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“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


  the-Baptism-of-Jesus

“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). 

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

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

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

 “But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.  He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malichi 3:2–3).

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; He shall bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

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“Are You The Wheat, Or Are You the Chaff? Got Me, I Grew Up In The City!” – Luke 3:10-18†


hear 

3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

The history of the Christmas tree has many stories of origin, and has had quite of few adaptations to its usage throughout history.  In my research of the Catholic aspect to Christmas tree history and origin, I left no [xmas] “leaf” unturned.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Christmas Tree

 

Despite many historians’ attempts to link the Christmas tree to an ancient pagan practice, it is actually “Christian” in origin.  Whoa, how is that fact for a baited hook to get you to read on?!

Although it is highly unlikely that the Christmas tree – – as we know it today – – was first used in the 8th Century, some people believe the idea for the tree was invented by St. Boniface at that time.   Legend holds that St. Boniface 14was the first to co-opt the “tree” tradition for Christianity in the 8th century.  He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol.  He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that the evergreen branches pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.  These new “converts” then began worshiping the Balsam fir tree as a Christian symbol. 

There are also claims that the first proper Christmas tree was erected in Riga, Latvia (one of the Baltic States) in 1510.  Today, there is a plaque in the Town Hall Square, in Riga, that is engraved with the text “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510“.  It is believed that this tree was possibly decorated with paper flowers, and then burned during the New Year’s celebration. 

Another legend has Martin Luther as being credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany.  2011-11-13_10-48-16_573_288x287Out on a winter evening one night, while composing a sermon, he was awed by the beauty of the stars.  When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

We do know with certainty that the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays.  One of the most popular “mysteries” was the “Paradise play”, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  It usually closed with Christmas-Fir-Branches-2457977the consoling promise of the coming of the Savior, and referencing to His Incarnation.  These plays were performed in the open, on the large town squares in front of churches, or, sometimes even inside the house of God.  The Garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree with apples hung on the branches.  It represented both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of KNowledge of Good and Evil”, which stood in the center of Paradise:

“Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

When the pageant was performed in church, the “Paradeisbaum” (German for “Tree of Paradise”) was surrounded by lighted candles.  Inside a ring of lights surrounding the tree, the play was performed. 

In the 15th century, after the suppression of the “mystery plays” in the German churches, the symbolic object of the play, the tree itself, found its way into the homes of the faithful, and the Christmas tree then became a symbol of christmas_tree_albert2-747156the “Tree of the Savior”.  During this same time, the custom of a “tree” in the home developed into decorating the “Paradise Tree”, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist.  These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.  Finally, other cookies were introduced to this tradition, bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

The first known documented use of the fir tree as a Christmas tree is found in a description written by a German traveler visiting the city of Strasbourg (in the Alsace region of France, but formerly part of Germany) in 1605.  In this description, he tells of trees being planted in rooms, and that they were ornamented with “roses of colored paper, apples, tinsel, sugar cubes, and cookies”.

Until the 17th century the “Christbaum” (as the tree is called in German, meaning “Christ tree”) had no lights.  The Christmas candles, generally used in medieval times, were placed on a Christmas “pyramid”, made of graduated wooden shelves.  As time went on, the tree replaced the pyramid in its function of representing Christ as the “Light of the World”.  The candles and glittering decorations were eventually transferred from the pyramid to the tree.  

In the 1700’s the Christmas tree custom had spread throughout northern Germany.  People began decorating the tree with candles that were lit on Christmas Eve, a practice still done today in many homes across Europe.  As the 108n-grChristmas tree custom spread through Germany, the Roman Catholic Church eventually recognized the tradition in the early 1800’s.  It was introduced to Vienna in 1816, quickly spreading across Austria, and in 1840 to France by the duchesse d’Orleans.

German immigrants were most likely to have set up the first few Christmas trees in America, as early as 1710.   During the Revolutionary War, Hessian (German) soldiers were responsible for rapidly disseminating the practice throughout the entire US Eastern seaboard.  However, the Christmas tree did not become the principal symbol of Christmas in America, and was not used generally throughout American homes until late in the 19th century. 

treeIn 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was actually German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  As a result of this picture, the popularity of Christmas trees soared both in England and America.  By 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was almost universal.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneer families who settled in areas where evergreen trees were scarce made Christmas trees out of bare branches, painting them green, or wrapping the branches with green paper or cloth.  Sometimes a “tree” would be made by drilling holes in a broomstick and inserting branches of cedar or juniper into it.  Often the only Christmas tree in the community would be in the Church or school.  In the absence of a Christmas tree, presents were often hung by ribbons from a decorated clothesline strung across the corner of a room.

While many Christmas trees are set up in the home around the first of December (or earlier!), and are in the dumpster by January 2, many Catholic families often delay decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, still today.  It is thCAGLANJNappropriate, and a popular custom, to delay lighting the tree and to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve when we celebrate the coming into the world of the infant Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

On Christmas Eve, parents might adorn the tree after small children are asleep, so that the first sight of Christmas morning is the gloriously adorned tree.  Families with older children could even make the decorating of the tree a family affair.  Many families bless their Christmas trees.  A Blessing for the Christmas tree could be said on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through the use of the Christmas tree, we are reminded that our first parents (Adam & Eve) were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption – – by hanging on a tree.  Being reminded that Christ is the “Light of the World” and that His light is everlasting, bringing joy and light into our dark world – – a christmas_angel_tree1-150x150blessing truly appropriate for this great Christian symbol of faith.  Here is a simple blessing for your Christmas tree:

“Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.  May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, which we may always rejoice in the new life which shines in our hearts.  Lord God, may the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.  May its light keep us mindful of the light You brought into the world.  May the joy and peace of Christmas fill all our hearts.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Information obtained from the following sites:
http://www.wf-f.org/04-4-Traditions.html
http://www.christmastreehistory.net/christian
http://catholicexchange.com/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree/

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to Him that He may forgive us, cleanse us, change us, guide us, and save us.  This is the true life of saints.” ~ Blessed John Henry Newman, “Life’s Purpose”, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.  Did you hear what I heard?

hear 

(NAB Luke 3:10-18) 10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing “the way” for Christ.  Recall last week’s reading describing John’s appearance in the desert and establishing his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel.  If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him, and John’s calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance.  

With this in mind, I am starting with a few verses prior to this week’s reading (and also situated between last Sunday’s Gospel and 1211-gospel-lthis Sunday’s, Luke 3:7-9).  In this way, I would like to describe to you the three types of preaching by John the Baptist: (1) eschatological, (2) ethical, and (3) messianic.  An eschatological preaching (1) concerns the human soul (the person) in its relation to His death, judgment, and destinies – – either heaven or hell.  John the Baptist urges the crowds present around him – – getting their feet wet in the faith (and maybe their entire bodies as well) – – to reform their lives in view of the coming “wrath” expected with the appearance and coming of the Lord:

“He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7,9).

John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites.  Why (?): because true, authentic “children of Abraham can be raised up from stones” (Luke 3:8).  Rather, repentance must be observable in one’s actions.  So, the crowds, probably now questionfrightened by his words, ask John the Baptist:

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Hmm, I wonder how often I ask this same question: What am I to do Lord?  I know the answer, and sadly, I don’t like my answer.  Forgive me Lord, please!!  I will try to do better in the future with your help.  Amen.

John answers the crowds by drawing attention to, and preaching on, concrete ethical standards (2) (principles of correct moral conduct) for reforming their social behavior:

He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food shoul03advientoC3d do likewise.’  Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’  Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:11–14).

Interestingly, Luke mentions in particular two groups of people who came to John the Baptist for spiritual advice: tax collectors and Roman (some even Jewish) soldiers.  Both groups were regarded as “dangerous” by the Jewish authorities – – and society as whole.  They were treated as outcasts among both the Jews and the Romans.

John, in his instructions, is saying we must do six seemingly simple, but rather complex, things in order to have a true conversion of heart, body, and soul:

  • ·        SHARE what we have with others: wealth and food;
  • ·        STOP  doing wrong: don’t cheat, extort, or make false accusations;
  • ·        BE SATISFIED with what you have; 
  • ·        BE CHARITABLE;
  • ·        BE JUST; and,
  • ·        BE HONEST.

John does NOT tell them to adopt his desert way of life. He does NOT tell them to make sacrificial offerings or wear sackcloth and ashes.  John the Baptist doesn’t try to purposely upset the existing social order.  However, John DOES call for a real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.LetsBeHonest

The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel and for John the Baptist.  John tells the soldiers to make no false arrests, to be content with their pay, not to take bribes, and not to bully anyone.  When talking to the tax collector, he knew that they were outcasts among the Jewish people, though Jewish themselves.  John knew they were detested as “traitors” by the Jewish people and as nothing more than “robbers” approved by the Roman Government.  As for as the Roman government was concerned, if the tax collectors wanted to collect a little bit more than the government required, that was fine with them.  They could keep the extra money for themselves; all the Roman government was concerned about was getting their tax money!!  

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John obviously knew how to get his message across to these groups of people.  Through his divinely-inspired words – – and witness – – to God the Father and to others around him:

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15).

The people recognized John as an extraordinary man of God and a prophet for their times.  John broke the prophetic silence of the pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagerevious centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God.  His message was similar to the message from the earlier Jewish prophets who scolded the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who cried out BOLDLY to awaken true repentance within them.  

John proclaims his water baptism of his followers to be clearly in immediate preparation for the coming of the actual, true Messiah.  John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation.  He announces to the crowds his messianic preaching (3) (relating to the Messiah instituting of the promised golden age of peace, truth, and happiness), the coming of the “ONE” mightier than he:e0274

John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fireHis winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16–18).

When John the Baptist talks about someone coming who is “mightier and more powerful than he”, John is ultimately speaking NOT of the “earthly” Jesus (though he may not have realized this fact), but the Risen Christ, third_advent_cgrwho baptizes us with the Holy Spirit in a very personal and intimate way.  When John says “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), he is contrasting his prophetic baptism – – just with water – – to Jesus’ additional messianic baptizing with both the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit’s “refining fire”.   When this Gospel was written decades after the Pentecost event, the early Christian community’s point of view understood,  “the Holy Spirit and fire” to be seen in light of the “fire symbolism” found in the “pouring out of the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

Jesus’ “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” fulfilled John’s “water baptism” mission on earth.  Jesus’ baptism will also be accomplished by an “immersion”, an immersion of the repentant in water, and in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.  There will also be an immersion the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s wrath and judgment of them!! 

John’s preaching of the “Holy Spirit and fire” is revealed in, and related to, the purifying and refining characteristics found in Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament):  First, from Ezekiel – –

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of fleshI will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

“Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand firm when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lyeHe will sit refining and purifying silver, and He will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2–3).

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John the Baptist goes on to describe the actions of the coming Messiah Savior in terms this “well entrenched urban city” boy just cannot understand:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Iwinnowing_fork_2 am pretty certain I know what wheat is, but a “winnowing fan” (?), “threshing floor” (?), and “chaff” (?) – – what the heck are these??!!  I definitely had to  research these items, and the why and how they are related to the actions of the coming Messiah Savior.

A “winnowing fan” was a forklike shovel with which the “threshed” (separated) wheat was thrown into the air.  The wheat kernels fell to the ground – – to the “threshing floor” to be picked up later – – while the light “chaff” (the dry covering bracts [modified leafs] of grains being separated by the process of threshing) were “blown off” by the wind, gathered later, and then burned in a nearby fire.

Fire” in Old Testament times was associated with God and with His purifying action in the world, His cleansing actions in the lives of His people.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of fire, such as in the example in the story of the “burning bush” burning_bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses:

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). 

John, in describing the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff, is using the image as a comparison for what will happen to the “good” and the “bad” in this world by God when He returns with His judgmental and saving actions in the person of the RISEN CHRIST!

In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used with regard to the Holy Spirit, who comes to cleanse us from sin and to make utongues-of-fires holy:

 “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).

God’s fire purifies and refines.  This refining purification, through baptism, confirmation, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when He comes again.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit results in a “new birth” and entry into God’s kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters:

Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). 

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John the Baptist ends his preaching in today’s Gospel with a message of hope:

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)

For me, God’s “Word” ALWAYS offers hope, even in the most dismal of circumstances characters in the bible seem to get into.  After all, they enter those bad circumstances, usually, not because of God Himself, but because of them turning their backs on BIBLEHim!!  God was (and is) always with them, even in the BAD times; they just did not believe in his “word”, nor could they realize His presence!  So, read the Bible, re-read the Bible with YOU as the character in these stories, and then re-re-read the Bible so that you realize that the 73 books which make up this great “Bible” (in the Catholic edition) are truly “instructions” on how to live as a Catholic Christian and an honorable son or daughter of God in the world!!

The third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”.  “Gaudete”, a Latin word – – meaning “rejoicthCA2A51IGe”, with its form being a “command” – – is another way of exhorting hope.  This command to rejoice is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-6).

The Catholic Church obeys this command by lighting a pink candle instead of another purple one already on the Advent wreath.  In doing so, it is a reminder that the Advent season is a “Season of JOY” and “Re-Joy-Sing” [rejoicing] because our salvation is truly already at hand.

John the Baptist’s message of “good news” inspired many to believe God was about to do extraordinary things in their midst.  John the Baptist’s task – – his mission – – was simply to awaken the interest of his people to God’s “Word”, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive the Messiah when He appearance on the scene.

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. summarize titleToday, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: (1) the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and (2) the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  John’s teaching to the crowd suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation.  He is encouraging them to follow his model of faith and hope in their own personal Horizontal_Logo9life’s positions and status.  It is our personal, human cooperation in His divine plans that is THE great mystery of God’s initiative to empower and to encourage each of us to participate – – through our believing and rejoicing – – in His plan.

John the Baptist basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in His way of love and righteousness.  Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed it has the power to awaken the faith in people, thepathofsinandrighteousnessand to change their lives for good.  John’s baptism was for repentance; a turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s “Word”.  

Hmm, my life has its own temptations, and its own opportunities to take advantage of others, using them for my own personal gain.  Does yours?  As I prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, I will consider my own life situation, my own temperament, and my own personality in heeding John the Baptist’s words from today’s reading.  I believe I may need to make some adjustments.  How ‘bout you?

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. conclusionThe theme of the season for Advent is sometimes described as “a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ”.  However, today’s Gospel reading suggests something much different.  John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to wait for the Messiah.  Instead, he told them to prepare for the Messiah through acts of repentance.  If RepentBelieveTheGoodNewsBwAdvent is a time of waiting, it is not the “sitting in waiting room or office lobby” kind of waiting.  It is a busy time of preparation, more like the waiting we might do when “preparing for dinner guests”.  Our challenge as Catholic Christians is NOT to make this season a frantic, disordered, and/or apathetic time, but rather a time of “joyful anticipation”, making ready for God who comes to dwell among (and in) us, changing our lives with His gift (grace) of redemptive salvation.

Think about the preparations you are making during this season of Advent period.  Reflect on these activitiechanges, not only on what you are doing but WHY you are “choosing” to do these things.  Remember, Advent is a time for making ourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ – – anew and more – – in our personal lives.  Could you make some changes in your Advent activities so that you are MORE prepared to celebrate the gift of salvation at Christmas?  Hmm, I think I can for sure.  Pray that you, and your family and friends, will be able to live the “spirit” of Advent as it should be, and not as a secular time of the year.  Heck, why not sing an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as you light the third candle on your Advent wreath this evening at dinner.  I will, and I’ll possibly report on the interesting looks I receive from my family members who ALL say I have a voice made for paper!!

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Chuprayerrch: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to His return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which His presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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“It’s a Bird; It’s a Plane; No, It’s Christ! Oh, Oh, I’m NOT Ready Yet!!” – Luke 21:25-28,34-36†


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First Sunday of Advent

 

 . table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For December, 2012

 

General Intention: that all migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity andPope Benedict illustration authentic love, especially by Christian communities.

Missionary Intention: that Christ may reveal Himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of His Church.

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Today, and next Wednesday, I am going to share information on two holiday objects used by all people in a secular way, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Candy Cane”.  However, these items started out as ways to catechize Catholics during times of suppression from governments of the day.  I hope you enjoy the history and meaning behind these items.

 

The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

by Father Edward T. Dowling, S. J | Source: Catholic.net

 

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written by the English Jesuits during the 16th century, though its precise author is unknown.  The carol used obscure symbols to hide its true meaning from the enemy in time of persecution, Henry VIII.  When Henry VIII was rebuffed by Rome in his request to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he declared himself head of the Church in England.  With replacing the Pope, the King demanded all to swear an oath of allegiance to him as head of the Church.  St. Thomas More, the “Chancellor of the Realm”, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today), refused the oath, and Henry VIII had him publicly beheaded.  During this time, Catholic convents and monasteries were closed and looted.  

The situation was made worse under his son, Edward VI, and better during the short reign of Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. However, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, an ardent Protestant and the daughter of Anne Boleyn.  The practice of the Catholic faith was banned.  Priests were exiled and forbidden under pain of Twelve Days of Christmasdeath from returning or performing the sacraments.  It was a desperate, dreadful time.

With this as a background we can see the need for secrecy and deception.  “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and, at the same time, not be obvious to persecutors in the area.  The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts. Recall the words of the song: 

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, nine drummers drumming, Twelve_days_Wordleeight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

The song celebrates the liturgical Christmas season, starting on Christmas Day and ending twelve days later on the “Feast of the Epiphany”.  

·        My true love” refers to God, and “me” is the individual Catholic.

·        The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. 

·        The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. 

·        The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. 

·        The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. 

·        The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. 

·        The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. 

·        The “six geese a laying” are for both the Six Commandments of the Church and the six days of creation. 

·        The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. 

·        The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. 

·        The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God and the three gifts of the Wise Men. 

·        The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine and the two Testaments, Old and New. 

·        The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself,

And,

·        The “pear tree” is the Holy Cross.

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=3465

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bag_of_moneyBy the way, all the items mentioned in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would cost $107, 300 (US) in today’s costs.  This is a 6.1% increase from last year.

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

Luke21v25to36_2003

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples to be vigilant and ready for when the “Son of Man” comes in glory.  Are you “vigilantly ready”?

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(NAB Luke 21:25-28,34-36)  25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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. Reflection Gospel Reflection:

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, also called the first Sunday of a new liturgical year.  The Advent sAdvent1eason includes the four Sundays proceeding Christmas Day and is a time of preparation for the “coming of the Lord”.  During the Advent season, we recall two essential and foundational elements of our faith:

  • ·        The final coming of the Lord “in glory”;

And,

  • ·        the “incarnation” of the Lord – – through the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

The key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, spiritual preparation, and realizing God’s loving justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Luke will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (for you techno-missal-geeks, we will be using Lectionary Cycle C).  Today’s Gospel is taken from the chapter just luke-gospel-bannerbefore Luke’s “passion narrative” in which Jesus teaches in the Holy Temple.  Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him soon!  He is preparing, and giving hope and good counsel, and fair warning, to His disciples.  Today’s reading has Jesus speaking to His disciples about the need for “vigilance and prayer” as they wait for the coming of the “Son of Man in glory”.  

Jesus has already predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, warned about the persecution and tribulations to follow, and is now identifying the “signs” signaling the “coming of the Son of Man in glory” to come.

From a historical viewpoint, the community – – the audience and readers – – for whom Luke wrote his GosStLukepel may have believed that they were already experiencing some of the events Jesus described – – and they would be RIGHT!  Luke, a Syrian from Antioch, wrote his Gospel and the Book of the “Acts of the Apostles” as a two-volume work in the late 90’s.  At that time of Luke’s Gospel, many Catholic Christians interpreted the Temple’s destruction as an indication that Jesus’ “second coming” was very close at hand.

Luke, through his writings, shifts the early Christian emphasis away from an expectation of an imminent, about to happen – – NOW – – “Parousia” event, to that of a day-to-day concern of the Catholic Christian community – – in “waiting” – – individually, and as a Church.  Luke is more concerned with presenting the “Words” and deeds of Jesus as instructions for the conduct of His Christian disciples during the intervening period between His Ascension and the His Second Coming, the Parousia – – whenever it is to happen.  He also presents Jesus Christ Himself, as the model for a proper Catholic Christian life of goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. 

Jesus’ eschatological discourse concerns doctrines (truths) about the human soul in its relation to death, personal judgment, heaven, and hell.  Jesus is urging His disciples – – and at the same time, the eschatology-kidsCatholic Church as a whole – – inspiring them to be to be faithful and obedient through the trials and tribulations which WILL confront them – – and ALL OF US! (Sounds just like what is happening today!  Please re-read my “Five stages of Persecution” in last Sunday’s blog for more on this subject.)  

Jesus, through Luke, is urging a necessity to be constantly “vigilant” (literally meaning “watchful”) and not to have a misguided “Messianic hope” of deliverance from our trials and tribulations.  We need to remember that no one but the Father knows the precise time of the Parousia:

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

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Jesus’ “Second Coming” WILL be preceded by signs.  Could Jesus’ “sign” be the presence of the bleak outrages and scandals coming from the Roman power profaning the Temple then(?) and the direct attacks on the Catholic Church from without and within today(?) – – NOW(?) – -!  It certainly seems reasonable to me, so I’m definitely preparing!

So, what are these signs to be?  Luke, being very astute at researching issues, looked for answers throTraffic-signs-theme-vector-material2ughout Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) and John’s prophetic book, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”:

From a sling, wrathful hailstones shall be hurled.  The waters of the sea will be enraged and flooding rivers will overwhelm them” (Wisdom 5:22);

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

“When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its starsThe sun I will cover with clouds; the moon will not give light (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness … I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, Before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day … Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10; 3:3–4; 4:15);

“Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood.  The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind.  Then the sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).

Luke relates that the “powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).  Is this a reference to the “cosmic angelic armies” – – Satan’s armies – – manifesting themselves?  Or, is it a reference to the physical celestial properties we know in our sphere of earthly human knowledge?  I believe it is “Both/And”.  That our physical environment is under the authority of God and the responsibility and authority which God delegated to the angels before they “fell from grace”.

The Lord continually forewarned His “chosen” family that there will be a periodic “shaking” and other “signs” we should pay attention to.  In the Old Testament, Haggai warns Zerubbabel:

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: In just a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land … Speak to Zerubbabel*, the governor of Judah: I will shake the heavens and the earth(Haggai 2:6, 21).

*(Zerubbabel was a descendant of King David and was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah (cf., Haggai 1:1).  He led the first group of Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity around 538 BC.  Zerubbabel also laid the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem soon after their return.  Per Haggai, Zerubbabel will also have a “servant” role in God’s future Israelite kingdom – – to be established – – when God intervenes to overthrow the nations.  )

Now, in the New Testament era, God counsels the Judeo-Christian family in the Letter to the Hebrews:

See that you do not reject the one who speaks.  For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.  His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’  That phrase, ‘once more,’ points to [the] removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.  Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.  For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Since this is the case when the Parousia happens, I can see why many will be so frightened.  Hoz202092960wever, though I will always have apprehension and some “fear” of this incomprehensible event.  God’s revelation and promise in Jesus helped to be prepared and constantly vigilant.  In my spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, I am eagerly awaiting His return daily, – – or whenever it shall occur.  We do this at every Mass when the Priest right after the “Our Father” prayer, when the Priest prays:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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Another “sign” prophesied in today’s reading is:

“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). 

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finCross_Globeish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Remember, Jesus always referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” and never as “the Son of God”!  Why do you think Jesus chose this specific title?  Hmm, He had a great reason, as you will soon find out.

Daniel’s vision [above] is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes directly from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  

The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns, He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on to reveal that He will be:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing specific Scriptural words.  He is referencing Jewish Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy:SecondComingOfChrist

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

* (“Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author. It translates to, “the dear upright people“. This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.  It is a term that can be applied to the Catholic Church.)

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of divinity. The image of the ATT00001cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is found extensively throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “divine person” (as well as being the “human” king) who will come “in power and glory”.

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The last half of today’s reading is a collection of “sayings” relating to Luke’s understanding of the “end time” and the return of Jesus – – the Parousia event. Luke emphasizes – – for his readers – – the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus in the period before the Parousia event Bible%2520-%2520Instruction%2520Manualoccurs.  This book was written long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The early Catholic Christian expectations of an “imminent” second return of Jesus had to obviously undergo some modification.  So, Luke cautions his readers against counting on this delay and acting irresponsibly.  A similar warning can be found earlier in Luke’s Gospel:

“But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful (Luke 12:45–46);

These verses are a warning for Jesus’ disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, during the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an implied acknowledgement of the “Final Judgment”, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in the course of this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us.

As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” NOW!!  Live holy lives; rejoice in hope; be alert to the various Eschatology_False-Prophets_620deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).

 Make use of a radical simplicity in life.  All our material possessions will no longer benefit, nor be of benefit, to us after the Parousia event: they will burn in the purifying fire on that day:header

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.  Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17);

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.  Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.  But according to His promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

BBePreparede in a state of constant awareness and perpetual readiness and anticipation.  Also, be in constant personal spiritual growth – – the best way to prepare.  Luke is warning us to NOT have the attitude, “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back”.  This is truly a foolish attitude to cultivate.  Live the scouting life: “Be Prepared!!”

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. summarize titleThough Jesus predicts a time of destruction and fear, He indicates that others will be frightened; Jesus’ disciples are instead not to fear, but to stand tall.  However, Jesus goes on to say that He does NOT promise deliverance from anxiety or tribulations in our earthly lives.  Jesus encourages His disciples to pray for strength OFTEN!!  The ealift-up-praiserly Catholic Christian communities did not find consolation in the promise of an ideal and perfect place where ALL live in peace and harmony – – and neither should we today.  Instead, we recognize – – in our Catholic Christian faith – – the instrument and ways by which we can witness to God’s unfailing love for us in ALL circumstances, even the rough times.  These instruments are the Holy Sacraments: all contained in the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Jesus’ predictions about the end times may sound dire. However, in the very next verses in Luke’s Gospel, just after today’s reading ends, he tells us that people woke early to listen to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple area:

During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.  And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area” (Luke 21:37-38).

In His personhood and in His personal message to those who listen, strength and consolation will be found.  Like the first Catholic Christians, we will certainly encounter and experience events and cirthCAM75JLMcumstances leading us to periods of despair in our lives.  (After all, we are ONLY human – – but saved by His grace.)  Therefore, through prayer, we find strength and consolation in Jesus’ “Words” and in His continuing presence with us – – through all our trials – – bearing and undergoing, and sometimes suffering together, witnessing to the loving action of God in our world.

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. conclusionSince the early first centuries, many Churches in the east and west have marked “special seasons” to celebrate the central, essential, and foundational “truths” of the Catholic Christian faith.  The Advent season reminds us that we are a “pilgrim people”, exiles from Christ’s eternal heaven, who long for our “true” home with God in His heavenly kingdom.  We are awaiting – – with joyful hope – – the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age – – the Parousia.  

No one but God the Father knows the day of Jesus’ “return in glory”.  But, it is certain that we are living in the end times, the culmination of this present age in God’s plan – – NOW!  The end times MARK_13_32_by_traylor1234began with the “first coming” of Jesus Christ – – through His “Incarnation” and birth – – which we celebrate at Christmas and the Epiphany.  The end times culminates in His return on the “Final Day of Judgment”.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns His disciples against the apathy and lack of vigilance which can surface if one’s spirit becomes depleted by the anxieties of daily life.  Many of us are all too familiar with this kind of fatigue which Jesus is referring to in today’s reading.  It comes with being concerned about ours or another’s health, job security, education, financial problems, and any number of other reasons.  

Yes, ALL these aspects of life are important matters indeed.  Jesus does not promise to end our daily Keep Your Eyes On Jesusworries and fears.  However, He DOES teach His disciples (and us) that they will have the “strength” to withstand these anxieties and trials IF and WHEN we stay focused on Him in our everyday lives.  His disciples need to remain “vigilant” for His second return – – IT WILL HAPPEN – – someday!  His disciples need to be consistent in praying for “strength” to endure all “tribulations”.  Through prayer, God helps us stay focused on what (actually, “WHO”) is most important in our lives – – Jesus Christ!!

Recall your previous traditions of making New Year’s resolutions in preparation for a new calendar year.  Today IS the first Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the new Church year.  During the resolutions1season of Advent, our Gospel readings ask us to consider what (and “WHO”) is most important to us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming, at His birth AND at the “end of time”.

Jesus describes “signs” which surely will disturb and scare many people.  However, Jesus says that these “signs” should not be disturbing to His disciples.  Remember, Jesus in today’s in reading, says that these “signs” indicate “redemption” is near.  He even goes so far as to tell us how to behave:

When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke21:28).

 With this new Church year, what Advent “resolutions” might you make to help you stay focused on Christ; to help you be prepared to receive the salvation which we celebrate at Jesus’ birth, and anticipate at Jesus’ “second coming”.  Pray for God’s help in following through on these “New Year” resolutions you just made.

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Reflection Prayer: 

Psalm 25

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul, my God, in you I trust; do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one is disgraced who waits for you, but only those who are treacherous without cause. Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me by your fidelity and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long. Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me psalm25_4_5according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way, He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth toward those who honor his covenant and decrees. For the sake of your name, LORD, pardon my guilt, though it is great. Who is the one who fears the LORD?  God shows him the way he should choose. He will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The counsel of the LORD belongs to those who fear him; and his covenant instructs them. My eyes are ever upon the LORD, who frees my feet from the snare.

Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart; bring me out of my distress. Look upon my affliction and suffering; take away all my sins. See how many are my enemies, see how fiercely they hate me. Preserve my soul and rescue me; do not let me be disgraced, for in you I seek refuge. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; I wait for you, O LORD. Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!  Amen.

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


Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For August, 2012

General Intention (For Prisoners):

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

Missionary Intention (Youth Witness to Christ):

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

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

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

“Prayer of Jabez: Break Through the Blessed Life”

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

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

 

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

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Today in Catholic History:

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

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

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 Joke of the Day:

  

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other two are found in the following two verses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’” (John18:36).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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

(Prayer for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

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

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

**

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Housewives, waiters, waitresses

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

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Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“If Jesus Felt A Need To Pray, Shouldn’t WE Do Likewise?!” – John 17:11b-19†


    

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

My Oldest son’s (Dan, III) last day of school, and his last day at work was this week.  He leaves for boot camp in a month and a half, planning to be a part of Naval Special Operations Group as an “Aviation Rescue Swimmer”.  He’s NOW a man, and I am still concerned for him – – and SOooo PROUD of him!!  It is hard to describe the feelings I have over his “adulthood” and the danger he has chosen to place himself in for OUR protection (He even had a full-ride scholarship and turned it down to serve our country).  I Love him and want to keep him safe – – but can’t. I can only pray for him instead, placing him in God’s hand.  Please pray for him as well.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   325 – The First Council of Nicaea – the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church – is held
†   1277 – Death of Pope John XXI (b. 1215)
†   1444 – Saint Bernardino of Siena, Italian Franciscan missionary (b. 1380) dies at age 63
†   1470 – Birth of Pietro Bembo, Italian cardinal (d. 1547)
†   1571 – Venice, Spain & Pope Pius form anti-Turkish Saint League
†   1825 – Death of Papaflessas, Greek priest and government official (b. 1788)
†   1906 – Birth of Giuseppe Siri, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1989)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Bernardine of Siena; Saint Lucifer; Saint Austregisilus; Saint Ivo of Chartres; Abercius and Helena

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“I don’t honestly believe that any man or woman can get all priorities in life straight alone.  We will always have doubts, fears, tensions, and wonderings without prayer.  We will continuously feel as if we are involved in a great juggling act with all the balls up in the air at once, soon to come plummeting to the ground.  But before God in prayer, we can get our priorities in right order and become one: one integrated person in Jesus Christ.” ~ Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., “Appointment with God“, Apostolate for Family Consecration

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Today’s reflection: Jesus prays for His disciples

 

(NAB John 17:11b-19) 11 Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.  12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13 But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.  16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  17 Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.  18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The background of today’s reading – – Jesus’ prayer to His Father – – comes at the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell discourse He delivered to His disciples at the Last Supper.  The entire 17th chapter of John’s Gospel is a prayer by Jesus – – to His Father – – entrusting and committing Himself to His Father and expressing His care and concern for His disciples.  At the end of this prayer, Jesus and His disciples depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus will ultimately be arrested, starting His Passion and Execution. 

In reading this “Prayer of Jesus” at Mass during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Jesus Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we hear Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Since the sixteenth century, this 17th chapter of John’s Gospel has been called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus.  Through this “prayer”, Jesus speaks as OUR intercessor.  He uses words addressed directly to God the Father and NOT to His disciples, who instead, probably overhear Jesus at prayer.  

On the eve of His sacrifice on the cross, and in the presence of His disciples, Jesus made His high priestly prayer: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that they may be one as we are one“.  Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples and for ALL who would believe in Him.  Jesus’ prayer for His people is that we be united with God the Father, in His Son, and through His Holy Spirit; and we will be joined together in unity with all who are members of Christ’s body.

Jesus’ prayer is one of petition, starting with His asking for an “intercession” in the reading just prior to today’s (cf., John 17:6–19), and for the “security” of future disciples immediately after this particular Gospel reading (cf., John 17:20–21).  Many phrases appear to be reminiscent of Jesus’ example of “how” WE should pray: “the Our Father” prayer.  

Although still in this world, Jesus already looked on His earthly human ministry as a thing of the past.  Jesus has, up to this time, stated that His disciples could not follow Him:

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” (John 13:33);

Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, where are you going?’  Jesus answered [him], ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.’” (John 13:36).  

Now, in today’s reading, He wishes them to be with Him “in union” with God the Father:

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”  (John 17:12–14).

Several important themes appear throughout Jesus’ prayer to His heavenly Father.  First, Jesus’ prayer reaffirms the complete “union” between Himself and God the Father.  Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has been presented as the “ONE” who preexisted with God the Father, AND, as the “ONE” sent by God the Father to do His work on earth.  In today’s reading, we hear Jesus include ALL His disciples, all of us, in this “union” with His Father.  We are reminded through Jesus’ prayer, that Jesus Christ IS the source of Christian unity.  Through Jesus Christ, we are united with one another AND with God Our Father Himself. 

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So, who is Jesus talking about when He mentions the “son of destruction” in today’s Gospel?  Is it the same “person” John mentioned in a different “title” a few chapters prior:

“I am not speaking of all of you.  I know those whom I have chosen.  But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’” (John 13:18).

I wonder, is Jesus talking about Judas Iscariot, about Satan himself, or about any of his evil disciples on earth?  I believe the answer is, in a way, “YES” to all three possibilities.  What I also believe is that those who follow Jesus with a certainty of faith, trust, and love, will not be overcome by the “son of destruction”!!  John, in his next chapter, will go on to explain this fulfillment of faith, trust, and love: 

“This was to fulfill what he had said, ‘I have not lost any of those you gave me.” (John 18:9).

The above verse (John 18:9) is also referring to two other places in John’s Gospel:

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.” (John 6:39);

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.” (John10:28).

By following Jesus, by have faith, trusting and loving Him, we become His “trusted friend”, eating His “bread”, and thus allowing Him to dwell IN each of us – – nurturing us with His grace:

“Even my trusted friend, who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me” (Psalm 41:10);

When comparing John 13:18 with Psalm 41:10 verse, “Even my trusted friend…has raised his heel against me”, John is characterizing specifically Judas as a false friend.  However, Jesus had many “false friends”, even still today. 

So, Jesus warns His followers about the danger of betrayal, especially toward Himself, or His Heavenly Father:

The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24);

The enormity of such a horrendous deed is such that it would be better not to exist than to do it.  Judas Iscariot was a close disciple of Jesus and should have realized the enormity of his betrayal of Him.  As stated in Bible’s the book of ACTS, Judas was truly and fully warned:

“My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16).

Judas Iscariot was led into an act of deception by not allowing the Holy Spirit to act in and through him.  Instead, Judas allowed the “son of destruction” to claim him.

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Let’s leave Judas and come back to Jesus.  What motivated Jesus to lay down His life on the cross – – as THE atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world?  Well, it was love – – love for His Father in heaven and love for each and every one of us who are made in the image and likeness of God the Father.  Jesus was sent into this world by His Father for a purpose, and that purpose was a mission of love to free each one of us from the slavery to sin, Satan, fear, death, and hopelessness.  Through His endless and infinite love, Jesus dedicated Himself out of pure JOY.

Jesus, in today’s reading, speaks of the joy that can fill each of us who dedicated themselves to His will:

I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely” (John17:13).

A “complete joy” is an important theme for John to relay to his audience.  He previously mentioned a possessing of a “complete joy” in chapter 15 as well:

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

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In this prayer from today’s Gospel, Jesus describes part of His mission in a language of “protection”.  He has protected those who were given – – to Him – – by God the Father; and we hear echoes of dualism reflected throughout.  Beginning with the opening chapter, John has presents Jesus’ human mission in the context of an immense struggle between good and evil – – represented by light and darkness.  In Jesus’ human and divine presence, His disciples have been protected from Satan.  Now, as Jesus is preparing His return to His Father, He prays that His disciples will continue to be protected from the “evil one”.  We can’t help but note the validation of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “the Our Father”.

In Jesus’ prayer to His (and our) Father in Heaven, He utters a simply complex petition resembling a part of the “Our Father Prayer”.  The petition John is referring to in today’s reading is, “deliver us from the evil one.”  

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world j but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

We know this petition is taught to all His disciples, for it can be found in two of the Synoptic Gospels as well, Matthew and Luke:

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13);

Do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:4).

In all three instances of God the Father’s protection from the “final test”, they refer to Satan rather than to abstract evil.

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13);

In Jewish “apocalyptic” writings, a period of severe trial will come to ALL before the end of the age.  This period has sometimes been called the “messianic woes” by some Jewish people, yet even still today.  The three examples of this petition just mentioned (John’s, Matthew’s, and Luke’s) asks for Jesus’ disciples (including us) to be safe a “final test”.  Even Paul’s Second letter to his Thessalonians, and John’s first letter to his roman Jewish Christians, relays this promise of safety and security from Satan and evil:

“The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3);

We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18).

Also present in this 17th chapter is the distinction between the world and the disciples.  Disciples are in the world, but they do not belong “TO” the world.  Like Jesus, they (and we) are sent INTO the world for the world’s salvation, knowing the world may not accept His disciples with open arms.  Again, we hear reverberations of John’s theme of the cosmic battle between light and darkness; the world PREFERING darkness.  However, His “light” will never be overcome by the darkness – – His light of truth will prevail.

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Jesus asks His Father to “consecrate” His disciples “in the truth”, and that “truth” being His “Word”:

Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

So, what is “consecrate”? – – what is “truth”? – – and what is “word”?   To consecrate is to make holy, to set apart, to sanctify.  In essence, consecration is a purification of oneself through the words and actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.  (It is a great flushing out of the old self and a gaining of a new and improved “self” – – with and in Christ.)  Peter teaches about this “purified selves” in his first letter to the Christian communities in Asia Minor (A peninsula of western Asia between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; generally the same area as Asian Turkey.):

 “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Jesus also said, “Consecrate in the Truth”.  What is “truth”?  Per the dictionary, “truth” is something honest and sincere, corresponding to fact, or to reality.  Purifying oneself in the honest and sincere fact and reality of Jesus as the “Son of God”, – – OUR personal Redeemer and Savior – – IS the ultimate goal for any Catholic Christian.  Consecrating or purifying oneself in “truthIS immersing oneself in His “Word”!!  In wrapping ourselves in God’s “Word”, we are wrapping our “selves” into what has ALWAYS been, and will always “BE”:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to beWhat came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

The “Word” is MUCH more than simply words written into a book.  God’s “WordBegan ALL, Created ALL, Lives through ALL, and Lights the way for ALL.  When the Deacon or Priest holds up the book of the Gospels in procession, or at the Reading of His “Word” (in Mass), he is holding up GOD for all to SEE!!  God’s “Word” burns brightly in each of His disciples.  How bright is your flame?

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In the last two verses of today’s reading, Jesus wraps His “truth”, His “Word”, around each of His disciple, cloaking them in His personal love and protection as He sent them (and us) to continue His work in this world:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (NAB John 17:18-19).

From this day forward, the eleven disciples closest to Jesus were now to be forever called “Apostles” (which means, “those sent”), for they were “sent” out to proclaim His “Word”, love, and peace.  This “sending” of the Apostles (and us – His current disciples) is also the subject of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven:

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

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’”  (Mark 16:15);

“And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47).

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In summary, Jesus’ aim and mission was to glorify His heavenly Father.  All He said and did truly gave glory to His Father in heaven.  Jesus saw glory in the cross rather than shame.  Obedience to His Father’s will was His glory.  Jesus kept His Father’s word, even when tempted to forgo the cross.  Jesus did not rely on His own worldly human resources and strength to accomplish His Father’s will.  Instead, He trusted in His Father to give Him strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of opposition, trials, and temptation.  We are encouraged to take up our personal crosses (the big ones and little ones), following our Lord Jesus wherever He may call us to go.  Jesus will give us the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to live as His disciples.

Reading today’s prayer of Jesus, as found in John’s Gospel, during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we heard Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” which He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and that Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Jesus prayed that His disciples would be sanctified and consecrated in God’s truth and holiness.  The scriptural word for “consecration” comes from the same Hebrew word meaning “holy” or “set apart for God”.  This word, consecration, also means “to be equipped with the qualities of mind and heart and character for a task or service”.  Just as Jesus was called by His Father to serve in holiness and truth, so are we called and equipped for our task of serving God in the present world as His ambassadors.  

God’s “truth” frees us from ignorance and the deception of sin.  It reveals to us God’s goodness, love, and wisdom; and it gives us a desire for God’s holiness.  The Holy Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness.  As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, He transforms us by His purifying fire, and changes us into the likeness of Christ.  Is your life consecrated to God – – Look in the mirror?

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To conclude, one of the greatest gifts we are given in life is protection from harm.  We personally, in family, and in society, work together to keep one another safe from physical harm.  Think of the effort we parents have taken to make our homes child proof for example.  We, as Christians, also attempt to protect each other from emotional harm as well.  In another example, we attempt to talk to one another in a way as not to hurt one another’s feelings by our words.  And, most importantly, we, as Christians, should work together in protecting each other from what might harm another spiritually.  

When we work together to strengthen God and community, we build a spiritual strength making us able to turn from what would lead us away from God and the Church.  Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in today’s reading is also a prayer for us today.

Jesus left them, and US, with a great blessing along with His sending out message found in today’s reading; a blessing of calm and harmony – – “PEACE”:

 “[Jesus] said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” (John 20:21–22).

I end today’s reflection with the same blessing He gave to each of us, – – “Peace BE With You” as well.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The ‘Our Father’ Prayer

“Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name; Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Scripture and Tradition

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

**

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

Most of the saints suffer great personal opposition, even persecution. Bernardine, by contrast, seems more like a human dynamo who simply took on the needs of the world.

He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following St. Francis of Assisi’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”

Compared with St. Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy.  He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary.

When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown, Siena.  Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital.  Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months.  He escaped the plague but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months.  He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt (her parents had died when he was a child) and at her death began to fast and pray to know God’s will for him.

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later.  For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach.  He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.

Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun.  This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions (for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines).  The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings.  Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation.  Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of a branch of the Franciscan Order, the Friars of the Strict Observance, he strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law.  When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000.  He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.

Comment:

Another dynamic saint once said, “…I will not be a burden, for I want not what is yours, but you…. I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes” (2 Corinthians 12:14).  There is danger that we see only the whirlwind of activity in the Bernardines of faith—taking care of the sick, preaching, studying, administering, always driving—and forget the source of their energy.  We should not say that Bernardine could have been a great contemplative if he had had the chance. He had the chance, every day, and he took it.

Patron Saint of: Advertising; Gambling; Compulsive behavior; Italy; Public relations

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

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 Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

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

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

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

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

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“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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Merry
CHRISTinMASS

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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)

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Joke of the Day:

 

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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.

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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.”  

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!!

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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.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

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

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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

 

“Floods and Thieves Cannot Keep Jesus Away; Only ‘SIN’ Can!” – Matthew 24:37-44†


 

Today is the first day of Advent, and only 27 days till CHRIST-mas.  Woo-Hoo!!  Yippee!!  We are looking forward to both Jesus’ birth and His final return at the “End Time:” the Parousia.  At this time He will bring us into His kingdom fully and personally.  Can anyone get a better gift than this?

 

 

 

Prayer for Lighting the Advent Wreath Candles for the First Week 

 

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever. – AMEN.”

http://www.loyolapress.com/family-advent-wreath-blessing.htm

 

 

Today in Catholic History:
    

  
†   741 – St Gregory III ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death

†  1095 – On the last day of the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II appoints Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and Count Raymond IV of Toulouse to lead the First Crusade to the Holy Land.
†  1880 – Death of Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos, (Portuguese) Archbishop of Goa (b. 1837)
†   1944 – Death of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1959 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical Princeps Pastorum
†   Feast Day: Pope Gregory III; Catherine Labouré
† Eastern Orthodox Church: Using the “Julian Calendar.” it is the beginning of the Nativity Fast; Repose of Saint Herman of Alaska;  Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky; Martyr Stephen the New of Mount Saint Auxentius;  Basil; Stephen; two Gregories; John; Andrew; Peter; Anna; and many others.

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Do what you can and pray for what you cannot yet do.” – Saint Augustine

Edited by Raymond Arroyo: The Prayers & Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, Doubleday

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His followers that the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia) will find many people not prepared, and that His disciples should always be ready for the day of the Lord.

 

37 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  38 In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  39 They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.  So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man.  40 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.  42 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  43 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  44 So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.  (NAB Matthew 24:37-44)

 

Wow!  What a weekend we had this year.  My wife and kids were up at four a.m. to go shopping this past Friday (Black Friday).  I was laughing as they excitedly, but still very sleepily, walked out the front door on their “little excursion” with craziness of “the good kind.”  In today’s Gospel reading we are advised to “stay awake and to be prepared.”  Would all these shoppers stand in line in the late night/early morning as willingly to do the same thing outside the local parish Church to grasp a “spiritual” gift from God?  Would they be willing to lose sleep for something that can’t be purchased anywhere in this universe, yet still must be accepted at whatever cost, and used daily in order to “live”?  Now is the time to be alert, to “stay awake,” and to prepare for His gifts, and His coming.

Let’s use this Advent season to remind us that we are already living in the “end times”.  It began with the “FIRST” coming of Jesus Christ, with His incarnation and birth in that cold manger.  It will be fully completed with His return at the Parousia.  This second “coming” is guaranteed; only the time that it will fully occur is unknown.  Also guaranteed at the Parousia is a swift judgment, which for many will be unexpected.  Oh, how sad, for Jesus frequently warned His followers not to be caught unprepared when that day finally arrives.  

Today is a new beginning in the Church year and a new beginning for us as well.  It is never too late to start living in Jesus’ footsteps – – to follow His path.  This “Advent season,” the next four Sundays, will end with the birth of Jesus.  For Catholics, this season is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah.  Now is the time to remember two crucial elements of our faith: the “final coming” of the Lord in glory (the Parousia), and “the Incarnation” of the Lord in the birth of Jesus Christ.  Vigilant waiting, preparation, and justice are the important lessons of any Advent.

Good role models for the Advent season or Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38).  Like sentinels at the Temple, they patiently awaited the “Messiah”.  Their faith, hope, and trust never failed them.  They waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises with perseverance unequalled by anyone.  The Holy Spirit lived in them, and exuded from them, in their eagerness to see God’s salvation fully realized with His glorious entrance to this sinful world in human form.  Their prayer and steadfastness allowed them both to see the “Messiah” when brought to the Temple by His Holy earthly parents.  God’s view and behaviors became their views and behaviors, and His life became their lives.

The Gospel of Matthew will be the principal Gospel read this Liturgical year (Cycle A).  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for “staying awake”, for “watchful waiting”, for the “coming of the Son of Man”.

Matthew’s Gospel was probably written about or after 70 A.D.  Scholars believe that Matthew wrote for a mostly Jewish population, yet a population that wasn’t centered on the Temple in Jerusalem.  Remember, the Temple (and a large portion of Jerusalem itself) was destroyed around this time in history.  These Jewish Christians tried to come to terms with their relationship towards Judaism and “The Way” (an early name for “Christians”) that Jesus established and preached.  There were many Christians who believed that the events of the world surrounding them, such as the destruction of the Temple, gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord – “in glory” (the Parousia).

Let’s go WAY back in history.  The people in Noah’s time ignored the Lord’s warning of judgment.  They missed the boat, literally!  The Old Testament account of the flood put little emphasis on what was vital for Matthew when he said that the unexpected flood befell on those who were not prepared for the deluge of water (verses 37- 39).  Luke also had a corresponding passage, in Chapter 17:26-27: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”   

What does Jesus mean when he says that one will be taken and another left? Associating with “desirable” friends and acquaintances (especially those who are very pious) does not guarantee anyone an “E-ticket” to heaven.  No matter how close someone may be to God, we cannot hitch a ride with them.  God offers to each of us a personal invite and relationship.  One only needs to simply accept Him, or reject Him; there is no neutral territory when it comes to the final judgment.  

In today’s reading, those “taken” meant “taken into God’s kingdom”, with “will be left” meaning “left for destruction”.  As is very prevalent and typical throughout the New Testament, people will be dealt with, in an opposite way to their present condition, in God’s Kingdom.  In the context of today’s reading, God’s judgment will be based on how ready we are for the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia).  Luke’s corresponding verses can be found in Chapter 17:34-35: “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.”   

Matthew’s primary theme of alertness, eagerness, and preparedness is assisted in the telling with the daring contrast of the “Son of Manto a “thief” who comes to break into a house.  Luke’s counterpart is in Chapter 12:39-40: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” 

If you knew that a thief wanted to steal your possessions, wouldn’t you guard it with your life?  God promises each of us an inheritance and reward which he calls a “treasure beyond measure” (Matthew 13:44-46) – – the Lord himself!!  The kingdom he offers us is a kingdom of true and everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  

It is uselessness to look for signs of the return of the “Son of God”; there will be none!   As a thief sneaks in during the night so will the Lord’s glorious coming be.  So, how do we prepare for the Parousia?  It is about the “waiting” and what to do while waiting!  Jesus compared the vigilance required of His followers to that of the vigilance a homeowner has when he knows the thief’s plan.  If one knows that the thief’s deed is looming, one remains alert and vigilant.  In kind, if we become lax in our Catholic life, practices, and worship, we may be caught unprepared.

My brother used to run in marathons.  My nephew and his wife regularly participate in bi- and triathlons.  For them, preparation is essential.  It took months to achieve their goal.  In the same token, we have an entire season to get ready for Christ’s entrance with His human birth.

Runners need to eat a healthy in a healthy way for the energy needed to finish the race.  They pace themselves, working mile by mile or minute by minute, and not trying to hurry up the process unwisely.  Runners travel light, with no extra baggage weighing them down. 

Our Advent “meal” is prayer, Sacraments, and Holy Scripture.  We can lighten our load as well by examining our consciences every day; to repent of our sins.  We should approach this Advent season with the same sense of patience as the long-distance runner.  Just put one step in front of the other on God’s path, and deal with the obstacles as they come, knowing the end is just ahead of you.  With each step you get a little closer to your goal of salvation and eternal paradise with God.  The awesome thing is that God is at your side, running with you all along the way, pacing Himself to your tempo.  He will help you if you stumble on His path, and He will encourage you if you allow Him.

The holiday season is upon us full-blast.  Many feel the pressure to get EVERYTHING ready for Christmas – – TODAY, if not yesterday.  With the readings today, we get a stark reminder to be ready for something much more important than the secular aspects of Christmas.

What does it mean to be ready for the Parousia?  Reflect on how you can help others be a better Catholic.  Commit to one thing that you will do this Advent season to help another be a better Catholic.  Write your commitment down on a piece of paper in large print and post it in a prominent place (i.e., on the front door of the refrigerator, the coffee pot, or the television); a place where you will see your commitment note multiple times each day.  Pray to God daily for His help in your commitment.  On Christmas day, reflect on how well you succeeded in your commitment, and how well you are prepared for God’s coming and judgment.

God knows our struggles, and he gives grace and help wherever we need it.  God’s judges each of us individually according to how we have responded to his gracious invitation.  He gives us fresh hope each day so that we can keep our eyes on an eternal reward waiting for each of us.  Now that is true love!!

 

A Family Prayer for the First Week of Advent

 

Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love, and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.  Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth.  We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.  Amen.”

http://www.loyolapress.com/advent-family-prayer.htm

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. James of the Marche (1394-1476)

 

Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop!

James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances.

James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence.

With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the “four pillars” of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching.

To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis (literally, mountains of charity) — nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects.

Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James was canonized in 1726.

Comment:

James wanted the word of God to take root in the hearts of his listeners. His preaching was directed to preparing the soil, so to speak, by removing any rocks and softening up lives hardened by sin. God’s intention is that his word take root in our lives, but for that we need both prayerful preachers and cooperative listeners.

Quote:

“Beloved and most holy word of God! You enlighten the hearts of the faithful, you satisfy the hungry, console the afflicted; you make the souls of all productive of good and cause all virtues to blossom; you snatch souls from the devil’s jaw; you make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven” (Sermon of St. James).

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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