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


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Christmas Tree

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

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

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“I’m the Best Darn Humble Person Around, I Do Believe!” – Matthew 23:1-12†


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

All Saints Day and All Souls Day are Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, this week.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.  I hope to see you all in Church.  This year, this past Wednesday, marks the 45th Anniversary of my father’s death.  I miss him, but know he (and my Mom) is (are) with me every single Eucharistic celebration.  In preparation for All Saints Day, let’s pray for greater courage in fighting abortion.

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Tomorrow night is Halloween.  Please be safe in all your Ghoulishly Christian endeavors.  If you have children that go “trick or treat”, please use the usual safety rules:

  1. 1.     Reflective material or flashing light or cyalume stick visible on all side placed on costume,
  2. 2.     Parent accompany the children on the haunt and haunting activities,
  3. 3.     Only go to homes where you know the occupants, and
  4. 4.     Inspect any treats prior to allowing children to have and/or consume.

Better yet, go to a party at yours or neighboring church (yet still follow the rules).

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Finally, The St. Louis Carinals are the Baseball World Champions.   There 11th World Champions in 2011 (“11 in 11”).  Besides the team, the fansare also the best.  The city is celebrating, people are hugging perfect strangers and NO rioting, breaking windows, or any other BAD behavior!  We have to be the greatest and classiest fans, not only in baseball, but in sports period!  Way to go Cardinals Nation, and way to go St.Louis Area for once again showing the world the proper and GREAT way to celebrate – –  with CLASS!  (thanks Jeff)

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   701 – John VI of Greece begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   942 – Alberic nominates Pope Marinus II (Martinus III)
†   1270 – The Eighth Crusade and siege of Tunis end by an agreement between Charles I of Sicily (brother to King Louis IX of France, who had died months earlier) and the sultan of Tunis.
†   1389 – French king Charles VI visits pope Clemens VII
†   1534 – English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy, making King Henry VIII head of the English church – a role formerly held by the Pope
†   1950 – Pope Pius XII witnesses “The Miracle of the Sun” while at the Vatican.
†   Feasts/Memorials: St. Artemas; St. Herbert; St. Marcellus the Centurion; St. Saturninus; St. Serapion

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against following of the Scribes and the Pharisees example; and teaches that those who would be great must be servants as well.

 

(NAB Matthew 23:1-12) 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  4 They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  5All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’  8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  11The greatest among you must be your servant.  12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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 Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel continues to expand on the tension between Jesus and the Temple leaders.  Having finished a string of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus is now directing His words to the crowds following Him, warning them not to follow the example of the Scribes and Pharisees in “saying” – – but not “doing”.

Today, Matthew’s begin a narrative in which Jesus Christ censures and denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees for their lack of humility. Matthew, in his writings, saw these Temple leaders as true enemies of Jesus (cf., Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; and Mark 8:11–13, 15).

Who were these men of “faith” that could be enemies of Jesus?  The Scribes and Pharisees were teachers of Mosaic Law.  They were entrusted with the laws interpretation, and thus were influential in determining everyday Jewish practices.  

In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing His teachings on the exact same laws and traditions offered to the Temple leaders, as found in the Old Testament, especially the Torah.  Both Jesus and the Temple leaders were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to adapt it to contemporary Jewish life of the time.  The differences between Jesus’ and the Temple leader’s teachings therefore, are often highlighted and amplified in Matthew’s Gospel.

While there is a well-seated and lengthy tradition of deep opposition existing between Jesus and the Temple leaders, today’s discourse by Jesus, exposes an opposition that goes far beyond that of Jesus’ ministry period on earth.  This opposition has to be viewed as expressing the long-held and very bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s later first-century Jewish-Catholic Church, when this Gospel was composed.  Matthew’s Church is believed to have included many who did not believe a break with the Temple was necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ (My question: Was it?).  So, Matthew reports of Jesus stating that it is correct to “do” and “observe” what the Scribes and Pharisees teach; it is only their “example” that is to be avoided. Namely, Jesus is talking of the Temple leaders love for being honored and exalted (I call it the “look at me, I did much good” syndrome).  Therefore, today’s Gospel reflects the tension of an active internal debate that is occurring within the later first century Church and the Pharisaic Jewish church.

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The Temple leaders are sitting on their “laurels” – – their own personal glory – – and not sitting with God in mind and present among them.  So, is this what Jesus meant when He said:

The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.” (Matthew 23:2)?  

It is not clear whether Jesus meant this is a metaphor for Mosaic teaching authority, or, actually referring to a physical chair on which the “priest or Rabbi” sat as he taught and governed.  After all, there were found to be known seats such as this, in synagogues of later periods.  Did Jesus foretell future events in Jewish religion, was it just a coincidence, or was there another meaning?  

 

Jesus doesn’t stop at just this one observation, but continues to a greater phase in His comments that the Temple leaders do not walk the talk:

 “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Matthew 23:3)

Jesus is not doing away with Mosaic Law, but is instead expounding upon – – amplifying and fulfilling – – Mosaic Law:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophetsI have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Remember, during the “Beatitudes” narrative, Jesus declared the “was said … but I say …” statements (cf., Matthew 5:31-42).  He is now also DIRECTLY warning His disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees, by their examples, as He did when talking of John the Baptist as a “true” servant of God (cf., 14:1-12).

The Scribes and Pharisees indults and actions in observing Mosaic Law in all things cannot be taken as the PROPER way to conduct oneself, then, and now in Jesus’ Catholic Church on earth today.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by conformity to salvation history and Mosaic Law.  At the same time, He is also points – – and leads – – to a new “church” that would exist after His death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  During Jesus’ ministry, the beginning of God the Father’s kingdom on earth, His mission remained within the framework of Mosaic Law, though with a significant anticipation of the age to come.  Keeping this fact in mind, the crowds following Jesus Christ and His disciples were encouraged not to follow the example of the Jewish leaders whose deeds did not conform to their teachings.

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Carrying a heavy load is certainly not any fun or joy for ANYONE.  In verse 4 of today’s reading is the phrase, “They tie up heavy burdens”.  This particular phrase reminds me of Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom while submitting to the Church’s “yoke”.

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instructionTake her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” (Sirach 51:23, 26)

Jesus is reminding His follows that though burdened by the “law” as expanded on by the Scribes and Pharisees, that there is a undeniable hope in a faith and love to God the Father.  Those “burdened” can find rest in the “true” Word of God:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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To the indictment of the Temple leaders of preaching – – yet not practicing – – the “true” faith (verse 3), Jesus adds the indictment of “acting in order to earn praise”.  The disciples have already been warned against this same fault when Jesus taught about alms-giving, prayer, and fasting much earlier in His ministry (cf., Matthew 6:1-18).

Jesus is alluding to two specific aspects of Jewish spiritual life prescribed by the Law of Moses, for which many Catholics are not aware.  These two aspects, and two words associated with these aspects, are used in verse 5 of the Gospel.  Let me explain the items: “phylacteries” and “tassels”, and their proper use.

Phylacteries” are an item of clothing required by Mosaic Law during periods of prayer.  They are simple, small, and usually black boxes containing parchments on which verses of scripture are written.  They are worn on the left forearm and on the forehead by black straps (cf., Exodus 13:9, 16; and Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).  If you watch people at the remains of the Temple wall (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), you will notice these small black boxes on their foreheads, and strapped (with long pieces of leather) around their left forearm, as they pray facing the wall.  These are the same phylacteries in use today, as in Jesus’ time.

The “Tassels” (officially called “Tzitzit”) are the “fringe” Mosaic Law prescribes to be worn on the corners of one’s garment (such as the prayer shawl) as a reminder to keep the commandments.  The widening of phylacteries (bigger boxes) and the lengthening of tassels (longer fringe and tassels) were solely for the purpose of making these “proofs of piety” more noticeable and pronounced.  (Humility in its finest; isn’t it!)

In their misguided zeal, the Temple leaders sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for His “Word”. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers.  They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith – – a burden – – rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to “humbly serve”.

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It is obvious Jesus loved His Father and His faith.  Jesus Christ was not afraid to express His concerns about the way the Temple leaders were abusing their positions for personal gain.  Jesus did not “bow out” or “quit” out of frustration.  Instead, Jesus Christ brought His Catholic (universal) Church into union with God His Father, and gave all that believed (and still believes) in Him the possibility of eternity salvation in paradise.  

Lack of humility and piety is as dangerous as greed itself.  Lack of these virtues actually leads to increased greed and separation from God the Father.  Another Evangelist, Mark, in his Gospel, even warns of greed and arrogance:

In the course of his teaching he [Jesus] said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.’” (Mark 12:38-40)

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We now get to the second portion of Jesus’ discourse today: the warning against using various titles.  This section however, is addressed to the disciples alone, and not to the followers coming along for the ride, or the Temple leaders.  

Everybody loves a title.  I once had a title: “Director of Quality Assurance”, which meant I was reportedly in charge of a very important aspect of my company.  In reality, my jobs consisted mainly of filing papers, and counting various variables, in an office BY MYSELF (and with no staff).  (Not as glamorous as the job sounded on my business card.)

Temple leaders loved the name, “Rabbi”, meaning “my great one, or, teacher”.  It was (and still is) a title of respect for teachers and leaders.  Jesus was called “Rabbi” many times in Holy Scripture.  At age fifteen, He was even found teaching in the Temple (the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).  A large part of His earthly ministry involved being in or around the Temple frequently.  He was easily recognized as the leader of a group of people associated with the Jewish religion.

So, was Jesus against calling anyone “rabbi” or “father”?  Or, was He just directing this sharp rebuke solely to the Scribes and Pharisees? Well, I believe He was warning both His disciples and the Temple leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors in order to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others.  Holy Scripture gives more than enough warning about the danger of self-seeking “pride”.  Examples can be found in the books of Proverbs and James:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) 

And,

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6),

While only the title ‘Rabbi’ is used in addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, I believe the inference is that “Father” and “Master” was also used.  The prohibition of these titles – – to Jesus’ disciples – – highly suggests that the use of these titles was present in Matthew’s first-century Jewish-Catholic Church.  Per Matthew, Is Jesus forbidding the “title” or the spirit of superiority and pride shown by their acceptance (or both)?

Saint Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD), and the bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin language, comments on Matthew’s Gospel reading:

Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity.  For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives.  One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher.  I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption.  Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

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Humility is the key to piety and love of the Trinitarian God.  The Evangelist, Luke, says of humility:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Our Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme example of how to live a humble life.  The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order states:

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently (#9),

And,

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

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power (11).

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 In Summary, the warning Jesus gives against seeking places of honor in the community was directed as much toward the future Catholic communities as well as the Jewish leaders of His day.  Indeed, it is a warning that resonates with us LOUDLY today (Yet, cannot, or will not, be heard by many).  Catholic Christian leadership is a call to “service” for the glory of God!!  Like Jesus Christ, and His Virginal Mother, those who would be leaders among us must be “servants of ALL”.

St. Paul described “servant leadership” in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He recalled their “sharing”, their humility in serving the Church, and their “toil and drudgery”:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.  You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Although the challenging words of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel was directly addressed to religious leaders of His time, many voices today should still question those in positions of political and economic power.  In their own words, participants in the “Occupy Together” movement have accused individuals, groups, and businesses of greed, arrogance and corruption.  Yet, they don’t (are won’t) see the greed, arrogance, and lawlessness on their own part.  For me, most in both groups: the US Government and in the group of “wildly greedy individuals” are equal partners in greed, arrogance, and corruption.  Their actions of removing themselves from laws (by law and action) prove their lack of caring for the people they are suppose to “serve”.  Arrogance thrives in our halls of government, and in parks around the world (with the “Occupy” groups) today.

 

There is hope however.  Respect for God and His ways will dispose us to humility and simplicity of heart.  The word “disciple” means “one who listens in order to learn”.  Jesus shows us the way to God the Father, the sure and true way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness.  He showed us “the way” by lowering Himself as a servant for our sake:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

What is true Christ-like humility?  It is when humility is “lived” with a true self-knowledge; seeing Jesus’ Christ in each and every person we meet.  The humbled do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and the power of His love and saving grace.  True humility is a “servant-like” quality, enabling us to place our life in the service of God and neighbor. Do you have a joy for Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?  Are you following Jesus’ example of service to others – with Humility?

Our response to economic and political concerns, should be to “model” humble servant leadership, and seek the same from those in positions of extraordinary power.  Remember, November 8th (Election Day) is right around the corner.  So, practice what you peach!”  What does this mean to you?  Can you list some examples of people you know who “practice what they preach”?  In these people, what do you observe in them, and what do you admire about them?

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  How many of us have been tempted to say (or actually have said) this phrase to our children and co-workers (Yep, I have)?  Today’s Gospel resounds with Jesus’ reply, “Practice what you preach.”  People, who know us best, can identify the [many] inconsistencies between what we want to teach and the example that we actually give – – so ask, if you aren’t afraid.  

Maybe the challenge for all of us, especially for those of us who are parents, is to model with consistency a love, faith, and hope in the Catholic Christian “way of life” we wish to teach our loved ones.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus Christ talk about the importance of acting in ways that are consistent with our faith.  How might you better practice the Catholic faith you professed at your Baptism and Confirmation (and at every Mass).  TODAY, choose an “action” to take which shows your faith – – in action.  Pray together that your faith will be shown consistently in your actions AND words.  Remember, God opens doors and gives you what you need to “act” on His behalf, so use the gifts and talents God has given you.

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

“LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.  I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.  Rather, I have stilled my soul, like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.  Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.  Amen.”  Psalm 131:1-3

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

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

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

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23.  Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor.  Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life.  He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home.  There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits.  He was not helped by his poor education.  He applied twice before being admitted.  For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca.  When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian.  Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617.  He is the patron saint of Majorca.

Comment:

We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life.  But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant.  None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness.  Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks.  Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched.  May they find such a friend in us!

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

Why does Francis call us “Brothers and Sisters in Penance”?

Are we to really “hate” our bodies? (cf., Galations:5:13-21)

How much of Francis’ life was spent in penance and conversion?

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mary says, ‘My Son DOES Walk on Water’!” – Matthew 14:22-33†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

One week from tomorrow, my four boys go back to school; two in Middle School and two in High School.  Let us all pray for a safe year for all our students and their families.

BTW – Did I mention that my boys will not be home all day – – EVERY day (Hee, hee, hee – Party time).

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   768 – Stephen III [IV] begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1547 – Death of Cajetanus van Thiene, Italian saint, dies1814
†   1547 – Pope Pius VII reinstates Jesuits
†   1978 – Thousands of mourners file past body of Pope Paul VI

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water, and the disciples acknowledging Him as the “Son of God’.

 

(NAB Matthew 14:22-33) 22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  23 After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.  24 Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  25 During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.  27 At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  29 He said, “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  30 But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  32 After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  33 Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel directly follows last week’s account of Jesus feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 (plus) people with just five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  For the sake of the crowds, Jesus had deferred His time of private prayer and rest.  In today’s reading, Jesus finally finds some time for quiet reflection and private prayer.  He sends His disciples ahead of Him by boat, dismisses the crowds, and then withdraws to His favorite place on a mountain to pray privately.  Jesus Christ being on a mountain to pray reminds me of a Chinese proverb:

“You must climb the mountain if you would see the plain.”

 

Does the Lord seem distant when trials or adversity come your way?  It was at Jesus’ initiative that the disciples sailed across the lake, only to find themselves in a life-threatening storm:

“When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and He was alone on shore.  Then He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:47-48).

Can you picture being thrown about, in a turbulent sea, in a glorified open rowboat?  In the midst of all the mayhem, you look up and see a person walking towards you – – ON THE WATER!!  Though experienced fisherman and sailors, the disciples, laboring to keep the boat aright against the violent sea, are saved by Jesus in a most miraculous and mysterious way.  

The disciples were not faring well.  Indeed, they had gotten into some serious trouble.  These seasoned men of the sea were struggling to ride out the blowing wind and foaming waves, making little progress in their journey.  While Jesus was not with them in the boat, He watched over them in prayer.  When He perceived the danger of their situation, He went to them, on the sea, and startled them with His unexpected appearance.  Do you look for the Lord’s presence when you encounter difficulty or challenges?  When you are “startled”, look for God – – He is there for and with you.

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Jesus does not calm the seas immediately!  The disciples demonstrate fear and wonder when they see Jesus walking toward them on the water.  In this story, it is not the storm which is feared but the sight of Jesus Christ coming towards them on the water.  No wonder they mistake Him for a ghost.  (The “Holy Ghost” was already with them.  I wonder if they realized this bit of fact.)

Jesus is demonstrating to the disciples His power over the waters.  Remember, from earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:26), a similar occurrence happened on the same sea; and Jesus took control of the weather and sea then as well:

He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’  Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”  (Matthew 8:26)

In the earlier occurrence, Jesus CALLS to the disciples and calms their fears.  In this second occurrence, Jesus COMES to the disciples and calms their fears – – AGAIN!  In both these occurrences, Jesus is neither ghost, nor a spirit; He is the “Messiah” walking on the water in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The spontaneous, hasty Peter seeks proof that the person walking towards them on a path of deep water is indeed Jesus Himself.  He asks Jesus to command Him to come to Him on the water; and Jesus grants this request.  Jesus simply commands Peter:

Come!” (Matthew 14:29)

Peter actually obeys and gets out of the boat, and starts walking towards Jesus Christ on the water.  The reason given in the reading is that Peter became “frightened”.  I wonder if the real reason is that Peter realized the Jesus was going to make him the “rock” the church will be built upon; and everyone knows a ROCK SINKS!!!  (Hee, hee, sorry for this one.)

 

Peter’s human fear and self-imposed doubt overtake him as he is supernaturally walking on the water.  He cries out for help.  Jesus immediately reaches out and saves Peter as he is sinking into the sea “like a rock”!  When Jesus and Peter enter the boat, Matthew relates that the wind ceases.  The disciples, onboard this small, open vessel, confess that Jesus Christ is TRULY the “Son of God”.

Jesus’ control over the sea, in both of these “sea stories” may be meant to recall the Old Testament theme of God’s control over the “chaotic waters”:

You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (Psalm 65:8);

You rule the raging sea; you still its swelling waves.” (Psalm 89:10);

The flood has raised up, LORD; the flood has raised up its roar; the flood has raised its pounding waves.  More powerful than the roar of many waters, more powerful than the breakers of the sea, powerful in the heavens is the LORD.” (Psalm 93:3-4).

And so, the Lord …:

Hushed the storm to a murmur; the waves of the sea were stilled.”(Psalm 107:29).

Into today’s Reading, Jesus’ divine power is expressed by His walking on the sea instead of simply “calming” the seas:

“During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them, walking on the sea.”(Matthew 14:25);

Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.” (Psalm 77:20);

And,

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.” (Job 9:8).

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The sea is a unique place; in speaking about the sea, writer have used unique terms.  The “fourth watch of the night” (verse 25) is a nautical term meaning between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. – – early morning or late night (six of one OR half-dozen of another).  It is a historical fact that the Romans were the first to divide the twelve hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called “watches.”  This is still the norm in some navies of the world.

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During this fourth watch, Jesus’ reply, “It is I” is a powerful, revelational, and declarative statement, from Jesus Himself, to the fearful disciples. The same statement is related in Mark’s Gospel:

They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:50)

That powerful, declarative statement: “It is I”, literally means, “I am.”  This statement reflects the divine revelatory formula found in the Old Testament passages which reveals the hidden divinity of Jesus as the divine Son of God:

When Moses asks God, “What should I tell the Israelites when they ask, ‘who sent you?’”  God replied, “Tell them, ‘I am who am’ has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

Later, through Isaiah, God revealed the following:

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning.  I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.  Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.   Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”(Isaiah 41:4, 10, 14).

And, again in Isaiah 43, God says:

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.  You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen To know and believe in me and understand that IT IS I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.  … yes, from eternity I am He; There is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:1-3, 10, 13).

So, God set the stage through Moses and the prophets for identifying the “true” “Messiah”: His name shall be “I AM”!   Another translation of the Hebrew and Greek word for “I am” is “It is I”!

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This dramatic incident on the Sea of Galilee revealed Peter’s character more clearly than from the others present for this experience of a sign of Jesus’ true divinity.  Here we see Peter’s impulsivity of his faith; his tendency to act without thinking inspired him to “get out of the boat”.  Then, that same impulsivity inspired Peter to doubt, to worry, and to become scared to death.

Peter often failed and anguished as a result of his impulsiveness.  In contrast, Jesus often hinted to His disciples how difficult it will be (and is) to follow Him; how difficult His path which He taught and lived, is.  You may think and feel that you are sinking at times, overwhelmed by waves of worry, and in the depths of fear; however, the truth is: Jesus Christ is always there to take your hand.  

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Two other interesting things said by Jesus in verse 31 of today’s Gospel reading are revealing as well:

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “’O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”  (Matthew 14 :31)

First, “you of little faith” is also found in Luke, and earlier in Matthew:

“If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? (in Luke 12:28);

And,

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

You of little faith” is used by Jesus Christ for those of His disciples whose faith in Him is not as deeply rooted as it should be.  That was certain in Peter’s situation.

Then, the second phrase, “why did you doubt?” uses a verb distinctive to Matthew used in only one other place, in Matthew 28:17:

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

 

The confession, “Truly, you are the Son of God“, made by all the disciples after they witnessed Jesus helping Peter back into the boat, is in striking contrast to Mark’s description that the disciples are “completely astounded“:

“He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:51)

Т

In summary, I believe this story is about the disciples’ growing understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ, living physically among them during their daily struggles.  Related to last week’s Gospel about the feeding of the “crowds”, today’s Gospel is also about what the disciples’ faith in Jesus will enable them to do in THEIR daily lives.  In last week’s Gospel, when the disciples see the crowds, they ask Jesus to send them away.  However, Jesus turns the circumstances around, telling the disciples to feed the crowd with the miniscule provisions they have with them.  For me, both of these Gospels tell much about what ministry “truly” is, and why we need to participate in Jesus’ ministry then, now, and into the future.

 Faith in Jesus Christ, their Savior and ours will enable the disciples to do the work (the mission) which Jesus has done and is still doing on earth.  Remember, Peter truly did walk on water.  The disciples truly fed a large mass of people mysteriously and miraculously with the five loaves and two fish.  Jesus’ disciples (all of US) can and will participate in the work of the kingdom of heaven when we allow Him into our lives, hearts, and souls.  When Peter fears and doubts, he falters in his faith.  Peter’s example teaches us that “true” Catholic Christian ministry (work) emerges from a faithful belief that Jesus is the “true” Messiah, God’s only Son:

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?  For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:24-26)

The mission (work) of the Catholic Church is to continue the work Jesus started during His time on earth.  The family, – – the “domestic church”, – – participates in this mission as well.  Please remember that Jesus Himself said:

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”” (Matthew 18:20).

I believe people think too logically – – too “earthly” – – in regards to this particular verse.   “Where two or three are gathered together” does not mean a direct gathering, as one unit or group.  The two or three can be separated by miles, even in different parts of the world, yet still be together – – gathered – – in praising, adoring, and worshiping God.  This is why the “Divine Office” is the official prayer of the Catholic Church.  It is said privately, and as a group, throughout the world, continuously, and in unison.

 

How do you, your family, and your friends participate in the mission (works) of the Catholic Church?  In what ways can you seek to reach out to your neighbors and other people in need through acts of kindness, mercy, and justice?  Peter wanted to be like Jesus, to walk on water as Jesus did.  Take note: Peter was “successful” for a time; but then he doubted as he focused on the externals, the waves and the wind; then he began to sink into the water (like a “rock”).  How are your acts of mercy and justice rooted in your faith in Jesus?  Pray that Jesus Christ will continue to work through you to prepare the kingdom of heaven on earth.

A great deal of failure in Catholic life is due to acting on impulse, emotional fervor, and passion without counting the spiritual cost for such actions.  Peter, in the moment of his failure called out for help, seized Jesus, and held Him firmly in his grip.  Every time Peter fell, he rose again.  His failures only made him love the Lord Jesus Christ more deeply, and to trust Him more intently.  

Jesus Christ keeps watch over us at all times, especially in our moments of temptation, challenges, and difficulties.  Do you rely on Jesus for His strength and help?  Jesus assures us that we have no need to fear if we trust in Him and in His great love for us.  When trials and temptations threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond?  Do you withdraw?  Or do you stand your ground knowing you have a powerful ally: Jesus Christ?  Let’s “get out of the boat” and stand together in our common, “universal”, Catholic faith!!

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Franciscan Morning Prayer

 

“Jesus Lord, I offer you this new day because I believe in you, love you, hope all things in you and thank you for your blessings.

I am sorry for having offended you and forgive everyone who has offended me.

Lord, look on me and leave in me peace and courage and your humble wisdom that I may serve others with joy, and be pleasing to you all day.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Cajetan (1480-1557)

 

Like most of us, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life—first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia.

His life took a characteristic turn when he joined the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, a group devoted to piety and charity, shortly after his ordination at 36.  When he was 42 he founded a hospital for incurables at Venice.  At Vicenza, he joined a “disreputable” religious community that consisted only of men of the lowest stations of life—and was roundly censured by his friends, who thought his action was a reflection on his family.  He sought out the sick and poor of the town and served them.

The greatest need of the time was the reformation of a Church that was “sick in head and members.”  Cajetan and three friends decided that the best road to reformation lay in reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. (One of them later became Paul IV.)  Together they founded a congregation known as the Theatines (from Teate [Chieti] where their first superior-bishop had his see).  They managed to escape to Venice after their house in Rome was wrecked when Charles V’s troops sacked Rome in 1527.  The Theatines were outstanding among the Catholic reform movements that took shape before the Protestant Reformation.  He founded a monte de pieta (“mountain [or fund] of piety”) in Naples—one of many charitable, nonprofit credit organizations that lent money on the security of pawned objects.  The purpose was to help the poor and protect them against usurers.  Cajetan’s little organization ultimately became the Bank of Naples, with great changes in policy.

Comment:

If Vatican II had been summarily stopped after its first session in 1962, many Catholics would have felt that a great blow had been dealt to the growth of the Church.  Cajetan had the same feeling about the Council of Trent. But, as he said, God is the same in Naples as in Venice, with or without Trent or Vatican II (or III).  We open ourselves to God’s power in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, and God’s will is done.  God’s standards of success differ from ours.

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Role Models

 

How is Saint Francis a good model for the norm by which we can judge ourselves, and even others?

(This leads to honesty with God, and serves us well with our examination of conscience – to see how we are in the sight of God – not how other persons see us).

How is the Blessed Virgin Mary a great model for the virtue of humility?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 7 & 8 of 26:

 

07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.”  Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

Т

08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

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


 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

 Т

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

Т

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Т

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

Т

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Т

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

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

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

 

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

 Т

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

 

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

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

 Т

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

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

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

 

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Reflection Psalm:

 

Psalm 145

The Lord provides for His people

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

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

It is right and just.”

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

It is truly right and just.

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of Retreats

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Humility

 

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

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

How important is true humility?

Is there a place for “just pride”?

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

 

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order
(SFO) Rule:

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Sixteenth Sunday
of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Deliberation:

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

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Discovery:

 

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

 

Declaration:

 

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

 

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Today’s Gospel Reading:

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

Т

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Т

 

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

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

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

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

 

Т

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

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

And

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

 

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

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

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

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

 And,

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

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

 

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

Т

 

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

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

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

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

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

Previously, Jesus also said:

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

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

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

Т

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,  

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

 

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

Т

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Т

 

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

 

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

 

Components and Meanings of
“The Parable of the Weeds”

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

“But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:3)

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 86

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Creation and St. Francis

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

 

Day 5  Sun, 7/17

 

Imitation: Cont.: Book 3, Chap. 40

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

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

 

Now recite the daily prayers for Part 1

 

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

 

Veni Creator

 

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

 

Ave Maris Stella

 

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

 

Magnificat

 

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

 

♫“Sow, Sow, Sow Your Faith, Gently Down His Path!”♫- Matthew 13:1-23†


 

 

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Starting next Wednesday, July 13th, I will begin my yearly “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, popularized and created by St. Louis de Monfort.  I will be posting the prayers for the four sections on both my blog and Facebook sites.  All you need to add is the 10 or so minutes each day, and a proper heart and soul.  So, please join me.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   983 – Death of Benedict VI, Italian Pope (974-83)
†   1086 – Death of Knut IV, the Saint, king of Denmark (1080-86), murdered
†   1609 – Catholic German monarchy forms Catholic League
†   1900 – Birth of Sampson Sievers, Russian Orthodox Christian monk, priest and wonder-worker (d. 1979)
†   1998 – Roman Catholic sex abuse cases: The Diocese of Dallas agrees to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who claimed they were sexually abused by former priest Rudolph Kos.

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

“When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.” ~ Unknown author

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed that has been sown on good soil.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 13:1-23) 1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  3 And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  5 Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  8 But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  9 Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  10 The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  12 To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’  14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.  15 Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’  16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  17 Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  19 The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  21 But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  22 The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  23 But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

 

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Gospel Reflection

 

Today’s Gospel marks the beginning of a lengthy teaching or dialogue (His third discourse in Matthew) given by Jesus.  Over the next few weeks at Mass, the Gospel readings will cover of the whole of Matthew’s 13th Chapter. 

 

What was (and still is) the best and easiest way to help people understand God’s kingdom?  Like the Temple leaders and Rabbis of first-century Palestine, Jesus very often used “parables” – – short stories and images taken from everyday life – – to communicate “unknown” truths about the kingdom of God.  Jesus was a skilled artist of speech and imagery; a great orator and teacher.  Through His words, He etched in the listeners mind, vividly brilliant and unforgettable images.

A well-constructed image can speak more loudly and clearly than many words.  (Remember the old adage: “A picture says a thousand words.”)  Jesus epitomized this saying by using the ordinary everyday well-known images of everyday life and nature as a way to point to a different (and hidden) order of reality.  Jesus, through the use of parables, points to a different, visible order of reality for those who had “eyes to see” and “ears to hear“, and those who heard with faith.  

Jesus communicated His teachings with vivid and dramatic images, such as soil conditions, plants, and trees.  These images, these parables, grabbed ahold of the imagination of His audience more powerfully than any nonfigurative talk ever could.  His parables were like a “buried treasure” waiting to be discovered:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44).

(Note the inspiration of that salesman – – his “JOY”!)

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching of “parables” is known as the “third great discourse” of His ministerial life.  It makes up the second of three parts of Matthew’s Gospel as well.  Matthew used only two of a set of three, and this one is number two of the three.  Matthew uses five other parables taken from other sources known collectively by Biblical Scholars as “Q” and “M”.  The authors of these two documents are unknown; that’s why they are indentified as “Q” and “M”.

In addition to Matthew’s seven parables, Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 13: 1-53, gives the reason why He uses a “parable” approach to teaching the faith and way of God:

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

Jesus declares the “blessedness” of those who understand His teaching:

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 16-17):

He then goes on to explain the “parable of the sower”:

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”  (Matthew 13: 18-23):

In verse 24 through 53 (not included in today’s reflection), Jesus explains the parable of the weeds, and ends with a concluding summary statement of teaching to His disciples.  He is stating in His summary that we are all to be “Scribes” in the new kingdom of God:

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52)

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What can a parable about “seeds” and “roots” teach us about the kingdom of God?  Well, any successful farmer (I am not one!  I have a black thumb – even killing a cactus once) will attest to the extreme importance for the need of “good soil” to supply the necessary nutrients for growth and fruit production.  After all, a plant gets all necessary food, water, and other nutrients by its roots?  

Holy Scripture repeatedly uses the image of “fruit-bearing” plants or trees to express the principles of spiritual life and spiritual death.  Here are just two examples from the Old Testament:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8);

And,

They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

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There are different ways of accepting God’s “Word”, which, hence, produce different kinds of “fruit” as a result.  There is the opinionated “hearer”, who shuts one’s mind to differing views.  Such a person is, in reality, non-teachable, and “deaf” to what ne could hear, and blind to what lies behind what he sees.

Then there is the “shallow” hearer.  This person fails to meditate, reflect, and think things out completely.  They lack a “depth” of faith, knowledge, and openness to God’s “Word”.  They may initially respond with even a strong emotionally charged reaction; however, when this feeling wears off, their mind begins wandering to something else which will give them another “charge” without much effort.

A third type of hearer is the person who has many interests or concerns, but who “lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important”.  Such people are too “busy” to pray, or too “pre-occupied” to study and meditate on God’s “Word”.  Their focus is totally on the “here and now”.

Finally, there is “the one whose mind is open”.  This person, this disciple, is willing to listen and to learn – – AT ALL TIMES, ever looking for the spiritual truth lying beneath the surface of what they heard and see.  They are never too “proud” or too “busy” to learn the message and teachings of God; instead they listen with anticipation to His Word, in order to understand Him and His kingdom they will inherit.  

God gives a great gift, a great grace, to those who search for, yearn for, and hunger for His “Word”.  They are “consumed” in Him so that they may understand His will, His way, and His truth.  And, through His “Word”, they have the strength to live according to God the Fathers plan for salvation and redemption.   

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In Palestine, sowing (sort of loosely planting the seeds) was often preceded by plowing.  In “sowing” seeds, the seeds are literally thrown from the hand (similar to spreading salt/calcium on an icy driveway).  Much of the seed is thus oft times scattered on ground unsuitable for any growth.

Yet while many of the seeds are “wasted”, the seed which falls on “good” ground bears “fruit” in an exceptionally large amount.  The point of Jesus’ parable of the “Sower” is that, in spite of some failure, (usually because of opposition and indifference to His message), the trusting and hopeful “true” message of Jesus Christ, about the coming of His kingdom, will have an enormous success – – in those who, like little children, hear Him with faith:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

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The word “parable” (from the Greek, “parabole”) is used to translate the Hebrew word, “mashal”, a designation for a variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitude’s, and allegories.  What these literary forms have in common is a “hidden message” for the receiver.  The New Testament authors, and Jesus Christ Himself, consciously use “mashal” and “parable” to designate and illustrate comparisons and inter-relatedness of “kingdom truths” and everyday life events.  Sometimes, these everyday life events have a strange element quite different from an otherwise “usual” experience of everyday life: for instance, in the parable of the yeast, Matthew 13:33, the enormous amount of dough was produced by adding a small amount of yeast.  Thus, “parables” are meant to sharpen and hone the curiosity and interest of the hearer to leads them to internalize the “true” meaning of the parable.

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In today’s reading, Jesus told His disciples that not everyone would gain an understanding of His parables.  Do you think He was deliberately confusing and/or hiding the meaning of His parables, His stories, His message, from His listeners?   I don’t believe so.  

Jesus was speaking from experience – – past, present, and future experience!  His “experience” is not only internal, but His awareness of “experience encompasses ALL time at ONCE!  He is aware of all things and all times.   He is aware that “some” who hear His parables would refuse to understand them.  It isn’t that these people could not understand them; but rather that their hearts would be hardened, shut, closed, and blinded to what Jesus Christ was really saying.  In reality, they had already made up their minds NOT to believe.  What a pity, as God can only reveal the hidden truths of His kingdom to those who are not blinded spiritually.   God can only reveal the hidden truths to those individuals who have a deep hunger for Him and His “Word”, and humbly submit to His truth and Word.  As He Himself said to them:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Also, in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father the following prayer of praise:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  (Matthew 11:25)

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Since a parable is “figurative speech” requiring an amount of reflection for its understanding, only those who are open and prepared to explore and discover its true meaning can come to know it, and to internalize its meaning.  To understand Jesus’ teachings and parables is a gift (a grace) of God Himself, “granted” to His disciples, yet, not to those in the crowds when Jesus said:

“… it has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”Matthew 13:11)  

In reading this verse, it is evident that both Jesus’ disciples’ understanding of His parables and the crowd’s ignorance to their meanings are both attributed to God’s will.  The question of human responsibility for a lack of knowledge is asserted in Matthew 13:13:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13). 

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Jesus mentions the “mysteries” in verse 11.  This word can also be found in Luke and Mark’s Gospel:

“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’” (Luke 8:10);

The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.” (Mark 4:11).

And, the word “mystery” can even be found in the Old Testament:

They might implore the mercy of the God of heaven in regard to this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he blessed the God of heaven. In the king’s presence Daniel made this reply: ‘The mystery about which the king has inquired, the wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers could not explain to the king but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what is to happen in days to come; this was the dream you saw as you lay in bed..’” (Daniel 2:18, 19, 27-28);

The word “mystery” is used to designate a divine plan or declaration affecting the course of history; which can only be known and understood when revealed by God.  Knowledge of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven means recognizing God’s kingdom present in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His ministry.

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 “To anyone who has, more will be given” (verse 12).  Throughout the New Testament this axiom of practical “wisdom” is used several times:

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29);

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:25);

“Take care, then, how you hear.  To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18);

And,

“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.” (Luke 19:26).

Its reference goes beyond one’s original gaining time, talent, and treasures.  In essence, God declares a granting of a further understanding of His kingdom to all who accept His “revealed” mystery.  And, from the one who does not accept or use His graces, He takes it away (The ultimate “use it or lose it” principle!)

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Jesus speaks in “parables” so that the non-believing crowds may not understand:

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13);

 And,

They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12),

Making the parables so that the non-believers cannot understand them is looked at by me as a form of discipline to the “crowds” (non-believers).  This “lack of understanding” is allowed them, by God, because He respects their “free will” in choosing not to accept His teachings.  

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In verse 14, Jesus’ cites Isaiah:

“Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand!  Look intently, but you shall know nothingYou are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6: 9-10).

The “old” truly lives in the “new”, and the “new” truly FULFILLS the “old”!!

 

I find it interesting and confusing that there are people who are, or become, fruitless and/or uncaring of God’s “Word”!!  Differing priorities, believed more important than God, can distract some from what is truly important and worthwhile.  Allowing our hearts, minds, and souls to be consumed with material items and secular ideals can easily weigh us down, drawing us away from God’s eternal heavenly “treasure”.  

We all need to realize and keep current in our minds that God’s “Word” can only take root in a receptive and humble heart, mind, and soul; a heart, mind and soul, ready and willing to “hear” what God has to say to each of us, personally and intimately.  The parables of Jesus make clear to us what we need to know in order to grow in faith and life.  We need to approach His teachings with an attitude ready to let His teachings challenge us. (No pain, no gain!)  Can you submit to God’s “Word” with the love, trust, and obedience He wishes for you to have?

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Gross is the heart of this people …” (verse 15)!  “Gross” is a strong word that can mean the following: disgusting, unpleasant, foul, vulgar, nasty, uncivilized, repugnant, and grotesque.  This is definitely NOT a pleasant or hopeful image for the person who chooses to be blinded to the “mysteries” and “wonders” of a true and total faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Unlike the non-believing “crowds” of people accompanying Jesus, His true disciples, – – His true followers of the way, – – have seen the reality, revelation, and fulfillment of the prophets and the “righteous” people of the Old Testament (the Old Covenant).  These “chosen” people searched and yearned to “see”, without having their search and yearning being fulfilled during their “earthly” time of life.

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The four types of persons visualized in today parable of the “Sower and the Seed” are:

  • Those who never accept the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19);
  • Those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (Matthew 13:20-21);
  • Those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (Matthew 13:22);
  • Those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (Matthew 13:23).

Jesus’ emphasis on the various types of soil on which the seed falls is an explanation on the “dispositions” with which one “sees” and “hears” Jesus’ preaching’s and teachings.  Similar stories and emphasis of the “Sower Parable” can be found in Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15.

 

Let’s look at the second and third types of “sown” seeds from Matthew’s parable:

Seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

And,

Seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” (Matthew 13:22)

These two can be explained in such a way as to support views held from many bible scholars that these examples derive not from Jesus Christ directly, but from an early Christian “reflection” on apostasy (a refusal to accept religious beliefs anymore) from the Catholic faith.  This “apostasy” became a major real-time consequence of first-century Christian persecutions, and the secularism of human society at that time.  

However, other scholars maintain that the explanation of these two situations comes from Jesus even though it was developed in the light of later Christian experience.  (Can we say, “Grace of the Holy Spirit!”)

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In conclusion, throughout Jesus’ teachings or dialogues (called a discourse), He offers several “parables” to His followers, illustrating in their (and our) minds what He means by the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  He begins His teaching in Chapter 13 of Matthew with what appears to be a rather straightforward parable of the “Sower and the Seeds”. 

Even “urban dwellers” (such as me) know seeds grow best in good soil.  Seeds which miss the soil, sown on rocky ground, or sown among other plants will not grow to harvest.  However, even with the loss of so many “seeds”, there is still a great and overwhelming “yield” from seeds sown on good soil.

 Jesus explains why He uses parables.  He suggests that He uses “parables” to teach because the meanings of parables are not self-evident without some reflection to find the true meaning.  Those who are willing to engage themselves in the effort to understand, willing to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit, will be rewarded with the discovery – – the revelation – – of the message, yielding much fruit.

Jesus interprets the parable of the sower to His disciples in order to show what can be revealed in His teachings via parables.  The different types of soil in which “seeds” are sown are metaphors for the disposition with which each individual hears the teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Some will be easily swayed away from the kingdom of heaven. Some will receive it for a time but will lose it when faced with difficulties. Some will hear the word but will then permit other cares to choke it out. Yet some will receive it well, and the seed will produce abundant fruit.  (AND THAT’S US!! – – Hopefully!!)

 

One lesson from today’s parable is made clear to all of us, even today: a great “harvest” is sure to come!  While some “seed” will fall away, never to bloom or fully grow to fruition, a harvest will most certainly come (at a time unknown to us):

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  (Matthew 24:36).

The seed that falls on good soil, – – on one’s heart, mind, and soul receptive to His “Word”, – – will produce bountiful fruits.  God is continuously ready to speak to each of us, personally and intimately, wanting so dearly to share with us an understanding of His “Word”.  

 

Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order for God’s “Word” to take root in us and produce abundant fruit, we must strive to be like the good soil in today’s parable.  Families, friends, peers, spouses, and the Catholic Church all have a responsibility for “preparing ‘your’ soil” so that the seeds of God’s Word can grow strong in you, producing a great harvest.  How can we “prepare the soil”?  Hold true to our Faith and Traditions in which our faith is celebrated, prayed, and fed by reading Holy Scripture (the Bible – it doesn’t bite), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In these ways, you will fulfill the promises made at your Baptism when you received the lighted candle:

For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism.” (CCC, Paragraph 1254).

Please reflect on today’s Gospel reading and also on the Sacrament of Baptism for a short time.  Look at any pictures that may have been taken of the event.  Remember that one of the promises made at one’s Baptism is to grow in the practice and tenets of our Catholic faith.  How important is this promise to you?  How do you practice your faith (daily prayer, Mass attendance, religious instruction, etc.)?  We do these things and actions as a “family of God” in order that God’s “Word” can take root in our lives and produce an abundant awesomely tasteful fruit.  

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 “Psalm 65

 A prayer of praise to God for his abundance

 

“You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile.  God’s stream is filled with water; with it you supply the world with grain.  Thus do you prepare the earth: you drench plowed furrows, and level their ridges.  With showers you keep the ground soft, blessing its young sprouts.  You adorn the year with your bounty; your paths drip with fruitful rain.  The untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy.  The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy.  Amen.” (Psalm 65:10-14)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The Glory to God (Gloria) has been significantly changed, with more words and many lines rearranged.

The Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of
the father,
have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One.
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.
Amen.

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

 

Veronica’s desire to be like Christ crucified was answered with the stigmata.

Veronica was born in Mercatelli, Italy.  It is said that when her mother Benedetta was dying she called her five daughters to her bedside and entrusted each of them to one of the five wounds of Jesus.  Veronica was entrusted to the wound below Christ’s heart.

At the age of 17, Veronica joined the Poor Clares directed by the Capuchins.  Her father had wanted her to marry, but she convinced him to allow her to become a nun.  In her first years in the monastery, she worked in the kitchen, infirmary and sacristy and also served as portress.  At the age of 34, she was made novice mistress, a position she held for 22 years.  When she was 37, Veronica received the stigmata. Life was not the same after that.

Church authorities in Rome wanted to test Veronica’s authenticity and so conducted an investigation.  She lost the office of novice mistress temporarily and was not allowed to attend Mass except on Sundays or holy days.  Through all of this Veronica did not become bitter, and the investigation eventually restored her as novice mistress.

Though she protested against it, at the age of 56 she was elected abbess, an office she held for 11 years until her death.  Veronica was very devoted to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart.  She offered her sufferings for the missions.  Veronica was canonized in 1839.

Comment:

Why did God grant the stigmata to Francis of Assisi and to Veronica?  God alone knows the deepest reasons, but as Celano points out, the external sign of the cross is a confirmation of these saints’ commitment to the cross in their lives.  The stigmata that appeared in Veronica’s flesh had taken root in her heart many years before.  It was a fitting conclusion for her love of God and her charity toward her sisters.

Quote:

Thomas of Celano says of Francis: “All the pleasures of the world were a cross to him, because he carried the cross of Christ rooted in his heart.  And therefore the stigmata shone forth exteriorly in his flesh, because interiorly that deeply set root was sprouting forth from his mind” (2 Celano, #211).

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Holy Scripture

 

How do you use Holy Scriptures in your daily life?

Have you read the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (presented to us at Vatican Council-II)?  Here is the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

Have you come to know the differences of Catholic interpretation of the Bible from that of Christians of other faith traditions?  What are the differences?

What is the difference between Divine Revelation and Sacred Scripture?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 10 & 11 of 26:

 

10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

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

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

 

 

“John, Don’t Lose Your Head Over My Divinity! You Are Great In Your Own Right!” – Matthew 11:2-11†


  

We are Half-Way though the Advent Season today; only thirteen (13) days till the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken becomes first in US to approve local Marian apparitions from 1859

 

CHAMPION, Wis. (CNS) — Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of Third Order Franciscan sisters and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

Apparitions have taken place throughout history “as a sign of God’s providence, to remind us of what God has already revealed,” said Father Doerfler. “As a loving mother would remind her children about things that are important, so our Blessed Mother Mary has appeared throughout history to remind us of things that are important for our salvation and to draw us closer to her Son.”

Read the full story at:
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1005014.htm

 

 

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle.  This day is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism. [A sad and lowly part of Church history]
†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (St. Basil of Ostrog), Bishop of Zahumlje in Herzegovina (d. 1671)
†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926)
†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
†   Feast Day: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

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

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Franciscans witness to a genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable.

“For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast.  This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.”  Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discrimination of one form or another.  We are called to be in solidarity with them in their struggle to have their God-given rights honored by others.  We are called to develop a lifestyle that brings us close to the poor and makes us sensitive to those who are most vulnerable.” 

“Francis went around the cities and villages, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching peace.”  Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 36

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

You Might be a Roman Catholic…

…if you think God’s presence is always strongest in the back three pews.
…if you judge the quality of the Mass by the length of the Homily.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him; and praises John as more than a prophet.

 

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  8 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  9 Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’  11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (NAB Matthew 11:2-11)

 

This week’s Gospel continues a reflection on the personhood, ministry, and message of John the Baptist.  Last week at Mass, John spoke about his relationship to Jesus, the coming “one” prophesized in the Old Testament.  This week, we have Jesus’ message to John, who is imprisoned (and a message to us as well).  Jesus’ message is about the signs of the kingdom found in John’s ministry.  Jesus’ examines, and praises John’s “role” in salvation history and in the Kingdom of God.

Have you noticed the perceived undertone present in today’s Gospel reading?  There seems to be a subdued, yet noticeable and growing opposition to Jesus, if you “read between the lines.” From this point on, there will be more disputes, challenges, and attacks relating to “faith” and “discipleship” in reference (and preference) to Jesus in the future readings.

John the Baptist is now “in prison”.   Upon finding out of John’s capture and imprisonment, Jesus withdrew to Galilee (Matthew 4:12).  According to Josephus (Antiquities 18, 5, 2 #116-19), Herod imprisoned – – and then executed – – John because he feared that John the Baptist’s influence over the people could possibly enable him to lead a rebellion.  The murder of John (see Matthew 14: 1-2) by Herod Antipas foreshadows the death of Jesus (see Matthew 17:12).  

John stood in the doorway between the Old and New Testaments.  He stood in the doorway between the Old and New Covenants of God.  For me, John the Baptist was the bright “light stream” in the vast desert pointing vividly to the safe and lovingly calm harbor of Jesus, similar to the light stream of a lonely lighthouse pointing the lost in the vast seas to a safe, calm, and loving harbor of safety.  John points to the “door” of Jesus moving inwardly from the “Old” – – towards the “New” – – kingdom of God.

John foretold and prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus Christ.  At the Jordan River, He also pointed his own followers to Jesus when he extolled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  John knew early on in His ministerial life what Jesus the “Messiah” would accomplish through His death on that Holy Tree of crucifixion.

Nearing the end of His life, today’s Gospel shows us how John queried whether Jesus was truly the “promised Messiah”.  Jesus retorted to John’s uncertainties by recounting the firm proof of facts about his ministry.

While in prison, why did John send his followers to question Jesus as he was sitting in prison knowing was going to die soon, at the hands of King Herod.  In verse 3, the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” expressed a doubt from John the Baptist.  He wanted to know if Jesus was truly “the one who is to come”.  The reason: because Jesus’ mission had NOT been one of a “fiery judgment” as John (and almost all Jewish people) had expected, but rather one of simple repentance.  John knew prophesies of the Old Testament.  In Malachi 3:1, it read:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.  He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that He has worked.  He says that His miracles, actions, and words about the kingdom of God is proof enough in recognizing the realization of Isaiah’s prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  

In his rabbinic teaching style, Jesus also returned one question with another to Him and his followers: What do you see in John the Baptist?  His response to John’s question was also rabbinic in nature as it was taken from the Old Testament.   He took passages from Isaiah that pictures the time of salvation as being marked by deeds and acts, such as those that Jesus is doing. These passages were a caveat and warning to John the Baptist to NOT disbelieve solely because he believes his own expectations have not been met.

“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.”  (Isaiah 26:19)

“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.  The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 29:18-19)

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.”  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”  (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus’ rebuke of John for questioning His divinity is offset by His reminder to the crowd of the greatness of John the Baptist’s role and function in salvation history (verses 7-11).  Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus – – the “MESSIAH!”

Why does Jesus contrast John with a “reed”?  Unlike a reed, which is spineless and easily bruised, John the Baptist stands as a truth of faith because his heart, soul, and body – his entire being – was surrendered to God.  John the Baptist burns brightly, warmly, and intensely with the fire of God’s truth and love for all mankind.

There was a common belief among the Jewish faithful that there had been no prophets in Israel since Malachi.  The coming of a new prophet was eagerly awaited among all Jewish people.  Jesus basically sanctions that John was that prophet, sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah that all was waiting.  John was the precursor of the “one” who would bring in the new and final age.  John was the last of the prophets to announce Jesus’ coming.  In leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, John was also the first witness to Jesus’ divinity(along with Mary and Joseph)!

John’s preeminent greatness lies in his purpose of announcing the nearness of the “kingdom”.  Jesus is telling all hearing that the “kingdom” of God is so great a privilege, pleasure, and joy, – – that the least in God’s kingdom – – is greater than the last and greatest prophet: John the Baptist.  All who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John – and even greater!

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This Gospel reading is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already present to us, but also yet to be fully fulfilled.

Someone who is “tepid” – careless, half-hearted, and lukewarm – can be easily influenced and converted by others.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, we must surrender our heart, soul, and body to Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.  There is absolutely NO room for compromise on this matter of faith and fact.  We are either for Jesus and His kingdom or against Jesus and His kingdom – no fence walkers are allowed.  

Salvation is already in our midst as apparent in the miracles demonstrated by Jesus so many years ago, and in the Church today.  But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God.  

Look at our society and the societies around us.  Look at what is happening around the world today.  Though we can find glimpses of God’s work among us, it would so very easy to become disheartened and depressed by the apparent and obvious secularization of society.  The “absence” of God and His salvation is prevalent in today’s families and societies (even so-called Catholic ones).  Jesus’ excruciatingly painful death on the “Holy Tree” captured our hearts and souls, and opened the doorway to heaven.  We cannot truly know why there is so much pain and suffering in this world.  But, we do know that Jesus walked that same path during His time of humanity on earth.  And He is accompanying us on our path still today, especially close to us in times of pain and suffering.  That is why He is called Emmanuel: “God is with us!!”

 Advent is a season of “hope.  We should acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present in our world, and yet to be fully and truly fulfilled in the unknown future.  We are also expected to help prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our own actions, words, and prayers.

Reflect on John’s question to Jesus: “Are you the One?”  Jesus does not answer his question directly (he was a great therapist – without a couch though), but points to the signs of the kingdom present around Him.  Try looking through your local newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in your world and neighborhood.  

Each of us has times when we questioned God’s love, mercy, and attention to us.  There are times when we feel ambiguous or unsure about following Jesus on His path.  At these times, Jesus gives us the exact same answer he gave to John the Baptist: “Review your life.”  Try to remember the beautiful, wonderful, and awe inspiring things you have seen the Lord do in your life, in others, and in nature.  Keep hold of your trust, faith, and love for God – even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at that time.  Eventually, you too will be vindicated by God’s love for you!!

 

Our Father

 

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…”  (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas; Mexico

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 12 & 13 of 26:

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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