Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more!”  Sounds like my old boss; “You did such a great job, here are three more things for you to do!”)  But for those who chose to neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them – – they will lose what they have.  (“YOUR FIRED” – literally if you can excuse the prophetic pun.) 

There is an important lesson here for all of us to learn!  Not one of us can be apathetic, stationary, or inactive in being a Catholic.  We either chose to participate and get more, or we become lax and lose what we have now AND in the future!  We either follow Jesus on our (and His) path to eternity in paradise or we follow on the much easier and carefree path to eternal torment.  Which path do you want to take?  Do you TRUST in God’s grace?  Do you make good use of the gifts and talents God has already given to you?  Finally, do you share these gifts and talents?

Our King (Jesus the CHRIST) is overflowing in the bounty He promises.  Acceptance of God’s rule over oneself is a great moment of decision for us.  Unfortunately, some decide not to accept what our King Jesus brings in plenty for all of us.  Jesus has the important, decisive, and critical role in regard to all of our destinies; He determines our “life” and “death!”  I bow to Him lovingly, gracefully, and gratefully!!

 

Prayer for the Sanctification of Labor

 

“O God, the creator of all things, you framed the law of labor for the human race.  Graciously grant, by the example and patronage of St. Joseph, that we may do the work you provide us and earn the reward you promise.  Sustain us with your grace to live up to our duties in charity and justice.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)

 

In her short life Elizabeth manifested such great love for the poor and suffering that she has become the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. The daughter of the King of Hungary, Elizabeth chose a life of penance and asceticism when a life of leisure and luxury could easily have been hers. This choice endeared her in the hearts of the common people throughout Europe.

At the age of 14 Elizabeth was married to Louis of Thuringia (a German principality), whom she deeply loved; she bore three children. Under the spiritual direction of a Franciscan friar, she led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick. Seeking to become one with the poor, she wore simple clothing. Daily she would take bread to hundreds of the poorest in the land, who came to her gate.

After six years of marriage, her husband died in the Crusades, and she was grief-stricken. Her husband’s family looked upon her as squandering the royal purse, and mistreated her, finally throwing her out of the palace. The return of her husband’s allies from the Crusades resulted in her being reinstated, since her son was legal heir to the throne.

In 1228 Elizabeth joined the Secular Franciscan Order, spending the remaining few years of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. Elizabeth’s health declined, and she died before her 24th birthday in 1231. Her great popularity resulted in her canonization four years later.

Comment:

Elizabeth understood well the lesson Jesus taught when he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper: The Christian must be one who serves the humblest needs of others, even if one serves from an exalted position. Of royal blood, Elizabeth could have lorded it over her subjects. Yet she served them with such a loving heart that her brief life won for her a special place in the hearts of many. Elizabeth is also an example to us in her following the guidance of a spiritual director. Growth in the spiritual life is a difficult process. We can play games very easily if we don’t have someone to challenge us or to share experiences so as to help us avoid pitfalls.

Quote:

“Today, there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every individual, without exception, and to take positive steps to help a neighbor whom we encounter, whether that neighbor be an elderly person, abandoned by everyone, a foreign worker who suffers the injustice of being despised, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin of which the child is innocent, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: ‘As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40)” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 27, Austin Flannery translation).

Patron Saint of: Bakers

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 17 & 18 of 26:

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.

 

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.

“The Boss Is Away; It Is Time To Play!” – Luke 12:39-48†


            

Today in Catholic History:

   
    
†   1536 – Danish/Norway King Christian III leads reform in Catholic possessions
†   1587 – Battle at Coultras: Henri van Navarra beats Catholic League
†   In Christianity, it is the feast day of Andrew of Crete, a Martyr

(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:

 

Life is worth living. Heaven is worth fighting for.

   

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

Today’s reflection is about faithfulness to God’s wisdom.

 

39 [Jesus said to His Disciples] Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”  42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  44 Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly.  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (NAB Luke 12:39-48)

 

What can a thief in the night teach us of God’s desire for us?  Can you imagine a thief notifying us ahead of time, and telling us when he would raid our “treasures?”  What does this parable tell us about the treasures God has handed over to each one of us?  What is Jesus actually saying in this Gospel reading today? 

This parable is a lesson in faithfulness for me.  Jesus, our “Lord,” loves faithfulness and abundantly rewards those who are faithful to him.  I believe Jesus is telling us that His (and our) heavenly Father is expecting much more from us than we usually give to Him AND to others around us!  In verse 48 above it is written, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  We are to be held responsible; to be answerable to God Himself for our ability to share, and how we did share our resources!

What is meant by this word, “faithfulness?”  Simply, it’s keeping one’s word, promises, and commitments, regardless of how rough, hard, dangerous, demanding, or difficult it becomes.  God loves the virtue of faithfulness.  He expects us to be faithful to all His creations.  God gives us the grace of faith, and the free-will to remain faithful – as we choose! 

Everyone has something to share; to give to those in need.  Each one of us can be generous in sharing a “time, talent, or treasure.”  If you can’t give financially, maybe a meal to someone home bound or homeless can be you forte.  The arts; finances; cooking; driving; and teaching, are all excellent talents that can be shared relatively easily.  And everyone is always in need of smiles and prayer!

My master is delayed in coming” from verse 45, indicates that the early Christians anticipation for an imminent return of Jesus had undergone some modifications.  Jesus’ followers expected Him to return within days of His assumption into heaven.  Like children waiting near the Christmas tree on a snowy Christmas morning, they waited with baited anticipation to open our gift from God: a new and everlasting world of beauty in paradise with our magnificent Lord, Jesus Christ.  But Luke, in today’s Gospel, wisely advices his readers against counting on a lag in time, and then acting foolishly.  A parallel warning can be found in Matthew 24:48, “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed…’” 

The concept of one being delayed is found in other stories in Scripture as well.  In Matthew 25:5, it is written, “Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep,” and in Matthew 25:19, “After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.”  Both deals with the delay of a noteworthy and important person: the bridegroom and the master.  Both also warn against imprudent actions.

The fact is, everyone has something they can do for others.  God expects us all to share with those that have less than us; and not to just squander our gifts He has given us.  The more He gives, the more He requires!  The temptation to “put off for tomorrow” what we know God expects for us to do today is a very dangerous practice for our everlasting souls!  After all, where do you want to spend eternity: smoking or non-smoking?  Are you faithful to God, and ready to give him an account of your actions?  And finally, remember that Jesus gave the ultimate gift to all of us: His human life!  The least we can do is to share a portion of our excess with others of God’s creation!

 

“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 you revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin (1888-1922)

 

If anyone knew rejection, ridicule and disappointment, it was today’s saint. But such trials only brought Maria Bertilla Boscardin closer to God and more determined to serve him.

Born in Italy in 1888, the young girl lived in fear of her father, a violent man prone to jealousy and drunkenness. Her schooling was limited so that she could spend more time helping at home and working in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the butt of jokes.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was assigned to work in the kitchen, bakery and laundry. After some time Maria received nurses’ training and began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. Some of the patients she had nursed many years before were present at her canonization in 1961.

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 20 & 21 of 26:
    

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

“Go South Young Man, Go South, Says the Winged Wonder!” – Acts 8:26-36†


Today in Catholic History:
† 296 – Death of Pope Caius
† 455 – Petronius Maximus, Roman Emperor
† 536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
† 1509 – Henry VIII ascends the throne of England after the death of his father.
† 1610 – Birth of Pope Alexander VIII (d. 1691)
† 1864 – Congress authorized the inscription “In God We Trust” on coins minted as U.S. currency.
† 1970 – First Earth Day celebrated.

Today’s reflection is about Phillip evangelizing to an African slave. 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

We cannot do great things — only small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

Today’s Meditation:

Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”  So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.  Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.”  Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.  This was the scripture passage he was reading: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.”  Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.  As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?”  (NAB Acts 8:26-36)
  

Is Phillip responsible for the first Gentile convert to Catholicism? I am not sure, since Peter has a remarkable mass-conversion story as well.  It is just remarkable that conversions are literally happening left and right so shortly after the cruelty of Jesus’ execution.  I wonder how many possible converts did not commit out of fear of similar fates.

The story of this official’s conversion to Christianity is given a strong supernatural cast by the introduction of an angel, and instruction from the Holy Spirit.  Whether sent by an angel or the Holy Spirit, the initiative plan for the mission was God’s: Phillip is only the pawn in God’s plan.  Phillip had a northward movement towards Samaria.  Now he is told to head south, where he will meet his charge.

This gentleman, a slave to the queen of Nubia is quite impressive.  The conversion of this Ethiopian eunuch, gives additional evidence to show the spread of Christianity outside the confines of Judaism itself, and was in accord with the plan of God.  This man, having deep African origins conjures up dark skinned converts well beyond the Jewish civilization’s outer boundaries and most definitely on its way to ends of the earth.

It is not clear whether the Ethiopian was originally a convert to Judaism or, as is more probable, a “God-fearer:” such as one who accepted Jewish monotheism and ethic, and attended the synagogue, but did not consider himself bound by some of the regulations like circumcision and dietary laws.  

Candace” is not a proper name, but the title of a Nubian queen.  Nubia is the region in the south of Egypt, along the Nile and in northern Sudan, and during this time in history, was a separate kingdom.  The name of the Queen, or the slave for that manner, is unknown.

Philip is brought alongside the carriage at the very moment when the Ethiopian is pondering the meaning of Isaiah 53:7-8 (“Like a sheep … taken from the earth.”), a passage that Christianity, from its earliest origins, has applied to Jesus.  He was led to slaughter while remaining quiet and humble; killed in a very humiliating way; and was resurrected and ascended to heaven.  Isaiah was a “way too cool” prophet!

This Ethiopian, after talking to Phillips for such a small amount of time, has a very profound conversion.  He wishes to follow in Christ’s footsteps: on the same journey to salvation.  This encounter has a sacramental outcome.  He wants to begin his eternal life with the living water washing away his old life.

“My God, and my all.  Please allow me to have the obedience and wisdom of Phillip.  Tell me which way to turn in order to claim you love for us all.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Abdiesus

Also called Hebed Jesus, a deacon in the Christian community of Persia who was caught up in the persecutions conducted by King Shapur II. Records indicate that Abdiesus was accompanied in his martyrdom by Abrosimus, Acepsimus, Azadanes, Azades, Bicor, Mareas, Milles, and a women named Tarbula. Some were Persian courtiers, others priests and bishops. Tarbula was the sister of St. Simeon, and suffered a particularly cruel death by sawing

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #22:

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

“Hey Man, Want To Get Stoned! “-Jn 8:1-7†


On this day in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led 3,200 people on the start of the third and finally successful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama; and in 1980, J.R. Ewing was shot by an unseen assailant, leading to the catchphrase “Who Shot JR?”
 

Spring is officially here for a day or two now.  It seems it is more wintery today in St. Louis than it was a week ago.  Hopefully, the overcast and rainy weather leaves soon.  I NEED SUN!
 

Today’s reflection is of Jesus saving the woman that committed adultery from death by stoning.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

“Don’t do anything to defend yourself; bear everything with humility; God Himself will defend you”.
 

Today’s Meditation:

 

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.  But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (NAB Jn 8:1-7)

 

The Mount of Olives:  to me, this was Jesus’ place of refuge and prayer towards the end of His earthly ministry. This was His place to go when He wanted to be closer to God, just as Eucharistic adoration at my parish church is for me.   Significant covenants and events involved some type of exposure to mountains.  Noah’s ‘Ark’ landed on had Mount Ararat.  Abraham was tested on Mount Moriah with the sacrifice of Isaac (that was stopped prior to executing).  Moses spent forty days on Mount Horab (twice) to receive the Ten Commandments (twice).  And Jesus was “Transfigured” earlier on Mount Tabor.

Jesus’ opponents attempted to set a trap in this gospel reading.  Jesus knew the law well, and knew the Old Testament even better.  Leviticus 20:10 and Deut 22:22 mention only death, but Deuteronomy 22:23-24 prescribed stoning for a betrothed virgin.  The law dictated death, but Jesus knew that punishment by death was not for us on earth to decide.  Only one being is the judge of who dies, and who doesn’t; God!  Here that politicians: only God decides who dies!  Jesus’ own mother could have very well have been killed by stoning some 30 or so years earlier, for being pregnant with our Messiah: Jesus Christ!.

Why did John make such a big deal about Jesus drawing on the ground with His finger?  In Jeremiah 17:13 (RSV), it is written “Those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken thee, the fountain of living water.”  I think Jesus was fairly overtly reminding the temple teachers of the shared guilt of sin by those condemning this woman.

When pushed for an answer, Jesus reminds them of that the first stones were to be thrown by the witnesses that are condemning her (Deuteronomy 17:7).  Jesus just added a simple sentence to this law: the first without sin should throw the first stone.  A unique approach to an obvious trap set for Jesus.  I marvel at Jesus’ cunning and simple approach to living the gospel.  Thank God the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary was not there though!?

“Lord, I am living high on the mountain of faith and fortitude for you.  Please help me to stay on this mountain forever.  Amen.”
 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Enda

 

Legend has him an Irishman noted for his military feats who was convinced by his sister St. Fanchea to renounce his warring activities and marry. When he found his fiancee dead, he decided to become a monk and went on pilgrimage to Rome, where he was ordained. He returned to Ireland, built churches at Drogheda, and then secured from his brother-in-law King Oengus of Munster the island of Aran, where he built the monastery of Killeaney, from which ten other foundations on the island developed. With St. Finnian of Clonard, Enda is considered the founder on monasticism in Ireland. His feast day is March 21.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #21:
 

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.  Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.  Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.