Tag Archives: children

“Is it YOU to God, or, God to YOU, Who IS Saying ‘YOUR will be done’?!” – Mark 10:17-30†


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Sunday of the Year of Faith

Today’s Content:

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

ТТТ

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The following is a letter I wish to convey to you from my OFS Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, OFS:

During October we have the Feast of Francis.  October is the month of the Rosary [as well]. October 11th, in the traditional calendar was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and Pope Benedict has noted that when Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on this day in 1962, he “wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary.”  Also in October, the Eastern Churches celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Sadly, our society still has many persons who need the protection of Our Mother – – and of those of us willing to express concern.  So, we need to note that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a web page called When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm).  The bishops address this statement to several audiences, including “society, which has made some strides towards recognizing the extent of domestic violence against women.”

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that your locality is immune from this social ill.  The only fundamental question is: What will be your Franciscan response?

Pax et Bonum,
Mike DePue, OFS

Т

PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE “YEAR OF FAITH”

Per a decree made public on October 5th, 2012 in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI will grant a Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the “Year of Faith”.  The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

The day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II”, the text reads, “the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decreed the beginning of a Year especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of – or better still the pious meditation upon – the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”.

“During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

“(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

“(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

“(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, … in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

“(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

“Diocesan or eparchal bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, … may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence”.

The document concludes by recalling how faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence “if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite … the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers which concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives”.

ТТТ

Joke of the Day:

 ТТТ


Today’s reflection: A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.  What must YOU DO to gain eternal life?  Are you ready to give up ALL, to become a “slave” for Christ to gain eternal life … REALLY?!

(NAB Mark 10:17-30)  17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  18 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”  20 He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  24 The disciples were amazed at his words.  So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”  27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  28 Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”  29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

ТТТ

Gospel Reflection:

Today, we continue reading in Mark’s Gospel from where we left off last Sunday.  In last Sunday’s reading, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees in regard to the requirements for divorce per Jewish Law.  At this time period, Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem.

Still travelling, in today’s Gospel, an “unnamed man” approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to “inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17).  Jesus replies that he must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses.  This is not an unusual statement as this command had been followed for centuries by pious Jews.  So, the man acknowledges that he has obviously observed all of these Laws since his childhood.  Jesus then says to the man that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Him [Jesus].  The man leaves Jesus in sadness because he owned many possessions which he obviously cherished greatly. 

My question to you: “Is it surprising that Jesus put a condition on what had been ‘Mosaic Law’ for centuries prior to Jesus’ arrival?”  My answer is NO, it is not surprising at all!  Jesus had added “conditions” in the past when teaching the beatitudes, and even added conditions in last week’s dialogue in regard to divorce. 

Т

So, this “unknown man” approaches Jesus and says:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

Jesus answered him,

Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). 

Jesus is rejecting the term “good” for Himself and directs it instead to God the Father, the true source of all goodness – – and, who alone can grant the gift of eternal life.  The theme Jesus is going to reveal is that if you wish to enter into life in the kingdom of God, you need to keep the commandments of paramount importance in your life:

“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:17-30).

Т

The “unknown man” had the best the secular world could offer – wealth and security.  However, he came to Jesus because he lacked something.  He wanted a lasting peace and happiness which NO money could buy him.  The answer he received from Jesus however, was not what he was looking for in his quest for peace.  (Remember, God has a unique sense of humor at times.)  This “unknown man” swore to Jesus that he kept all the required commandments.  However, Jesus spoke to him of the underlying dilemma in his heart and soul.  Only one thing kept him from giving himself totally and completely to God.  While he lacked for nothing materialistically, he was nonetheless selfishly overprotective of what he had acquired in his life.  He placed his hope and security in what he possessed materialistically, not spiritually!  His priority was values of this world, not the next!

Jesus makes two requirements of this wealthy man who approached Him (and even for all of us today):

Sell what you have, and give to [the] poor … then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

The first requirement is that he must give up his possessions in order to “inherit eternal life”.  Throughout history, many Christians have taken this requirement literally word-for-word.  Those who have given up ALL possessions, like St. Francis of Assisi, have showed witness to a fundamentally extreme commitment to the Gospel of Jesus.  Others have read this passage as a particular requirement directed solely to this specific “unknown man” in today’s reading.  And, still others have sought to explain the meaning intended in this passage as giving up those things and items preventing one from following Jesus (I believe this is the most popular and common belief).  

Christians have generally understood that following Jesus required believers to hold material possessions “with a loose knot”, and to remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating material possessions.  The Rule for Secular Franciscans mentions freeing oneself from material needs in two of its 26 articles: 11 and 12:

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

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

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

The second requirement for inheriting “eternal life” is the exact same invitation given to this “unknown man” as is extended to ALL would-be disciples, then and NOW:follow me” (Mark 10:21).  Jesus very much wants this “unknown man” to be a disciple of His; Jesus wants ALL of us to be disciples of His!!  The Catholic Christian faith is one in which each distinct and unique individual believer is in a personal, intimate, and unique relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Just as today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the “unknown man” and is sad when this man departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow Him – – when we turn our backs to Him.

When Jesus challenged the “unknown man” to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became troubled and saddened.  With distress and sadness in his heart and on his soul, he turned his back on Jesus, walking away from Him.  Hmm, why did he turn away from Jesus with sadness rather than stay with Him with joy?  I believe his treasure and his hope for happiness were certainly mislaid; his treasure and hope were in his material items.  Out of a deep, underlying fear for losing what he had gained in this world, he was afraid to give to others.  This “unknown man” sought happiness and security in his worldly items rather than in Jesus Christ, whom he could love, serve, and give of himself in a devotion of true faith.

Т

The words of Jesus about entering the kingdom of God surely provoked a jaw-dropping, bewildering shock among His disciples:

’How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ … It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23-25).

Do you know why I say these Men (and women) were confused and unnerved by Jesus’ “Words”?  Because His “Words” seem to contradict Hebrew Scriptures concept in which wealth and material goods were considered a sign of God’s favor.  Here are just three examples:

“Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land”  (Job 1:10);

“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways.  What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper” (Psalm 128:1–2);

Happy the just, for it will go well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat.” (Isaiah 3:10).

The Old Testament often speaks of God offering material rewards for observance of His laws.  This, I believe, was because the “future life” was not yet revealed to them receiving the “heavenly” reward prior to Jesus’ role as redeemer of the world.  It was therefore taken for granted, in spite of opposing evidence, that riches were a sign of God’s favor.  (One very popular television evangelist still preaches this exact notion every Sunday.)

So, why does Jesus tell His followers to “sell all” for the treasure of “eternal life” in His kingdom?  Well, “treasure” has a special connection to the heart; it is the thing we as human-beings most set our heart on to be our highest treasure.  Jesus Christ Himself is the greatest treasure we can ever obtain and can ever possess, and should be our HIGHEST possession.  

Since wealth, power, and advantage generated a false sense of security and sanctuary among God’s children, Jesus rejects them outright as a claim to enter God’s kingdom.  In reality, achievement of God’s salvation is beyond any human capability.  God’s salvation depends solely on the mercy and goodness of God the Father, who offers His claim to salvation and heaven freely TO ALL – – as a gift to be accepted:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  (Mark 10:27).

Those who are generous towards God – – and His children, our neighbors – – will find they cannot be out-given in return by God.  His generous return to us will always be greater than what we give to others of His “children”.  God blesses us, and graces us NOW, with treasures from His kingdom.  They are:

(1) Freedom from the clutching force, fear, and power of sin; from selfishness and pride opposing His love and grace in our lives;

(2) Freedom from loneliness, isolation, and rejection keeping us from living together in love, peace, and unity; and,

(3) Freedom of hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment blinding our vision of God’s magnificent power to heal every hurt, to bind every wound, and to remove every blemish injury the image of the Trinitarian God within each of us.  

God the Father offers to each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – a treasure which any amount of money can never buy.  God – – And ONLY God – – satisfies the deepest longing and desires of our heart, soul, and being.  PLEASE, be willing to part with, to separate yourself from, anything keeping you from seeking the true and completely full JOY in, with, and through Jesus Christ?

Т

Wealth can make us falsely independent creatures.  The church at Laodicea * was warned about their attitude towards wealth and its false sense of security:

“For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. “ (Revelations 3:17).

* Laodicea was a Christian community established in the ancient city of the same name (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia).  The church was established in the earliest period of Christianity, and is probably best known for being one of the seven churches addressed by name in the Book of Revelation (Revelations 3.14-22) ~ per Wikipedia.

Per one of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles written to the administrator of the entire Ephesian** community, wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness:

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains”  (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

** Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey.

Giving up ALL we have in order to have Jesus Christ as OUR treasure is not to be considered as a sorrowful act; it is the greatest act of joy, one can lovingly do for others.  Selling all that we have may mean many different things.  It could mean letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, status, entertainment, or even you’re your manner or means of life.  Anything standing in the way of our loving and making God first and foremost in our lives, AND, anything standing in the way of giving Him the best we can with our time, talents, and treasures, should be removed from our presence and lives.  Do we truly want God saying to us “YOUR will be done” instead of us saying to Him “thy will be done”?  I know I don’t want Him saying this to me!!

Jesus is offering a further condition in this reading from Mark’s Gospel today: a condition which challenges disciples following Him who are materialistically wealthy and trying to enter the Kingdom of God.  (Give it up and follow.)  In reply to the disciples’ astonishment at the strictness of the two requirements Jesus speaks about in today’s reading, He reminds His followers:

For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27).

Our eternal salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon, to trust completely in, and to hope completely for – – God in our lives ALWAYS!!

Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything.  Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded.  This is not a FUTURE HOPE – – IT IS HAPPENING NOW!!  This reward begins NOW, in the new community one gains in this present life, and continuing into the eternal age to come.  Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, in its fullest, the Catholic Church.  So, if you have left the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, please come home today!

Т

Today’s Gospel might make us uncomfortable about our personal materialistic possessions.  This discomfort actually may offer each of us an opportunity to consider what we have in relation to our commitment to the poor and marginalized.  Without any doubt, material possessions are truly a necessity in our society and way of life.  However, our amount and use of these possessions, and our attitude about their importance, IS our choice.  We have a “free will” to choose who or what, we truly worship – – God or manna.  In making this choice, we must be aware of our love, trust, and faith in Jesus Christ who commits each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – to care for the poor and marginalized of this world.

I would reason that there are items in each of our houses we no longer need or use.  Reflect on Jesus’ remarks about material possessions and how you feel about Jesus’ teaching today.  Tomorrow, choose an action showing your commitment to the poor.  It could be as simple as donating some of your extra or unused items to another in need.  Repeat this process often.

Holy Scripture gives us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.  Generosity will be abundantly repaid, both in this life and in eternity:

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow (Proverbs 3:9-10);

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:38).

Jesus offers us an incomparable, never-ending treasure which NO money can EVER buy; a treasure NO thief can ever steal.  I want to share His treasure with you!  God’s gift to us is the gift which keeps on giving.

ТТТ

Reflection Prayer:  

Prayer of Surrender

 

“Loving Father, I surrender to you today with all my heart and soul. Please come into my heart in a deeper way.  I say, “Yes” to you today.  I open all the secret places of my heart to you and say, “Come on in.” Jesus, you are the Lord of my whole life. I believe in you and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I hold nothing back.

Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.  I surrender all to you: my time, my treasures, my talents, my health, my family, my resources, my work, relationships, time management, successes and failures.  I release it and let it go.

I surrender my understanding of how things ‘ought’ to be, my choices and my will.  I surrender to you the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep.  I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to you.  I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my sexuality.  I especially surrender ______ (Here mention other areas of surrender as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.)

Lord, I surrender my whole life to you, the past, the present, and the future.  In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to you.  (Remain with the Lord in a spirit of silence through your thoughts, a heart song, or simply staying in His presence and listening for His voice.)

Read more: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2011/06/25/a-prayer-of-surrender#ixzz290gBY9rZ

ТТТ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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


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

 Today’s Content:

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

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

ТТТ

            

Today in Catholic History:    

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

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

ТТТ

Joke of the Day:

 

ТТТ

 

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

 

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

ТТТ

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Т

Verse six of John’s reading today is:

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

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

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

Т

Let’s go on to another verse: 

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

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

Т

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Т

Verse 15:

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

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

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

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

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

Т

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

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

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

Т

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTinMASS!!

ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Glory Be to the Father

(Doxology)

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

ТТТ

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Faith and Works, Part 1

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

ТТТ

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

ТТТ

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Virtues and Poverty

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

Why did Saint Francis call poverty a royal virtue?

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

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

ТТТ

 

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

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

Т

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

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

ТТТ

 

“Your Faith Is Not For The Dogs!” –Matthew 15:21-28†


 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Tomorrow is SOooo special for me.  It is the “Feast of the Assumption”, a Marian Feast Day, and also the Day when I will renew again my “Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, as created and popularized by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1720).  His “consecration” is a special devotion lasting 33 days before the actual pledge or consecration of one’s total abandonment to Jesus through Mary, as a means to live my Baptismal promises.

This particular Marian devotion was loved greatly, and commented about often, by Blessed John Paul II, “the Great”.

Т

Next weekend, I will be on my annual SFO Regional Retreat at “King’s House” in Belleville, Illinois.  Franciscans from Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and all over Missouri are getting together to rejoice, pray, and interact with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, and in the Seraphic presence of Sts. Francis and Clare.

 

ТТТ

 

 

   

Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1464 – Death of Pope Pius II (b. 1405)
†   1740 – Birth of Pius VII, [Luigi B Chiaramonti], bishop of Imola/Pope (1800-1823)
†   1941 – Death of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (b. 1894)
†   1961 – Death of Henri-Edouard-Prosper Breuil, priest/archaeologist, dies

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

 

ТТТ

 

 

Quote of the Day:

 

 

“No cloud can overshadow a true Christian but his faith will discern a rainbow in it.” ~ Bishop Horne

 

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman because of her great faith.

 

(NAB Matthew 15:21-28) 21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”  23 But he did not say a word in answer to her.  His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”  26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”  And her daughter was healed from that hour.

 

ТТТ

 

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Last week we read about Jesus walking on the water and the disciples’ “confession” of faith: Jesus is the “Son of God”.  Today we move ahead in our reading of Matthew’s Gospel.  If we were reading Matthew’s entire Gospel, we would have read about Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees in relation to Jewish “purity laws”. Jesus argues that it is not what goes into us which makes us unclean; He is referring to the strict Jewish dietary rules created from the Scribes own interpretations of Mosaic Law.

Instead, our words and our actions – – what emit from us – – make us truly unclean, because our words and actions emerge from a heart which is truly unclean through our previous sins and iniquities.

Т

Today’s Gospel reading describes the only occasion in Holy Scripture when Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory.  (Tyre and Sidon are fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.)  

Tyre is a city in what is the Southern part of Lebanon today. The city juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean and is located about 50 miles south of Beirut. The name of the city means “rock” after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built.  Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city having many historical sites, including its famous “Roman Hippodrome”.   

 Sidon is also on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Southern Lebanon, about half-way between Tyre to the south and Beirut to the north.  Its name means “a fishery.”  Hmm; I wonder what the main occupation was in Sidon!

Т

Knowing about Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees helps us to understand today’s Gospel.  In fact, the unread story leading up to today’s reading would heighten the revelation and awe we feel as we “hear” Jesus’ exchange with the “Canaanite woman”.  The woman, who is not Jewish, approaches Jesus with a request that He heal her “demon-oppressed daughter” (I often feel that my teenage son’s are “demon-oppressed”).  At first, Jesus ignores her; He says nothing.  Besides, the disciples ask Jesus to send her away (They love to send people away, don’t they), and Jesus, at first agrees, remarking that He was sent to minister to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” – – “only”.

Т

A similar story to todays is related earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:5-13):

“When He entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.’  He said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’  The centurion said in reply, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me.  And I say to one, “’Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come here,” and he comes; and to my slave, “Do this,” and he does it.’  When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following Him, ‘Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.’  And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

As in Matthew’s earlier story of the “daughter of a Centurion” above, Jesus breaks with His usual practice of ministering, teaching, and preaching to Israelites only, and in doing so, prefigures the Apostles and the Catholic Church’s mission to the Jews and Gentiles alike.

Т

Today’s reading has a “Canaanite woman” as the solicitor of help.  Canaanites’ (Gentiles) were a despised race by the Jewish people.   Canaanites, like the woman in this Gospel reading, were inhabitants of a region in the area of what is the present-day Gaza Strip, Israel, West Bank, and Lebanon.  “Canaan” predates the ancient Israelite territories described in the Bible, and describes a land with different, yet, overlapping boundaries.

This Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, is identifying Jesus as her “Lord” and “Son of David”!  By saying these two phrases, she is exclaiming publically that Jesus is the one having power and authority over all others as the divine ruler by hereditary right and ascendancy from God the Father in heavenFOR Jew AND Gentile as well!  She is also declaring her faith – – openly and publically – – that Jesus is the “true” Messiah of the Jewish people; and  as such, He is due our love, worship, and obedience.

 

Jesus tells this Canaanite lady, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24).  What did He mean by this?  Didn’t He come for the entire human race?!  I believe His “Word” is a foretelling of a future mission Jesus will give to His Apostles, and through them, to the growing Church to come.

Like Jesus Himself, the Twelve Apostles were initially sent only to Jewish territories and people; a way to “get their feet wet”:

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matthew 10:5-6)

 

The statement, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Verse 24)   may reflect an initial early Christian refusal of missions to the Gentiles.  Or, it could just have been an expression of the limitation – – Jesus Himself – – observed during His ministry, by never travelling any further than about 100 miles from His birthplace.

 

However, the woman persists, paying homage to Jesus, and yet He denies her request again.  Jesus even appears to insult her, using a Jewish word of disrespect for Gentiles (including Canaanites): “dog”:

It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26). 

In a rather quick-witted reply, the “Canaanite woman” cleverly turns Jesus’ “insult” into an affirmation of a deep and “true” faith:

Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27).

This witty quip of hers really got Jesus’ attention; it showed the strength of her faith and her persistence.  Only then does Jesus grant her request and heal her daughter.

This woman reminds me of my wife: she won’t take “no” for an answer.  The woman in this story keeps calling out after Him, to the point of annoying the Apostles.  Jesus finally relents, and not only listens to her pleas, but acts on her pleas immediately.

In recalling Jesus’ encounters with women, this seems to be a normal pattern for Him: swiftly relenting to the women in His life.  Mary, His mother asks Jesus to help the wine stewards at the feast in Cana; Margaret asks Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead; and Mary Magdalene had seven “spirits” removed after asking Jesus.  (Jesus obviously learned early on, the first mantra of every married man: “Yes dear”!!)

 

Now, here’s a little secret!  Jesus does the same thing – – still today – – for both men and women!  All we need to do is ask Him for help, and He will help.  His intervention may not be swift enough for you, and may not even be the way you wanted something carried out.  To be quite honest, you may not recognize that Jesus interven at all, but He always helps anyone who asks.  The divine wisdom of God has no earthly boundaries such as time and space.  Every action He takes has a purpose and reason, maybe ever known to us.  How He acts on a specific request is always for the best outcome of the person making the request, the people involved, and for future circumstances.

Т

Jesus’ words are specific and purposeful then, now, and in the future.  What did Jesus mean by the phrase “throwing bread to the dogs“?  Jewish custom often spoke of “Gentiles” with conceit and disrespect as likened to “unclean dogs”.  For the Jewish people of this time, Gentiles were excluded from God’s covenant and favor with Israel.  Earlier in Matthew 7:6 records this expression:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs ….” (Matthew 7:6).

And now, I however, believe Jesus spoke to this Canaanite woman with a calm and reassuring voice rather than with an insult.  Why?  Simply because she immediately responded with a quick wit and deep faith:

Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27)

Т

The children” Jesus was speaking of, were the people of Israel: the Jewish people.  The term “dogs” on the other hand, was (along with the word “swine”) a Jewish term of scorn for Gentiles by the Jewish people: 

Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)

As stated earlier, dogs and swine were Jewish terms of contempt for Gentiles.  This saying may originally have derived from a Jewish Christian community opposed to preaching the Gospel (what is holy, the pearls) to Gentiles.  Some believe Matthew may have taken this concept and belief as applying to a Christians dealing with stubbornly unremorseful, unapologetic, and/or brazen fellow Christians, as in Matthew 18:

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

I do not believe this was Matthew’s intent or meaning.  My reasoning is in light of what is written in the very last chapter, the very last verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 Т

Let’s get back to Jesus’ reaction to this woman.  Jesus’ unresponsiveness to her may appear to us as uncharacteristic or possibly even shocking for Him to do to another.  Yet, we need to know and remember that in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is directed primarily to the people of Israel – the Jewish “Catholic” people.  Only in a very few times, such as this one, do we find Jesus anticipating the later “Catholic (Universal)” Christian ministry to the rest of the world.

Behind Matthew’s written text, we can hear his early Catholic Christian community’s struggle to understand how God’s selection of Israel is unfailing after two recent, specific, and very important events: Israel’s rejection of Jesus by the formal “Leaders” of the Temple (His arrest, scourging, and crucifixion), and the Gentile peoples acceptance of Jesus.  Just as Jesus was surprised by the deep faith of the “Canaanite woman”, so too were the first Catholic Christians surprised that the Gentiles would also receive the salvation God the Father offered to the Jews first, and then to the Gentile world through Jesus Christ.

Т

Faith is not for the Jewish people alone; it is for ALL mankind and for individual persons as well!  As in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:10):

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matthew 8:10),

In both instances of the “Centurion” and the “Canaanite Woman”, Matthew attributes Jesus’ granting of the request to both as His response to their GREAT FAITH.

 

Jesus praises both the “Canaanite woman” and the “Centurion” for their faith, trust, and love.  They made the suffering of their children their own, and were willing to suffer refusal and rejection in order to obtain a healing for their children.  THEY BOTH possessed a “determined persistence” in their request to Jesus Christ; beginning with a request, they both ended on their knees in worshipful prayer and gratitude to the living “Messiah”.  No one who ever sought Jesus, with faith – be they Jew or Gentile – was ever refused His help.  Do you seek Jesus with a confident and “persistent” faith?

Т

In conclusion, the figure or symbol of a household in which children at a table are fed first, and then their “leftover” food is given to the dogs under the table, is used effectively to acknowledge a prior claim of the Jews to Jesus’ earthly ministry, but not an exclusive claim, as some Jews believed.  However, Jesus Himself grants the Gentile “Canaanite” woman’s plea for a cure for her afflicted daughter, solely out of her strong, confident, and persistently “true” faith in Him as the promised “Son of David”: the “Messiah” who saves both Gentile and Jew.

 

Even when spurned by Jesus, the faith of the “Canaanite woman” makes her both strong and bold enough to confront and ask again for what she needs from Jesus Christ, in order to receive a healing for her daughter.  Her persistence and great confidence, knowing Jesus could heal her oppressed daughter, reminds me of the confidence with which our children bring to us their own needs.  In their “child-like” faith and trust we can find an example of how we might approach God in prayer – – with humility, piety, love, perseverance, and most importantly, simple, child-like FAITH!!.

Let us remember: we don’t pray to change God’s mind; we pray that our minds be changed.  If we got everything we ask for, then WE would be God, and we would have no need for faith in anyone!  There would be no opportunities for other doors to open, and no need to see Jesus in others with whom we come into contact.  I believe, that without faith, there would no longer be any anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Then, how sad would be the world!

Recall a time when a request for something was presented to you by a friend or family member with confidence and persistence.  If the request was denied, why was it denied?  If the request was granted, what led to a change of heart?  

Were you surprised by Jesus’ initial negative response to the Canaanite woman?  Why or why not?  What made Jesus change His mind and heal the woman’s daughter?  When we pray, God wants us to be  confident in His mercy.  Identify things you need from God (not things you “wish” for).  Pray these “prayers of petition” with a confidence God will hear and answer your prayers.  He always answers ALL prayers, one way or another, and on HIS time (not ours).

 

The faith the Canaanite woman had for the divinity of Jesus Christ is an affirmation of, and confidence in, God’s abundant mercy to all His creation.  Yes, salvation comes through Israel, but it overflows for the benefit of all who believe, live, and journey on Jesus’ pathway to paradise.

 

ТТТ

 

 

Reflection Psalm:

 

 

Psalm 67

All the nations will praise God.

 

May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us.  So shall your rule be known upon the earth, your saving power among all the nations.  May the nations be glad and shout for joy; for you govern the peoples justly, you guide the nations upon the earth.  May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you!  May God bless us still; that the ends of the earth may revere our God.” (Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

ТТТ

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

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

 

 

ТТТ

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941)

 

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!”  How many parents have said that?  Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me.  She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red.  She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom.  I said, ‘I choose both.’  She smiled and disappeared.”  After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice.  Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day.  His mission was to combat it.  He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering.  He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations.  For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers.  He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan.  Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed.  Niepokalanow was severely bombed.  Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again.  The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders.  The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped.  The commandant announced that 10 men would die.  He relished walking along the ranks.  “This one.  That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line.  “I would like to take that man’s place.  He has a wife and children.”  “Who are you?”  “A priest.”  No name, no mention of fame.  Silence.  The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine.  In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness.  But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang.  By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive.  The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying.  He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle.  It was filled with carbolic acid.  They burned his body with all the others.  He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism.  His whole life had been a preparation.  His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God.  And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons.  Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission?  They pay our fare in the bargain.  What a piece of good luck!  The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible.  Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes”  (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

Patron Saint of: Addicts, Drug addiction

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)

ТТТ

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does an SFO Fraternity show SHARING on the part of the members?

How is this manifested in your daily life?

In what ways does a SFO Fraternity show CARING on the part of the members?

How is this manifested in your daily life?

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 14 & 15 of 26:

 

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

Т

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

  

“The Restaurant Is Now Open. Please Come In and Be Saved!” – Matthew 14:13-21†


 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

ТТТ

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is day nineteen of St. Louis de Monfort’s “Consecration to Jesus Through Mary”.  We are more than half-way done with this special grouping of prayers.  How are you doing?  Please let me know.

 Т

Let us all please pray for those among us suffering greatly from this prolonged heat-wave. Many have died, and sadly, many more will die due to lack of air conditioning.  What a pity in today’s “modern” society.

 

ТТТ

 

    

Today in Catholic History:

    

†   432 – St Sixtus III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   768 – [Philip] begins & ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1498 – On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) becomes the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.
†   1556 – Death of Ignatius Loyola, Spanish priest and founder of the Jesuits
†   1702 – Birth of Jean Denis Attiret, French Jesuit missionary and painter (d. 1768)
†   1811 – Death Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Mexican hero priest, executed by Spanish
†   1892 – Joseph Charbonneau, French Canadian Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal (d. 1959)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Germanus (d.448), bishop of Auxerre, confessor [Bruges; Paris]; Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

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

 

ТТТ

 

 

Quote of the Day:

 

 

“We cannot live without joining together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist.  We would lack the strength to face our daily problems and not to succumb.  Christ is truly present among us in the Eucharist.  It is a dynamic presence that grasps us, to make us His own, to make us assimilate Him.  Christ draws us to Him, He makes us come out of ourselves to make us all one with Him.  Communion with the Lord is always also communion with our brothers and sisters.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI, “Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI”, Magnificat

 

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus feeding the crowd with five loaves and two fish.

 

 (NAB Matthew 14:13-21)  13 When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  14 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  15 When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”  16 (Jesus) said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”  17 But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  18 Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” 19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full.  21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

ТТТ

 

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus conclude His sermon and teachings, with “the crowds’, about the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus then leaves the crowds and returns to His home town, Nazareth, where he is rejected by the people who knew Him since birth.  Matthew then recounts the story of John the Baptist’s arrest and execution at the hands of Herod.  Today’s Gospel reading begins at this point.

Upon hearing the news of the death of His cousin and friend, John “the Baptist”, Jesus seeks to withdraw, probably to reminisce and pray for the last prophet before the appearing Messiah.  However, the crowds continued to follow Jesus earnestly.  Jesus then reaches out to them in compassion, even healing the sick among them.  

Т

How do you treat those who make unexpected demands on you?  When Jesus and the disciples sought a lonely place to regroup and rest, they instead found a crowd of more than five thousand people waiting for them!  Did you think they resented this intrusion on their hard-earned need for rest and privacy?  At the end of this very long and overwhelming day, His disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away so they can find provisions “for themselves”.  

However, Jesus welcomed the crowds with open-arms.  Jesus put their (and our) human needs ahead of everything else including His, and the Apostles, desire for privacy.  His compassion showed the depths of God’s love for the “crowds”, and a concern for all who are truly needy.  Inspired by God the Father’s compassion for the crowd before Him, Jesus tells His disciples to provide food for the crowd of “5000 men”, plus women and children.  They reply to Jesus with a concern about the meagerness of their own provisions: only “five loaves and two fish”.  The miraculous outcome of this event, as demonstrated in this story, is the very familiar “miracle or sign” of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  All were completely satisfied, and there were leftovers.

 

Here is a real awesome bit of trivia: the feeding of the five thousand men (plus women and children) is the only miracle of Jesus recounted in all four Gospels.  The principal reason is the anticipation of the Holy Eucharist in the eternal banquet we will experience in God’s kingdom:

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

However, the “miracle” or “sign” looks not only forward, but also backward, to the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert during the Exodus (cf., Exodus 16).  Today’s reported miracle is one which some contemporary Jewish believers anticipate would be repeated in the “Messianic age” (- – and even some contemporary peers of our day still anticipate this coming miracle of the Messiah):

And it shall come to pass at that self-same time (in the days when the Messiah comes) that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years.” (*2 Baruch 29:8).

(*) 2 Baruch 29:8 is used in this reflection because it is found as a footnote in the NAB-CE Bible.  “2 Baruch” is a Jewish text thought to have been written in the late 1st century AD or early 2nd century AD, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  It is attributed to the Old Testament book of Baruch, but not regarded as Holy Scripture by Jews or by most Christian groups.  It is, however, included in some editions of the Peshitta, the official Bible of the Church of the East, and is part of the Bible in the Syriac Orthodox tradition.   “2 Baruch” is also known as the “Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch”.

This miracle/sign may also have been meant to recall Elisha’s feeding a hundred men with relatively small provisions:

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear.  “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.  But his servant objected, ‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha insisted. ‘For thus says the LORD, “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”’  And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.” (2 Kings 4:42-44).

Т

Why did Jesus command His disciples to do what seemed impossible?: to feed such a large and hungry crowd with no adequate provisions in sight?  Jesus, no doubt, wanted to test their faith and to teach them to rely upon God for their provision.  The miraculous signs which Jesus performed, including the more than sufficient feeding of the five thousand, signified that God the Father was indeed fulfilling His promise in this man Jesus Christ as the anointed Messiah, Prophet, and King for His Jewish people.  In Jesus, God the Father was leading the Apostles to see, in Jesus Christ, the “Word” of God who would heal them physically as well as spiritually.

Т

Have you noticed that all of Jesus’ miraculous signs all started with a “Word” from Jesus?  Peter was to say later:

Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).

So, Jesus’ taking the bread and fish, saying the blessing, breaking, and giving the fish and bread to the disciples (verse 19), brought about a miraculous occurrence; just so His words and actions here correspond to His actions over the bread at the “Last Supper” just prior to His capture, scourging, and death on the Holy Cross:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26).

Since “fish” and “bread” were typical at any Jewish meal, this connection does not necessarily indicate a Eucharistic reference directly.  While Matthew’s silent about Jesus dividing the fish (he reports only the “breaking of the loaves”) among the people, Mark’s Gospel is perhaps more significant in this action:

“Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to (his) disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all.” (Mark 6:41).

 

Jesus’ “Words” were His blessings bringing abundance from the meager provisions found by the disciples.  In this action, Jesus offers us a “sign” of the Kingdom of Heaven He had been teaching about in His parables (from the past three Sunday’s Gospels).  A “feast” results from the smallest of portions, as recalled in the earlier parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast”.  In this miracle or sign, we witness an example of what Christian life and ministry truly is meant to be.  Even the smallest of offerings can produce an immense result when placed in the service of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Nothing is TOO MEAGER to help bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth when done, “In the name of Jesus”.

Т

The phrase in verse 20, “fragments left over”, seems to bring back to me Elisha’s “miracle” when food was left over after all had eaten their fill, and still there were leftovers.  Interestingly, the word “fragments” are related to the “broken bread’ of the Eucharist as reported in the Didache*:

And concerning the broken bread: We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus Your servant.  To you belongs the glory forever.  As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains, and was brought together to become one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom, for the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.” (Didache 9:3-4).

(*)The “Didache” or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (“Didache” is the Greek word meaning, “The Teaching“) is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century. It is the Catholic Faith’s first Catechism.  The first line of this catechism is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles“.

 

So, what is the significance of this miracle or sign for us today?  The miraculous feeding of such a great “crowd” points to God’s provision of the Old Testament “manna” in the wilderness for the people of Israel, then under Moses’ leadership.  For Matthew, the provision of bread and fish prefigures the “true” heavenly bread which Jesus would offer His followers during His last Passover meal.  

 Т

In summary, we find the story of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and the fish in each of the four Gospels (cf., Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-13).  In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus performs this same miracle on two separate occasions (Matthew 15:32-39; and Mark 8:1-10).  The story of this miracle or sign is an anticipation of the Holy Eucharist in which we are fed by the abundantly immense grace of God Himself.  The importance of the Holy Eucharist has been a defining element of Catholic life from the very beginning, and will continue for all times and eternity.

 

To conclude, in our own life we can sometimes hear echoes of the disciples’ excuses: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”  Sometimes this echo is heard from our children (and even ourselves) bickering about the last piece of cake or about power struggles at work.  Sometimes it is made evident in our anxiety and worry about limits of personal income or possessions.  Sometimes this echo is shouted out, loudly, in our unheard complaints about the seemingly endless demands for our time, money, and attention.

Jesus understood these feelings and is teaching us, not only to see beyond our limitations, but also to yearn to serve God in His people and their needs.  Jesus shows us compassion, a reaching out to others, even when we would rather withdraw into ourselves.  Jesus teaches us about God’s blessing and compassion offered to others through His grace.  Today’s Gospel reminds us: with God there is not only enough, there is a true and awesome abundance!  (And that is truly “true”!!  So, bring your own “wicker basket”.)

 Т

Now, what are some of the stresses and demands for time and attention you might have or feel from time to time or oft times.  Acknowledge to yourself that we all have to make difficult choices about how to use our time, talents, and treasures.

Did you notice how much Jesus cared for the crowds by healing the sick, even though He, Himself, wanted to withdraw to a quiet place to rest and pray?  Did you notice how the disciples responded to Jesus’ instruction to feed the crowd by noting their limited and meager supply of food?  Jesus blessed this limited and meager supply of food; and then it was enough to feed the entire crowd of more than 5,000 people (not including women and children), and there were leftovers!  Pray for Jesus to grant you compassion like His, so you can offer your time, talent, and/or treasure to others with His same compassion and generosity.

Jesus makes a claim only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger we experience!!  The feeding of the five thousand (plus) shows the remarkable and immense generosity of God, and His great love, kindness, and mercy towards us.  When God gives, He gives abundantly.  He gives more than we need for ourselves so we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need.  God takes the little we have and multiplies it, seventy times seven times, for the good of others.  Do you trust in God’s provision for you?  Do you share freely with others, especially those who need?

 

ТТТ

 

Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 145

The Lord provides for His people

 

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in love.
The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
You, LORD, are just in all your ways, faithful in all your works.
You, LORD, are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth.  Amen.”
(Psalm 145:8-9,15-18)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

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

It is right and just.”

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

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

ТТТ

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

 

 

The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg.  Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints.  His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began.  Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona).  He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying.  After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples.  There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance.  At length, his peace of mind returned.

It was during this year of conversion that Ignatius began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises.

He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain, as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks.  He spent the next 11 years in various European universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child.  Like many others, his orthodoxy was questioned; Ignatius was twice jailed for brief periods.

In 1534, at the age of 43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land.  If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic service of the pope.  The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the association permanent.  The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected to serve as the first general.

When companions were sent on various missions by the pope, Ignatius remained in Rome, consolidating the new venture, but still finding time to found homes for orphans, catechumens and penitents.  He founded the Roman College, intended to be the model of all other colleges of the Society.

Ignatius was a true mystic.  He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist.  His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.”  In his concept, obedience was to be the prominent virtue, to assure the effectiveness and mobility of his men.  All activity was to be guided by a true love of the Church and unconditional obedience to the Holy Father, for which reason all professed members took a fourth vow to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls.

Comment:

Luther nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517.  Seventeen years later, Ignatius founded the Society that was to play so prominent a part in the Catholic Reformation.  He was an implacable foe of Protestantism.  Yet the seeds of ecumenism may be found in his words: “Great care must be taken to show forth orthodox truth in such a way that if any heretics happen to be present they may have an example of charity and Christian moderation.  No hard words should be used nor any sort of contempt for their errors be shown.”  One of the greatest 20thh-century ecumenists was Cardinal Bea, a Jesuit.

Quote:

Ignatius recommended this prayer to penitents: “Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me.  Give me only your love and your grace.  With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.”

Patron Saint of Retreats

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)

ТТТ

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Humility

 

“Sincere love leads to humility.” Can you explain this?

Why does humility seem to be so hard for us humans to acknowledge?  

How important is true humility?

Is there a place for “just pride”?

What do you think of this description: “Humility is truth”?

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

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).

“A Parable a Day Will Keep Satan Away!” – Matthew 13:24-43†


 

Sixteenth Sunday
of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

ТТТ

 

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Deliberation:

I hope you are enjoying the “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary” that I am posting each day.  Today is day 5 of 34.  It is still not too late to start if you which.  Just catch up with what was missed.

Т

Discovery:

 

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like our cell phone?  What if we carried it around in our purses/pockets at all times?  What if we opened it several times per day – – for fun?  What if we turned back to retrieve, if we forgot it?  What if we used it to receive “text messages”?  What if we treated the Bible like we couldn’t live without it?  What if we gave a bible to Kids as gifts – – and they were excited at this gift?  What if we used it when we traveled?  And, what if we used it in case of emergencies?

 

Declaration:

 

Are these thoughts making you wonder, “Where is my Bible?”  Oh, one more thought.  Unlike our cell phones, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected; Jesus already paid the bill!  And, there are no dropped calls on his plan!  

 

Makes me (and hopefully you) stop & think “Where are my priorities?”  When Jesus died on the cross, He was thinking of US!

 

ТТТ

 

 

           

Today in Catholic History:

    

†   180 – Twelve inhabitants of Scillium in North Africa executed for being Christians. This is the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world.
†   521 – Magnus Felix Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia and Latin poet (b. 474)
†   561 – John III begins his reign as Catholic Pope succeeding Pelagius I
†   855 – St Leo IV ends his reign as Catholic Pope by his death
†   1203 – Fourth Crusade captures Constantinople by assault; the Byzantine emperor Alexius III Angelus flees from his capital into exile.
†   1245 – Pope bans emperor Frederik II Hohenstaufen for 3rd (of 4) times for disagreements with Rome
†   1686 – A meeting takes place at Lüneburg between several Protestant powers in order to discuss the formation of an ‘evangelical’ league of defence, called the ‘Confederatio Militiae Evangelicae’, against the Catholic League.
†   1740 – Prospero Lambertini is elected Pope Benedictus XIV
†   1794 – The sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne are executed (guillotined) 10 days prior to the end of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror (July 17, 1794).

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

 

ТТТ

 

 

 

Quote of the Day:

 

 

A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you a piece of fruit and chewed on it before giving it to you?” ~ Anonymous

 

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus offering parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and then explains them to His disciples.

 

 

Today’s Gospel Reading:

 

(NAB Matthew 13:24-43) 24 He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  25 While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.  26 When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  27 The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  29 He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  30 Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  31 He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”  33 He spoke to them another parable.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”  34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.  He spoke to them only in parables, 35 to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation (of the world).”  36 Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  37 He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, 38 the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  40 Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  41 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.  42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

ТТТ

 

Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading is a continuation of Jesus’ discourse which began last Sunday, and will finish next Sunday.  Today, Jesus offers three parables which allow His “listeners” able to gain an image describing His Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus also explains why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  Finally, He interprets the parable of “the Sower” and “the Yeast” for His followers.  

All of Jesus’ parables contain everyday occurrences and encounters to describe various aspects and components of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The first set of parables (from last Sunday) alerted us to the two-fold reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.  In reality, for us, the actual beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven can be found in this world – – NOW!  The completion of the Kingdom of Heaven, however, will not be truly and fully realized until His final judgment at the “end of the age”.  In the meantime, as Jesus warns His followers that any effort in attempting to judge the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven is premature.  Only God, at the time of the final judgment, will distinguish the “good fruit” of the Kingdom of Heaven, and offer its reward to those who kept His love for us as a priority.

Today’s parables (and next weeks as well) will call our attention to the abundance of His “harvest” resulting from the tiny beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  Just as a mustard seed – – the smallest of all known seeds – – will become a large bush or tree, so too God the Father will bring His Kingdom to full bloom through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  As a small amount of “yeast” will “leaven” an entire batch of bread (I can smell it now – – and it smells “heavenly”!), so too will God bring about the expansion of His Kingdom.  In each case submitted in Jesus’ parables, the image of an immensely great quantity to harvest for His Kingdom comes from even the smallest “mustard seed” amount of faith rooted in our lives.  Our faith grows as we nourish it with His “Word” and sacramental presence.

Т

 

(Oh, oh!)  Malicious weed-sowing!!  What does this have to do with God’s kingdom?  The imagery Jesus chooses to use is an example of planting, harvesting, and sorting the good fruit from the bad (even today).  Weeds have the capability to spoil and kill a good harvest if they are not separated and destroyed at the proper time.  Uprooting “weeds” too early can destroy good plants in the process of tearing the weeds out of the ground.

 

Today’s parable of “weeds” being sowed with the “wheat” is found only in Matthew’s Gospel.  We need to remember that the comparison conveyed in Matthew 13:24, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field”, is not that the kingdom of heaven is about the “sower”; instead, it is about the time of the situation narrated in the whole story (Matthew 13:28-30):

“He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’   He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with themLet them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  .” (Matthew 13:28-30) 

The refusal of the “householder” to allow his slaves to separate the good and true wheat from the bad weeds while they are still growing is actually a warning from Jesus, to His disciples, not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God.  (Paraphrase: “Don’t Anticipate; Participate!”)

In the present period (today) of God the Father’s eternal plan, His kingdom on earth is composed of both “good” and “bad” “seeds and fruits”.  Only through God the Father’s judgment “at the end of the age” will the sinful, “bad weeds from bad seeds”, be eliminated.  Until then, Jesus’ disciples must be patient and preach true repentance on the part of  all His disciples and on the part of all “who have ears” and “ought to hear.

 

Just as nature teaches us patience (so Franciscan of a principle), so too does God the Father’s patience teach us to guard His “Word” which “seed” He Himself planted in our hearts, minds, and souls.  We must be cautious of the devastating power of sin and evil destroying our “harvest”.  God’s “Word” brings life; but Satan’s evil, at the same time, searches to destroy the “good seed” planted in those hearts and souls who have heard God’s “Word” with “thin” roots.

 

God’s judgment is not hasty; but it does (and will) come.  In the end, God will reward each of us, individually and personally, according to what was sown and reaped in our earthly life.  On that day, God will separate the evil “weeds” from the good “wheat”.  Do you allow God’s “Word” to take (and keep) a deep and well-nourished “root” in you?

Т

 

Can you picture someone coming in the night, sneakily and purposefully planting a poisonous weed in a field, a weed which in its first stage of growth resembles wheat?  For me, the image presented here, is of evil being directed and governed by Satan himself.  The image of those “asleep” (verse 25) is representative of those disciples of Jesus Christ not keeping ever-vigilant to His good message and works, and at the same time, becoming oblivious to the devils’ cunning and deceptions.

This weed that resembles wheat is called “cockle”.  It looks very much like wheat, but if harvested and ground up with the wheat, it would contaminate the flour.  Any bread made from this contaminated flour would cause severe nausea when consumed.  In first-century Palestine, vengeance sometimes took the form of sowing “cockle” among enemies wheat.  Roman law even prescribed penalties for this specific crime.

With today’s polarized political environment, I think back to a passage I read in a book by the founder of the Opus Dei’s:

The situation is clear — the field is fertile and the seed is good; the Lord of the field has scattered the seed at the right moment and with great skill. He even has watchmen to make sure that the field is protected. If, afterwards, there are weeds among the wheat, it is because men have failed to respond, because they — and Christians in particular — have fallen asleep and allowed the enemy to approach.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 123)

 

Т

 

The word “harvest” is a common biblical metaphor for the time of God’s judgment.  Other references can be found in the following Old Testament verses:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trodden; Yet a little while, and the harvest time will come for her.” (Jeremiah 51:33);

“Apply the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; Come and tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for great is their malice.” (Joel 4:13);

And,

“For you also, O Judah, a harvest has been appointed.” (Hosea 6:11);

 

The parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast” (verses 31 – 33) illustrate the amazing contrast between the small beginnings of the kingdom and its marvelous expansion – – through the abilities of the Holy Spirit – – working in each of us personally and individually.  Similar parables can be found in Marks and Luke’s Gospels:

“He said, ‘To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.  But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.’”  (Mark 4:30-32);

And

“Then he said, ‘What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and “the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”’  Again he said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.’”  (Luke 13:18-21).

 

What does the image represented by “birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (verse 32)?  Well, we can read in the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel for a possible answer:

“On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.  It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar.  Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.”  (Ezekiel 17:23);

In its boughs nested all the birds of the air, under its branches all beasts of the field gave birth, in its shade dwelt numerous peoples of every race.”  (Ezekiel 31:6);

“These were the visions I saw while in bed: I saw a tree of great height at the center of the world.  It was large and strong, with its top touching the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of the earth.  Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, providing food for all. Under it the wild beasts found shade, in its branches the birds of the air nested; all men ate of it.” (Daniel 4:7-9);

 And,

“’My lord,’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘this dream should be for your enemies, and its meaning for your foes.  The large, strong tree that you saw, with its top touching the heavens, that could be seen by the whole earth, which had beautiful foliage and abundant fruit, providing food for all, under which the wild beasts lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air dwelt — you are that tree, O king, large and strong!  Your majesty has become so great as to touch the heavens, and your rule extends over the whole earth.’” (Daniel 4:17-19). 

I believe the “birds” are God’s creations – – US!  And the tree rooted on earth and touching heaven is Jesus Christ.  If we choose to live in His branches, under His outstretched “wings” which shelter us, we will gain a way to eternal paradise with Him.

 

The tiny mustard seed in today’s parable literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they love the little black mustard seeds the tree produce.  I speculate God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion.  It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts, minds, and souls of those who listen to God’s “Word”, growing and outstretching for others to rest and feed upon.  

Т

 

God’s kingdom works unseen, causing a transformation – – a conversion – – from within.  The action of “yeast” is a powerful agent of change.  A basic lump of dough, by itself, remains just what it is, – – a lump of soft, gooey, dough.  But when a tiny amount “yeast” (and heat of the oven)  is added to this gooey, sticky, mess, a transformation takes place which produces a sweet smelling, delicious, and wholesome bread – – a staple of life for humans long before the use of “manna”.

The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive His message, and then wish to take on the “new” life Jesus Christ offers.  When we believe in, and submit to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of His Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  Paul the Apostle says:

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

In the above verse, “earthen vessels” is a reference to the fragile instruments God uses: US!!  When I hear “earthen vessels”, besides the song made popular by the St. Louis Jesuits of the 1970’s, I also imagine the small terracotta lamps mentioned in the bible, from which light is emitted to open the darkness.  Just imagine!  When we submit to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the lamp which holds the light of God’s kingdom piercing through the darkness of spiritual death.  Jesus even goes so far as to say elsewhere:

You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14).

Previously, Jesus also said:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

With both “light” verses in mind, it makes me think about a part of the Nicene Creed:

Light from light, true God from true God” (Nicene Creed)

Т

 

Verse 33 talks of “the kingdom of heaven is like yeast”.  This parable is also found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel:

Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:12).

Yeast” (and “leaven“) is used in the New Testament as a symbol of corruption and false teaching.  Other sources for this image can be found in all three Synoptic Gospels, the first letter to the Corinthians, and the letter to the Galatians:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread?  Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6, 11-12);

“He enjoined them, ‘Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’” (Mark 8:15);

“Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.  He began to speak, first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.’” (Luke 12:1);

Your boasting is not appropriate.  Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?  Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened.  For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthian 5:6-8);

And,  

A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:9).

 

My mom used to make bread weekly.  We had bowls of bread “rising”, literally, all over the house on baking day.  However, she used nowhere close to the amount of flour talked about in today’s reading.  “Three measures” of flour is an enormous amount of flour, enough to feed a hundred people easily (or my four teenagers for one afternoon).  The exaggeration of this amount of flour directs us to the immense “greatness” and “Joy” God’s kingdom’s has on our soul.

Т

 

Today’s reading states that Jesus “spoke to them only in parables”.  Let us all remember what Jesus said in last Sundays Gospel:

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.‘  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’” (Matthew 13:10-15).

 

Some biblical texts have verse 34 reading “Isaiah the prophet” instead of “the prophet”.  This particular quote originates in Psalm 78:

 “I will open my mouth in story, drawing lessons from of old.” (Psalm 78:2).

 

Psalm 78 can be considered a “historical” psalm, attributed to “Asaph”, a founder of one of the “guilds” of Temple musicians.  He was called “the prophet” (“the seer” in the NAB version) in the Epistle, 2 Chronicles:

“King Hezekiah and the princes then commanded the Levites to sing the praises of the LORD in the words of David and of Asaph the seer.  They sang praises till their joy was full, then fell down and prostrated themselves.” (2 Chronicles 29:30).

Т

 

From today’s reading, Jesus “dismissing the crowds” and returning to “the house” (verse 36) indicate a change from Jesus’ focus from the crowds, who represent unbelieving Israel.  From this point on, His attention will be directed increasingly toward His disciples – – and to their needed instruction in the faith and the mysteries of the kingdom.  The remainder of today’s discourse from Jesus is addressed solely to His followers.

 

The direct story of “the parable of the weeds” emphasizes the fearful and dreaded end of the “children of the evil one”, whereas the parable’s reflective meaning concentrates on patience with the “children of the evil one” until judgment time at the “end of the age” (the Parousia), the fullness of Jesus’ personal presence.

 

Components and Meanings of
“The Parable of the Weeds”

1)  “He who sows good seed”                   The Son of Man – – Jesus Christ
2)  “The field”                                              The world
3)  “The good seed”                                 The children of the kingdom
4)  “The weeds”                                       The children of the evil one
5)  “The enemy who sows”                       The devil
6)  “The harvest”                                     The end of the age – –  the Parousia
7)  “The harvester”                                  The heavenly Angels
8)  “The Son of Man will                           They will collect out of His kingdom
send his angels”                                    all who cause others to sin and
all evildoers (the Separation)
9)  “Just as weeds are collected                The end of the age of deception
and burned (up) with fire”                     and corruption

 

The “field” is an image or symbol for the world being transformed by His power of restorative life flowing from His personal Resurrection after His death on the Holy Cross, as a sacrifice not only for all His followers, but also for the world itself.  Thus, this image reveals Jesus as the Son of God having “all power in heaven and on earth“:

“Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” (Matthew 28:18).

 

I love the poetic beauty in the phrase, “the end of the age”.  This phrase can only be found in Matthew’s Gospel:

“Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous.” (Matthew 13:40, 49);

“As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3);

And,

Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

You may also know this phrase by the other name I have been using throughout many previous reflections: Parousia.  As a review, “Parousia” is the coming of Christ on Judgment Day.   One may also hear it being called: the Second Advent, or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

 

Verse 41 of today’s reading states that His angels “will collect out of His kingdom – -”.  “His kingdom” is the kingdom of Jesus Christ as distinguished from that of God the Father (verse43):

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”  Matthew 13:43)

Jesus, at the Parousia, will hand over His kingdom on earth to His heavenly Father:

At His coming, those who belong to Christ then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to His God and Father, when He has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. (1 Corinthians 15:23-25).

 

I believe the Catholic Church is the place where Jesus’ kingdom is manifested.  However, His royal authority embraces the entire world:

“He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.” (Matthew 13:38).

 

The last verse (verse 43) in today’s Gospel reading reminds me of a verse from the Old Testament’s Daniel:

“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 12:3)

Т

 

In conclusion, contained within these parables found in Matthew’s 13th chapter, are words of warning as well as words of comfort.  In the parable of “the Sower”, we are warned against judging others.  Remember, to judge and uproot the “weeds” prematurely will produce harm to the “wheat”.  We need to remember that the final judgment rests solely with God.

In the parables of the “mustard seed” and the “yeast”, we are comforted by God’s message that He will work wonders and produce abundance from even the smallest beginnings of His Kingdom of Heaven – – from our smallest amount of faith, hope, and love.

Taken together, the three parables found in today’s Gospel (“Weeds”, “Mustard Seeds”, and “Yeast”) offer both a serious reminder about the reality of the Kingdom of God now, while, at the same time, words of encouragement for His followers.  As the “wheat” and the “weeds” must grow together until the harvest, so too is it that we will discover how our actions have truly contributed to bringing about God’s Kingdom when the time of God’s complete fulfillment under Jesus’ presence occurs.  With Jesus’ word of warning made apparent to us, we should live our lives always in a prayerful awareness that our actions may be consistent with God’s plans.  Thus, we should often ask God the Father and Jesus Christ to work through us by way of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of making His Kingdom of Heaven expand to all earthly creatures.

Good and evil are “sown” in our hearts like tiny, germinating, seeds by what we hear and believe.  In due time, there will be a harvest of either “good” or “bad” fruits.  At the “end of the age” each of us will reap what has been sown in our life.  Those who sowed good fruits will shine in the kingdom of their Father.  They will shine with the beauty, joy, and fullness of God’s love.  However, at the same time, the “bad” fruits will burn in an un-quenching fire of pain, misery, and “gnashing of teeth”.  Please allow the love of Christ to rule in your heart and in your actions!

Set aside a little time this week to reflect on what Jesus Christ meant when He taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a “mustard seed” and “yeast”.  In today’s three parables, Jesus teaches that God the Father can work wonders with even the smallest amounts of faith, hope, and love.  This means that even the little things will make a big difference in the lives of others.  What are some of the little things that you can do to help make things better for others?  Decide on one action to take, and then pray that God the Father will use your action to make a difference in the world.  DON’T ANTICIPATE; PARTICIPATE!!

ТТТ

 

Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 86

 

“Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.
LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help.
All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name.
For you are great and do wondrous deeds; and you alone are God.
But you, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true.
Turn to me, have pity on me; give your strength to your servant; save this child of your handmaid.  Amen
” (Psalm 86:5-6,9-10,15-16)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

ТТТ

 

 

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 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 used 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

 

 

ТТТ

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Servant of God Francis Garcés and Companions (c. 1781)

 

Government interference in the missions and land grabbing sparked the Indian uprising which cost these friars their lives.

A contemporary of the American Revolution and of Blessed Junipero Serra, Francisco Garcés was born in 1738 in Spain, where he joined the Franciscans.  After ordination in 1763, he was sent to Mexico.  Five years later he was assigned to San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, one of several missions the Jesuits had founded in Arizona and New Mexico before being expelled in 1767 from all territories controlled by the Catholic king of Spain.  In Arizona, Francisco worked among the Papago, Yuma, Pima and Apache Native Americans.  His missionary travels took him to the Grand Canyon and to California.

Friar Francisco Palou, a contemporary, writes that Father Garcés was greatly loved by the indigenous peoples, among whom he lived unharmed for a long time.  They regularly gave him food and referred to him as “Viva Jesus,” which was the greeting he taught them to use.

For the sake of their indigenous converts, the Spanish missionaries wanted to organize settlements away from the Spanish soldiers and colonists.  But the commandant in Mexico insisted that two new missions on the Colorado River, Misión San Pedro y San Pablo and Misión La Purísima Concepción, be mixed settlements.

A revolt among the Yumas against the Spanish left Friars Juan Diaz and Matias Moreno dead at Misión San Pedro y San Pablo.  Friars Francisco Garcés and Juan Barreneche were killed at Misión La Purísima Concepción (the site of Fort Yuma).

Comment:

In the 18th century the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest saw Catholicism and Spanish rule as a package deal.  When they wanted to throw off the latter, the new religion had to go also.  Do we appreciate sufficiently the acceptable adjustment our faith can make among various peoples?  Are we offended by the customs of Catholics in other cultures?  Do we see our good example as a contribution to missionary evangelization?

Quote:

On a visit to Africa in 1969, Pope Paul VI told 22 young Ugandan converts that “being a Christian is a fine thing but not always an easy one.”

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)

ТТТ

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Creation and St. Francis

 

How do human beings compare to animate and inanimate creatures?   How do they differ fundamentally?

Saint Francis is called the “seraphic saint”.  What is the special characteristic associated with the angels called “seraphs”?

 

 

ТТТ

 

 

 

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.

Т

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.

 

ТТТТТТТТ

 

Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

 

Day 5  Sun, 7/17

 

Imitation: Cont.: Book 3, Chap. 40

Wherefore, but I did know well, how to cast from me all human comfort, either for the sake of devotion, or through the necessity by which I am compelled to seek Thee, because there is no man that can comfort me. Then might I deservedly hope in Thy favor, and rejoice in the gift of a new consolation. Thanks be to Thee from Whom all things proceed, as often as it happens to me, I, indeed, am but vanity and nothing in Thy sight, an inconstant and weak man. Where, therefore, can I glory, or for what do I desire to be thought of highly?

Forsooth of my very nothingness; and this is most vain. Truly vainglory is an evil plague, because it draws away from true glory, and robs us of heavenly grace. For, while a man takes complacency in himself, he displeases Thee; while he looks for human applause, he is deprived of true virtues. But true, glory and holy exultation is to glory in Thee, and not in one’s self; to rejoice in Thy Name, but not in one’s own strength. To find pleasure in no creature, save only for Thy sake. Let Thy Name be praised, not mine; let Thy work be magnified, not mine; let Thy Holy Name be blessed, but let nothing be attributed to me of the praise of men. Thou art my glory; Thou art the exultation of my heart; in Thee, will I glory and rejoice all the day; but for myself, I will glory in nothing but in my infirmities.

 

Now recite the daily prayers for Part 1

 

Prayers to be recited during these first twelve days          7/13-7/24

 

Veni Creator

 

Come, 0 Creator Spirit blest!
And in our souls take up thy rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Great Paraclete! To Thee we cry,
O highest gift of God most high!
O font of life! 0 fire of love!
And sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts art known,
The finger of God’s hand we own;
The promise of the Father, Thou!
Who dost the tongue with power endow.
Kindle our senses ‘from above,
And make our hearts o’erflow with love;
With patience firm and virtue high
The weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
And grant us Thy true peace instead;
So shall we not, with Thee for guide,
Turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
The Father and the Son to know,
And Thee through endless times confessed
Of both the eternal Spirit blest.
All glory while the ages run
Be to the Father and the Son
Who rose from death; the same to Thee,
O Holy Ghost, eternally. Amen.

 

Ave Maris Stella

 

Hail, bright star of ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.
Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva’s name.
Break the captives’ fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.
Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.
Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.
Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus
Joy forevermore.
Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

 

Magnificat

 

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation to generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath showed might in His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat; and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 

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


 

“Palm Sunday”

Т

 

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

Т

 

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.

Т

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/

Т

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)

Т

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

Т

 

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!”

Т

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.

Т

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)

Т

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.

Т

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.

Т

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)

Т

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.

Т

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.

Т

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!

Т

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.

Т

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.

Т

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).

Т

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.”

Т

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.

Т

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)?

Т

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.

Т

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.

Т

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.

Т

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

Т

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

 

Т

 

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)

Т

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?

Т

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.

Т

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.

“Freedom is NOT Free! It Comes With a Price, Responsibility, and a Great Reward!” – John 8:31-42†


 

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

Т

 

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

 

This weekend is Palm Sunday.  We are approaching the climax of the preparatory Lenten Season.  Please remember to take your “old” palms back to your Church; they will be used to make ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday.  

Isn’t it remarkable that a simple item such as a leaf (palm) not only signifies the climax of Jesus power and authority over death for us, but is also used to signify the beginning of next year’s preparations leading up to eternal life.  How awesome.

Т

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   799 – Death of Paul the Deacon, Italian monk and chronicler
†   1055 – Bishop Gebhard van Eichstattt named Pope Victor II
†   1111 – Pope Paschalis II crowns Roman catholic-German King Hendrik II
†   1204 – The Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople.
†   1250 – The Seventh Crusade is defeated in Egypt, Louis IX of France is captured.
†   1256 – The Grand Union of the Augustinian order formed when Pope Alexander IV issues a papal bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae.
†   1346 – Pope Clemens VI declares German emperor Louis of Bavaria, envoy
†   1506 – Birth of Peter Faber, French Jesuit theologian (d. 1546)
†   1556 – Portuguese Marranos who revert back to Judaism burned by order of Pope
†   1570 – Birth of Guy Fawkes, English Catholic conspirator during the “Eighty Years War” (d. 1606)
†   1742 – George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah makes its world-premiere in Dublin, Ireland.
†   1829 – The British Parliament grants freedom of religion to Roman
Catholics.
†   1943 – Catholic University Nijegen closes
†   1986 – Pope John Paul II met Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff at Rome synagogue
†   Feasts/Memorials: The Feast Day of St. Martin the Confessor in the Greek Orthodox Church; Saint Martinus I;  Saint Hermenegild; Caradoc; Carpus; Maximus; Blessed Ida of Boulogne

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

 

Т

 

 

Quote of the Day:

 

“The cause of Freedom is the cause of God!” ~ William Lisle Bowles, Edmund Burke

 

 

Т

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ teaching on freedom as found in John’s Gospel.

  

 

 (NAB John 8:31-42) 31 Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  35 A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  36 So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.  37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham.  But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.  38 I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”  39 They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”  Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.  40 But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this.  41 You are doing the works of your father!” (So) they said to him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.”  42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

 

 

When the word “freedom” is thrown about in conversations nowadays it appears to be meant as a “freedom to do as I please regardless of others wants, needs, or feelings”!!  This concept [and misrepresentation] of “freedom” is simply a pretense, a sham, for being a slave to one’s desires, passions, unruly behaviors, and inappropriate words.  It demonstrates, encourages, and strengthens the true power of sin in this world. 

Jesus offers His disciples a “true” freedom – – a freedom from the slavery of fear emitting from oneself and others, the slavery of selfishness in one’s own actions, and the freedom from hurtful and immoral desires, passions, and behaviors coming through the power of sin.

 

The Jewish people’s genealogical and religious origin, which includes Jesus’, is nearly always stated as beginning “before Abraham“.  As their destiny developed over many millennia in both religious and societal aspects, God the Father’s “truth”, coming through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, will free them from sin and death.

Jesus answered them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.’” (John 8:34);

And,

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (John 8:51)

 

A glaring and potent editorial-type sermon was offered for those who truly followed and recognized Jesus as the “Messiah”, standing there among the vast number of Temple leaders and other Jews who did not recognize His divinity, as He talked to the “Jews who believed in Him”.  Evidence of this split in beliefs and identity in Jerusalem-based Judaic society can be found a few verses later, when non-believing Jews are described as plotting to kill Jesus.

I know that you are descendants of Abraham.  But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.”  John 8:37

 

Jesus Christ is asking much more from His followers than a “shallow” faith.  His disciples needed (and still need) a “true” faith, trust, and love in God’s word and promises.  God the Father’s words and actions ought to permeate one’s whole life and lifestyle.  Only this type of strong faith can bring one to know the “truth” and to become truly free.

The knowledge of truth is not just an “intellectual” knowledge of an academic and scholarly approach.  Knowledge of truth is more accurately defined as maturing in one’s soul; of one’s original mustard-seed size faith and trust found in “divine revelation”.  Revelation’s climax is found in Jesus Christ’s teachings; it constitutes an authentic, legitimate, and indisputable communication of supernatural life.  Earlier in John’s Gospel, the Evangelist writes:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).

Knowing His “truth” truly knows Jesus Christ, Himself, in an intimate and personal way.  God became man solely to save us!!  “Revelation” is simply realizing that the “inaccessible” God the Father became man; became our Friend; and became our Life in and through Him.  (That’s pretty heavy and deep!)

 

God’s “truth” is the only knowledge which really sets us free.  Knowledge of His truth, – – His word, – – removes us from a position of separation, estrangement, and isolation from the Holy Trinity.  His truth removes us from a state of sin, a state of slavery to Satan, and a state of attachment to a fallen nature.  His truth puts us on the path of friendship, companionship, and intimacy with God and His graces.

In regards to today’s reading, truth is liberating.  Liberation is a true grace, empowering us to keep on the path despite our individual and sin-prone limitations and obstructions.  Liberation, for the purpose of today’s reading, means one’s “inner” transformation, – – conversion – – which is a consequence of knowing God’s truth. This transformation, this conversion, is a spiritual process in which one matures “in true righteousness and holiness”:

Put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”   (Ephesians 4:24). 

As a Secular Franciscan, I have come to realize that we need to seek this “conversion”, this liberation, this freedom in the “truth” on a daily basis.

 

I believe Jesus greets all people, – – friend and foe, – – with the same words as He spoke in verse 33:

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:33)

These words contain both an essential requirement of faith and a stern warning. It requires an honest relationship, in and of, truth, as a condition for authentic and genuine freedom.  We need to also avoid every type of false, deceptive, and misleading freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, and every freedom that fails to enter into the whole “truth” about man and the world.

 

A verse from Today’s reading was made popular in the 1960’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

The truth will set you free.” (John 8:33)

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote on this particular verse and concept of Christianity:

How great a truth is this, which opens the way to freedom and gives it meaning throughout our lives. I will sum it up for you, with the joy and certainty which flow from knowing there is a close relationship between God and his creatures. It is the knowledge that we have come from the hands of God, that the Blessed Trinity looks upon us with predilection, that we are children of so wonderful a Father.  I ask my Lord to help us decide to take this truth to heart, to dwell upon it day by day; only then will we be acting as free men. Do not forget: anyone who does not realise that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love Our Lord above all else.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 26)

 

Т

 

I see an ironic humor in the Jewish peoples answer to Jesus when they said:

We “have never been enslaved to anyone (John 8:33)

Historically, the Jewish people were enslaved almost continuously!  First, they were taken into captive by the Egyptians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians, and ending with the Romans in this story’s era of first century AD Palestine.  I wonder if John is purposely posing a comparison about slavery to sin  and freedom in this particular encounter and event.  (I believe he is.)

The Jewish people present near Jesus Christ during this teaching think He is referring to a political bondage and/or “outside” rule when mentioning being “set free.” In fact, we know that historically they had experienced loss of “freedom” many times, yet they never accepted defeat.  As God’s “chosen people”, they regarded themselves as automatically free of the moral errors and aberrations believed to be ingrained into the “Gentile” peoples and nations.

 

Jesus answers the question posed to Him:

How can you say, ‘You will become free?” (John 8:34),

by telling them:

A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains” (John 8:35)

I believe Jesus is hinting [quite overtly] to the stories about Abraham’s two sons: Ishmael and Isaac (cf., Genesis 16; 21).  Ishmael is born of a slave woman, and given no part in Abraham’s inheritance.  Isaac, a son of a free woman, would be the heir to God’s promises.   Jesus’ answer also referred to the Mosaic Law requiring release of one’s slave after six years, described in the Torah (Old Testament):

When you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall be given his freedom without cost.” (Exodus 21:2);

And,

“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, sells himself to you, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year you shall dismiss him from your service, a free man.” (Deuteronomy 15:12).

 

The Jewish people thought true freedom came with simply belonging to the “chosen” people of God Almighty.  Jesus Christ retorted that it is not enough to simply belong to the genealogical line of Abraham.  True freedom actually consists in not being slaves of sin.  Sadly, most of the Jews present in today’s reading did not understand the redemptive work Jesus Christ was (and is) doing, and which will reach its climax in His death on that Holy Tree of Redemption and His Resurrection.

A human and physical descent from Abraham is NOT enough for inheriting God the Father’s promises and for attaining salvation.  To inherit Gods promises, to attain salvation with and from God the Father, one must identify with Jesus Christ, the “true” and “Only Begotten Son of God the Father”; the only “One” who can make us sons and daughters of God, and thereby bring us to “true” freedom and paradise.  To inherit God the Father’s promises and to attain salvation, one must identify with Jesus Christ through one’s faith and character.

 

 “Freedom finds its true meaning when it is put to the service of the truth which redeems, when it is spent in seeking God’s infinite Love which liberates us from all forms of slavery.  Each passing day increases my yearning to proclaim to the four winds this inexhaustible treasure that belongs to Christianity: ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God!’

Where does our freedom come from? It comes from Christ Our Lord.  This is the freedom with which he has ransomed us.  That is why he teaches, ‘if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’.  We Christians do not have to ask anyone to tell us the true meaning of this gift, because the only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom.(St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 27, 35)

Т

 

Jesus Christ’s inquisitors in this story are spiritually very far away from being “true” children of Abraham.  They did not rejoice in Jesus’ presence.  Abraham rejoiced to see the “Messiah”:

“Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56).

Through Abraham’s faith, he understood “righteousness”:

“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3).

And, Abraham’s faith led him to act without any doubt whatsoever, attaining the “joy” of eternal blessedness:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11);

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’” (Luke 16:24);

And

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.  Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  (James 2:21-24).

Т

 

In verse 38, Jesus refers to “the Father” twice.  We know that He is talking about God the Father (and not the “God Father”). However, I believe the second part of the same verse, “do what you have heard from the Father” is an ironic, cynical, and sarcastic reference to a heredity of the Jews from the devil.  Another way of saying this particular verse can be more easily understood as, “You do what you have heard from [your] father.”  Jesus’ words are made clear two verses further, verse 44:

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

 

Those who live by faith are the “true” sons and daughters of Abraham.  Like him, they will be blessed by God the Father:

“Realize then that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham.  Scripture, which saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, ‘Through you shall all the nations be blessed.’ Consequently, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)

In fact, the very people who are arguing with Jesus Christ have not only rejected His – – God’s – – teachings, their very actions indicate they have a radically different relationship to “God” than that of Abraham.  These people, who are arguing and plotting against Jesus Christ, have a false relationship which is instead actually to Satan.

Here is some “food for thought”:  the false security and twisted belief in Mosaic Law which these Jewish people believed in being descended from Abraham as an “automatic” inclusion in God’s kingdom has a parallel.  The Christian who is comfortable, content, and satisfied with being baptized and then observing very few religious observances (“C&E” Catholics – meaning Christmas and Easter).  Christians not being observant to Church requirements are not living up to a faith, love, and trust God wants from all His followers. 

(I realize I am probably preaching to the “choir” in talking about my frustrations in the lack of observances from many “Catholics” within the Catholic Church.  However, I felt a need to write this.  So please send this reflection blog to all your friends, and enemies, especially those not in communion with the Catholic Church.)

Т

 

What are the “works” Jesus attaches to Abraham in verse 39?  We [should] know Abraham was declared by God to be the father of all the “chosen” people in the Old Covenant kingdom.  Paul says that in this New Covenant, with the coming of Jesus Christ, Abraham’s fatherhood – – his family lineage – – has now extended to those who believe, yet are not “circumcised”, the Gentile Christian Catholics who follow the same path of faith as Abraham.  An excellent resource for this explanation can be found in Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome (Book of Romans) written sometime between the years 56-58 AD, and the Book of James written by an unknown person between the years 90-100 AD:

And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal on the righteousness received through faith while he was uncircumcised.  Thus he was to be the father of all the uncircumcised who believe, so that to them (also) righteousness might be credited, as well as the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised, but also follow the path of faith that our father Abraham walked while still uncircumcised.  It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith.  For if those who adhere to the law are the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.  For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you father of many nations.’  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist.” (Romans 4:11-17);

And,

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.  Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’” (James 2:21-23).

 

The attitude of these Jewish questioners of Jesus Christ was in direct opposition and contradiction of their claim to be children of God.  Otherwise, they would have accepted Jesus Christ as the “One” sent by God the Father.  In rejecting the Only-begotten Son, they became supporters, sons and daughters of God’s enemy: Satan. 

We must be careful, and we must always remember that Satan opposes our Lord Jesus Christ in all ways, and for all time.  Satan is the “father of lies” who seduced our first parents, Adam and Eve.  He is hungry for your soul solely so God can be deprived.  He is still, to this day, continuing to deceive any and all those who yield – – even in the slightest degree – – to his temptations.

Т

 

Jesus Christ set us free from the power of sin with His Coming, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  Through, with, and in the power of His Holy Spirit, indwelling within us, we can walk in His path of trust, love, and sweet holiness.  If we would only listen to the words of Jesus with a humble, contrite, and teachable inner attitude, heart, and soul, He will give us the grace and the power to follow in His example on our personal and unique path to holiness – – to paradise.    Ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to open your ears to His word that you may be attentive to the Holy Trinities influence and divine power.

Jesus Christ came to proclaim, and to accomplish the “will of His Father”, God.  Jesus was not spared from the Holy Tree of Redemption (and Salvation) which He lovingly embraced with a pure love and willing attitude, solely for OUR benefit!  His absolute surrender and obedience to His Father is in response, and as a payment, solely to release all of us from Adam and Eve’s disobedience.  

 

God the Father crowned Jesus with the crown of victory over sin, death, and Satan’s power.  With a crown of thorns as His symbol of kingship, Jesus shows us the way to a true freedom in openly surrendering our heart, mind, soul, and free-will to a magnificent, all-powerful, merciful, and loving God.  What God the Father offers us is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, in this world and the next.  Holy Scripture promises such an offering:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17).

Why do some “believers” NOT want to delight in the warmth and pure love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Trinity experiences a profound “joy” when seeing OUR pleasure and delight in doing God’s will with obedience, a proper spirit, and out of pure love for God and for others of His creation.  Offer yourself to Him daily in what you do and say.  The reward is too great, even for the greatest among us.  

Т

 

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

  

Т

 

New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

Т

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Martin I (d. 655)

 

When Martin I became pope in 649, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the patriarch of Constantinople was the most influential Church leader in the eastern Christian world.  The struggles that existed within the Church at that time were magnified by the close cooperation of emperor and patriarch.

A teaching, strongly supported in the East, held that Christ had no human will.  Twice emperors had officially favored this position, Heraclius by publishing a formula of faith and Constans II by silencing the issue of one or two wills in Christ.

Shortly after assuming the office of the papacy (which he did without first being confirmed by the emperor), Martin held a council at the Lateran in which the imperial documents were censured, and in which the patriarch of Constantinople and two of his predecessors were condemned.  Constans II, in response, tried first to turn bishops and people against the pope.

Failing in this and in an attempt to kill the pope, the emperor sent troops to Rome to seize Martin and to bring him back to Constantinople.  Martin, already in poor health, offered no resistance, returned with the exarch Calliopas and was then submitted to various imprisonments, tortures and hardships.  Although condemned to death and with some of the torture imposed already carried out, Martin was saved from execution by the pleas of a repentant Paul, patriarch of Constantinople, who was himself gravely ill.

Martin died shortly thereafter, tortures and cruel treatment having taken their toll.  He is the last of the early popes to be venerated as a martyr.

Comment:

The real significance of the word martyr comes not from the dying but from the witnessing, which the word means in its derivation.  People who are willing to give up everything, their most precious possessions, their very lives, put a supreme value on the cause or belief for which they sacrifice.  Martyrdom, dying for the faith, is an incidental extreme to which some have had to go to manifest their belief in Christ.  A living faith, a life that exemplifies Christ’s teaching throughout, and that in spite of difficulties, is required of all Christians.  Martin might have cut corners as a way of easing his lot, to make some accommodations with the civil rulers.

Quote:

The breviary of the Orthodox Church pays tribute to Martin: “Glorious definer of the Orthodox Faith…sacred chief of divine dogmas, unstained by error…true reprover of heresy…foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox faith, teacher of religion….  Thou didst adorn the divine see of Peter, and since from this divine Rock, thou didst immovably defend the Church, so now thou art glorified with him.”

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

 

Т

 

    

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Resurrection

 

How does the Mass (and Baptism?) prepare us for death, & for resurrection?

In facing the trials of pain, cancer, and other diseases, it is a natural question that arises in serious illness: “Why me?”  How would (or do) you answer this question?

Ending of the Creed is, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body”.  Do you really believe this, and prepare for it?

 

 

Т

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

Т

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