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♫“‘Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Jesus-Son Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where Can He Be?’ ♫ – – Well, He’s In the Temple, Listening And Asking!!” – Luke 2:41-52†


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Feast of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary, & Joseph

. 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:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For January 2013. pencil

 

Pope Benedict illustrationFor the faith of Christians: that in this Year of Faith, Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in Him.

For Middle-Eastern Christians: that the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.

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Mike depue, OFS is a dear friend of mine, a brother in the  Secular Franciscan Order, and the St. Clare OFS Region’s JPIC Coordinator.  He wrote this beautiful piece on the Christmas “Caroling” tradition.  Surprising (to me), Christmas Caroling was started by St. Francis and other Franciscans.  I hope you enjoy this bit of historical CHRISTmas trivia from Mike:

Blessings to all!

Did you know that Francis of Assisi began the Christmas caroling tradition in the early 1200s?  Francis wanted people to be able to express their joy at Christmas by singing simple songs themselves, wherever they happened to be, such as in their own homes or even while walking around outside.  Francis also wanted to present the Christmas story in a way that ordinary singing-christmas-carolspeople could best understand.  Priests had been singing formal Christmas hymns in church worship services since AD 129, when a bishop called for a song called “Angel’s Hymn” to be featured in a Mass in Rome, Italy.  However, these Christmas hymns were in Latin, which wasn’t a commonly spoken language by the 1200s.  Francis decided to add religious lyrics to popular tunes of his time, creating the style of song called a Christmas carol.  The word “carol” derives from the French word “caroler,” which means “dancing around in a circle.”  It refers to the pagan tradition of people dancing around in a circle during the Winter Solstice.  Francis wanted people to express their joy in Christ in a similar, uninhibited style.

It was almost certainly through the Franciscans that Christmas carols came to the British Isles. The earliest extant English Christmas carol, “A child is boren” (given below), is found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar before 1350.  Collections of poems produced by friars in Scotland in 1372 contain lullabies to the infant Jesus.

A child is boren” in the English of today:

Let us gather hand in hand / And sing of bliss without an end: / The Devil has fled from earthly land, / And Son of God is made our friend. / A Child is born in man’s abode, / And in that Child no blemish showed. / That Child is God, that Child is Man, / And in that Child our life began.

I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

Mike [DePue] ofs

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Qu. thought2ote of the Day:

 

Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart?  Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?  Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.  Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor.  Never give up daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. ~ Taken from When Did We See You, Lord?”  by Bishop Robert J. Baker & Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

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Today’s reflection: The boy Jesus is found in the Temple, with the Temple teachers, listening and asking.  When was the last time you truly listened and asked? 

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(NAB Luke 2:41-52)  41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.  46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.  48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Family”.  We should place today’s Gospel in the context of what LFamily-12uke tells us about the birth of Jesus during.  Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Chapters 1 & 2).  Today’s Gospel reading continues this same theme: “Who Jesus IS”.  

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family.  In today’s story, they are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Passover”, an event shared each year with family and friends.  When Jesus is 6ddfb299120a9ca051e900744975446afound, Luke describes Him as seated “in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers”. Although He is young, Jesus seems to NOT need teaching about His Jewish religion and traditions.  In His dialogue with these “learned” teachers (Rabbi’s), Jesus “astounds” them with His insight and understanding.  This event was the important turning point in Jesus’ earthly life when He shifted the name “father” from Joseph, addressing it to God, His Father in heaven instead. 

With this Gospel reading, the infancy narrative ends – – just as it began – – in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple.  This particular story today, is about an incident from Jesus’ youth, and is unique in, and to, Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to report of Jesus being “lost in the temple”.  Thus, Luke assumes and presents Jesus in the role of a faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, fulfilling all that the Mosaic Law requires of a boy His age for Him to become a Jewish “man”.  

Today’s story starts with the Holy Family in Jerusalem for the “Feast of the Passover”, a high holy day (days) in the Jewish religion:

Each year His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom (Luke 2:41-42). 

This Jewish holy feast was prescribed from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  The reason for this feast wJesus_as_boy_jpg_w300h300as to remember and celebrating God’s interaction in the Jewish “chosen” people’s lives, allowing the Jewish faithful to escape their oppressive captivity:

You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants.  Thus, when you have entered the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite.  When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’  Then the people knelt and bowed down” (Exodus 12:24–27);

And, also in Exodus, the time when this feast is to take place each year:

You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread.  As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt.  No one shall appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15);

Abib” is the time of the year, the name of the month, in which the barley harvest happened.  “Abib” translates to “ear of grain, or, ripe grain” and corresponds to our present months of March and April.  At a later time, the month of “Abib” became known as the Babylonian name of “Nisan” instead.

Only males aged 12 and over were required to make this yearly journey of faith.  This clearly puts Jesus at this age, since this is His first time going to Jerusalem for the feast.  How far did they have to travel? Well, Nazaretdirect-map-nazareth-to-jerusalem2h is about 60 miles from Jerusalem (in a straight line on a map).  However, with the “hilly” nature of the country, this trip would actually be about 85 miles.  This is definitely a long way to walk, especially for women and children, every year.

On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Jews used to travel in two linked-groups: one of men, followed closely by another of women.  Children could go with either group, probably depending on age and sex of the child.  No wonder Mary and Joseph travelled for a full day’s journey before discovering the child Jesus missing.  They probably “discovered” Him gone when regrouping to camp for the night, each thinking Jesus was with the other group.

Just try to imagine the anxiety and fear Mary and Joseph were experiesimpsons_scaredncing.  Mary certainly was crying, with both of them running to the various family camps, searching for, and inquiring about Jesus’ whereabouts in each of the camps; discovering He is NOWHERE to be found!  I personally have had the anguish of “losing” one of my kids for just a few minutes.  I cannot even imagine the fear of realizing a child of mine was left behind in a strange and very threatening environment of a “big city” like Jerusalem.  

Hmm, here’s a notion or thought for you about “concern for Jesus”.  The concern Mary and Joseph had in “looking for” Jesus might, and should, encourage each of us to personally, and always, seek out Jesus in our own daily lives.  This idea is especially true if we “lose” Him through our sins.

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Jesus was probably found in the courtyard area of the Temple; this is where the “teachers” – – the “rabbi’s” – – taught.  “Listeners” used to sit on the ground at their feet, asking questions, and responding to questions untitledasked of them.  The four “Rabbinic” ways of teaching are:

  • ·        exegesis” – – literal, plain teachings and interpretations; following “hints” in words, phrases, and other elements of truth;
  • ·        eisegesis” – – an allegorical or homiletical application of a text, searching or reading one’s own thoughts into the text, and then expounding on them;
  • ·        finding the “secret” “mystical or hidden meaning” of Jewish Scripture by using the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Scripture, noting unusual spellings, by transposing letters, and so on;

And finally,

  • ·        through parables:
    • o   as an illustration to help grasp a concept or teaching;
    • o   as a “secret speech”, to deliberately minimize or conceal a concept;

and, 

  • o   as a rhetorical narrative in order to draw a parallel between a fictional story and one’s reality in life.    

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) says of Jesus’ teaching through parables and secrets:

“Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of ‘parables’, a characteristic feature of His teaching.  Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.  Words are not enough, deeds are required.  …  Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.  One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.  For those who stay ‘outside’, everything remains enigmatic [mysterious]”  (CCC, paragraph 546).

One third of Jesus’ teachings consisted of parables.  It is importance for us to not only try to understand the “Rabbinic ways of teaching” – – especially the parables – – from OUR viewpoint, but to understand them in their cultural, historic and linguistic context of Jesus’ time as well.

So, Jesus was sitting at the Rabbi’s feet, listening, and asking questions.  However, His questions and answers attc06racted a great interest from the “teachers”!  Jesus was obviously well informed and well taught, in the eyes of these religious men.   If they only realized the truth about this “boy” sitting among them!!

Not only were the “teachers” astounded, so were Jesus’ parents when they saw Him sitting and conversing with the learned religious men:

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished” (Luke 2:48).

Ever since the Annunciation, Mary (and Joseph) knew that her (their) child, Jesus, WAS GOD!!  Mary’s pure and true faith is the foundational bedrock for her generous fidelity to00007803_h her Son, Jesus, throughout her entire life.  There was no reason for Mary to know every detail about the sacrifices Jesus – – her Son, her GOD – – would ask of HER!  Nor, did Mary have reason to know how Jesus Christ would go about His mission of redemption and salvation.  The revelation of Jesus’ mission would be “discovered” as time went by, and while living and contemplating her Son’s life, death, resurrection, and assumption as it happened, and remembered.

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Mary and Joseph asked Jesus why He stayed behind when their group departed for Nazareth:

Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48). 

Iuntitleda am pretty sure I would NOT have been as stoic (showing patience and endurance) as Mary and Joseph was upon finding MY son, in this situation.  If my twelve year son purposely stayed behind, and not told anyone, I probably would have been augmenting my questions with unique “actions” as well: first, a hug and kiss – – then, “something else”. 

Jesus’ reply is His explanation of why he did such a “foolish” thing:

Why were you looking for meDid you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

These are the very first “Words” Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel.  In His saying, “I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus is referring to God the Father as HIS Father!!  It also shows Jesus’ divine “Sonship”, His defirstwordsforiphonetermination, and His obedience to fulfilling His Eternal Father’s “will”; a “Sonship” which will take precedence over His ties to His earthly family.  Jesus does not chastise Mary and Joseph for searching for Him.  But He does raise their attention, their souls, to understanding and appreciating what He owes to His Eternal Father, whose Eternal Son – – He is!!  Jesus’ parents must have realized that His reply contained a deeper meaning they could not grasp (at that time):

But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50).

They did grow to understand the revelation of their Son’s life, as it unfolded – – as it was revealed – – before their eyes.  Mary and Joseph’s faith, and their reverence to their incarnated child, led them to not ask any further questions.  Instead, they “reflected” Jesus’ “Words” and “actions” in this occurrence, and as they will d7%20Sorrowso on many other occasions in His and their lives:

Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Jesus, in His youth, recognized He had been given a “call” by His heavenly Father.  While Jesus recognized His unique call, He, nonetheless, submitted Himself – – with love and obedience – – to Joseph and Mary, waiting for the time when His “call” would be fulfilled.  

Our Heavenly Father also calls each of us to a unique task and mission in this earthly life.  We may not discover or understand it fully, but if we cooperate with God, He will use us for His righteous purpose and plan.  With any call, God also gives a grace – – a grace to say “yes” to His will, and a grace to persevere through any obstacles and trials we encounter.  It is truly an awesome feeling to recognize God’s “call” in one’s life.  It is also an awesome feeling to trust in His grace.  Give it a try the next time He “calls” YOU!!  I cannot even describe the AWE and JOY of answering His calling!!

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Today’s Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in a few simple words of the second to last verse:

[He] was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

Jesus, the “Second Person” of the Holy Trinity, came to earth to “obey” God tlove-obey1he Father – – and to obey His earthly “beings”, though Mary and Joseph are very special “beings” indeed!  We have to love God so as to love His will and desire in responding to His calls.  God’s will and desire comes to us through our ordinary daily duties: family, friends, work, private, public.  His will and desire come to us through our own – – and other’s – – difficulties and relationships, and in our eagerness to do what is right and just in life.

ThJesusGrewe final verse of today’s reading is insightfully interesting for me:

And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).

A similar phrase, “growing in spirit”, is used two times in Luke’s Gospel:

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

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

Luke is the only Gospel writer to connect John the Baptist – – who also “grew in age and favor” – – establishing John’s early direct-relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.  The key element in these three verses above is that both of these two great “beings” grew in age, spirit, wisdom, and favor before God the Father.  I personally believe we can also add Mary and Joseph to this extremely unique twosome of people – – models for how to live a “Christ-like” life.

Jesus lived like other people in Nazareth, working in the same trade as His “earthly” father, Joseph.  Just as any other tradesman, Jesus learned His living by the “sweat of His browthehomelifeofjesusluke2-51”.  Details of Jesus’ life are blank – – to us – – for nearly twenty years.  However, Jesus’ ENTIRE life is an example of how to be a Christian.  We are to sanction – – to SANCTIFY – – our unique and individual vocations, our paths in life, through years of our quiet, often humdrum, and mostly unspectacular living – – in, with, and through Him!  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God has forgotten about any of us.  Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God hasn’t called you or me for an important role in His kingdom.  God wants us to know that each of us, in our own personal vocations, professions, and talents, are not absent from His divine plan.  Instead, with God – – in our lives – – has sanctified them, making them a more acceptable offering to Him.  WOW!!

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T. summarize titlehe dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships.  Interestingly Mary and Joseph are never identified by name.  (I bet you didn’t catch this fact.)  Instead, they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus.  Ultimately, this style of writing emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked a poiwords-hurt-feelingsnted question, “Why?”  Jesus responds with an equally pointed response, “I must be!”  Jesus did not intend to cause his mother and step-father any distress.  However, His actions most-likely provoked that type of response.  When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus, expressing their anxiety.  Jesus replies in “Words” that many of us may believe to be disrespectful.  Jesus, in fact, is saying He was never lost; He is God’s Son; and He was at home in God’s “house”.  Luke will continue throughout His Gospel to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes “new” family relationships as He describes Jesus’ public ministry in his later chapters.  Luke is also telling us, through his Gospel, that Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother.  Remember, Mary is the first disciple, also present with Jesus’ other disciples after His Resurrection at Pentecost.

In the Holy Family, we see the face of God’s love.  As Jesus told us – – and as my Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assjs2isi lived – – we need to see the face of God in every single person we encounter, not just in the one’s we love.  If we see fear instead of love in others who are different from us, we are not seeing God!!  

We need to be in the presence of God every second of every minute of every day, not just for one hour on Sundays, and not just with people who are like us.  If we do not see the face of God in the marginalized – – the sick, the homeless person, the unborn child – – then God will not dwell within us.  Others will look at us, seeing fear instead of God’s love.

So, let us sing with great joy (Re-JOY-SING) at the celebration of the our Lord’s birth and the gift of the Holy Family to each of us, who are inviting each us into God’s – – HIS – –  family forever and ever.  Let us also renew our commitment, on a daily basis, to do as Jesus told us: to take up our cross and follow Him.  Let EVERYONE who sees us see also the face of God, knowing His love through us.

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T. conclusionoday’s Gospel describes a time of anxiety in the life of Jesus’ family.  We can imagine their panic and worry as Mary and Joseph discoveJesus in the temple discussing his Father's business Luke 2:46-49red Jesus was not with the caravan of people returning to Nazareth.  The Holy Family journeyed with family members and friends because traveling alone was dangerous.  When they found Jesus at the Temple, it appears Jesus spoke like a typical adolescent, unsympathetic to His parents’ concern.  But, His “Words” teach an important lesson about reducing anxiety in our family life.  In essence, Jesus says to them:

“If you had remembered who I am, you would have known where to find me.”

In their panic, Mary and Joseph had forgotten what had been told to them before Jesus’ birth, their son was the Son of God.  Knowing a person well helps reduce our anxieties for them because we can better predict how they will behave, and we know their capacity to handle the challenges that life might present to them.

Recall times when you learned something, even something trivial, about your close friend and/or family members.  Recall times when YOU told others something which possibly “startled” or “surprised” them.  Now, recall how you felt in each of these “revealing” “revelations”. 

Torange_man_thinking_questionake what you have learned from this simple exercise you just reflected on, and reread the questions and answers in today’s Gospel, placing yourself in the roles of the one asking AND the one being asked: 

Son, why have you done this to us?”  (Luke 2:48);

Why were you looking for me?”  (Luke 2:49);

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:49).

Hmm, the one thing about “true” relationships is that we come to eventually learn to know each other well.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

A Relationship Prayer

 

“Lord, teach me how to love in a way that would be pleasing to You.  Open my eyes and heart so as to be receptive to the needs in my life, and not just for my wants.

Grant me wisdom, direction, purpose, confidence, discernment, and any other tool n06-07-buildingrelationships[1]eeded by me for this great journey with, in, and through You.  Wipe away any and all fears, tears, and doubts, created by my sometimes tumultuous relationship past.

Create in me a new heart filled with a deep and abiding love for You above all else, then for others, and finally for myself.  When the right person comes along, bless me with clarity of vision to see that this is indeed the right person for me.  When this person does come, I will never forget who made it all possible.  In each day, I will strive to exhibit a love that would make You proud.

With a fullness of heart, and a sincerity in my spirit, I ask this all in your name.  Amen.”

Based on a prayer at the following website:
http://www.flyguychronicles.com/2011/02/a-relationship-prayer/

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“The True Path To Greatness Is Being The Lowest On The Rung Of Success In Society!” – Mark 9:30-37†


 

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today’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:

 

I am certain that all of you reading this blog have heard the news about the numerous attacks on our embassy throughout the world, supposedly over a private citizen’s ill-advised, AND totally false, short video from several months ago.  I personally believe the reason goes far beyond this reason, especially since the attacks started on the anniversary of the horrible, devastatingly unwarranted attacks on September 11, 2001 by 18 well-organized terrorists, using 3 hijacked airline commuter jets. 

Prayers are desperately needed for ALL involved, directly or indirectly.  I found the prayer below on a site about Medjugorje apparitions.  This is the beginning prayer for a “Patriotic Rosary-For the Healing of our Nation”.  Please pray this prayer daily, and at least until the dangerous situation in the Middle-East subsides.

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Prayer for America” 

O Merciful God, we cry to Thee for pardon and for mercy.  We are ‘an unbelieving and perverse generation’.  We are disobedient, disloyal and ungrateful to Thee.  We have excluded Thee from our homes, our schools, our business places.  We are no longer worthy to be called Thy children.  But Merciful God, spare my country! Forgive us!  Save us from the scourge which we justly have deserved, especially for the killing of the innocent unborn babies.  Teach us Thy law and to live Thy law always abiding in You, and move our hearts to serve Thee, henceforth.  Merciful God, please spare America! Remember your mercy through your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and through His passion and death on the cross! 

God Almighty, Lord of all nations, bless us all with lasting peace; give us strength in tribulations; may Thy blessings never cease.  We shall always sing Thy praise: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.  

We know You are justly irritated with us but we beg and plead for forgiveness through our repentance from our hearts.  We realize our nation is headed toward disaster by so many signs You have given us.  Do not look upon what we truly deserve in your just anger, but see us through the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Whose heart was pierced with a lance, and Whose heart floods the world in His Mercy and grace.  Remember your just Son Jesus Christ, did not come to condemn the world but to save it!  Holy, Holy, Holy God, grant our requests through the powerful intercession of Your Blessed Mother who unceasingly prays for us, so that we may again be Your people, not a nation above God but one nation humbled and under God. Amen. Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us!

http://herschooloflove.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/patriotic-rosary-for-the-healing-of-our-nation/

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Today is the Feast of Saint Pio (Pius) of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap., (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968) was a Capuchin Catholic priest from Italy.  He was born Francesco Forgione, and given the name Pius (Italian: Pio) when he joined the Capuchins, thus he was popularly known as Padre Pio. He became famous for his bearing the stigmata. On 16 June 2002, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II. 

Padre Pio then became a spiritual director, guiding many spiritually, considering them his spiritual daughters and sons. He had five rules for spiritual growth, namely, weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. 

He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.

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Quote of the Day:

“Remember what Jesus Christ said about celebrity in the Gospel of Luke? The greatest Teacher said that those who humble themselves will be applauded. So be willing to be the least of all. That is true greatness.” ~ Carmen Acevedo Butcher, “A Little Daily Wisdom”, Paraclete Press

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples that the greatest are those who serve all.  How well do YOU serve ALL others, especially those you do not like, and the marginalized of society.

(NAB Mark 9:30-37)  30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.”  32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.  33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  34 But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s event in Mark’s Gospel is immediately after Jesus’ “Transfiguration” (Mark 9:2-13) and the “Feast of the Tabernacles”.  Along His way, prior to today’s event, Jesus even healed a boy “possessed by a demon” (Mark 9:29). 

In today’s reading, we hear Jesus again foretell His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Today’s geographical setting is important to this story, and to the message Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples – – which includes US, two millennia later.  Jesus and His disciples were preparing to journey through Galilee, a Jewish territory in which Jesus had already encountered problems with the Temple leaders, especially the Pharisees.  Perhaps this is why Mark points out Jesus was trying to travel in a secret manner.  Jesus obviously had reason for wanting to remain unnoticed while traveling:

 “Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him” (John 7:1).

Now, here’s MY question, “How does one man, traveling with “Twelve” close friends, followed by a horde of men, women, and children, plus animals, achieve being UNNOTICED?!  Jesus was a first-century icon, a star of the divine type, thought of as a prophet by most people of His day.  He WAS noticed, and closely watched by both government officials and Temple religious leaders – – out of fear – – and, at all times!!  Both groups – – Temple and Roman government – – were waiting to pounce on, and to destroy, Jesus – – out of personal, societal, and financial fear!!  So, how did Jesus react to this threat to Him and His disciples?  Surprisingly, with a simple, humble, love – – even for His “enemies”!!

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In predicting His passion, Jesus is acknowledging the danger they ALL will face, and is trying to preparing His disciples for the danger lurking ahead for them as well as Jesus.  So, how exactly did Jesus pass on His knowledge and plan for our salvation and redemption.  As a rabbi (which He was), He “taught” them:

 “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Mark 8:31;

Now, remember from last week’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus’ disciples already realized He was truly the “Son of Man” (cf., Mark 8:27-35).  Today’s reading is the second time they heard Jesus Himself say:

The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” (Mark 9:31) 

It did not make any sense to His disciples when Jesus prophesied His own betrayal and crucifixion because it did not fit their understanding of what the “Messiah” came to do for the Jews.  And, further, they were afraid to ask questions when confused!  I suppose their reaction is similar to someone who receives a bad test result and diagnostic outcome from a doctor, then refusing to ask further questions.  These devout men also didn’t want to know about the situation Jesus was foretelling.  They were in the first state of grief – – denial.  

With their hearing of Jesus stating this ominous warning, a foretelling of His great suffering and death, they closed their ears.  They were hearing Him, but not appreciating or comprehending Him.  They could not grasp and understand Jesus “Words”. 

Bear in mind, these were the men whom Jesus’ hand-picked, the future leaders of our Church!!  In realizing this fact, do not stress yourself when coming across something you cannot understand such things as a particular dogma or teaching in the Catholic Church.  Just do as the Apostles did; let Jesus Christ teach you, through prayer and faith.

What is strange to me about the “Apostles” and their reaction to Jesus’ statement is their hesitation in NOT responding to Him, remaining quiet.  Quietness is something not characteristic in their usual behavior.  In reality, at times, I think they seemed to jump at opportunities without thinking.  As an example, Peter had no fear about “rebuking” Jesus in last week’s Gospel:  

Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32).

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Mark definitely likes to paint a vivid picture.  Having arrived at Capernaum, in Galilee, Jesus’ “business headquarters”, He and His disciples enter a house (probably Peter’s).  In this private setting, Jesus asked His disciples about the argument they had “among themselves” while they were travelling.  Again, the disciples are uncharacteristically silent, again afraid to answer Him.  Uh-oh, they were found out in regards to their “argument”; they were caught!  (He, he, he, he!!)  Jesus summons the Twelve (yes, teacher), and teaches them (a rebuke of sorts) that those “who would be first” in God’s kingdom “must be servants of all”.

Let’s all realize a basic fact of faith: we ARE just like the disciples!!  We routinely compare ourselves with others, and we desire praise from others – – even if both the comparing and the praise are in our own minds.  Our desire for glory and greatness appears to be genetic in us – – that darn “apple” enters into the picture again!  After all, who hasn’t cherished the ambition to be “somebody” others admire, rather than being a “nobody” standing in the crowd?

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Jesus’ work – – His ministry on earth – – was one of loving service to ALL regardless of race, occupation, or social standing!!  His disciples’ role is of continuing His loving service, especially to the poor, the lowly, and the marginalized – – the “Anawim!”**

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:27).

**(“Anawim” are the outcaste and persecuted in society, who are seeking God for divine justice and help.  The term “Anawim” creates a link between poverty and humility, thus signifying a spiritual movement of sorts (and a strong Franciscan charism).  Anawim is a characteristic trait of humility separating the notion of poor from the economically poor.  For more information, here’s a great link: http://www.coriesu.org/pretheo/Site/Scribes,%20Publicans,%20Anahuim.html)

After teaching about “the first being last and last being first”, Jesus calls to Him a child.  He goes on to teach the “Twelve” that to receive a child in Jesus’ name is to receive both Jesus and the “One” who sent Him [God the Father].  Jesus, being a rabbi, used a common sign in His community, to teach this aspect of loving service – – CHILDREN:

Taking a child He placed it in their midst, putting His arms around it [the child]. (Mark 9:36) 

He makes a dramatic motion, an action, by embracing the child in order to show His disciples who are truly “the greatest” in God’s kingdom.  Hmm, what can a little child possibly teach us about greatness?  Well, first-century Jewish children had no rights, no position, and no privileges of their own, in their own society.  They were socially on the “bottom rung” and at the service of their parents.  They were treated like household domestic servants.  

Jesus used Children as a symbol for the “anawim”, the poor in spirit, and the lowly in the Christian community.  While holding this “lowest of low” in society, Jesus said:

Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)

So, what is the significance of Jesus’ dramatic gesture towards this child?  He elevated a little child in the presence of His disciples, placing the child in a privileged position of honor.  From Jesus’ action, who is the greatest in God’s kingdom in Jesus’ mind?  The greatest is the one whom Jesus loves for their humble innocence – – the child, and the “child-like” of faith.  Jesus want us to surrender our personal, materialistic, and worldly rights – -willingly empty ourselves of pride and self-seeking glory – – taking “the lowly position”, that of a servant or child – – an “Anawim” posture.

We might also easily fail to understand the significance of Jesus’ action in linking service with a child.  Jesus is teaching His disciples – – and us – – that when we serve the “least ones” among us, we are serving Jesus Himself.  In serving the marginalized, we are not only doing as our Lord Jesus Christ did, we are doing TO our Lord!!

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For His disciples, and for ALL of US, Jesus never lets a teachable moment pass.  Jesus tells us what His, and our, path to greatness truly is:

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the servant of all (Mark 9: 35).

Jesus always practiced what He taught, reaching out to children, women, those on the fringes of society.  To illustrate His point, Jesus calls forth – – picks up and hugs – – a child.  In doing so, Jesus teaches all of us that whoever receives a child in His name receives Him, and the “One” who sent Him.

We live in a society and culture wherein most often, “greatness” is measured by the size of one’s bank account and house, by the prestigious and/or glamorous “successful” job, or even by the numbers of games won in professional sports.

What dreams and desires of greatness do WE nourish in others, especially our children?  Do we set up unrealistic, “worldly” goals of success for them?  Or, do we encourage them to be honest, generous, considerate, and loving to ALL?  Do we show them – – by our example – – that whether they become wealthy or not, true greatness lies in their character?  Our “character” is fashioned in the image and likeness of our Creator and Redeemer.  Jesus Christ walked His talk, and His talk was about the character of His Father.  Do we “Walk the Talk, or just simply “Talk the Walk”!!

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Dialogues between close individuals, such as the interchange described in today’s Gospel, are common in family life and with extremely close friends.  Recall a recent dispute about household or work responsibilities, or maybe even a simple example of bickering among family members or friends.  What was at issue in the disagreement?  Imagine Jesus entering the room just as the dispute ended.  What would you tell Jesus about the disagreement, and what might Jesus say in reply?  How was this dispute like the “discussion” among Jesus’ disciples?  And finally, what might you do to remember that those “who are greatin God’s kingdom are those who “willingly serve others”?  Pray that your life will reflect your commitment to serve one another with love.  All of us need the moral and ethical prompt found in today’s Gospel: To be great in God’s Kingdom is to be the servant of ALL!!

Who are the people without power or status in our society today – – the “anawim” – – the “lepers” among us?  Who is Jesus calling us to serve NOW?  And, are YOU WILLING to serve?  There are no fans in God’s kingdom on earth – – only participants!!   God’s judgment of us will be based on the principle revealed by His comment about children and services.

Jesus Himself is our model for action; He came not to be served, but to serve, and so should we do the same NOW:

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:28).

The Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, states that Jesus truly and fully “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant”:

He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

If we want to be filled with God’s life, grace, and power, we need to be willing to let God empty ourselves of everything which stands in the WAY: pride, self-seeking glory, vanity, celebrity-ship, etc.  God fills empty vessels – – earthen vessels.  He can then fill them with His own glory, power, and love; by His command:

be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Remember, it is God who said:

“’Let light shine out of darkness’; this light has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.’” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Let me leave you with this last thought: as a young man, Francis of Assisi sought greatness as the life of the party – – a festive, partier and troubadour – – as well as a noble knight crusader.  However, after his dramatic conversion event, he achieved a “true greatness” by following in the footprints of the humble, compassionate, and mercifully loving Christ.  He chose to follow a Christ who sacrificed ALL out of love for ALL – – even the lowly “lepers” of society!!  St. Francis of Assisi went from being a fan to being a follower.  Have you “spiritually” hugged a modern-day “Leper” of society lately – – an anawim?  On a daily basis, choose to humble yourself; choose to serve ALL as Jesus did for ALL – – including me and you!!  There are no fans in God’s kingdom on earth – – only participants – – His anawim!!

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“On a whim, become an anawim” 

Reflection Prayer:   

“Prayer for Generosity”

 

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will. Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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“Hey, You May Be Him – – But This Cross Is Heavy! You Carry It For Awhile!” – Mark 8:27-35†


 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today’s readings feature the famous passage from the Letter of Saint James in defense of the unity of faith and works:

Faith in itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Thus, we can accept James’ wisdom in the two verses preceding the famous quote above:

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Peter declares that Jesus is the “Christ” prophesized in Jewish Scripture; and Jesus teaches that those who would follow Him must take up his or her cross.  How heavy is YOUR Cross?

(NAB Mark 8:27-35) 27 Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  28 They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”  29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”  30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  32 He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  33 At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  34 He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Who IS Jesus for you?  For the 1st century Jews, Jesus was widely recognized throughout His homeland as a charismatic man and prophet of God.  He was even compared with the greatest of the prophets: Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and even John the Baptist.  Peter, however, recognizes Jesus as being the true “Messiah” (the “Anointed One”) promised in Jewish Scriptures.  No mortal human being could have ever revealed this divine fact to Peter; but, this truth, this identity of Jesus, could only be revealed to him through the actions of God the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit working in Peter, AND through him. 

In Mark’s Gospel for today,, Jesus tries to reveal Himself more to all His disciples who were struggling to accept the mysterious unity of His words and deeds – – (along with His unity of a human AND divine nature.  Peter correctly proclaims before his fellow disciples that Jesus “is the Christ“.  However, when Jesus speaks openly about His suffering and death to come, Peter then rejects the way Jesus expects to “reveal Himself” who He truly IS: the true “Messiah”(in Greek: “Christ”) prophesized in their Jewish Scriptures.  Peter is then quickly rebuked by Jesus, who uses this public rebuke of him, and by doing so, to teach the other disciples not to think as Peter.  Mark has Jesus literally declaring that Peter is:

Thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mark 8:33).

How shocked and upset do you think the disciples were when they heard these ominous words of suffering and death coming from Jesus- – and Jesus’ rebuke as recorded by Mark?!  This is what Mark has to say:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mark 8:31).

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This episode in Mark’s Gospel is the turning point in regards to Jesus’ public ministry.  Popular opinions among those 1st century Jews following Jesus as disciples regarded Jesus as a “prophet”.  In contrast, His closest disciples believed Jesus to be the true Messiah Savior.  Jesus acknowledges their correct identification, but prohibits them from making His messianic mission known to others.  Why?  Jesus does so in order to avoid confusing His true mission with false and ambiguous contemporary views known by the Pharisees and others, with their misconceived nature of what His mission should be – – according to THEIR viewpoints!!

At the time of Jesus, the image of the Messiah was laden with extremely popular expectations of a messianic military-political leader who would physically “free” the Jewish people from Roman domination occupation – – in other words, a divine socio-military leader (another King David).  

The image and expectation of Jesus as this Messiah Savior, declared by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples (cf., Mark 8:27–29), is modified significantly in Mark’s Gospel when compared to Matthew’s account.  Matthew shows Peter’s declaration actually amplified and extended: stating Jesus as both the prophesized “Messiah” AND the true “Son of the living God”:

“Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16).  

Jesus’ response, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributes Peter’s declaration to a divine revelation granted only to Peter (so far):

“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew 16:17).

So, per Matthew, Peter’s “faith”, inspired by the Father. grasped the unity of the human and the divine in Jesus, the person called “Christ”.  He was the first disciple recorded as recognizing Jesus as the divine “Anointed One” (Messiah/Christ).  Peter’s faith however, per Mark, was very much “human”, as proved when told by Jesus it was necessary for Him, the “Messiah”, to suffer and die for God the Father’s work in order to bring about actual salvation and redemption to be accomplished!  

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Mark shows Jesus Christ using the term, “Son of Man” (v. 31).  Jesus does not use the term “Christ or “Messiah” for Himself in Scripture.  So, we see in today’s reading, Jesus referring to Himself instead as the “Son of Man”, a term derived from Jewish Scriptures: e.g., chapters two and three of the book of Ezekiel, and the book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14) to indicate His identity.  Many bible scholars today suggest that the phrase “Son of Man” is best understood to mean simply, “human being”: Jesus uses the term to apply to Himself, and to describe His understanding of His messianic (divine) identity.

Son of Man” is has a quality of mystery and ambiguity about it.  This title was difficult to understand by most people hearing it come from Peter on that day, before his peers.  “Son of Man”, of itself, means simply “a human being”; yet, there is evidence of this term being used prior to Christian times in Jewish writings (e.g., Ezekiel and David) long before Jesus’ public ministry.  I believe Jesus’ use of this title about Himself, is due to His speaking of Himself in a certain unique, mysterious, way: as a completely “divine” person being completely “human” able to live, suffer, experience rejection and betrayal, and even death (something God cannot do; or, CAN HE?)!!  “WOW!!”  My faith inspires me to say more: I believe Jesus Christ saw beyond His death and burial; His Rising from His grave; His appearing to His mother, the other Mary’s, and Peter; His ascending to heaven; and His glorious coming at the end of the age.  In the meantime … He still comes to us – – in the Holy Eucharist – – in order to strengthen us to take up our individual cross and follow Him all the days of our lives.

Now that the disciples have acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ”, Jesus confides in them the soon-to-be outcome of His earthly public ministry: Jesus knows He will be “rejected”, He “must suffer and die”, and He “will rise after three days”.  Peter emotionally rejects this foretelling prediction; so, Jesus rebukes Peter severely for his “earthly”, one-dimensional view.  

In today’s reading, Jesus is giving us NOT the image of the Messiah Savior who Peter and all Jews were expecting, but the “Christ” image He has of Himself.  Instead, Jesus is teaching the crowd about the reality of His path of true discipleship.  In order to be “Christ’s” disciple, Jesus makes it clear one must follow in the way of the cross – – in the way of HIS cross – – in the way of OUR cross.

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Jesus states in verse 34:

Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel * will save it” (Mark 8:34),

He challenges all believers (you and me) about authentic discipleship AND about a total commitment to Him – – through our acceptance of the Holy Cross of daily suffering brought about by our fidelity to normal duties and obligations – – even to the sacrifice of our life itself for our family, our country, our Lord God, and even OUR SELVES.  

Some of our suffering comes about because of a certain ambivalence – – two opposing ideas – – of life now, AND to life as we will know it when we enter into the destiny Jesus promises.  A life seen as a meager or simple “self-centered” (materialistic, narcissistic) earthly existence, and lived in denial of Christ, will always end in greater suffering and destruction.  Such a life possesses an eternal separation from the JOY our Trinitarian God: in the glory and beauty of everlasting paradise (the “New Jerusalem” above). 

However, when lived in loyalty to Christ, even despite our earthly human death, our lives will be delivered to live in a completely divine “fullness”.  Jesus explained to all who would listen what it would cost, individually and personally, to follow Him as their Messiah.  It would cost EVERYTHING, including their very lives!  (Example: 11 of 12 Apostles were martyred; and the surviving Apostle, John, was exiled to a lonely island, to live in a cave.)  How can anyone make such a costly demand?  Well, God the Father freely gave us His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from the effects of sin and death by giving His very life – – not just a physical death, but also a spiritual death – – HELL – – so we would not have to experience this sad separation:

“Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.  For what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do, this God has done: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit  (Romans 8:1-4)!!

Perhaps this is why Mark finishes his reading for today with a simple, yet spiritually complex verse:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Later Mark uses similar terms again, to equate Jesus with the Gospel, the “good news” of God:

Jesus said, ‘Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.  But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first’”(Mark 10:29-31).

When we exchange our life for His life – – working in, with, and through us – – we receive far more than we could ever give up.  In this awesome exchange of lives, we receive pardon, peace, and the abundant eternal life of God’s kingdom now; and we also receive a sacred, divine, promise of a resurrection – – an unending life with God – – in the next age to come.

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We can easily miss the fear Jesus’ words must have evoked in His disciples when uttering His ominous warning.  Death by scourging and crucifixion was all too familiar as the preferred method of execution in Roman-occupied territories.  It was a universal, continuous, danger to the 1st century Christian community for whom Mark wrote.  The “path” Jesus was inviting His disciples to share meant, almost always assured, tremendous suffering and death for the early Christians.  This is the kind of radical commitment and sacrifice Jesus calls us to adopt “for the sake of the Gospel”, even still today.  (If you do not think so, look at what is happening in the middle-east this past week!  Please pray for our Orthodox Catholic Brothers and Sisters.) 

Peter certainly had expectations about what it meant to call Jesus the prophesied “Messiah”, the Christ.  Jesus was indeed the “Messiah”; but His life, and eventually His death, would show to all a different understanding of what it means to be the Messiah Savior.  

We, too, have expectations of our Trinitarian God, the Holy One of Israel.  Our own expectations are about what we think God ought to be doing in our present-day world.  Like Peter in today’s reading, we may risk limiting our image of God by thinking only in “human ways”.  God’s plan is always more than we can ever imagine with our finite minds and imaginations.  God’s thoughts and ways are absolutely different from our human, materialistic, earthly thoughts and ways!  Through humiliation, suffering, and death on the Holy Cross, Jesus broke the confining power of evil, sin, and spiritual/physical death.  Jesus, instead, won for us redemption, salvation, and eternal paradise in heaven.  So, when talking to Jesus in prayer, how do you answer Him when asked, “Who do you say that ‘I AM’?”  (He has asked this question to you.  You may have only heard it just now!)  I answer this question multiple time each and every day with the following:

“Jesus, I trust you, I love You.  You are my God and my ALL!!” (My personal “Jesus Prayer”)

More than any of Jesus’ other works (actions), Jesus’ passion and death is a living, active, expression of His “Words” – – in action; a living, redemptive, saving love for All His creation.  To be a Catholic Christian is to become conformed to Christ – – FULLY!!  Jesus states, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me“.  The image of the “suffering servant” of Isaiah is prophecies of “Christ”, as being the one who can say:

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting.  The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.  He who declares my innocence is near.  Who will oppose me?  Let us appear together.  Who will dispute my right?  Let them confront me.” (Isaiah 50:6-8).

Jesus spoke openly to His disciples, and dealt openly with those who opposed Him.  As those who bear the name of Christian Catholics, our faith should remain open to Jesus’ revelation of Himself in our daily lives, that we might lose our preconceptions of ourselves and others for the works of living His “Word”, His good news, His Gospel today, everyday, NOW, forever and ever.  AMEN!!

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Reflect on what you expect God to be doing in the world – – in YOUR world.  Reflect about why you believe Peter was so upset with what Jesus was saying to Him?  Jesus was also truly upset by Peter’s reaction to the foretelling of His passion and death.  Do we sometimes forget to just let God BE GOD for us?  Do we sometimes get discouraged because God doesn’t act in the world in ways WE expect Him to act?  Pray for a continual knowledge of God, always working for the world’s redemptive salvation, through ways beyond our limited imaginations.

When we discover the treasure of God’s kingdom – – God Himself – – we gladly give up all we have in exchange for the life of joy, exaltation, and happiness only God can offer us.  He always gives without measure. There is NO sadness or loss which can ever diminish the joy God offers to each of us personally – – on a daily, moment-to-moment, basis!  The Holy Cross of Jesus Christ truly and fully leads to TWO victories: a freedom from evil, sin, and death, AND, a freedom for choosing (a) not to sin, and (b) the better “right” things to do.  Let me ask, “What is the cross Jesus Christ is commanding you to take up each day?”  When my “will” crosses with His “will”, His “will” must be achieved.  (His “will” will “will” my “will”!!)   Are you ready to lose ALL on this earth, for Jesus Christ, in order to gain ALL WITH Jesus Christ?  I know “I AM(and “me too”!)!

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Reflection Prayer:   

 

“A Prayer Of Praise To God For His Salvation”

 

“I love the LORD, who listened
to my voice in supplication,
Who turned an ear to me
on the day I called.
I was caught by the cords of death;
the snares of Sheol had seized me;
I felt agony and dread.
Then I called on the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”
Gracious is the LORD and righteous;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD protects the simple;
I was helpless, but he saved me.
For my soul has been freed from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.  Amen”

(From today’s Mass – Psalm 116:1-6,8-9)

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


Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For August, 2012

General Intention (For Prisoners):

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

Missionary Intention (Youth Witness to Christ):

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

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

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

“Prayer of Jabez: Break Through the Blessed Life”

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

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

 

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

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Today in Catholic History:

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

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

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 Joke of the Day:

  

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other two are found in the following two verses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

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

(Prayer for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

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

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

**

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

Patron Saint of: Housewives, waiters, waitresses

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

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Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Moo-ve Over Animals, A NEW Sacrifice Is In Town; Look At The ‘Signs’!” – John 2:13-25†


 

Third Week of Lent

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

We are in our third week of Lent; only 28 days till Easter Sunday.  How are you doing with the Lenten requirements; prayer, fasting, sacrifices, and alms-giving?  This Lenten season has been a special time for me.  I feel a little closer to God more so this year than I have in the past.  Praise be to God for opening my eyes a little wider and seeing all of you with me on my journey of faith.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   638 – Death of Sophronius of Jerusalem, saint/patriarch of Jerusalem
†   859 – Death of Eulogius of Cordoba, Spanish Bishop and Christian Martyr
†   1513 – Giovanni de’ Medici is elected to the Papacy, and becomes Pope Leo X
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Vindician, Blessed John Righi, Saint Alberta, Saint Aurea

(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:

 

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” ~ CCC, no. 2558, citing St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits Autobiographiques, C 25r

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus driving out the money changers from the Temple and poses to them a “mysterious” challenge: “destroy the temple and I raise it up again.”

 

(NAB John 2:13-25) 13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near,Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.  15 He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, 16 and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  17His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  18 At this the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them,“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  20 The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”  21 But He was speaking about the temple of His body.  22 Therefore, when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.  23 While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.  24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel we learn about how Jesus overturned the “tables” of the “merchants” and the “money-changers” in the Temple at Jerusalem.  In order to understand the relevance of Jesus’ action, we need to know a little bit about the activities that went on in and outside the Temple area.  Worship at the Temple in Jerusalem included animal sacrifices as part of some of the rituals.  So, merchants sold sacrificial animals to Jewish worshipers to be used in ritual sacrifices per Mosaic Law.  The “money-changers” exchanged “pagan” Roman coins – – with its image of the Roman emperor, – – for the Temple coins needed to pay the Temple tax.

 Jesus’ radical action at the Temple in Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels (a true rarity, happening in only 11 out of the 234** chronologic events found in the four Gospels).  What happens in this Gospel reading is among the key events which will eventually lead to Jesus’ arrest, trial, Scourging, and Crucifixion.  Unlike the other Gospels, John’s Gospel places this MAJOR event much earlier in Jesus’ public ministry, occurring at the very beginning of His ministry, just after His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana (cf., John 2:1-12).

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place the cleansing of the Temple toward the last days of Jesus’ life (Matthew, on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem; Mark, on the next day).  We need to remember that the “order” of events in the Gospel narratives is often determined more by “theological” motives than by “chronological” data.  The Gospels were written with a specific audience in mind.  For me, this is the WHY we should read each narrative story from all the Gospel books when provided. Here is a link to an excellent site which lists the scriptural readings from all four gospels about the same event, beginning with Jesus’ birth and 233 other events in chronological order:

**http://fourgospelstogether.com/chronological.html

We ALWAYS need to read the Gospel of John carefully, especially in Jesus’ relationship to the authorities of the Judaic culture of the day.  John tends to suggest a greater tension and animosity between Jesus and the Jewish authorities (the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes) than is shown in the Synoptic Gospels.  In this regard, let us remember that John’s Gospel was the last of the four Gospels to be written (believed to be written in the 90’s A.D.); and its narrative reflects the growing divide between the Jewish and early Christian communities – – after the destruction of the Temple had already occurred in A.D. 70.  Thus, a greater emphasis on the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism is found in John’s Gospel than in the Synoptic Gospels written much earlier.  More often than the other Evangelists, John mingles “post-Resurrection” reflections of his Christian community in his Gospel narrative.

John is reflecting upon the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), recalling Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and Jesus’ prophesy regarding its destruction.  John uses this earlier story to interpret the later event of the Temple destruction and associated gruesome murders.  John explains to his early Christian community Temple worship would no longer be necessary.  Temple worship was surpassed through the events of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection forty or so years PRIOR to the Temple’s destruction.  

Does today’s event (destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days) indicate a foretelling of the post-resurrection replacement of the Temple by the person of Jesus Christ?  I believe it certainly does!

Today’s story starts with Jesus and His disciples traveling to Jerusalem for “Passover”.  The Temple in Jerusalem was understood and firmly believed by the Jewish people and nation as the dwelling place of God among His “chosen” people.  All faithful and pious Jews were to make a pilgrimage to the Temple each year at the Passover time if at all possible.  This particular event presented in today’s reading is the first of three “Passovers” mentioned in John’s Gospel (cf, John 6:4; 13:1). Taken literally, the number of documented “Passovers” Jesus participated in points to a public ministry of at least a minimum of two years or a maximum of no more than three years.  We have always learned that Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years.  Here is the proof scripturally.

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The “Oxen, sheep, and doves” which were being sold in the Temple were intended for sacrifice.  The “doves” were the usual offerings of the poor:

If, however, the person cannot afford an animal of the flock, that person shall bring to the LORD as reparation for the wrong committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a purification offering and the other for a burnt offering.” (Leviticus 5:7).

Mary and Joseph used the “poor persons” offering in “consecrating” the infant Jesus on the day of His presentation in the Temple”:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and to offer the sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” (Luke 2:22-24)

The “Money-changers” of today’s reading were the people who took the “Temple tax” paid by every male Jew more than nineteen years of age.  This tax was usually a “half-shekel” coin:

The LORD also told Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites who are to be enrolled, each one, as he is enrolled, shall give the LORD a ransom for his life, so that no plague may come upon them for being enrolled.  This is what everyone who is enrolled must pay: a half-shekel, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel contribution to the LORD.  Everyone who is enrolled, of twenty years or more, must give the contribution to the LORD.  The rich need not give more, nor shall the poor give less, than a half-shekel in this contribution to the LORD to pay the ransom for their lives.  When you receive this ransom money from the Israelites, you shall donate it to the service of the tent of meeting, that there it may be a reminder of the Israelites before the LORD of the ransom paid for their lives.” (Exodus 30:11–16).

An interesting note of trivia: before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obligated to make an annual contribution to its upkeep.  After the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., the Roman occupiers forcibly imposed upon the Jewish nation an obligation of paying that same “tax” for the upkeep of the temple for “Jupiter Capitolinus” (AKA, Jupiter Optimus Maximus), the most important temple in Ancient Rome, located on the Capitoline Hill.  (The picture above is of that Roman temple.)

In both John’s and Mark’s Gospel, Jesus referred to the “Temple” as His Father’s house being made into a “den of thieves” or a “marketplace”:

Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”?  But you have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17);

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

Jesus’ respect for His Father’s House and the Holy Scriptures of Moses’ inspired Jesus’ use of physical force to expel the “money-chargers”.  The prophecy of Malachi foretold the coming of the Lord unexpectedly to His Temple in order to clean or refine it:

The lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire … He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:1, 3).

It’s clear that Jesus knew Himself to be “that Lord” prophesized by Malachi.  His behavior is part of the living reality of the LIVING “Word”!

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So, in today’s Gospel reading, the disciples saw with a grace to see with more clear eyes Jesus as the Messiah who burned with “zeal” for God’s house.  The “blind” Jewish authorities, however, wanted proof that Jesus had divine authority to act as He did at the Temple.  They demanded a “sign” from God to prove that Jesus was right in His actions.  Otherwise, the “authorities” would treat Jesus as a fraud and a usurper of THEIR authority.  Jesus replied that the “sign” God would give would be His resurrection (however, NO ONE could understand what he meant by saying):

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

What a powerful, yet misunderstood verse this is from today’s Gospel (And I believe in ALL of Holy Scripture!).  Maybe it is because there are many verses about the destruction of the Temple occurring, in various forms, throughout the Bible.  Here are a few examples of the Synoptic Gospel’s (and in ACTS as well) speaking of the same event:

He [Jesus] said to them in reply, ‘You see all these things, do you not?  Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down’; ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, [and] come down from the cross!(Matthew 24:2; 27:40);

Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down’; those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,save yourself by coming down from the cross.’”  (Mark 13:2; 15:29);

All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6);

And,

“We [Sanhedrin] have heard him [Stephen] claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:14).

However, in John’s Gospel, there is a figurative or symbolic contrast with the “NEW” Temple from that of Mark’s Gospel:

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

I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands” (Mark 14:58).

Today’s reading from John is symbolic of Jesus’ prophesy of His own resurrection and His resulting “NEW” community, His new “Living” Temple – – the Catholic (Universal) Church – –

He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” (see John 2:21).

Interestingly, I found an Old Testament expression for the words “in three days” meaning a short, indefinite period of time:

He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence”(Hosea 6:2).

Regarding Jesus Christ, Hosea’s three days became a literal reality.  So, as I say often, the “Old” lives in the “NEW” Hosea’s prophesy.

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From today’s reading, you learned that it took forty-six years to build the Temple in Jerusalem.  Here is a little history lesson.

Forty-six years” (John 2:20), based on references found in the books of a first-century Jewish historian, “Flavius Josephus” (cf., Jewish Wars 1, 21, 1 #401; Antiquities 15, 11, 1 #380) AND Holy Scripture, places the possible date of today’s reading happening during the spring “Passover” of the year “28 A.D.”.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene …” (Luke 3:1).

Tiberius succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor in A.D. 14 and reigned until A.D. 37. The fifteenth year of his reign would have fallen between A.D. 27 and 29.  Pontius Pilate was the Prefect (a kind of mayor) of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36.  Herod, a Tetrarch (Governor), ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39.  Philip was Tetrarch of the territory to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34.  Nothing is known about “Lysanias” who is said here to have been Tetrarch of Abilene, a territory northwest of Damascus (Syria).  All these dates from Holy Scripture fall into an accepted range of A.D. 27 – 29.  Per the data in Holy Scripture, Flavius Josephus is probably correct concerning the year “28” as the year of this awesome event.  (I LOVE math, as you can see!!)

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Let me ask you a question: Can I use the anger of Jesus showed in today’s reading in order to justify my own episodes of anger?  I guess it depends, doesn’t it?  We need to remember that “anger” is one of the “Capital” sins.  However, we have to remember that it was a COMPASSIONATE Jesus who took a whip to clear the Temple of the “money-changers” and the animals present there for sale:

To those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’” (John 2:16).

During His public ministry Jesus is oft-times criticized, slandered, and denounced.  He is eventually betrayed by one close to Him, resulting in His being arrested and scourged prior to His death sentence.  Even through all this horribly brutal treatment, Jesus never responded with any type of anger when the attacks were directed against Him personally.  So, why did He “go postal” at the Temple in today’s reading?  I believe it is because His “Father’s house of prayer” – – His Father’s HOME – – was desecrated by business affairs and money, and not for proper worship.  (You can “diss” me, but don’t ever “diss” my mom or dad!)  Also, animal sacrifices were to be no longer needed in the NEW Temple: Jesus Christ!!

Does Jesus’ anger, clearly displayed in today’s Gospel, justify my own angry moments, whether petty such as when a driver cuts in front of me, or serious such as when someone misrepresents or slanders me?  In reality, I probably think not!  Food for thought: when anger is self-righteous and self-serving, it is never justified. 

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In summary, after clearing the Temple of the “merchants” and the “money-changers”, John’s Gospel tells us that the people asked for a sign of Jesus’ authority for doing such a risky and presumptuous act as disrupting the “normal” course of business in the Temple.  In response to the Temple leader’s indictment, Jesus foretold His own death and Resurrection when He said:

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

Throughout John’s Gospel, the language of miraculous “signs” is distinctive.  The people of Jesus’ time, and still today, look to these “signs” for proof of His authority.  In today’s reading, we learn that the “sign” of the highest quality – – and above ALL others – – will be Jesus Himself, and the events of His betrayal, Passion, Crucifixion, death on the Cross, – – and His Resurrection – – ALL of these signs – – for our sake!!

Think about places and times when you have experienced God’s presence personally and intimately.   After His Resurrection, Jesus’ disciples finally received the grace to understand that Jesus was present with them as they gathered to pray and share a meal.  Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel that He is “God’s presence with us”!!  Thank you my Lord God for Jesus’ presence with us, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

During this Lenten season, reflect upon the meaning of this “sign” (His death and Resurrection) for You and Your world.  Take this opportunity to consider the quality of your prayer and worship.  Remember that in prayer, we seek to deepen our relationship with the “person” of Christ, Jesus Himself.  In worship “with the community”, we gather to experience anew the “Passion”, death, and Resurrection of Jesus AND its significance in our lives!  Jesus Christ promises to be present with us whenever we gather for prayer, even if we are not physically with each other, such as in the “Divine Office” prayer.  NOW, that’s a miracle!!

I feel today’s Gospel invites us to reflect upon OUR worship of God.  The Temple was an important and holy place for Jesus and His Jewish contemporaries; a place where they gathered to worship God together.  Our Catholic – Christian understanding of “worship” was transformed – – made fuller – – in light of Jesus’ “Resurrection” on that special Easter morning in Israel.  In the Catholic – Christian understanding, God is worshiped in the “person of Jesus Christ”.  As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus Himself “IS” the “Temple” destroyed AND raised up again in three days!!  (Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!)

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 Reflection Prayer:

  

Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

“Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope
and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things
act according to Your Holy Will.  Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Real Presence in the Eucharist

“’For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). RSV

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). KJV

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Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). RSV

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Saint Constantine

 

Constantine was king of Cornwall.  Unreliable tradition has him married to the daughter of the king of Brittany who on her death ceded his throne to his son and became a monk at St. Mochuda monastery at Rahan, Ireland.  He performed menial tasks at the monastery, then studied for the priesthood and was ordained.  He went as a missionary to Scotland under St. Columba and then St. Kentigern, preached in Galloway, and became Abbot of a monastery at Govan.  In old age, on his way to Kintyre, he was attacked by pirates who cut off his right arm, and he bled to death.  He is regarded as Scotland’s first martyr. His feast day is March 11th.

Catholic Online
(http://www.catholic.org/saints)

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 11 & 12 of 26:

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.

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

 

 

“Just Like a Popular Detergent – – Jesus Gets the Stains Out!” – Mark 9:2-10†


Second Sunday of Lent

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for March, 2012

March 2012: 

General Intention: Contribution of Women; that the whole world may recognize the contribution of women to the development of society.

Missionary Intention: Persecuted Christians; that the Holy Spirit may grant perseverance to those who suffer discrimination, persecution, or death for the name of Christ, particularly in Asia.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   251 – Death of Pope Lucius I
†   303 – Martyrdom of Saint Adrian of Nicomedia.
†   480 – Death of Saint Landry, bishop of Sées
†   561 – Death of Pope Pelagius I
†   932 – Translation of the relics of martyr Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, Prince of the Czechs.
†   1215 – King John of England makes an oath to the Pope as a crusader to gain the support of Innocent III.
†   1303 – Death of Daniel of Moscow, Russian Saint, Grand Prince of Muscovy (b. 1261)
†   1484 – Death of Kazimierz, the Saint, Polish ruler/saint, dies at age 25
†   1484 – Death of Saint Casimir, Prince of Poland (b. 1458)
†   1493 – Explorer Christopher Columbus (a Third Order Franciscan) arrives back in Lisbon, Portugal aboard his ship Niña from his discovery voyage to America. He returned to Spain on March 15.
†   1595 – Death of Robert Southwell, English poet, hanged for becoming a Catholic priest
†   1798 – Catholic women force to do penance for kindling sabbath fire for Jews (cannot find reference in wikipedia or elsewhere)
†   1853 – Pope Pius IX recovers Catholic hierarchy in Netherlands
†   1888 – Birth of Knute Rockne, Notre Dame Universities football player and coach (d. 1931)
†   1931 – Birth of William Henry Keeler, American Roman Catholic Archbishop and Cardinal
†   1934 – Birth of Gleb Yakunin, Russian priest and dissident
†   1979 – The first encyclical written by Pope John Paul II, “Redemptor Hominis” (Latin for “The Redeemer of Man”) is promulgated less than five months after his installation as pope.
†   2010 – Death of Bishop Hilario Chávez Joya, Mexican Roman Catholic prelate due to natural causes (b. 1928)
†   Feasts/Mmeorials: Saint Casimir, patron saint of Lithuania; Humbert III of Savoy; Saint Adrian of Nicomedia, bishop of Saint Andrew’s, and his Companions; Saint Basil and his Companions; Saint Basinus; Saint Efrem; Saint Lucius I; Saint Peter of Pappacarbone; Commemoration of Saint Lucius I, pope, martyr.

(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:

 

Q: Why shouldn’t Christians watch TV?
A: At the transfiguration, Jesus said, “Tell-the-vision to no one.”

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus being transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John.

 

(NAB Mark 9:2-10) 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.  4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.  5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!  Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.  7 Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.”  8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.  9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The context for Mark’s Transfiguration story, from today’s Gospel reading, is similar to the stories found in both Matthew’s (Matthew 17:1-8) and Luke’s Gospel (Luke 9:28:36).  The “Transfiguration” occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the “Messiah”; and after Jesus’ prediction about His future “Passion”.  Soon to take place, in each of these three “Synoptic” Gospels, is a discussion of the “cost” of Apostleship (and discipleship) to Jesus Christ.  (NOTHING is free!  There is ALWAYS a price!)

Jesus took three of His Apostles’—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain (Some believe it is Mt. Horeb – see last Sunday’s reflection blog for more information on Mt. Horeb).  While Jesus and His “notable” Apostles are on this “notable” mountain, Elijah and Moses appear to Jesus and converses – – “face-to-face” – – with, Jesus Himself.  Per Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel, this dialogue is unknown to the reader.  However, in Luke’s Gospel, the detail of this tête-à-tête is accepted to be about what Jesus will accomplish in Jerusalem: His Arrest, Scourging, and Crucifixion.

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Both Mark and Matthew place the “Transfiguration of Jesus” six days after the first prediction of His “Passion” and death.  

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1);

Hmm, how many days did God the Creator take to form the world and all things on it?  I believe SIX!  I wonder if there is a connection of some sort between the two events.

The “Transfiguration” counterbalances the prediction of Jesus’ “Passion” by affording a certain group of His Apostles’ (I like to call them “the inner ring”) insight into the divine glory Jesus truly and fully possessed.  His glory will overcome His death, that of His Apostles’, and ALL who fully believe in Him:

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18);

And,

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majestyFor he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.  Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:16–19).

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The “heavenly voice” (Mark 9:7; and 2 Peter1:18 immediately above), heard “worldly” by the three Apostles of Christ, starts the preparation for THEM to understand God the Father’s divine plan: Jesus must die in a dreadful and appalling way before His Messianic glory is made gloriously revealed – –  made  manifest – – to all who believe:

He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:25–27).

The account of the “Transfiguration” confirms to Peter, James, and John that Jesus is truly the Son of God the Father:

“Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.’” (Mark 9:7); 

The “Transfiguration” itself, points to a fulfillment of the prediction that He will come in His Father’s “glory” at the “end of the age”:

The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:27).

The “Transfiguration” event has been explained by some biblical scholars as a “resurrection appearance” – – actually retrojected – – into the time of Jesus’ ministry beginning.   Instead, I believe this reading probably draws upon Old Testament and non-canonical Jewish literature in order to express the presence of divinity and heaven, such as those images conveyed in today’s reading: brilliant lights, white garments, and the overshadowing cloud.  Who knows for sure which belief on its origin is true (other than God Himself); does this point truly matter?

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What can “blind” us, keeping us from recognizing God’s “glory” in our individual lives?  Well, the obvious answer is sin and unbelief!  It is unquestionably awesome for ALL of us – – His disciples’ – – that having a “true faith” enables us to see what is hidden or unseen to our worldly blinded and naked eyes.  Through the eyes of “faith”, Abraham recognized God and His call for his future life.  With “faith”, Abraham saw not only what God intended for him, but also what God intended for his descendants: an everlasting covenant with the true, living, and eternal God.  Abraham is OUR father of faith; he put his hope, love, and trust in the infinite promises of his heavenly God.  “Faith” truly allows each of us to taste, in advance, – – individually, uniquely, and personally, – – the light of God’s glory, when we shall see Him “face-to-face”:

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12);

AND!; as He truly and fully IS – – IS – – IS the light of glory:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).

God is eager to share this glory – – HIS glory – – with each of us!  We get a glimpse of His burning eagerness to share His “glory” when the three Apostles’ see Jesus “Transfigured” on the mountain.  What happened for them to recognize His “glory”?  Well, Jesus’ face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white.  In sorts, Jesus is re-living what happened to one of the other “heavenly witnesses” present with Him on that mountain.  When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai the skin of His face “shone” because he had been talking with God “face-to-face” as well:

 “The Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.” (Exodus 34:35).

Paul, in regards to the Moses event, relates that the Israelites at the foot of the mountain when Moses came down could not even look at Moses’ face because of its brightness:

The Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade” (2 Corinthians 3:7).

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In today’s event, Jesus appeared in glory WITHMoses”, the great “giver of the law” to Israel, AND, with “Elijah”, who for me is the greatest of all the prophets (Isaiah is a close second though).  These two great figures from “Israel of old” appear with Jesus Christ, in the presence of three of His “most loved” Apostles.  Why did this happen?  Hmm…!  Let’s think this out!  Jesus went to the mountain knowing already what was in store for Him in Jerusalem: His betrayal, rejection, trial, scourging, and crucifixion.  I see Jesus discussing this devastating choice – – “to die for OUR redemption” in a horrendous and painful death on the Holy Cross – – with Moses and Elijah; maybe to get advice, maybe to get some comfort in His decision.

 Why are these two particular men of Holy Scripture coming as “witnesses” to Jesus’ “Transfiguration”?  Elijah and Moses are significant figures in the history of Israel.  Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and received from “Yahweh” the Ten Commandments (the Biggies), among other Mosaic Laws.  In appearing with Jesus at His “Transfiguration”, Moses represented the Mosaic Law of “old” guiding the ways, rituals, and entire lives of the “chosen” Jewish people in the “new”..  

Elijah is certainly remembered by the Jewish people as one of the most important prophets of Israel.  He helped the Israelites stay faithful to “Yahweh” and not to pagan gods.  Some (and I believe most) Jews believed “Elijah’s” return would be the signal of the coming of the true “Messiah” returning to save the Jewish people.  This belief is evidenced in the question posed by Jesus’ Apostles’ after they have witnessed the Transfiguration:

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Matthew 9:11)

The appearance of Moses and Elijah, both crucially important and central figures from Israel’s history, – – with Jesus Christ – – signifies Jesus’ continuity with Mosaic Law and with the prophets.  Their appearance with Jesus also signifies His being the true fulfillment of ALL of God promises to His “chosen” people and nation, Israel – – old and new.

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Moses and Elijah represent law and prophecy respectively in the Old Testament AND each are linked to Mount Sinai, possibly Mt. Horeb (covered in last week’s reflection) in regards to covenants created between God the Father, Moses, and Elijah (cf., Exodus 19:16–20:17; 1 Kings 19:2, 8–14).

Now Moses and Elijah surprisingly appear on this mountain with Jesus as divine “witnesses” to the fulfillment of God’s law and plan, and what had been foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, taking place – – in the person – – of the divine Jesus Christ as He radiates in magnificent glory.  Imagine the sight of this taking place in your actual presence.  Keep in mind; these three men were raised as devout and pious Jews.  They knew the prophets words in a reasonable (if not thorough) detail.  No wonder Peter, and the others, were so “terrified”, and did not know what to say:

He [Peter] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.”  (Mark 9:6)

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On seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses, and having witnessed Jesus’ “Transfiguration” before ALL their very eyes, Peter offered to construct “three tents” for them.  Peter’s reference to making “tents” refers to the Hebrew Feast called “Sukkot” (also called the “Feast of Booths” or “Feast of Tabernacles”).  This well-known first-century Jewish Feast (it is actually still a recognized Jewish Feast day to this day, yet not celebrated regularly) is a “biblical holiday” traditionally  celebrated in late September to late October (per our current day Gregorian calendar).  Sukkot is one of three mandated festivals wherein the Jewish people were “commanded” to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem(the other two being “Passover” and “Weeks” [Shavuot]).  There are many biblical references to Sukkot-type dwellings or tents in Holy Scripture, other than in the “Transfiguration” narratives:

Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me… You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover]  … You shall also keep the feast of the grain harvest with the first fruits of the crop [Shavuot], … and finally, the feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you collect your produce from the fields [Sukkot].  Three times a year shall all your men appear before the LORD God. (Exodus 23:14-17);

“Tell the Israelites: The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths, which shall continue for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:34);

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you will declare a holy day: you shall do no heavy work. For the following seven days you will celebrate a pilgrimage feast to the LORD.(Numbers 29:12);

Three times a year, then, all your males shall appear before the LORD, your God, in the place which he will choose: at the feast of Unleavened Bread, at the feast of Weeks, and at the feast of Booths.  They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed, but each with his own gift, in proportion to the blessing which the LORD, your God, has given to you. (Deuteronomy 16:16?);

And,

The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.” (John 7:2).  

A “Sukkot” was a “booth or tabernacle”: a walled structure covered with some plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves. The structure was intended to remind its inhabitants of the fragile and easily erected dwellings, in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years in the desert after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  

According to Zechariah, in the “Messianic” era, Sukkot will become a universal festival and ALL nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there:

 “Everyone who is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year after year to bow down to the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the feast of Booths.  Should any of the families of the earth not go up to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, the LORD of hosts, then there will be no rain for them.  And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, upon them will fall the plague, with which the LORD strikes the nations that do not go up to celebrate the feast of Booths.  This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16-19). 

(Here is a little “side-line” trivia; there are Messianic Scholars who believe that Jesus was born on the “first day of Sukkot” in the year 4 BC.  If interested in learning how they came to figure this out, using math, astrology, and Holy Scripture, please go to the following website:

http://www.bereanpublishers.com/Jesus_Christ_Who_is_%20He/Messiah’s_Birth_at_Sukkot.htm.)

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God the Father chose this time to speak with Jesus, with the witness of others from both old and new covenants.  God gave His approval of Jesus and His public ministry:

This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and His Apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews: when the “Messiah” came to save His people, the cloud of God’s presence would fill the temple again, and Jesus was the fulfillment in this cloud on that mountain top.  

At this moment of the event, with emotions high, a cloud comes upon them “casting a shadow over them”.  It was now time for God the Father to throw a little divine twist into this event; something that had happened only ONCE before (and is the last time in Holy Scripture this will happen).  God the Father SPEAKS!!  God tells all present that Jesus Christ is truly His Beloved Son, and that we are to LISTEN to Him:

This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

Mark reports that the Apostles are “terrified” by what they had witnessed – the vision, the weather change, and the VOICE  from heaven!!  I feel certain that Peter’s offer to make these tents was made out of bewilderment and confusion on his part.  Peter was definitely confused at this point.  Have you noticed that Peter, in this reading, reverted from his earlier declaration that Jesus is “the Messiah”:

“And He [Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said to him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:29).

Peter is instead, now calling Jesus “rabbi” (verse 5)!  What do you believe the reason is (?); is it simply a symptom or reaction of his bewildering confusion?  There is NO confusion on God’s part however!  A “voice” [from heaven] speaks from the lofty clouds, affirming Jesus as God the Father’s Son, AND ALSO commands the three Apostles’ to obey – – both this heavenly “voice” (implicitly) AND Jesus Christ Himself (literally)!!  This “voice” from heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism: 

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.  On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:9-11).

These three Apostles had to be confused and perplexed; according to rabbinical interpretation of Messianic prophecies, Elijah was to come prior to the Savior:

Now I am sending my messenger — he will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire — see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)

My question: Could this voice have been a heavenly response to Peter’s bewilderment and confusion?  Or, was it to further reiterate what Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and God had already known: that Jesus Christ IS the true and only “Messiah”!!

Besides these two great people from “Israel old”, the three Apostles also enter into the “mystery” of Jesus’ glorification.  They most surely became what we call “Charismatic”.  They witnessed a gift, a grace from God, by co-witnessing holy figures from the Old Covenants relating and surrendering themselves to a holy and divine figure.  They all witnessed the bringing in of the new and fuller Covenant of His heavenly Father. 

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In the Old Testament, the “cloud” covered the meeting tent, the dwelling place of God during the Exodus, indicating the Lord’s presence in the midst of His people:

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34–35).

Again, in the Old Testament, the “cloud” also came to rest upon the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of its dedication, making this structure the dwelling place of God in His chosen land:

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD.” (1 Kings 8:10).

And now, the “cloud” has come to rest upon the new dwelling place of the full and NEW Covenant for ALL the worlds’ people and lands: no longer in a structure created by man, but in a structure created by God the Father Himself: Jesus Christ.

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Then, another twist happens.  In verse 8, Moses, Elijah, and the clouds disappear “suddenly” and unexpectedly.  I am sure these three “fishermen” wondered if they experienced a dream, and/or saw a mirage of sorts.  Actually, these three fishermen, – – Peter, James, and John, – – have simply not realized yet that “Elijah” had already come, – – in the form and person of a special individual known to ALL of them that inspiring day:

Then they asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’  He [Jesus] told them, ‘Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” (Mark 9:11-13)

Yes, Elijah was to (and had) come first!  Jesus’ response showed that Elijah truly had come in the person of John the Baptist, in order to prepare for the day of the Lord.  WOW!!  Just like a “good book” (excuse the pun), I love a great mystery, especially when I know the ending already: God the Father WINS!!!

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To summarize, in Jesus’ “Transfiguration”, we see a future anticipation of the “glory” found in, and from, Jesus’ Resurrection.  In each of the three Synoptic narratives covering the “Transfiguration”, Jesus instructs the three Apostles’ “to keep secret” what they have seen that day, on that mountain, until after the Son of Man had “Risen” from “the dead”.  The Apostles’ bewilderment and confusion continued (and probably grew) as they wondered what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead”.  

The Apostles could – – in NO WAY possible – – understand Jesus’ “Transfiguration” until they also witnessed His passion and death later; future events, the details of which they cannot comprehend at this point.  In our understanding of Jesus’ “Transfiguration”, we truly have the opportunity to anticipate – – to look forward to – – Jesus’ Resurrection as we prepare to remember Jesus’ passion and death in a few short weeks.

I wonder, do we miss God’s glory, graces, and action because we are perhaps “numb or dead” spiritually?  There are many things and ways challenging our minds to become “numb or dead” to God: Mental weariness, and our own “materialistic” priorities and values, can keep us from thinking through our choices and facing our own internal doubts.  Even our “easy to get anything” life may hinder us from considering the “personal cross” Jesus Christ has for each of us to carry.  

Are you spiritually numb or dead?!  Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the “glory” of Jesus Christ.  As disciples’ of Christ, WE TOO are called to be witnesses of His glory NOW!  We are capable of being changed – – “Transfigured” – – into His likeness and glory:

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Lord wants dearly to reveal His face, His glory, and His LOVE to each of us – – His beloved disciples – – personally, uniquely, and intimately!!  Do you seek His presence, His affirmation and approval, His kingdom, with a faith, trust, love, and reverence worthy of HIS faith, trust, and love?!!   

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To conclude: everyone has moments they remember in a special and fond way on a regular basis.  The meaning and importance of these special moments of life possibly even deepen in “feeling and passion” over time.  I believe this is how the three witnessing Apostles’ remembered Jesus’ Transfiguration for the rest of their earthly lives.  The festival of the harvest, “Sukkot”, has now taken on an intimate, unique, and personal meaning to each of them.

The full significance of what they had seen and experienced could only be understood after Jesus’ death and Resurrection.  Yet, they still KNEW something special had indeed happened before their eyes.  Can you imagine how they told Jesus’ other disciples about this event, and their recollections and feelings while recording this experience – – for us – – in their  letters and books?  Because of them, OUR understanding of what it means to call Jesus Christ, – – the ‘true’ Messiah, and God the Father’s own Only-Begotten Son – – has also deepened (at least for me).

The Holy Bible is filled with many important memories about Jesus (both old and new) – – so richly and intimately unique in each account – – so that WE CAN believe that Jesus Christ is truly God the Father’s Son.   What can (and do) we learn about Jesus from this Gospel reading?  For me, Jesus fulfills the promises God made to Israel through two sources: Mosaic Law AND the prophets.  God the Father, in speaking these few “Words” – – heard by earthly Peter, James, and John, – – truly “glorified” Jesus in His Resurrection.  JESUS CHRIST IS – – IS – – IS, God the Father’s true and only-begotten” Son.

I pray you continue to delve into the Holy Bible passionately.  It will definitely deepen your understanding of, and your love for, Jesus Christ.  After all, if it can change MY heart and understanding, you’re a shoe-in for finding that deepening meaning just under the layer you are on right now!  Just like a fragrant and sweet tasting onion, peel back the layer to find out what gets exposed in your search for the Lord God in your life!! 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer for Transfiguration

“Father of mercies, you glorified your heavenly Son and revealed yourself in the bright cloud, grant that we may listen in faith to have a love for the word of Christ.  Amen.”

(http://www.ewtn.com)

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Servant of God Sylvester of Assisi (d. 1240)

 

Sylvester was one of the first 12 followers of St. Francis of Assisi and was the first priest in the Franciscan Order.  A descendant of a noble family, Sylvester once sold Francis stones which were to be used to rebuild a church.  When, a short while later, he saw Francis and Bernard of Quintavalle distributing Bernard’s wealth to the poor, Sylvester complained that he had been poorly paid for the stones and asked for more money.

Though Francis obliged, the handful of money he gave Sylvester soon filled him with guilt.  He sold all of his goods, began a life of penance and joined Francis and the others.  Sylvester became a holy and prayerful man, and a favorite of Francis—a companion on his journeys, the one Francis went to for advice.  It was Sylvester and Clare who answered Francis’ query with the response that he should serve God by going out to preach rather than by devoting himself to prayer.

Once in a city where civil war was raging, Sylvester was commanded by Francis to drive the devils out.  At the city gate Sylvester cried out: “In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of his servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirits.”  The devils departed and peace returned to the city.

Sylvester lived 14 more years after the death of Francis and is buried near him in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

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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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity, Part 3:

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power …” (Hebrews 1:1-3) RSV

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high …” (Hebrews 1:1-3) KJV

**

But of the Son he says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.  … And, “Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands.” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) RSV

 

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  … And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” (Hebrews 1:8, 10) KJV

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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05.  Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity.  The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

“‘40 Days’ Can Be A Lifetime For Some, But Can ‘Lead’ Others To An Everlasting Lifetime In God’s Kingdom!” – Mark 1:12-15†


  

First Sunday of Lent

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I’m back!!  Three weeks without a computer (only an I-Pad) has been a pre-Lenten mini sacrifice for me.  (For some of you, it may have been a vacation.)  However, I have been hankering to proclaim the “good news”, so this week’s reflection has some built-up “BS” in it.  (Ah, ah, ah; … “BS” means “Bible Study”).  Do you need to go to confession for what you thought it meant?! (He, he, he!)

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Speaking of Lent, this past Wednesday starts our Lenten Season, that period of time (40 days, not including Sundays or other days of ‘worship’) spent in renewing our Baptismal promises to follow God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit through prayer, fasting, sacrifice, and penance.  We hope and pray we all have a great journey of faith this, and every, Lenten Season. 

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In the news the past week or so, is that a “hometown boy”, Archbishop Timothy Dolan (a St. Louis native and Archbishop of New York) had been elevated to a “Prince of the Catholic  Church” on February 18th by Pope Benedict XVI, in Rome.  He is now to be known as Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

 

I have NEVER seen Cardinal Dolan without a rosy glow on his cheeks, and a smile in his heart (and face).  The day before his elevation to Cardinal, during a Pre-Consistory Day of Reflection, then “Cardinal-elect” Dolan said the following:

 

The gospel must be ‘accomplished with a smile, not a frown.'”

 

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, – – in character, humor, reverence, and faith, – – reminds me so much of Pope John XXIII.  Hmm, could he become a future “Pope John XXIV”?

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Today in Catholic History:

    

  •  1361 – Wenceslaus is Born, Holy Roman Emperor, “Good King” of Bohemia [and of song](d. 1419) 
  •  1534 – Pope Paul II affirms George van Egmond as bishop of Utrecht 
  •  1616 – Inquisition delivers injunction to Galileo.  Pope Urban VIII alienated him, and the Jesuits who had supported Galileo up until this point.  He was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy“, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.  The Inquisition’s ban on reprinting Galileo’s works was lifted in 1718.  On 15 February 1990, in a speech delivered at the Sapienza University of Rome, then Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope BXVI) cited some current views on the Galileo affair as forming “a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age, of science and technology goes today“.  On 31 October 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the Catholic Church tribunal that judged the scientific positions of Galileo Galilei.
  • 1720 – Birth of Gian Francesco Albani, Italian Catholic cardinal and member of the famous Albani family. (d. 1803)
  • 1732 – First Mass celebrated in first American Catholic church, in Philadelphia
  • 1925 – Jihad-Saint war against Turkish government started.
  • Liturgical Memorials/Feasts: Saint Nestor (died 251); Saint Alexander of Alexandria; Saint Isabel of France
(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:

 

“Everything depends on my will. It depends upon me, whether I become a saint or a sinner.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa, “Where There Is Love, There Is God“, Doubleday

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus being tempted in the desert by Satan, and afterwards, the Beginning of His “Galilean” Ministry.

 

 

(NAB Mark 1:12-15)12 At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, 13 and He [Jesus] remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.  14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading in each Lectionary cycle is always about Jesus’ temptation in the desert.  This event in Jesus’ life is reported in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke); however, it is not found in John’s Gospel.  Since this year is “Cycle B” of the Liturgical year, we are presented with Mark’s account of this event this year, with Luke’s next year (Cycle “C”).

Today’s event from the Gospel reading today, as compared to Matthew and Luke’s Gospel of this same event, is amazingly sparse in specific and intricate details.  Mark’s account of Jesus’ “temptation in the desert”, barely says much more than Jesus went into the desert, led by the Holy Spirit – – for “40 days” – – , was “tempted” by Satan; He then returns to begin His public ministry.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke go much further in detailing the event, describing how Jesus fasted while in the desert, how Satan presented Him with three temptations, and how Jesus refuses each one, quoting Scripture as His reason and belief.  Only the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (not Luke) report “angels” ministering to Jesus at the end of His sojourn in the desert.

The “temptation of Jesus” follows His baptism by John the Baptist (cf., Mark 1:9-11).  We are told that Jesus went into the desert immediately after His baptism in the Jordan River and by the Holy Spirit descending upon Him.  After this “40 day” period of testing, Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee begins.  There is a purpose in the continuity and course of action found in Mark’s Gospel.  Mark makes a strong and “linking” connection between the arrest of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  Jesus’ preaching about the “Kingdom of God” is in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist – – but it is also something altogether “NEW” and “AWESOME”!!  As Jesus announced the start of His public ministry, “proclaiming the Gospel of God” in Galilee – – the “Kingdom of God” is also beginning, in the NEW, EVERYWHERE!  The time of God the Father’s fulfilling promises were manifested in Jesus Christ Himself!  Jesus tells us directly and openly that the “Kingdom of God” requires “repentance” to take place in each of us; and He also declares the importance for a “belief” in His “Word”, the “good news” of the Messiah coming to light in our souls, our hearts, and our entire SELVES!

Above, I stated that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus during His baptism in the Jordan River.  This same Holy Spirit is, in today’s reading, now “driving” Jesus into the desert for “40 Days” (and nights).  The result of His venture (and personal retreat) was a far-reaching confrontation, multiple intellectual and spiritual battles, and several temptations by Satan Himself.  Satan is an evil entity continuously at war with the Trinitarian God, attempting to frustrate the work and plan of God the Father then, now, and in the future.

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The fact that Jesus spent “40 days” (and nights) in the desert in the wilderness is significant.  This “40 day” period, for me, recalls the “40 years” which the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led out of Egyptian slavery.  Earlier, the prophet “Elijah” also journeyed in the desert for “40 days”, making his way to Mt. Horeb, where an “angel” attended to him.  

Remembering the significance of these events, we set aside “40 days” for the season of Lent for fasting, prayer, repentance, thus sustaining OURSELVES on God the Father’s divine and infinitely generous forgiving love and mercy.

In the Old Testament, “40 days” was often seen as a significant period of testing and preparation for entering into a covenant relationship with God.  In the days of Noah (from our First Reading at today’s Mass – Genesis 9:8-15), God the Father “judged” the earth and destroyed its inhabitants in a great “flood” because of their idolatry and their total rejection of Him.  Only Noah and his family were spared as they obeyed God, taking refuge in the ark for “40 days” and nights.  When the flood subsided, God made a “covenant” with Noah, giving him a sign of His promise that He would not destroy the human race again by flood.  The sign is the “rainbow”.  (I love rainbows because of that promise).  Jesus Christ is the New and Fuller sign coming to fulfill the promise His heavenly Father made.

When God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He brought them into the “desert” wilderness.  Moses went to the mountain of the Lord at Sinai, Mt. Horeb**, and stayed there in prayer and fasting for “40 days”:

“Moses entered into the midst of the cloud and went up on the mountain. He was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:18).

At the conclusion of this “40 day” encounter and experience of faith, God the Father made a new “covenant” with Moses and His “chosen” Jewish people.  

This theme of “40 days” continues in the story of the prophet Elijah confronting of idolatry of the priests of Baal: God responded to Elijah’s prayer by destroying the altar of the 400 priests of Baal.  Elijah then fled into the “desert” wilderness and journeyed for “40 days” to the “mountain of God” at Sinai.  On this sacred mountain, God spoke with Elijah this time, commissioning him to pass on the restoration mission of “proper worship” of God, the Holy One of Israel:

“He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.  There he came to a cave, where he took shelter.  But the word of the LORD came to him.” (1 Kings 19:8-9)

(**Per Wikipedia, the word “Horeb” is thought to mean “glowing or heat”.  Hmm, remember how Moses face shined so brightly when bringing the Ten Commandments to the tribes of Israel.  There is an obvious “linking” connection with this mountain and “covenants” made with God.)

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After Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, in the living and flowing waters of the Jordan River, He (as Moses and Elijah before Him) journeyed into the desert wilderness of Judea for “40 days” (and nights) to prepare Himself for His mission of salvation and redemption – – a mission God the Father sent Him to accomplish, in establishing a newer and fuller “covenant” – – one which supersedes ALL the previous covenants which God the Father had previously made with His people.  

In today’s reading, Mark declares emphatically:

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the desert” (Mark 1:12).

Hmm …, was Jesus compelled to seek solitude for such a lengthy period simply as “a test” to prepare Him for His ministry (?) … Or, did Satan want to lure Jesus into a trap (as he still does with each of us today) … ?!  The Scriptural word, “tempt”, means to test for the purpose of proving and purifying in order to ready someone for a task to be carried out.  Encountering conflict is intended to mature and refine His sons and daughters, as it did for Jesus.  The word “tempt” in this particular case, for me, simply means “to entice to sin, producing conflict and a challenge for us to learn to overcome.”  

Satan did his best to entice Jesus to choose to comfort Himself by His divine power.  Despite Jesus’ weakened physical condition (after 40 days of fatigue and lack of food), He unwaveringly rejected Satan’s subtle (and not so subtle) temptations towards Him.  (By the way, Satan offered three enticements as recorded in Matthew and Luke.)

Wow!!  Where did Jesus find His strength to survive the desert’s harsh conditions AND the evil tempter’s unrelenting attempts at seducing Him?  SIMPLY, Jesus Christ fed on His Father’s “Word”, and there found strength and encouragement in doing His heavenly Father’s will on earth.  

Hmm!  Since Satan attempted to “tempt” Jesus Christ, he surely will try to tempt us every time possible for him to do so.  And sadly, at times, will succeed.  He will try his best to get us to choose our own personal, materialistic, worldly needs and wants over God the Father’s will and personal plan He has for each of us – – uniquely, personally, and intimately in every detail.  If Satan can’t make us renounce our faith or sin seriously, he will then try to get us to make choices which lead us away , – – whittling just a little bit at a time, – – from what God the Father wants and expects for and from  each of us, personally and collectively.

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As I mentioned earlier, Mark does not identify what “temptations” Jesus was subjected to; however, we learn in a similar passage from Matthew that Jesus was tempted with power and money (cf., Matthew 4:1-11):  

Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10).

From this event, we learn Jesus’ technique for resisting and overcoming temptation.

Later in his Gospel, Matthew relates to us this core principle:

“No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)

The principle is the core meaning of the very first Commandment: “I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt not have strange gods before me!”  The principle is for us to choose God fist; put God and our faith first – – above ALL Else!!  Are you following the principle and the path our Trinitarian God, through Jesus’ experience has taught us to follow?  Are you going in the direction in which God is leading us?  Or, are you taking the easier path, worshiping money and power – – “mammon“? 

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Notice verse 13 of today’s Gospel reading:

He [Jesus] remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1:13)

The presence of “wild beasts” in this narrative may indicate the horrors and dangers of the desert – – regarded by many as the abode of demons.  Or, could it reflect a “paradise motif” in which there is a harmonious relationship among ALL of God the Creator’s creatures, as found in Isaiah:

“Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.  The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.  They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6–9)

Along with the “wild beasts”, verse 13 mentions the presence of “angels ministering to Jesus” in order to sustain Him.  This recalls for me the “angel” who guided the Israelites in the desert of the first Exodus (Who, among my readers can explain what I mean by the “first Exodus”?):

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s army, now moved and went around behind them.   And the column of cloud, moving from in front of them, took up its place behind them.  I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 14:19; 23:20);

This image of the ministering angel also is reminiscent of the sustaining angel who supplied nourishment to Elijah when he was “in the wilderness [desert]”:

He [Elijah] lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat!’  He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.  After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!’  (1 Kings 19:5–7).

The combined forces of the good found in the “angels” and the evil found in the “wild beasts” is a profound image.  Jesus deals with both the “angel” and the “evil” in a direct, certain, and holy way.  Jesus, though tempted, sustained a profound obedience to, and respect for, His heavenly Father; by doing so, He brought forth a “New Israel” for God the Father in a place where Israel’s rebellion against their Creator had brought death and alienation in the past (Hint: can you now answer the question about the “First Exodus.).

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Mark jumps from Jesus’ “40 days in the desert”, immediately to the beginning of His ministry inGalilee” (Jesus never received any vacation benefits.  He must have been salaried).  In Mark’s Gospel, “Galilee” is the focal scene of Jesus’ most significant events of His public ministry, before His arrest, trial, condemnation, scourging, and crucifixion.

In God the Father’s plan, Jesus was NOT TO proclaim the “good news” (meaning of the word “Gospel”) of salvation prior to the ending of John the Baptist’s active mission and ministry.  Thus, Jesus’ public ministry was planned to startafter John had been arrested”.  We need to remember that the “Gospel” is not only the “good news” from God the Father; it is also about God the Father working in, with, and through Jesus Christ Himself (and working in, with, and through each of us as well).  It’s True!!

John the Baptist had enemies who sought to silence him during his ministry.  Jesus also had enemies who sought to silence him during his earthly ministry.  We will have enemies seeking to silence us in our mission and ministry as well!!  However, the living and true “Word” of God – – the Gospel – – cannot EVER be silenced.  (We are witnessing this fact today, in regard to the recent battle concerning the Church’s “conscientious objection” to the HHS healthcare mandate inspired by the present administration.)   

In His day, Jesus proclaimed the time of restoration – – foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah – – was NOW being fulfilled (and is continuously being fulfilled) in His very “personhood” on earth.  The “kingdom of God” was (and is NOW) at hand.  

So, what is the “kingdom of God”?  The basic word, “kingdom“, means something much more than a territory or an area of land.  It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign”, and a relationship with the power to “rule” and “exercise” authority over oneself and others.  “The kingdom of God” means the effective rule of God the Father over His people.  In its fullness, it includes not only human obedience to God’s “Word”, but the triumph of the Trinitarian God over ALL physical evils, supremely over death itself.  In Jewish belief, the “kingdom” was to be ushered in by a “judgment” in which sinners would be condemned, separated, and forever imprisoned in agony.  This faith and belief was obviously shared by John the Baptist, who preached “repentance” and pronounced judgment upon the leader of his day (Herod), prior to our Lord Savior Jesus Christ’s “fully human, yet fully divine” manifestation.  This Jewish notion of “kingdom” has been somewhat modified in the Christian understanding, wherein, the “kingdom” is being established in stages, culminating with the “Parousia” (Second Coming) of Jesus.  “The kingdom of God is at hand” IS the actual, physical, spiritual, and real reign and rule of God the Father over His people.  As I said earlier, and is worth repeating: In its fullness, the true “kingdom” includes not only human obedience to God’s “Word”, but the total triumph of God the Father (and Jesus Christ) over ALL physical evils, supremely over physical and spiritual death.  (Please read 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 to see how Paul expresses this final triumph!)

The prophets of the Old Testament announced that God the Father would establish a “kingdom,not just for one nation or people, but for the entire world and ALL peoples!!  We need to remember that God the Father sent to us His “Only-Begotten Son”, the Lord Jesus Christ, not only to establish an earthly kingdom but also to “bring us” into His glorious and heavenly kingdom; a kingdom ruled by justice, truth, peace, love, mercy, and holiness.  The “kingdom of God” is, and continues to be, the central theme of Jesus’ still on-going mission and ministry on earth. The “kingdom of GodIS, and will forever be, the core and outcome of Jesus’ “good news” (Gospel) message.  (If you haven’t read Paul’s 1 Corinthian 15:20-28 yet, please do so NOW!  It’s ALL there.)

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The ending verse (Mark 1:15) of this Sunday’s Gospel reading, has a very profound meaning to me.  “This is the time of fulfillment” is talking about God the Father’s promises to ALL of us, even those who do not believe in Him.  Look at the first two words of this verse: “This is ….”!  God the Father’s promises are being fulfilled NOW!!  There is LITTLE TIME to wait, to take action, and to prepare for the completion of His salvation plan, the “Parousia” or “Second Coming”.  John the Baptist called for (and Jesus Christ STILL continues to proclaim) a personal change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s entire way of life from rebellion to one of obedience towards God and His way, His Plan. This is the meaning of “Repent”!! 

How can we enter the “kingdom of God”?  Well, in “proclaiming the good news”, Jesus gave us TWO explicit things each of us must do in order to receive His “kingdom” of God the Father:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

When we submit to Christ’s reign and rule, Jesus gives each of us – – individually, uniquely, and personally – – the grace and power of the Holy Spirit needed to live a “new” way of life as “child-like” members of God’s “kingdom”.  Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the grace and conviction we need to renounce sin and Satan who is the “father of lies” and the ruler of this present world:

You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.  Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (John 8:44; 12:31).

Repentance” (verse 15) needs to be, and IS, the first step on our individual journey to His “kingdom” on earth AND in heaven.  “Repentance” simply means to change – – your way of thinking, your attitudes and disposition, and the choices YOU make – – the choices you make determine your life and its quality.  This is the way we allow Jesus to be the Ruler, Lord, and Master of our hearts and souls.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit strengthens us to resist and overcome Satan’s sin, greed, and selfishness, always prevalent in our world, not only personally, but also socially, as in politics and international relationships.  If we are only sorry for the “consequences” of our sins and bad choices and not for the sin itself, we will most likely keep repeating them.  “True repentance” requires a humble and contrite heart:

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.” (Psalm 51:19)

True “repentance” then also requires a “true sorrow” for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future.  Jesus Christ gives us the grace to see sin for what it truly and really is: a rejection of His infinite and merciful love, wisdom, and hope, AND a refusal to do what is good and righteous in accordance with His will and plan.  God’s redemptive grace brings pardon, healing, and support when we deliberately and purposely TURN AWAY from anything, anyone, and everything keeping usfrom His enriching, sustaining love, truth, and hope.  To “believe” this fact (found in verse 15) is to take Jesus at His “Word” and to recognize that God the Father so loved us that He sent His “Only-Begotten Son” to free us from the chains of bondage resulting from the sinful and harmful weakness we inherited from Father Adam.  

God the Father made the supreme sacrifice of His Son, crucified on the Holy Cross, in order to bring us back into a relationship of peace and friendship with God Himself.  He is OUR heavenly Father as well, and he wants us to live as His “children” in paradise WITH Him.  God loved us first (even if we don’t love Him) and He invites us – – in a total and pure love – – to surrender our complete and personal lives to Him.  Do you believe that the Gospel, the “good news” of God the Father through Jesus Christ, has the power to free you from the destructive chains of bondage resulting from sin and the fear of death?  I DO!!  Thanks be to God!

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In summary, the “desert temptations” marks the “beginning” of Jesus’ continual battle with Satan and his evil associates.  The ultimate test – – or battle – – for Jesus, will be found in His final hours on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation.  In a similar way, our personal and public Lenten observances are also only a “beginning” – – establishing, learning, preparing for our battle with Satan, – – and a reinforcement of our ongoing struggle to resist the many continual temptations we will face in our daily (sometimes hourly) lives.  During the Lenten season, we are led by the Holy Spirit to remember the promises of our Baptism in which we promised to reject sin and to follow Jesus.  Just as Jesus Christ was ministered to by “angels”, God the Father also supports each of us, personally, intimately, and fully in our ongoing struggles against sin and temptation with our own personal “angel”.  We succeed in this dreadful struggle SOLELY because Jesus Christ Himself conquered sin permanently and irretrievably through His saving death on that Holy Cross outside the gates of Jerusalem some two thousand or so years ago.

The announcement which Jesus makes as He began His preaching in today’s Gospel was recalled this past Ash Wednesday service in the signing with ashes on our foreheads:

“Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)  

Make this announcement of repentance and belief your challenge for this Lenten season.  After all, it is TRULY the “challenge” of our ENTIRE life on earth.  During this period of Lent (and every Lent to follow), we are invited “again and again” to strengthen and renew the promises we all made at our Baptism (even if we were a mere “few days old”), to reject Satan – – and sin – – so as to live NOW as “children” of God the Father in His “kingdom”:

“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.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:3-5).

Through the grace, love, and mercy of God the Father, received at our Baptism, we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and know we also will be, and remain, victorious over Satan and sin – – with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Reflect on the importance of your Baptism.  At your Baptism, your sins were completely and fully forgiven, and you promised to live as “children” of God the Father.  As part of the Rite of Baptism, we reject sin and Satan.  During each and every Lent, we renew these promises of our Baptism, turning again from sin and promising to follow God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Maybe right now is a good time to pray the well-known prayer, the “Act of Contrition”.  One is provided immediately after this Gospel reflection; however you can also say your own “Prayer of Contrition”, from your heart and soul with a blazing brightness found on Mt Horeb.  (I personally believe a prayer of contrition, coming from your innermost-self, is a more meaningful and powerful statement of faith.  Otherwise, stick with the tried, true, and proven prayer I have supplied.)

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To conclude, the First Reading at Mass this Sunday is about Noah, the flood, and the Covenant God the Father established with Noah after a “40 day” period of destruction and testing (cf., Genesis 9:8-15).  Peter recalls this event when he wrote:

God patiently waited in the days of Noah.” (1 Peter 3:20)

Is God still waiting patiently for you to follow on the path He wishes you to follow, while at the same time, – – and, as His people did before the flood and again in the desert of the Exodus, – – you continue to worship false idols and the “mammon” of your choosing?  In doing so, you place your individual “materialistic” desires ahead of His plan of salvation?  Yes, He is truly “patiently waiting”; you need only to “drop everything and go with Him”!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 Act of Contrition

 

“My God,
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
Amen,”
 

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

 Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

 Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). RSV

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58). KJV

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

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

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For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Porphyry of Gaza (353-421)

 

We go far back in history today to learn a bit about a saint whose name is not familiar to most of us in the West but who is celebrated by the Greek and other Eastern churches.

Born near Greece in the mid-4th century, “Porphry” is most known for his generosity to the poor and for his ascetic lifestyle.  Deserts and caves were his home for a time.  At age 40, living in Jerusalem, Porphyry was ordained a priest.

If the accounts we have are correct, he was elected bishop of Gaza—without his knowledge and against his will.  He was, in effect, kidnapped (with the help of a neighboring bishop, by the way) and forcibly consecrated bishop by the members of the small Christian community there.  No sooner had Porphyry been consecrated bishop than he was accused by the local pagans of causing a drought.  When rains came shortly afterward, the pagans gave credit to Porphyry and the Christian population and tensions subsided for a time.

For the next 13 years, Porphyry worked tirelessly for his people, instructed them and made many converts, though pagan opposition continued throughout his life.  He died in the year 421.

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

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

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

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

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