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“If They Sought Advice from Herod, Were the ‘Magi” Truly Wise? I believe the Answer Is ‘Uncertainly Maybe Possible!’” – Matthew 2:1-12†


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“Epiphany of the Lord”

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Because of the supportive and positive feedback I received concerning my success of explaining the Advent and Christmas symbols used in the Catholic Church, I decided to address occasionally other symbols used throughout the Church year.  Today I will discuss the Liturgical colors of vestments.

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The Church’s liturgical norms do prescribe specific vestment colors for various celebrations.  The purpose of utilizing different colors for vestments is twofold: first, the colors highlight the particular liturgical season and the faithfull’s journey through these seasons.  Second, the colors punctuate the liturgical season by highlighting a particular event or particular mystery of faith.  The following explanation is based on the norms of “The General Instruction on the Roman Missal”.

White or gold, a color symbolizing rejoicing and purity of soul, is worn during the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Easter.  White vestments are also used for certain other feasts throughout the year.  White may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial and Masses for the Dead to signify the Resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness.

Red has a dual imagery: symbolizing the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feasts of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith.

On the other hand, red also signifies the burning fire of God’s love.  Red vestments are won on Pentecost; for the Sacrament of Confirmation; and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit.

Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.  We focus on the life Jesus shared with mankind during His time on this earth, the life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments, looking forward to sharing an everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.  Green symbolizes this hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early spring arouses the hope of new life.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.  At the midpoint of both of these seasons—Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent—rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy: we rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.  Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.

Although not seen very frequently in the United States today, black vestments may be worn for Masses of Christian Burial as a sign of death and mourning.  Black may also be used on the Feast of All Souls or for any Mass of the Dead, such as on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

In all, the colors of the vestments awaken us to the sense of sacred time. They are another visible way to make present the sacred mysteries we celebrate.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Kings may be judges of the earth, but wise men are the judges of kings.” ~  Solomon Ibn Gabirol

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Today’s reflection: The “Magi” seek out Jesus and do him homage.  When have YOU last sought out Jesus, giving Him homage as these “Wise Men”?

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(NAB Matthew 2:1-12)  1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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G. Reflectionospel Reflection:

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. Though it is true that the “Magi” were led to the “Mejesus-and-maryssiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to ‘let His face shine upon’ us through the face of the Mother of God.  We ‘serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.’” (G.K. Chesterton)

The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  Historically several moments in Jesus Christ’s early life and earthly ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” as “manifestations” of the divine of this newborn, beginning with His birth in Bethlehem, in the visit of the Magi, in His baptism by His cousin, John – the Baptist, and in His first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.

There are some fascinating implications about Jesus in the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s “infancy narrative”: Christmas2012

(1)In Luke’s Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, includes the Census required for Jesus to be “registered” in their father’s hometown (will say more about this later).

(2) Matthew’s Gospel today focuses on the strange event of “learned” non-Jews, the “Magi”, seeking to visit the prophesied “new king” to be born of Jews, “Israel”.

In retrospect, this text and its story anticipates the future of this “king” on one hand, AND, His acceptance by the non-Jewish “Gentiles” on the other.  We have here a veiled image of the future Church composed of non-Jewish believers, and Jewish believers – – a new “Israel” of faith and worship.

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So, let’s take a deep breath and relax – – and consider this: If Jesus is truly “who” He claims to be – – “the eternal ‘Son’ of God the Father, the prophesied “Anointed One” (Messiah), and the ‘Savior’ of the world’” – – then why was He not recognized by everyone who heard His “Word” and saw His works?  Well, John the Evangelist states in his Gospel that when Jesus came into the world:

The world knew Him not and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11).

Hmm, my faith has grown to realize that there is NO neutral stance when it comes to Jesus Christ, during His lifetime, and still today.  Once people hear and see who Jesus claims to be, and what the implications of His coming are for them, they either accept or reject Him outright.  

Jesus was born in unassuming obscurity.  Only a few lowly Jewish shepherds were graced to recognize this Jewish infant boy (Jesus) –wisemen3 – as “King” – – at His birth in a lowly place and fashion; however, some “Magi” also found their way, over a short period of time, to Bethlehem, in order to pay “homage” to the newborn “King of Israel”.  These men were not Israelites, but were instead “outside” foreigners.  Nevertheless, they were likely well-versed in the many “Messianic prophecies”, and were anxious to see the true “great” Messianic King when He appeared as prophesied and promised. 

What are “Magi” anyway?  Well, “Magi” was a designation originally used for a Persian priestly order.  However, over a period of time, the word became used more so for anyone regarded as having a “more than human knowledge”. mcconnellwisemen For this reason, the term frequently used for them is: “Wise Men”.  We also get our word “magic” from this specific word.  Matthew’s “Magi”, from the “east” (probably around the area of Babylon in present day Iraq), were most likely astronomers and/or astrologers, as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others quite apparently and easily overlooked when viewing the VERY SAME stars and constellations.

We know little about the “Magi”.  We know they came “from the east” and journeyed to Bethlehem, via “Jerusalem”, following a “heavenly” astrological sign (the “star”) which, in itself, was of some type ofth “divine importance” to them.  God the Father led them across the vast desert, by means of an extraordinary celestial “happening”, to the little town of Bethlehem, wherein, Jesus was born in a lowly manger.  (Can you hear the song “Oh, little town of Bethlehem” in your head.)  The “Magi’s” journey had to be a difficult one indeed. Roads were poor, no road signs in the desert, Inns (CamolTels) were not the best – – even for the camels.  And let’s not forget the thieves and the lack of police intervention.  All they had was a “star”- – but the best “star” in the heavens.

In their diligent search, these “three” Kings were led to the source of true knowledge – – to Jesus Christ Himself, the “Light and Wisdom” of God the Father.  When they found the newborn child Jesus, they humbly worshiped Him, and gave Him “gifts” fitting for a “true King”, even for a “divine king”.

What fueled the Magi’s search for this specific – – and uniquely special – – “Messianic King”?  I would like to think it was a confident and assured faith in the promise God gave to the Jews, to them and their people – – and to us.  The prophetic promise was to send a Redeemer – – a “King” – – who would establish God’s reign of peace and righteousness for all peoples: 556238_10151178055187903_1249455228_n

Days are coming when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; as king He shall reign and govern wisely, He shall do what is just and right in the land.  In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.  This is the name to be given Him: ‘The LORD our justice.’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

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My question to you: “Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of ‘strange lands’ to represent the Gentiles’ search for a M11 ADVENTtable_html_m309f20f1essianic Savior?”  I believe so.  In essence, the “Magi” could easily and correctly represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  As such, they are truly representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives and journeys today.

Also, there are a couple of Old Testament verses inferring that the “Magi” were truly “kings” themselves:

May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts.  Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day” (Psalm 72:10, 15).

And,

“Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

Tarshish and the islands”, in the above verse from Psalm 72, refer to the far western part of the “known world”, and Arabia and Seba [Sheba] in the fProject1ar southern portion.  These Magi “from far away” foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – “saw His star”. 

What did Matthew mean by saying “saw HIS star”?  Well, it was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any significant  ruler’s birth: be it a secular king or religious ruler.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of an Old Testament story in which “Balaam” prophesied:

I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, That will crush the brows of Moab, and the skull of all the Sethites” (Numbers 24:17).

The “star” in this case means the physical Messiah King, Jesus Christ Himself; not the astronomical phenomenon in the Middle East the “Mafollow-the-star_t_nvgi” are following all the way to Bethlehem.  In a “Christian” messianic interpretation, the “star”, as also the “scepter” from Israel, would refer to Jesus Christ as “King”:

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1).

In reality, how many “Magi” do you suppose came to give “homage” to the child Jesus?  Where, in Holy Scripture, does it say that “three” Wise Men travelled to Bethlehem?  The answer is NOWHERE!  We actually base the number of “Magi” as “three” solely on the naming of the three “gifts”- – “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – – but the actual number of “Magi” that paid “homage” is truly unknown to us. 

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For me, what is interesting is that neither King Herod, nor His trusted officials recognized the prophesied “Word” being “written” in the heavenly stars.  (They did not connect the twinkling dots in the sky.)  King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. when he died.  Per Wikipedia, he may have been an “Edomite”, an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  Herod was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (a favorite of mine) as:

 “A madman, who murdered his own family, and a great many rabbis.” 

However, King Herod was also known for his colossal building projects throughout Jerusalem, and elsewhere in his kingdom, including the rebuilding of the “Second Temple” in Jerusalem (also referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Herod had a “say what!” moment upon listening to the “Magi” about what the “heavenly skies” prophesied.  He was confused and also concerned about his lack of knowledge AND for getting NO preemptive warninthCAB77DFPg about this “NEW” king in “his” territory from his own priests, astronomers, and astrologers.  Herod was also worried about his personal future welfare, prestige, and physical life, with a “Messiah” king in “his” territory.  So, Herod immediately calls ALL his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to an immediate presence before him. (Hmm, first century pagers, cell phones, and sirens were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the Temple leaders (the chief priests and Scribes), astrologers, and astronomers of his realm had a very strong similarity to the following “Jewish non-biblical legend” (per a NAB-RE* footnote).  This footnoted story is about a child, later learned to be Moses, in which the “sacred scribes” warn the Pharaoh about an imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt.  In this story, the Pharaoh King makes plans to destroy him.  (WOW!!!!  Moses and Jesus have nearly identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is often called the “New Moses.”) *(NAB-RE is “New American Bible – Roman [Catholic] Edition”)

Herod’s “chief priests and scribes” also reminded Herod of the prophecy found in the Jewish Scripture (Old Testament) Book of Micah:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

The Book of Micah shared with Isaiah the expectation that God the Father will deliver “Israel” through a “king in the line of David”.  “Bethleimage002hem-Ephrathah” is the birthplace of David, and therefore, of his whole “Davidic line”.  Today, it is known to us as simply, “Bethlehem”. 

Herod, and his “chief priests and scribes”, in a somewhat defensive maneuver to what is written in the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, asked these “Magi”, these first Gentile believers to be an [unlikely] envoy for King Herod.  So, after meeting with Herod, the “three kings” – – the three “Magi” – – travel to Bethlehem, and away from King Herod’s presence (as his “envoy”):

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:8).

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Continuing to follow the “star”, the “Wise Envoy’s” eventually find the Holy Family still in Bethlehem:  holiness-title-slide

 “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his motherThey prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Upon finding Christ, the “Magi prostrate themselves”, an action given ONLY to God.  Thus, Jesus is confirmed to be the true Son of God through their action.  These “Magi”, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home and homeland, as well as their friends and family, in an intensely personal search for discovering, and further knowing, this “heavenly” announced “God-King”.  They followed THE “star” in pursuit of a personal quest for finding the desire of their hearts, and their pursuit for a personal relationship with this “new divine king” whose name they learn was – – Jesus Christ.   – – (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars”, and did not have to buy it on a Hollywood street corner or on the internet either!)

In the midst of their pilgrimage these “Magi” can serve well as a model for “contemplative listening” today.  Whoa, – – what did I say?!  Well, what I mean is that their “actions” flowed directly from their personal – – their focused – – learning and true discernment through divine guidance.  They had set out on their journey because they perceived the sign of their times in a unique “star” announcing:

the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

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Can you see the three gifts of the “Magi”, given to the Holy Family, as a foreshadowing (prophecy) of Jesus’ role in salvation hichristmasbitters5story?  I believe the meanings of their gifts are “Christological” in nature (representing the spirit, the person, and the actions of Jesus Christ).  “Gold” represents Jesus’ kingship.  “Frankincense” is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And “Myrrh” was used to prepare the dead for burial, and thus, was offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.  Jesus Christ “was”, “is”, and forever “will be”!!

So, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” are understood to be symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death (for OUR salvation).  In giving these special gifts, the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, to Jesus gold_2Christ Himself (and to us through His nature), the “Magi” – – those unknown “Gentile” men from foreign lands and cultures – – were the first to acknowledge the “who” Jesus was – – FROM BIRTH – – as the Savior KING – – as OUR Savior King!

The journey we take to God is a long one, lasting our entire lives; only ending with our earthly deaths.  Mary, Joseph, and ALL the saints experienced the same long and difficult journey we need to experience. 

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know the Trinitarian Godhead personally.  In today’s story of the “Magi’s” finding and encountering the child Jesus, we see God the Father’s personal plan for salvation to, and for, ALL nations, ALL peoples.  God’s divine plan included giving His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for ALL mankind (even those from far-away lands).  God gave us His true and full – – both human and divine – – personhood (in the singular), – – not solely for just the Jewish faithful, – – but for ALL people everywhere!! 

In addition to the gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”, these three men made a “gift” of their individual, unique, and personal “liveGifts-with-a-Meaning-behind-Them_001-608x456s” with each step taken in the search for the prophesied “Messiah-Savior-King”.  Matthew, by his account of today’s event, eloquently reveals the sincerity and depth of the three “Magi’s” searching quest:

They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Matthew2:10).

They “fulfilled” their individual and collective desires in meeting this “singular” “King of Kings”.

After giving Him “homage” and bestowing “gifts” to the newborn child “king”, Jesus Christ, they heeded the Lord’s message to them in a dream, warning them not to return to Herod.  So, they returned to their country by another route:

Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:12).

Nothing is written or otherwise known about what happened to the “MagiAFTER they left the child-Jesus.  They found Jesus – – so their journey seems to have ended for them.  BUT, their journey actually did NOT end, and neither has ours; it was just a “turning point” for them as it is for us.  Our journeys never end when we finally “find” Christ in our lives; it just puts us on the “proper path” to Him and to everlasting life with Him in paradise..wise01

By their faith, they followed the “star.”  By their faith, they found the true Messiah King of ALL peoples.  And, by their faith, they returned to their “far off” country via a different route.

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F. summarize titleaith is an entirely free gift which God the Father offers to us, and imparts to each of us personally.  It is through the help of the Holy Spirit, – – moving in our individual hearts, and opening our individual souls and being – – that we are able to understand, accept, and believe the real divine “truth” which the Trinitarian Godhead reveals to us in personal and unique ways.  With trust, love, and faith, OUR human “will” and “intellect” cooperates with God the Father’s imparted grace to each of us:

Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (Thomas Aquinas).

No matter where I am in my personal search of discovery in God’s faith, Christ is present with me – – and within me – – ALWAYS.  I always have the same “star” the “Magi” followed, lighting my way, never leaving me in the dark, distancing me from MY Messiah-Savior-King!!

The visit of the “Magi”, which we celebrate as an “Epiphany”, or manifestation of God’s glory, reveals that the child Jesus whom the “Magi” hailed as the “newborn King of the Jews” (cf., Matthew 2:2), AND who will be crucified under the same title, “King of the Jews” – – is also King of ALL peoples

I sell myself short in my faith-life often.  I don’t always appreciate the power of my faith within me!  I don’t realize my capabilities in knowing God.  Sometimes, I believe my faith is weak, that myencountersThumbnail level of sanctity is low – – in my eyes – – not in His.  To know and to encounter Jesus Christ is to know and encounter God (in the three Persons: the Trinitarian Godhead) personally and uniquely!!  Jesus Christ came so that both Jew and Gentile might find a true and ever-lasting peace with God the Father AND with each other. 

We usually do – – and definitely should – – think about God’s goodness to human beings.  Today’s story of the “Magi” has turned such thinking the in the opposite direction, around the goodness of human beings TO God instead.  Three human beings, the Wise Men, the Magi, brought and gave “gifts” to the “Son of God”.  Even though we try to imitate this action in our individual lives, the Son of God is a hard one to shop for.  How does one give gifts to the Son of God, who certainly has everything He needs or wants?  Well, Jesus Christ helped us with this specific inquiry.  He more or less revealed His answer, making it easier for us when He said:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

How can we become a people and nation which defers to God?  We can begin with ourselves. The mysteries of this season invite us to imitate the “Magi”:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Luke 2:11).

Let us prostrate ourselves before Christ the true and promised Messiah-Savior-King, worshiping and adoring Him.  Let us offer ALL we have, and listen to His “Word”.  Then we shall be ready to serve Him and His Kingdom in heaven and on earth, here and now!! 

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To. conclusion some people, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is believed to have been established in remembrance of the gift giving of the “Magi” in today’s Gospel reading.  For this reason, in many cultures even still today, gifts are exchanged on the “Feast of the Epiphany” instead of on “Christmas Day”.  This makes me think: giftofpresence-ckwe should offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY – – in the form of our personal and public “SELVES” – – our true “Present Self”!!  Our “three” “special” gift offerings should be “praise”, “adoration”, and “thanksgiving” for all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do – – in our lives!  Our individual spiritual gifts are much more valuable to Him, and to each other, than the monetary value of ALL the “gold, frankincense, and myrrhin the entire world!!

The way we devote our time; the way we interact with family and friends, neighbors and strangers, and other creatures and creations; and the way we regulate our material goods, can be signs of Christ’s “kingship” in our lives.  How can we offer our very “selves”, our “lives”, more fully to God the Father’s personal and collective love and personal plan He has for each of us?  Hmm, let me know what your thoughts are on HOW YOU can do this task.

Let me please finally pass on a couple of reflection questions to each of you.  “Do you truly bring Jesus Christ to others in your psales-questionsersonal path of life?  Do you actively ‘LOOK’ for Jesus Christ in others you encounter along your path of life; especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?”  God loves it so much when we speak “Words” of love, and perform “acts” of blessing, hope, and encouragement as the norm – – instead of the exception.  He rejoices when our “Words” and “actions” help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes and trees of immense size.  (So, become the “spice” of life; enhance the flavor of God’s working in, with, and through you for and to OTHERS!!)

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of “gift-giving”.  (Yes, I know it just passed a few days aGiftGiving_12-04go for most of us.  But, please, reflect on gift-giving again.)  What was the best gift you have ever received (?), and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special (?), was it the thought that went into it (?), or was it the person who gave it to you which made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”, so don’t stress out on the correct answer.)  Do you bring the twinkling “light of Jesus Christ” to those you meet – – through the witness of your personal and public life, and through the witness of your personal and public testimony of, and to, Jesus Christ?  Has this specific reflection today been a gift to you?  It has been a gift writing my thoughts on this Gospel reading. gift-keep-giving-13

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “impartto others throughout your personal and public route in life.  Let us ALL pray today that Jew and Gentile alike will find the “true” divine King and Savior, Jesus Christ, on each of our personal journeys through life.  Let us ALL become “Magi” Wise One’s – – “Camel Jockey’s” – – in OUR search of the true “Way, Truth, and Life”!!  So, head towards to the light – – of the “new shining ‘star’”!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Epiphany Morning Prayer

 

Father,Epiphany 6
you revealed your Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star.
Lead us to your glory in heaven
by the light of faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen

From:
The Liturgy of the Hours

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♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday 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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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit out in a loud voice (Luke 1:41).

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

“Now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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♫ “Oh Johnny Boy, The Christ, The Christ Is Com-um-ing!”♫ – Luke 1:57-66, 80†


 

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

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:

           

Many churches of both the Eastern and Western faiths celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on this day. The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde [Southern France] in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

 The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

(per Wikipedia)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1386 – Birth of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (d. 1456)
†   1519 – Death of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander, dies at 39
†   1529 – Zurich & catholic kantons sign Peace of Kappel, ending an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.
†   1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet (d. 1591)
†   1546 – Birth of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (d. 1610)
†   1572 – Death of Joannes van Naarden, OFM priest, hanged
†   1572 – Death of Ludovicus Voets, priest, hanged
†   1923 – Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI publishes encyclical Sacerdotalis coelibatus, an encyclical on the celibacy of the priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Québec, brush makers and knife sharpeners; also Festival of San Juan observed in Bolivia and Peru, Jaaniõhtu in Estonia.

(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:

 

Why did John the Baptist take his shoes off before going into the water?

Why?

He wanted to save soles!

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist is born.  All wonder what he will grow to become.

 

(NAB Luke 1:57-66, 80) 57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”  61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”  62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.  64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  He opens with Jesus’ infancy narrative, a collection of stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus.  However, Luke also presents the parallel scenes (diptychs) of angelic announcements of the birth of John the Baptist AND of Jesus.  Luke’s account shows the parallelism of their births, circumcisions, and presentations in the Temple.  With his parallel stories, the ascendency of Jesus over John is stressed in Luke’s Gospel:

John is the “prophet” of the Most High:

“You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76);

And Jesus is the “Son” of the Most High:

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Then, John is said to be “great in the sight” of the Lord:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15);

And Jesus “will be ‘Great’”:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Finally, John “will go before” the Lord:

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17);

And Jesus “will be” Lord:

“How does this happen to me [Elizabeth], that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:43; 2:11).

In the verses before those read today at Mass, the birth of John the Baptist had been announced by the angel Gabriel to an elderly man, Zechariah, performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Archangel Gabriel would then go on to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.  Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth never had children.  And, Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together. So, two women physically impossible to get pregnant are graced by God to give birth nonetheless.  The story of John (the Baptist) is placed in the center of the Jewish environment into which he and Jesus were born.  In the next chapter (Luke 2), Jesus’ annunciation and birth begins a movement of the Gospel into the environment of the occupying Roman Empire of Jesus’ adulthood, setting the stage for His Passion. 

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The birth and circumcision of John contained within the Gospel today emphasizes John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant, as promised in Genesis:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  Abram fell face down and God said to him: For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.  God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the agesThis is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

And, again in the book of Leviticus (a great and easy read for first-time bible readers – NOT!!), circumcision is again alluded to as the sign of the covenant:

“The LORD said to Moses: the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:1,3).

Did you know circumcision was actually widely practiced in the entire ancient world, usually as an initiation rite for males at puberty well before Abraham and Moses’ time?  However, with the Jewish nation shifting the time of circumcision to “the eighth day after birth”, the Jewish religion made it no longer a “rite of passage”, but THE sign of an eternal covenant between God and the community of, and descending from, Abraham.

The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepared the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Luke’s next chapter:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21).

So, at the beginning Luke’s books of Holy Scripture (His Gospel and the Book of ACTS), he shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be – – as a whole – – a part of the people of Israel.  On top of this acclamation of faith, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23), Luke makes a case for Christianity being a direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism which accepted the supernatural origin of the universe, and of Abraham’s family, believing of a life after death, angels, and so on.  Our Jewish friends and brethren are truly our brothers in, and through, Christ – – their Messiah and OUR Savior!!

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The practice of Judaism at this time in Jesus’ time in human form in this world was to name the child at birth.  Furthermore, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child actually after the grandfather, per biblical footnotes:

There is no one among your relatives who has this name” (see Luke 1:61).

In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation for this verse states:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patriautou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

patri is a male ancestor.  This male could be the nearest ancestor, a father of the corporeal nature, such as a male parent.  Or, the male ancestor could be a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, a forefather such as a Grandfather.

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Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice.  He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God in the “Holy of Holies”.  

The naming of the infant John, and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech, should be understood as fulfilling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, given to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies:

“The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”  (Luke 1:13, 20).

Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay from emerging from the Holy of Holies, and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary:

“When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.” (Luke 1:22).

I believe Zechariah also lost his hearing too.  WHAT did I say?!  How can I presume this “strange” fact?  You might even say, “I have NEVER been told this before!”  Well, my evidence comes directly from what is written ALSO in Luke’s Gospel:

“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called” (Luke 1:62).

Why did they need to make “signs” to ask him a question if Zechariah was able to hear?  Zechariah himself would have had to make the signs to answer questions, since he was unable to speak.  Thus, I believe Zechariah was, in actuality, a “deaf – mute”, and not just deaf.

Well, actually, that is what I believed for some time.  I allowed my understanding of American English trapping me into believing what is NOT really there in the original word and meaning.  In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation proves my error in fact:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patri  autou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

eneneuon actually translates to mean “signifying or expressing ‘by a nod or a sign’”.  So, in reality, Luke 1:62 simply says, “They ‘nodded’ at Zechariah, asking him what he wished for the infant to be called”.

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The last verse from today’s Gospel jumps fourteen verses to this next verse:

The child [John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel (Luke 1:80).

Interestingly, Luke uses very similar words to describe Jesus’ growing into manhood as well:

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40).

Jesus too, goes into the desert, starting His public Ministry by attending John the Baptist preaching and observing him baptizing in the Jordan River.  Jesus presented Himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River – – two more parallels between John and Jesus indeed.

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To summarize, in today’s reading Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God had shown her mercy in the birth of a son – – an heir.  However, they were confused when Elizabeth told them her infant’s name was to be “John”, which means “God has been gracious”.  Zechariah had been unable to speak since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word.  When Zechariah writes “John is his name” all are amazed.  Then, a great fear comes upon everyone; and this event is spread and heard throughout all Judea:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65). 

Fear – – Awe – – along with joy and praise – – is the appropriate response to God’s mercy, per Luke.  I am sure people present and/or hearing of this event wondered what this infant would become, but this question was already answered by Gabriel:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:15-16).

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous hymn of prayer, the “Benedictus” or “Canticle of Zechariah”:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79).

This canticle (a true song of praise) is not part of today’s Gospel reading at Mass.  Instead we jump to the last verse of this chapter (Luke 1:80), which explains that John will become strong in spirit, living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel.  When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the acceptance of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.

John lived as a “Nazarite” (cf., Numbers 6) – – a person set apart for the Lord (The Old Testament “Samson” is another example of a Nazarite).  Filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother’s womb, he was sent to the people of God – – in the spirit and power of Elijah – – to turn hearts to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1:17).  When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit, making our faith “alive and active” to, and through, God’s promises (cf., 2 Peter 1:3-4).  

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To conclude, names have special meanings.  Some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors.  Sometimes peoples’ names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person’s birth.  Sometimes, names are even randomly bizarre and of their own in origin.  In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives her son the name John, meaning “God has been gracious”.  This name truly sets John apart – – in a special way – – for it was normally the father’s responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name.  The unusual nature of John’s naming suggested (and still suggests) to everyone that he is truly a special child with a special purpose in God’s kingdom.

Spend some time focusing on your name – – and others’ names.  What is the significance of each of these names (?), and how did the naming take place?  Review the parts of today’s reading describing how John received his name.  

How important are names?  How are we as Catholics called to honor the name of God?  How can we emphasize and honor God’s name in our daily lives?  How can we promise to live “our lives” in and with God’s name?

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I would like to end with my favorite verse from today’s reading:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14).

Both John’s birth (June 24th) and Jesus’ birth (December 25th) are not only celebrated once a year, but are celebrated with each and every Baptism, Confirmation, and Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Their “births” are remembered by, and Jesus’ birth is renewed in me (and in you) each time I receive Him:  Resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Eucharist.  So, we can celebrate His (and our) birthday EVERY day if we wish.  In doing so, we will live by another verse (my all-time favorite verse, the bible verse I take as my personal motto):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

When God draws us into His presence, He wants us to be still and quiet – – before Him – – so we can listen to His voice as He speaks to our consciences and our hearts.  In doing so, He reveals His Word, Will, and Plan to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord (?) and do you ponder his Word in your heart with a certain trust and confidence in Him? I will finish with the prayer I say continually throughout the day:

My Lord and my God; I love You and I trust You”.

 What else is there to say!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Sign of the Cross

 

“In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
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 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.

Faith and Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith….Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:18-20) RSV.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-20) KJV.

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“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) RSV.

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….”  But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).   

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic.  He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.  His Baptism, he said, was for repentance.  But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b).  But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b).  Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew.  John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah.  But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.  John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah.  But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.  For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53).  John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment: John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ.  Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation.  Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives.  The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote: “And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced.  He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared.  John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make.  Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist.  These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

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 24 & 25 of 26:

24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups.  It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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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.

 

 

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


Palm Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

Spy Wednesday:

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

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

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

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

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

Holy Saturday:

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

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

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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

  

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

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

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Papacy

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Are We There Yet? We Left the Receipts for the Gifts At Home; Hope He Likes ‘Em!” – Matthew 2:1-12 †


 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for
JANUARY 2011

 

General Intention:

That the riches of creation be preserved, valued, and made available to all, as precious gifts from God to mankind.

 

Missionary Intention:

That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany Proclamation 2011

(to be read after the Gospel at Mass today)

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the twenty-first day of April and the evening of the twenty-third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the twenty-fourth day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday — the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.  From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the ninth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the second day of June.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the twelfth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty-seventh day of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, forever and ever.  Amen.”

 

 

 

“Home Blessing”

 

There is a custom that has developed over time for commemorating the Magi’s visit to Jesus’ birth “home”.  It is to bless one’s home during the week of the Epiphany.

The blessing includes marking the first initials of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) at the top frame of the home door (possibly with holy water), along with the year, plus crosses between the numbers and letters.  This year’s marking would look like this:

20 + C + M + B + 11

Here is an example of a prayer that can be used during the blessing, if you wish:

“Be my shelter, Lord, when I am at home, my companion when I am away, and my welcome guest when I return.  And at last receive me into the dwelling place you have prepared for me in your Father’s house, where you live forever and ever.  Amen”

From the “Little Blue Book”
Diocese of Saginaw, MI

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   533 –
Mercurius becomes Pope John II, the first pope to adopt a new name upon elevation to the papacy.
†   1585 – Spain & Catholic France sign Saint League of Joinville
†   1873 – Birth of Thérèse de Lisieux, French Roman-Catholic nun and saint (d. †1897)

(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:

 

 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

(Starting with this first reflection of 2011, I will be posting a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html.) 

 

Part 01 of 13 Parts

“The letter of the 6th of May [2010] from His Eminence Card. Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, addressed to the Minister General, Encarnacion del Pozo and to the entire Secular Franciscan Order, is a document of great importance and merits, therefore, the particular attention of each and every member of the SFO.”

“It should be remembered that the SFO is directly dependant on the Holy See, and the Pope in particular, through the CICLSAL.  In Cardinal Rodé’s letter, therefore, it is this same Hierarchical Church which speaks to the Order and does so in consistent continuity with the Magisterium of the Popes for the SFO.”

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

  

 

 

Today’s reflection is about the Magi (the Three Kings) seeking out Jesus, and paying homage to Him.

 

1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”  7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  9 After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.   (NAB Matthew 2:1-12)

 

 

The “Feast of the Epiphany” ends the Christmas Season officially.  Though it is true that the magi were led to the “Messiah” by a special “star”, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

Mary [Jesus’ mother] leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.  The Lord wills to “let His face shine upon” us through the face of the Mother of God.  We “serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.”

In Matthew’s Gospel, the visit of the Magi occurs immediately prior to the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  As is not totally unusual or unique, Matthew’s Gospel tells a different version (actually, just a different viewpoint or emphasis) of Jesus’ life than what is written in Luke’s Gospel.  Of the part of the infancy narrative covering the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew barely tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1).  Other examples of the difference in coverage of the infancy events between these two Gospels are found in (1) the census only being addressed only in Luke’s Gospel, and (2) the visit of the Magi only being confirmed in Matthew’s Gospel.

The future rejection of Jesus by His own people, “Israel”; and Jesus’ acceptance by the Gentiles (the perceived “heathens” by Jewish faithful) are projected backwards (retrojected) into the scene of today’s reading.

King Herod (the Great) reigned from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C.  Per Wikipedia, he made have been an “Edomite”, who is an Arab from the region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  He was described by the 1st century A.D. Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.”  He was also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple).

Magi” was a designation originally used for the Persian priestly social order at one time.  However, over a period of time the word became used generally for anyone regarded as having “more than human knowledge”.  We get our word “magic” from this root word.  Matthew’s “Magi” from the “east” (possibly the area of Babylon in present day Iraq) were probably astrologers as they obviously saw things in the heavenly skies that others seemingly and quite easily overlooked.

We know little about the Magi. We know they come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following a “heavenly” astrological sign of some type of importance to them.  We base there being “three” Magi solely on the naming of their three gifts, but the actual number of magi that paid “homage” is truly unknown.  My question: Was it Matthew’s intention to use these men of strange lands to represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior?  In essence, the Magi represent the rest of the world, as a whole.  In such, they are representative of OUR search for Jesus in our own lives.

There is a couple of Old Testament verses may be used to infer the “Magi” as being “kings”.

 “May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Arabia and Seba offer giftsLong may he live, receiving gold from Arabia, prayed for without cease, blessed day by day.”  (Psalm 72:10, 15)

 “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.”  (Isaiah 60:6)

These Magi from far away foreign lands, – – yet still possessing advanced knowledge of Jewish faith, practices, traditions, and writings, – – saw His star”.  It was a common belief among nearly all in the ancient Middle East that a “new star” would appear at the time of any ruler’s birth: secular or religious.  For this reason, I believe Matthew drew upon his knowledge of the Old Testament story in which Balaam had prophesied:

A star shall advance from Jacob, & a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17)

However, the “starin this case means the king himself [Jesus Christ], and not an astronomical happening in the Middle East.

Herod had a “say what” moment upon listening to the Magi.  He was confused and concerned about his lack of knowledge and getting no preemptive warning about this NEW king in his territory.  He was also concerned about his future welfare and prestige.  So, he calls all his chief advisors, priests, and “scientists” to his immediate presence.  (Biblical pagers and cell phones were going off throughout his kingdom!)

Herod’s consultations with the chief priests and scribes have a very strong similarity to a Jewish non-biblical legend (per NAB footnote).  This story is about a child (later learned to be Moses), in which the “sacred scribes” warns the Pharaoh about the imminent birth of “one” who will deliver Israel from Egypt, and the king makes plans to destroy him.  (Moses and Jesus seem to have identical infancy stories.  I believe this is one reason why Jesus is oft called the “New Moses.”)

Verse 11 from today’s reading offers a huge amount to ponder in itself:

“And on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

These Magi, – – these three kings, – – willingly left everything they knew: their home, their homeland, and their friends and family, in their intense hunger for knowing this “heavenly” announced God.  They “followed a star” in pursuit of their quest of knowing true divinity — Jesus Christ.  (They had the ultimate “Map of the Stars” and did not have to buy it in Hollywood!)

We have come to consider the gifts they brought as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation history. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be “Christological” in nature.  Gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity (priests burned frankincense in the Temple).  And myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial (offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death).

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are understood as symbols of Jesus Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death.  They are made special to Him (and to us) because in giving them, the Magi (those unknown men from foreign lands and cultures) acknowledged who Jesus was to be: our Savior!  

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is believed by some to have been established in the gift giving of the Magi.  For this reason, in many cultures still today, gifts are exchanged on the Feast of the Epiphany instead of on Christmas Day.  We can still offer gifts to the newborn Jesus today – – and EVERY DAY in the future!  Our three special gift offerings should be praise, adoration, and thanks-giving!

To know and encounter Jesus Christ is to know God personally.  In the Magi encountering Jesus, we see God’s plan for salvation.  This plan was (and is) to give his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as King and Savior for all mankind.  God gave to us this truly and fully – – both human and divine – – person (in the singular), for not just solely the Jewish faithful, but for all people everywhere.    Do you bring Jesus Christ to others in your path?  Do you actively LOOK for Jesus Christ in others along your path, especially the ones you would prefer not to look upon?  God loves it so dearly when we speak words, and performs acts of blessing, hope, and encouragement.  He rejoices when our words and actions help to create a positive environment wherein tiny “mustard seeds” of faith can grow to beautiful blooming bushes of immense size.

Take some time to reflect on the tradition of gift giving.  What was the best gift you have ever received, and what made it special for you?  Was it the actual gift itself that made it special, or was it the thought that went into it or even the person who gave it to you that made it special?  (There are no “right or wrong” answers”)

Please pray that you will also acknowledge Jesus Christ as your “Savior” in all that you do, say, and “give off” to others.  

We Three Kings

 

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

[Refrain for after each verse]
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen (329-379)

 

Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and his principles influence Eastern monasticism today.

He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of his suffragan bishops, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.

One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”

He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.

Basil was best known as an orator. His writings, though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”

Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.

Quote:

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

 

Gregory Nazianzen (329-390). After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen as bishop of a diocese near Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians. An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints. Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his see.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his archdiocese.

His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”

COMMENT: It may be small comfort, but turmoil in the Church today is a mild storm compared to the devastation caused by the Arian heresy, a trauma the Church has never forgotten. Christ did not promise the kind of peace we would love to have—no problems, no opposition, no pain. In one way or another, holiness is always the way of the cross.

QUOTE: “God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.”

Patron Saint of: Russia

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 2 & 3 of 26: 

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

 

 

 

 

3.     The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.

 

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


 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Today in Catholic History:

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

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

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Exercise daily — walk with the Lord

 

 

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Prayer for the Sanctification of Labor

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Bakers

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Your House or Mine – God Doesn’t Care!” – Luke 1:39-56†


Today is the “Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Mother” to Heaven; Body & Soul. 

 

Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven, defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. “Dogma” is an article of faith that has been revealed by God, which the Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to be believed by all the faithful. This dogma teaches that Mary was truly assumed body, blood, soul, and humanity into the glory and magnificence of the “third” heaven.  (2 Cor 12:2 and 1 Peter 3:22)

It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation  for Roman Catholics in the United States; though “Holy Day of Obligation” is a term, I believe, most Catholics in the U.S. have removed from their vocabulary.  The other “Marian” Holy Days of Obligation are January 1st: the feast of “Mary, Mother of God,” and December 8th: the feast of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus).”

 

 

Next weekend I will be on a retreat with my brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order.  I will pray for all your intentions, during this spiritually awesome time for me.  As you can tell, I in no way consider retreats as a “chore.”  I truly love encountering Christ in many, and diversified ways.  Hopefully, I will be able to post a reflection next Sunday, but it may be a little later in the day or evening.  Pax et Bonum.

 

 

Today is also my birthday [of sorts]. In renewing a solemn pledge: a “Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary,” I made a spiritual rebirth.  Today is the beginning of a renewed chapter in my life.  By imitating Mary, I can say, “May it be done according to your will!”  What are the wonderful effects of this devotion on my soul?  They are:

†       “First, through the Holy Spirit, Mary will convey to me a portion of her profound humility.

†       Second, Our Blessed Lady also will give me a portion of her faith, which was the greatest of all faiths ever on this earth. 

†       Third, this Mother of fair love will take away from my heart all scruple disorder of servile fear. 

†       Fourth, Our Blessed Lady will fill me with a great confidence in God, and in herself.  I will not be approaching Jesus by myself, but always by that good Mother. 

†       Fifth, the soul of our Blessed Lady will impart itself to me, to glorify the Lord.  Her spirit will enter into my spirit to rejoice in God. 

†       Sixth, Mary will bear fruit in her own time, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ. 

†       And seventh, I gave Jesus more glory in a month, than by any other practice, however difficult, in many years.”  WOW!!!

From the devotion itself

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s Visit with Elizabeth.

 

 

39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:39-56)

 

 

The Gospel for today reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven might be best understood as a real experience and preview of the “Parousia” (see last Sunday’s reflection).  This view covers the full realm of Catholic beliefs about the uniquely human and divine person of Jesus Christ, truly human, and the relationship of His whole family, beginning with His mother.  For me, this understanding, or way of looking at the supernatural gift of Mary’s Assumption brings about an abounding and thriving meaning of God’s introduction of His Son, Jesus to the world and to His own Israel, through Mary, for my (and your) personal salvation. This is so strong that Luke actually interprets it TWICE in Mary’s Canticle, in today’s Gospel reading.  The first interpretation we find in verses 1:39-45; and the second is in verses 1:46-56.  The first introduction of Jesus is two-fold: (1) in Mary’s physical traveling to visit Elizabeth and her words of greeting on arrival at Elizabeth’s home; and (2) in Elizabeth’s reaction, her words, and the physical action of Elizabeth’s baby leaping for joy, while still in the womb.  The two mothers-to-be come together to praise a God who is very active and paramount in their lives. 

The second introduction (verses 46-56) is in God’s own action, through Mary, to bring Jesus the Messiah to us, in fidelity to His promises to Abraham and his sons, grandsons, King David, and to all Israel, as well as to all peoples.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God intends for each one of us. (That’s you and me, Bubbas!!)

The presentation of Jesus (in the womb) to His cousin John (also in the womb) will be renewed again a little more than 30 years later, with John the Baptist honoring and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Lamb of God to come, when Jesus’ presented Himself for baptism at the Jordan river.  This is also the first of only two times in all the Gospels that God speaks, proclaiming Jesus as His only-begotten and well beloved Son.

Can anyone imagine the faith Mary had in God?  WOW!!!  For me, it’s beyond my mental reasoning.  Her mind was uncluttered by any of the effects of sin that mar our soul.  An unblemished soul is something neither I, nor anyone reading this reflection, can claim (regrettably). 

Only Mary, born without the stain of original sin (the Immaculate Conception) could give birth to the mysterious uniqueness of Jesus Christ: truly divine and truly human, undiminished divinity and true humanity in one person forever.  Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin: namely death and decay.  Mary is literally the first person to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son secured for you and me, all of mankind that chooses to believes in God and His revelation of mercy.  

Her role in salvation had been pre-conceived by God before the beginning of time, and any role God would give Mary would be a uniquely special one for her.   Even though she apparently discerned that she was being asked to do the impossible, when the archangel Gabriel said something to her about having a baby, Mary displayed a total and unconditional faith and trust in God AND in the Son that God was promising.  Thank God the Planned Parenthood offices were not open, and trying to encourage Mary to avoid the “inconvenience” of an unexpected pregnancy, and the “embarrassment” of a “virginal” conception!  How often have we done anything as unconditionally as Mary did for God, and for us!? 

Was Mary ready for the rigors of being the Mother of God?  This question is answered in the following verse, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.”  It is not an easy feat for a 14 year-old Jewish child, being pregnant at the time, making a rugged four day trip by herself.  And to accomplish this feat “in haste” even adds to her abilities to handle the bad, as well as the good.  Mary is a tough opponent to evil: one heavenly tough lady!

Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation in their lifetime.  Upon arriving, “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” These verses made me recall a similar thing happening with the leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb.  This story can be found in Genesis 25:22-23: “the children in her womb jostled each other so much that she exclaimed, ‘If this is to be so, what good will it do me!’  She went to consult the LORD, and He answered her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”  Interesting to me is that this is a preview of the relation between John and Jesus, just without the quarreling!

 “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice … saying, ‘most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb …’” Having been graced to be filled with the Holy Spirit during an ACTS retreat several years ago, I can appreciate the energy, joy, and charisma associated with the event of being as one with the Holy Spirit.  I felt literally “on top of the world,” and so filled with love that I felt like I was truly going to burst.  Now, I need to emphasize that I never considered myself a “Charismatic Catholic,” and have never talked in tongues.  Until I had this retreat experience, I thought of “those” people as a little strange.  Through this encounter on my retreat with the third person of the Holy Trinity, I no longer have doubts in the capabilities of God’s graces.

Calling Mary “Most Blessed” brings up the image found in Revelations 12:1: “A woman clothed with the Sun.”  For me, Mary was wearing the mantle of God long before her conception with Jesus.  God, the first person of the Holy Trinity, presented to Mary the grace of bringing into this sinful world, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the complete image of Himself, and His Word – her Son Jesus, through the action of the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit.  This is a mystery of faith probably more complex than the United States Internal Revenue Code for most of us to truly understand.

Mary asks, “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even before his birth, Jesus was identified as the Lord.  There were no pre-conceived notions from Mary, Elizabeth, or any other individual aware of the promises about the coming Messiah.  No one alive at that time knew exactly what the Messiah’s role would be.  Some, maybe even most, thought Jesus would become some type of warrior king, similar to David.  If so, how surprised were they to be.  All Mary knew was that SOMETHING special was in store for all of them, and that even though totally blind to any future events, she put her total faith and trust in the hands of God!

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith, trust, and fidelity stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah with Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John.  In Luke 1:20, “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” Zechariah becomes mute, in response to his questioning of God’s grace.  But when Mary asks a similar question, unlike Zechariah who was disciplined for his doubt, Mary is praised and reassured. 

The difference between the two, I believe, is the level of their faith and trust in God’s capabilities.  Zechariah, an elderly temple priest, had doubt and lack of trust, probably due to the many years of A) strictly human reasoning, and B) concupiscence’s effect on his soul, thus making him skeptical.  Mary, on the other hand, had no sins to mark her soul, and had been nurtured by the faith of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.  Even in her young age, and with a perfectly sinless and grace filled soul, she knew nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

Mary’s role in this beginning of this infancy narrative should be seen in connection with her presence among “those who believed” after Jesus’ Resurrection that unique Sunday Morning.  Why?  The answer can be found in Acts 1:14, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”   Mary was with Jesus His entire life.  Mary saw Jesus, as her son AND as her Lord on earth (But don’t most Jewish mothers? – OK, sorry).  Mary trusted in God wholly and completely, and she continued to say “YES” to God, without fail, her entire life.  We need to see the totality of Mary’s life as we see Jesus in the totality of His life.

The nature of God in Jesus’ conception is proclaimed in Mary saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ….” There is an Old Testament parallel for this New Testament verse: “the Song of Hannah,” found in 1 Sam 2:1-11.  A whole separate reflection can be written on the correlations between the two, so I urge you to find it in your bible and read it.  This “song” is credited to Hannah after her birth to Samuel as her thanksgiving to God because of her giving birth to a son, despite her previous years of sterility.  She praises God as the helper of the weak who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly, and who alone is the source of true strength. 

Mary praises God for what He has done for mankind through her child, Jesus; and rejoices in God’s fulfillment of His promises in the verse, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  Mary was totally FILLED with the Holy Spirit, so there was NO room for sin, or for the least little self-centeredness.  Mary literally surrendered herself, and gave all she had, body, soul, and spirit, to serve God, in order for Him to live within, and to work through her!  This is EXACTLY what we need to do each and every day of our lives!!!  (TRUE!!!)

In this new era of salvation, Mary will be hailed as the Mother and Queen of Israel and us all.  “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”  Mary was humble.  So humble in fact, that I believe she may have had a hard time saying that all generations will honor her.  However, we still have to remember, always, that she WAS absolutely and truly FULL of God, thus making her actions and remarks as truly true.  Mary allowed God to work through her, and to work without any impediments from her, in any way.  This is reiterated in Mary continuing her Canticle, saying, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Her “lowliness,” her humbleness, is contrasted against with the might and majesty of God; for NOTHING is impossible with God. (Are you getting the “nothing is impossible with God” theme yet?)

Should we be afraid of GOD?  After all, the next verse says, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”  “Fear” of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3: “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, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.” 

The fullness of Jesus Christ, as shown through Mary – both physically and spiritually, is also available to any Catholic in a state of grace.  We receive these seven gifts when given “sanctifying grace:” the life of God within us.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1831) notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”  When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ Himself would.

Fear is a curiously strange word for most Americans. Most of us take this word as “bad.”  Instead we need to see this word as more of a “healthy fear.”  Healthy fears keep us from burning ourselves when cooking, shocking ourselves when plugging in a lamp, and keeping us from sinning when tempted.  So, we need not fear God as the world experiences fear, but we need to delight in the healthy fear – the profound respect for an infinitely good and powerful God.

Luke 1:50 ends the first part of the Canticle of Mary and transitions into the second part of the Canticle.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God does for those who faithfully and respectfully “fear” Him.

Verse 51: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heartHe has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowlyThe hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”  These six past-tense verbs describe God as the one who performed these actions, and is now in the present tense, operating in the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary.  My question is, “Who are the rich, and who are the hungry?”  Are the “lowly” the Jewish people of Israel, the sick, or the downtrodden?  Is being “rich” a measure of materialist wealth, or is it the proud and arrogant people who have no time or need for God? 

God, through Jesus, is creating a new “exodus,” a new journey that shows a preference for the humble, the poor, and the downtrodden.  This is manifested in Jesus’ ministry, and in the future missions of His disciples. 

Being “poor,” for God, does not come with a social status, or ethnic heritage.  The humble, poor, and downtrodden have to respond to God’s good news, in order to complete this journey with Him.  In the next verse of Mary’s Canticle, “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever,” God builds a “new covenant” upon the old foundation of Abraham’s.  God’s gift, His grace, that Mary is proclaiming, is NOT contingent solely on the ethnic heritage of Abraham’s genealogy.  It is NOW open to All, regardless of social status, ethnicity, previous religion, or any other origin.

“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”  Why would a young woman with the love and charity we all admire in her, leave prior to the birth of Jesus’ precursor: John?  Elizabeth certainly could have used the help with the delivery and other “nursing” and household issues.  Luke, I believe, does this solely in explicitly emphasizing the three main characters in each birth narratives: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John in one; and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the other.

Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and, because of her strong faith and belief, she responds as the servant in this psalm (song) of praise, the “Magnificat.”  The Magnificat, with the possible exception of verse 48, “for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.  Even if not written by Luke, it fits in well with his themes found elsewhere in his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of the Jewish family prophesies.  

In Summary, Mary’s faith and trust is what God wants each of us to imitate.  Can we imitate her faith? Even though Mary was sinless; and we know ourselves to be sinners endeavoring to sin less and less, these virtues are not something beyond our grasp.  In fact, we can grow in these virtues.  We do this when we try our best to follow her, and HIS path to salvation and redemption.  Imitating Mary leads us to her Son because they walk and exist together.  What is really awesome is that we don’t have to walk this path alone.  As a child of God, we can hold the right hand of Mary – our Heavenly Mother – with one hand, and the left hand (making Him our right hand man) of Jesus – our loving brother and kinsman redeemer – with the other, on the path that we take to the glory of paradise, in the salvation of the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2 & 1 Peter 3:22).

 

“The Hail Mary”

 

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

(Actually yesterday’s Saint of the Day, but he is one of my personal patron saints, and the main reason I am a Secular Franciscan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

He is the Patron Saint of Addicts and Drug addiction.

 

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

 

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #15 of 26:

 

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