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


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First Sunday of Advent

 

 . table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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

 

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For December, 2012

 

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

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

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

 

The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

·        The “pear tree” is the Holy Cross.

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

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

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

Luke21v25to36_2003

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

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

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. Reflection Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus goes on to reveal that He will be:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer: 

Psalm 25

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

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

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

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♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign, Blockin’ Out the Devil, Freein’ My Mind. Do This, Don’t Do That, Can’t You Read the Sign?!”♫ – Mark 13:24-32†


33rd 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:

 

A friend wrote something he believes the Holy Spirit told him to write down.  I found it very moving, and would love to share this beautiful piece of work with you:

A Conversation with God

By Gene Eller

One day I started to pray, “Please Lord, can you help me, I’m so angry?”

The Lord said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

I alleged, “Lord, this guy over there has an important job.  He’s in charge of a lot of people.”

The Lord come back with, “Did I not provide you a job?”

I said, “Yes, but Lord, he owns a big house with a lot of rooms and I rent this tiny house with very few rooms.”

The Lord said back to me, “Did I not provide you with a roof over your head and a place to sleep, for you AND your family?”

Again, I replied, “Yes, you did.”  I then said to the Lord, “He has lots of money and I have so little.”

The Lord answered, “Did I not provide him with enough money so that he can help the poor?”

Again, I could only answer, “Yes, I suppose so; but Lord I and my family barely have enough food to eat.”

The Lord then asked, “Didn’t I provide you with enough food so you would NOT go hungry?”

I said, “Yes, you did.”  Then the Lord asked me, “With all that I have provided you, how can you be so angry?”

I sheepishly whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  He countered with, “I did, but you did not listen to me!”

We all need to stop, ask the Lord if we have not heard Him, and then, LISTEN!!

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Next week, I will be discussing the “five stages of religious persecution” which I learned from an on-line article written by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdioceses of Washington.  The subject matter is directly related to the importance of our Catholic Faith TODAY!!  The author highlights the direct effect of the HHS mandate on religious freedom, specifically impacting the Catholic faithful and the Church itself.  He also highlighted his perception of a greater degree of indifference on the part of many Catholics, in particular, those serving in public office.    

With this not so subtle – – in fact, overt – – inconsistency and public deviation from foundational Catholic Doctrine concerning life, marriage, and religious liberty, I am inspired to recommend to you, all my readers, the following three prayers given to us from the “Guardian Angel of Portugal” who appeared to the three children of Fatima in October 1916.  The angel prayed and taught these prayers to the children who learned to pray them daily:

The Pardon Prayer:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you!  I ask forgiveness for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.”

The Angel’s Prayer:

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

The Eucharistic Prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you!  My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Please say these Prayers on a daily basis.

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  Quote of the Day:

“The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They simply are the ones who care the most.” ~ Charlie Schulz (is alledged author, but Scopes says author is unknown)

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.  Hey, what’s YOUR sign?

(NAB Mark 13:24-32)  24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.  28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

We are nearing the end of this liturgical year in the Catholic Church.  Today is the second to last Sunday prior to the start of the new Church year which is the beginning of the Advent Season, that of expectation and preparation for the coming infant “Messiah”.  So, as we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel is inviting each of us to consider Jesus’ foretelling “predictions” and teachings about the end of the world – – as we know it.  Jesus’ “Words” about the “end times” are spoken to prepare His disciples for His passion and death in Jerusalem at the time of Passover (but they do not know the time of His passion and death yet).

Before we consider Jesus’ “Words”, it is important to note the reason Mark writes his Gospel, the political backdrop in which it is written.  It is strongly believed that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus on the Holy Cross (circa, 60-75 A.D.).  This was a time of political turmoil in Rome and throughout the Middle-east.  At this time Christians in the area were experiencing persecution by the Romans.  Jewish revolutionaries, in response to this persecution on their people and their religious beliefs, rebelled against the Romans.  In response to their attacks, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., murdering a major portion of the Jewish leaders and populace.  Many in Mark’s community of believers, during this time of political turmoil and persecution, most certainly wondered if the “end times” envisioned by Jesus were quite near to coming to fruition.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the Temple treasury.  Jesus commented on the example of sacrificial giving, inspired by her total trust that God would protect and provide, which He saw in the poor widow’s offering (cf., Mark 12:38-44).  Placed between last week’s reading at Mass and this week’s reading at Mass is Jesus’ prophesy of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, His teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the “woes” that will accompany the “end times”.  In a warning to His followers, and to balance the potential despair implied in His prophecy, both then and now today, Jesus offers hope by instructing His disciples for the need of watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment – – the Parousia – – His Second Appearing.

In this rather abstractly-bizarre discourse about the coming of the “Son of Man”, Jesus is referring to specific “Words” (and images connecting words) found in their most sacred of Jewish religious Scriptures, the “Torah”, the first five books of today’s Old Testament:

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

When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its stars” (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10).

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The people of Jesus’ time expected that the coming of the Messiah – – “the Son of God” – – would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders which can be anticipated if we watch for the signs.  Signs of wonder and mystery have always revolved around Jesus.  Let’s remember that Jesus’ first coming was “clouded” in mystery and wonderment:

  • A “son of David” was born in a cave at Bethlehem as was prophesied;
  • Magi from “the East”, guided by a star, travelled to worship the newborn king of Israel;
  • He was a miracle-worker who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead,
  • He was a “Suffering Servant” who bore the sins of many upon the Holy Cross, and
  • He IS the Risen Jesus Christ who stormed the gates of Sheol to release its captives.

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  

Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

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

(Remember now, Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”!).

Daniel’s vision is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on, in verse 13:26, saying the following of His return:

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

In saying this, Jesus is citing verses from Deuteronomy:

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

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

Jesus repeats this text again later, referring to the “Son of Man and riding in the clouds of heaven”, in His response to the question from the high priest, “Are you the Messiah?”:

Again the high priest asked him and said to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?’  Then Jesus answered, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” (Mark 14:61-62).

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of the divinity.  Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “heavenly being” who will come in power and glory (as well as being the “human” king).  The image of the “cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is significantly found throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

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

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

and,

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

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Jesus continues His teaching by offering His disciples “signs” to look for, indicating that the “coming of the Son of Man” is near.  His “Words” and its images draw upon similes found in the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament).  

Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the “fig tree”, a parable which teaches that if one knows how to read the “signs”, one can be prepared for the “end times”.  However, Jesus also makes exceedingly clear to His disciples that NO ONE knows when the “end time” will come, EXCEPT God the Father.  

The last verse from today’s Gospel reading is very revelational and significant for me:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 12:32).

This statement seems to counterbalance today’s reading by declaring that the exact time of the Parousia is known only to God the Father; and God the Father IS PURE LOVE!!  The Father IS the architect, designer, and the ultimate cause and effect intended in the Parousia!  This last verse is a warning for the disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, at the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an acknowledgement of the Final Judgment, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us. 

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As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” with the “12 Legions of Angels” surrounding Him NOW!!  How do we prepare for His return?  Here is a set of “To Do’s” taken from a website I found, cited at the end: so,

  • Live holy lives abiding in Christ (1 John2:28) and perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
  • Rejoice in hope knowing that we have a Savior who will certainly appear and all our work for Christ will not be in vain, but abundantly rewarded ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • Be alert to the various deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days (2 Thessalonians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:11).  (These Days!!)
  • Engage in radical simplicity knowing that all our material possessions will be just fuel for the fire on that day (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10-14).
  • Be awake to God, and not “asleep in the light” (Matthew 25:1-13).  This means we are to have a sense of perpetual readiness and anticipation, and being in constant personal spiritual growth.  The attitude that “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back” is “foolishness”, imperiling the joy the believer can enter into with Christ.
  • Wait patiently for the coming of the Lord without giving in to skepticism about an apparent delay (James 5:7-8, 2Peter 3:3-4) or alarmist panic (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2), or concluding that He has already returned.
  • Hasten the day of His return by engaging in the world mission and and other activities of His Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, 24:14, 2 Peter3:12).
From http://www.globalchristians.org/articles/parousia.htm

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Jesus’ prophetic description of the Parousia, the “end time” and the “day of judgment”, was not new to the people of Israel.  The prophets had foretold these events for many centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Please look up these references (cf., Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; and Zephaniah 1:14-18).  Jesus speaks of the “Second Coming” as a well-known fact among the pious Jews, an expected event which was certain to take place.  This “Second Coming” will be marked by “signs” ALL will be able to recognize, signs which will strike terror in those unprepared, and wonder and awe in those who are ready to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face.  When Jesus Christ returns He will establish “justice and righteousness” and He will justify all who have been faithful to Him.  His return and judgment is a sign of hope for those who TRUST IN HIM!!

Jesus wants each of us to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  Fig trees were common in the area, and an important source of food for the Jews and others living in the area.  A fig tree produces fruit twice a year, once in the early spring and again in the autumn.  The prophet Joel mentions it’s fruit-bearing ability as a “sign” of favor from “the Lord”:

“Do not fear, you animals in the wild, for the wilderness pastures sprout green grass.  The trees bear fruit, the fig tree and the vine produce their harvest” (Joel 2:22).

Jewish Scripture says that the “first fruit” came the day after Passover:  

“When you come into the land which I am giving you, and reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, who shall elevate the sheaf before the LORD that it may be acceptable on your behalf.  On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall do this.  On this day, when your sheaf is elevated, you shall offer to the LORD for a burnt offering an unblemished yearling lamb” (Leviticus 23:10-12)

For faithful Jews, it was widely believed that when the “Messiah” came, He would shepherd in the kingdom of God at Passover time.  This story foretells the joy of God’s kingdom, the joy of new life, and the promise of a new age of peace and blessing.  WOW – – this is absolutely AWESOME!!   

The “budding” of God’s kingdom begins first “in the hearts of those who are willing and receptive to God’s “Word”.  Those who trust in God’s “Word” will bear the fruits of His kingdom: righteousness, peace, and joy – – in and through the Holy Spirit:

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

We do not know the day or hour when the Lord will return again in glory.  But Jesus does give us “signs”, not only to warn us, but also to “rouse our spirits”, readying and inspiring our individual eagerness to see His kingdom come in all its “power and glory”.  Our Lord God wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for Jesus’ coming again (His Second Advent).  As He promised, Jesus Christ will surely “come again in all His glory”.

Jesus referenced the Book of Daniel in offering “Words” of warning and encouragement.  The warning to us is o LIVE TODAY as if it were your LAST DAY on earth: IT COULD BE!!  However, Jesus reminds us that our God in Heaven – – our heavenly Father – – is a loving God who sent Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – – Jesus Christ – – to save us!  Through Daniel, our Lord God proclaims that:

those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3).

Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten His disciples, nor should they frighten US!  Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times – – the Parousia “event”.  Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ “Words” and God the Father’s ever-lasting, ever-enduring love for each of us.  Hey, what’s HIS sign?!

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The storm “of the century” this past October is not the “end-time” prophesied by Jesus; but it may have seemed so to the multi-thousands of people beaten down by the wind, water, flying objects, and even lack of heat, light, and gas.  The Atlantic coastline is changed forever.  Gas is being rationed for the short-term.  Recovery will be a monumental task, both physically and emotionally.  And, on top of this, the autumn “super-storm” on the East coast followed a summer inundation of drought in the Midwest and massive forest fires in the Western states. 

Many things in our lives and our world are subject to change.  However, each and every one of us obtains personal security and refuge in our personal relationships and values which endure over time.  Chief among these are our family and extended family relationships.  We can accept change if we know that we will continue to be loved by our family, by our friends, and by our Trinitarian God.  We also help impart this sense of trust, confidence, and love in our children, spouses, and others with our daily assurances to them that nothing can change our love for them.

So, grab a soda or cup of coffee, sit down, and look through several family photo albums.  Observe the things that have changed in your family life and other relationships over the years (like hair styles).  Think about the things that have stayed the same.  We do not need to fear changes in our personal lives because we know the most important aspects of our family life and strong friendships do not change, such as our love for one another.  Well, guess what; the same is true with God and His love for each and every single one of us.  Jesus is teaching us that things in our world will change and that the world itself will one day end!!  We don’t need to be “fearful” of the Parousia because God’s love for us will never end – – EVER!!  Pray to God, thanking Him for His ever-lasting and ever-enduring love for us.  Praise be to God!!

Our challenges of becoming aware and preparing for the Parousia are both dauntingly comprehensive and strikingly universal.  If we are inattentive or remiss in regard to the “end time”, we may miss our opportunity to be “ready” for Christ’s return.  If we remain alert and aware, if we take action and prepare, we “shall be like the stars forever“.  Doesn’t everyone want to be a “STAR“?!  (Oh, by the way, see what Jesus says about His “star-self” in Revelation 22:16 – – you will be surprised.)

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Luke 23:42

“Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom.
Amen.”

 

 

 

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“Go, Go, Go, – – And Don’t Forget Your Passports OR What I Have Taught You!!” – Matthew 28:16-20 †


The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

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:

This week we return to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  This Sunday and next Sunday, however, are designated as solemnities, special days which call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith.  Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  This feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed Himself to us as the Holy Trinity, three Persons in one God.  

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Today in Catholic History:

†   545 – Birth of Chlotilde, wife of French king Clovis/saint, dies at about age 70
†   1098 – First Crusade: Antioch falls to the crusaders after an eight-month siege
†   1140 – French scholar Peter Abelard is found guilty of heresy
†   1548 – Birth of Juan de Zumárraga, Spanish Catholic bishop of Mexico (b. 1468)
†   1594 – Birth of Michel Renichon, priest, executed
†   1620 – Construction of the oldest stone church in French North America, Notre-Dame-des-Anges, begins at Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
†   1658 – Pope Alexander VII appoints François de Laval vicar apostolic in New France
†   1770 – Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is founded in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
†   1819 – Birth of Anton Anderledy, Swiss Superior General of the Society of Jesus (d. 1892)
†   1925 – Birth of Thomas Winning, Roman Catholic archbishop (Glasgow)
†   1933 – Pope Pius XI encyclical “On oppression of the Church in Spain”
†   1936 – Birth of David Nicholls, priest/theologian/political theorist
†   1963 – Birth of John XXIII, [Angelo G Roncalli], Pope (1958-63), dies at age 81
†   1981 – Pope John Paul II released from hospital after assassination attempt
†   1992 – Patrick Peyton, Rosary Priest, dies of kidney failure at age 83
†   Feast/Memorials: Vladimirskaya (in Russia); Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs of Uganda; Saint Kevin of Glendalough; Saint Clothilde (d. 545); Blessed Pope John XXIII; Saint Paula (d. 273); Saint Ovidius; Saint Gorg Preca

(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:  Sending His disciples to make disciples of all nations.

 

(NAB Matthew 28:16-20) 16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.  18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel is the conclusion of the Matthew’s Gospel.  His Gospel seems to move rapidly from the disciples’ discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb, to Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and finally to the commission which Jesus gives His disciples in today’s Gospel Reading.

The Final Commission”, as this Gospel is sometimes called, is given on a mountaintop.  Throughout Holy Scripture, it appears to me that the most important and climactic events usually happened on a mountaintop.  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus transfigured while He was praying on the mountaintop:

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” (Matthew 17:1-8).

In this Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also taught the crowds from the mountaintop the “Sermon on the Mount” (cf., Matthew, chapters 5-7).

Wow!  Jesus Christ is now again on a mountain doing big things.  He had already been “Risen” from the dead, and is about to show all present there (and to us now) the ultimate gift to following on His path: going to God the Father, and eternal happiness and joy in heaven.  This climactic event, I have read, has been called a “proleptic Parousia”.  I had no clue what “Proleptic” meant.  Well, according to the dictionary, it means, “the assignment of something as ‘existing or occurring’ before it could have done so”.  Jesus’ “Ascension” is a “proleptic Parousia” because it gives a foretaste of the final glorious coming of the Son of Man:

From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matthew 26:64).

At the Parousia, His victory will be manifest to all.  However, for now, it is revealed only to the eleven disciples [Apostles], who are commissioned by Jesus Christ to announce it to “all nations” and bring all to believe in Jesus as the true Savior of all nations in obedience to His commandments.

Weren’t there “Twelve” “chosen” disciples: Apostles?  There are “eleven” disciples in this reading, recalling the sad and tragic defection of Judas Iscariot.  For whatever unknown reason, this man who spent three years closely bonded to the human, yet divine Jesus Christ, sold Jesus to a certain death for thirty pieces of silver.

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 “To the mountain to which Jesus ordered them” is a slight deviation from Jesus’ initial message to the disciples, which was simply to go to Galilee:

Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

Some bible scholars believe the “mountain” comes from a tradition known to Matthew, and referred to, in today’s Gospel.  The significance of a “mountain” may have a theological rather than geographical meaning.  Matthew possibly may be recalling the revelation to Moses and Elijah on Mount Sinai:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments intended for their instruction.’ So Moses set out with Joshua, his aide, and went up to the mountain of God. The elders, however, had been told by him, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. Aaron and Hur are staying with you. If anyone has a complaint, let him refer the matter to them.’ After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop. But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:12-18);

And,

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, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’ He answered: ‘I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’ Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind.” (1 Kings 19:8-12; Horeb = Sinai).

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When His disciples see Jesus, they both worship and doubt at the same time! Verse 17 states that the disciples “doubted”.  The original Greek transcript of Matthew’s Gospel can also be translated, “but some doubted”.  This particular Greek verb occurs again only in the New Testament, earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (14:31), where it is associated with Peter’s being of “little faith”.

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

Is Jesus telling His “Apostles” they had “little faith”?  Matthew may have said “they doubted” in reference to those disciples of Jesus whose faith in Him was not as deep or full as it should have been by this time.

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Jesus approaches His disciples, and then commissions them to “baptize and teach”, “to make disciples of all nations” (verse 19).  Baptizing and teaching the “Word” are tasks Jesus had previously prepared His disciples to accomplish.  Recall that Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal (cf. Matthew 10:1-15). However, in this earlier event, the Twelve were sent only to “the House of Israel”.  In this “Final Commission”, the “Eleven” are told to go to “all nations.” Thus, the mission of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry is now to be taken to all people by His disciples with their (and our) mission to baptize and to teach.

Jesus commissions His disciples to baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity; this text is one of the earliest and clearest attestations for Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity found in Scripture.  Other New Testament references to Baptism describe it as being celebrated in the name of Jesus.  With today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded that this central mystery of faith is meant to be believed and to be lived.  As baptized Catholic Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity and seek to invite others to share in God’s love.

The Risen Jesus Christ is declaring a universal “power” in heaven and on earth:

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

The Greek word translated as “power” in today’s reading is the same as that found in Daniel 7:13-14 wherein one “like a son of man” is given power and an everlasting kingdom by God:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Since the Risen Jesus has a “universal power”, He gives the “Eleven” a mission which is “universal”.  They are to “make disciples of all nations”.  While “all nations” is understood by most readers as referring to including all Gentiles, we should keep in mind that He also includes the Jewish nation as well.

Baptism is the way of entrance into the community of the “Risen one”, the Catholic (Universal) Church.  Jesus goes on to say exactly HOW to baptize each new disciple: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. This formula of baptism is perhaps the clearest expression of a “Trinitarian” belief found in the New Testament.  Though it may have been the baptismal formula of Matthew’s church, it designates the effect of baptism – – the union of the person baptized with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  (It is also the expression of a Trinitarian belief which the Catholic Church still uses today.)

Finally, Jesus Christ tells His disciple to go and “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”.  Jesus wants His Apostles to pronounce and to teach the spiritual and moral teachings of His “universal” (Catholic) Church, especially His teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (cf., Matthew 5-7).  These commandments from the Sermon on the Mount are the newly highlighted standard of Christian conduct in this world.  With the “Sermon on the Mount”, the Mosaic Law is both fulfilled and surpassed – – in His new covenant – – with new and expanded commandments, even though some of the Mosaic commandments had been invested with the authority of Jesus.  Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ repeatedly said, “It was (then) … Now I say do this ….”

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With great joy, hope, and faith, I believe that Jesus is truly, “with me always”, as He stated in verse 20 of today’s reading.  The promise of Jesus’ real, though invisible, presence echoes the name “Emmanuel” (God is with us), given to Him in the infancy narratives.  God’s promise of deliverance to Judah in Isaiah’s time was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, in whom God is truly and fully with His people.

Jesus is not only with us NOW; He will be with us also until the “end of the age” (Verse 20).  Along with today’s reading, this particular phrase is found in only two other places in Matthew’s Gospel:

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

And,

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

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To summarize, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity invites us to remember that God has revealed Himself to us as one God in three separate, yet united, “Persons”.  As Jesus departed from His disciples, He shared with them the power to make disciples of all nations; He taught His disciples to invite others to share in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity by sharing with others the gift of Baptism, which continues to be the mission of the Church today.  Each of us who have been baptized shares in the life of the blessed Holy Trinity, and also shares in the Church’s mission of inviting others to share in God’s love.

Jesus taught His disciples to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Doesn’t this remind you of the Sign of the Cross?  Recall that whenever we pray the “Sign of the Cross”, we are reminding ourselves that we are united with God through our Baptism and share in the eternal life of the blessed Holy Trinity. 

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In conclusion, the ending of Matthew’s Gospel can be understood as the beginning of the Catholic (universal) Church.  Jesus Christ “commissions” His disciples to continue to teach in His name and to bring others into the Church Community of disciples through baptism.  The Gospel ends, as it began, – – with the promise that Jesus will continue to be Emmanuel, “God with us”, throughout all time, and for all eternity.

What does this Gospel reading mean for us as His disciples?  Just as Jesus sent His disciples to make disciples, our family, the domestic Catholic Church (the Church Militant), is called to bear witness to the life of discipleship – – living in the way of Jesus.  That act of witnessing can take many forms.  First and foremost, we should “call” people to discipleship by the example of our love for one another.  However, that example is only the beginning!!  Our love must extend beyond our family and friends, purposely reaching out to others, and to the world and its creations.

Identify one or more ways in which you live the life of a Catholic disciple.  Identify a few ways in which you would like to do a better job bearing witness to your life of discipleship.  Choose one, and make it happen.  Then choose another, and so on.  Pray for the grace to be witnesses to the world by a life of discipleship through your personal faith, hope, and love for God and all His creations.

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Reflection Prayer:

Glory Be to the Father

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Faith and Works

“For he will render every man according to his works …” (Romans 2:6-8) RSV.

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life …” (Romans 2:6-8) KJV

***

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13) KJV.

“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) RSV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed John XXIII (1881-1963)

 

Although few people had as great an impact on the 20th century as Pope John XXIII, he avoided the limelight as much as possible.  Indeed, one writer has noted that his “ordinariness” seems one of his most remarkable qualities.

The firstborn son of a farming family in Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo in northern Italy, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was always proud of his down-to-earth roots.  In Bergamo’s diocesan seminary, he joined the Secular Franciscan Order.

After his ordination in 1904, Angelo returned to Rome for canon law studies.  He soon worked as his bishop’s secretary, Church history teacher in the seminary and as publisher of the diocesan paper.

His service as a stretcher-bearer for the Italian army during World War I gave him a firsthand knowledge of war.  In 1921 he was made national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith; he found time to teach patristics at a seminary in the Eternal City.

In 1925 he became a papal diplomat, serving first in Bulgaria, then in Turkey and finally in France (1944-53).  During World War II, he became well acquainted with Orthodox Church leaders.  With the help of Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Archbishop Roncalli helped save an estimated 24,000 Jewish people.

Named a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953, he was finally a residential bishop.  A month short of entering his 78th year, he was elected pope, taking the name John, his father’s name and the two patrons of Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran.  He took his work very seriously but not himself.  His wit soon became proverbial, and he began meeting with political and religious leaders from around the world.  In 1962 he was deeply involved in efforts to resolve the Cuban missile crisis.

His most famous encyclicals were Mother and Teacher (1961) and Peace on Earth (1963).  Pope John XXIII enlarged the membership in the College of Cardinals and made it more international.  At his address at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, he criticized the “prophets of doom” who “in these modern times see nothing but prevarication and ruin.”  Pope John XXIII set a tone for the Council when he said, “The Church has always opposed… errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”

On his deathbed he said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better.  Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

He died on June 3, 1963. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2000.

Comment:

Throughout his life, Angelo Roncalli cooperated with God’s grace, believing that the job at hand was worthy of his best efforts.  His sense of God’s providence made him the ideal person to promote a new dialogue with Protestant and Orthodox Christians, as well as with Jews and Muslims.  In the sometimes noisy crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, many people became silent on seeing the simple tomb of Pope John XXIII, grateful for the gift of his life and holiness.  After the beatification, his tomb was moved into the basilica itself.

Quote:

In 1903, young Angelo wrote in his spiritual journal: “From the saints I must take the substance, not the accidents of their virtues. I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect. God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances.  If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way” (Journal of a Soul).

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 3 & 4 of 26:

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

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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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“Dying Is The Easy Part. The “New Life” Is the Hard Part!” – John 12:20-33†


Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

We are already in the fifth week of Lent already.  Just a little bit longer till Easter Sunday and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Birth.  Easter doesn’t end on April 8th.  Easter Sunday is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday, May 27th

Easter Sunday follows Holy Week.  Easter also follows the third and final day of the “Paschal Triduum”.  The Paschal Triduum is also called the Holy Triduum or Easter Triduum, and begins the evening of Holy Thursday, and ends the evening of Easter Day. It commemorates the heart of our faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

More about the Paschal Triduum will be discussed in next week’s blog.

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Today in Catholic History:

    708 – Constantine begins his reign as Catholic Pope
    
752 – Death of Pope-elect Stephen (died before taking office)
    
1297 – Birth of Arnost of Pardubice, Archbishop of Prague (d. 1364)
    
1347 – Birth of Catherine of Siena, Italian saint (d. 1380)
    
1409 – The Council of Pisa opens.
    
1571 – Catholic Italian businessman Roberto Ridolfi leaves England
    
1593 – Birth of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
    
1634 – Lord Baltimore founded Catholic colony of Maryland
    
1655 – Protestants take control of the Catholic colony of Maryland at the Battle of the Severn.
    
1847 – Pope Pius IX publishes encyclical “On aid for Ireland”
    
1917 – The Georgian Orthodox Church restores its autocephaly abolished by Imperial Russia in 1811.
    
1939 – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.
    
1954 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Sacra virginitas” (On consecrated virginity)
    
1991 – Death of Marcel Lefebvre, French Catholic prelate (b. 1905)
    
1995 – Death of Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest, dies at 73
    Feasts/Memorials: March 25th is typically celebrated as the day of the Annunciation so long as it does not fall on a Sunday, during Holy Week, or Easter Week; Saint Dysmas, the ‘Good Thief’; Saint Humbert  

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples about the way in which He will be glorified by God, and a voice from heaven is heard to affirm this teaching.

(NAB John 12:20-33) 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me.  27 “I am troublednow.  Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”  29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.  31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world  will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John (Probably my most favorite of the Gospel writers).  Chapter 12 of John’s Gospel is a preparation for the “Passion” narrative to soon follow.  Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), a truly important “sign” (and miracle) in John’s Gospel.  The miracle involving Lazarus inspired many Jews and Gentiles alike to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  

The “Lazarus” event also marks the turning point in Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities.  John’s Gospel relates to us how the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council in ancient Jerusalem) met after Lazarus’ resurrection, creating plans to kill Jesus, whom threatens their materialistic way of life.  This 12th chapter of John has Jesus previously being “anointed” at Bethany, and then entering Jerusalem “in triumph”.  We also see allegorical evidence of the significance of the raising of Lazarus in today’s incident.  Keep in mind, John reported crowds gathering to “see” Lazarus in Chapter 11:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother” (John 11:19).

These “many Jews” became witnesses to the “glory” of Jesus’ divine being though Lazarus’ being resurrected.

Today’s Gospel Reading is about the coming of Jesus’ hour.  This announcement of “glorification” by death is a revelation of “the whole world” going after Jesus Christ.

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after Him.” (John 12:19)

There is much hidden, and needing to be explained and discussed, in today’s reading, so grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat.

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In verse 20, the word “Greeks” was not used in a nationalistic sense, those who came from Greece itself.  They were probably simple Gentile proselytes (new converts) to Judaism;

So the Jews said to one another, ‘Where is He going that we will not find Him?  Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He?” (John 7:35).

In the next two verses (12:21–22), “Philip went and told Andrew …”, we see an approach made through Jesus’ Disciples who had distinctly Greek names.  Could this suggest that access to Jesus was mediated to the Greek world through His disciples?  Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida (which means “house of fishing”) in the most northern part of Galilee:

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.” (John 1:44);

(Trivia time: Galileans were mostly bilingual.)

These men who were “new” to the Jewish religion asked Philip:

  “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)

The word “see” seems to mean “have an interview with Jesus”, and not just merely observing Him.  Why?

Well, it may be that following His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His suffering, death, and Resurrection.  He also prepared His disciples to believe in the “salvation” that His death would accomplish, allowing them (and us) entry into God’s Kingdom, the paradise of heaven.  

Using the image of “the grain of wheat”, Jesus presented the idea that His dying would be beneficial for those believing in Him.  He also taught disciples that they must follow His example of personal sacrifice.  This theme of “personal sacrifice” will be repeated in John’s account of the “Last Supper” when Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (John 13) as an example of how they must serve one another:

Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (John 13:8).

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Jesus’ response to these new converts to Judaism (verse 23) suggests that only after His Crucifixion could the Gospel – – His WORD – – encompass Jew and Gentile alike; ALL nations and ALL peoples.

Jesus described His approaching death on the cross as His “hour of glory”:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23).

He would then be “lifted up from the earth” and would “draw all men to himself”:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32).

Jesus saw His death on the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation as a triumph over the powers of sin and darkness: Satan, Sin, and Evil.  Jesus illustrated an image of the “grain of wheat” to those hearing in order to show how this principle of dying to live truly works in God’s kingdom.  Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves.  They must first be planted in the soil, and DIE, before they can grow, then “producing much fruit”.  

Some may still ask: what is the spiritual comparison Jesus is conveying to His audience (then and now)?  Is this simply a veiled reference to His own impending death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead? … Or, is Jesus imparting to us another kind of “death and rebirth” for His disciples?  I believe Jesus had BOTH meanings in mind.  Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan for OUR salvation by His death on the cross obtains for each of us – – individually and intimately – – a freedom and “new” life in, with, and through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross truly frees us from the tyranny and destruction of sin and death (both physical and spiritual), and shows us the way of (and to) perfect love for God, each other, and ourselves.

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You know, I have come to learn that when Jesus says “Amen, Amen” (Verse 24), He is going to say something profound and usually mind (and soul) bending.  In today’s Gospel, He says:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)

This verse reveals a profound truth: through His death, Jesus Christ will be accessible to ALL who seek Him and believe in Him.  (I cannot repeat this enough!)

But what does Jesus mean by His saying, “it remains just a grain of wheat” (verse 24).  I believe this particular saying is found all through Synoptic Scripture.  The wheat dying and then “producing much fruit” symbolizes that through His death, Jesus will be accessible to all:

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39);

“ For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25);

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);

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:24);

And finally,

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Luke 17:33).

John however adds the phrases “in this world and for eternal life”.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).

I love John’s Poetic nature of writing.  His additions truly make Holy Scripture JUMP to life in my mind, heart, and soul.

In these multiple verses from the Synoptic and John’s Gospels, “His life” (verse 25) is a translation of the Greek word “psyche”, referring to a person’s natural life; and not meaning “soul”.  Hebrew anthropology (the study of humankind culture and development) did not imagine a “body versus soul” dualism (two distinct parts or aspects, which are often opposites) in the way familiar to us.  For first century Hebrew, the Body and soul were intertwined.

With this little fact in mind, what does it mean to “die” to oneself?  For me, it means that what is in opposition to God’s will and plan for each of us must be crucified, put to death.  God gives us an extraordinary gift, a grace to say “YES” to His will and plan; to reject whatever is in opposition to His loving plan for our lives.  

Jesus also promises we will “produce much fruit” for Him, IF we choose to deny ourselves for His sake.  In today’s reading, Jesus used powerful words to describe the kind of self-denial He wanted from His disciples.  

Using this powerful speech I just mentioned, what did He mean when by saying one must “hate” himself?  (I hate the word hate!)  Jesus says nothing should get in the way of our preferring Him or with the will and plan of our “glorious” Father in heaven.  Our hope is not in an earth-based, materialistic world, but rather one of a heaven-bound hope.  St. Paul reminds us that:

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:42) RSV.

Do you hope and trust in the Lord, and follow joyfully on the path He has chosen for you to follow?  Are you truly following in Jesus’ example in ALL you do and say?  I, at least, try!!  I hope and pray that you do as well!   

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Let us continue on with John’s Gospel reading.  In verse 27, Jesus states, “I am troubled”!  Jesus is perhaps giving a foretelling of what He will endure later: agony at Gethsemane:

I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6:38);

Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11).

Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews of Jesus’ troubles in a very direct way:

“In the days when he was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.  Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrew 5:7–8).

This final section of today’s Gospel should be read as John’s parallel to the “agony in the garden”.  Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John does not record Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest.  It is interesting and comforting that Jesus gives a confident response to the question He raises when asking God to save Him from His impending death.

What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28)

After announcing His conviction of “glorifying” His (and our) Father’s name IS the reason, the purpose that He came, a voice from heaven speaks, as if in answer to Jesus’ prayer:

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’” (John 12:28).

This “voice”, like the one heard at Jesus’ baptism and at Jesus’ Transfiguration – – both reported in the Synoptic Gospels, but not in John’s Gospel – – affirms that God the Father welcomes the sacrifice Jesus will make on behalf of each of US – – PERSONALLY!!  In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches this “voice” was sent for the sake of those who would believe in Him.

At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the “Ruler of this world”.  Surprising for some, it is not God; it is instead Satan.  Remember, though God is everywhere, He is not “OF” this world, but is IN this world to save us.  Remember, there are no worldly items in paradise.  You can either be of this world, or of His kingdom, but not both:

My [Jesus’] 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.”(John 18:36)

Satan and his angels (a “third of the stars”), were “thrown to earth”:

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon (Satan).  The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels (the “third of the stars” – – the “fallen” angels) were thrown down with it.” (Revelations 4:7-9)

They had “free will”, as we do, and chose to turn their back on God.  For such a choice, they were barred from everlasting paradise.

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In today’s Gospel, we “hear” Jesus speak about the “worldly” framework against which we are to understand His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered Satan, “the ruler of this world” (verse 31).  In this way the “world” is judged, yet, the judgment is NOT necessarily one of condemnation.  Instead, through Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead on third day, “salvation” is lovingly and “gloriously” brought to the world for OUR sake.

If we want to experience the “new” life Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, sinful nature must be broken, rejected, and put to death.  In Baptism our “old nature”, enslaved by the darkness of sin, is buried with Jesus Christ.  We then rise as a “new creation”, also in Jesus Christ.  This process of death to the “old sinful self” is both a one-time event such as in our personal baptism, and a continuous – – daily and on-going – – cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin, so we might rise anew and bear more fruit for God.  This concept is my impression of the Franciscan notion of “Daily Conversion”.  WOW, have you realized yet that there is a great, and on-going, paradox presented to us today: “death leads to life”.  When we “die” to OUR – – individual, sinful, and “worldly” – – selves, we “rise”, with Christ through the Holy Spirit, to brand new and more fulfilling life in Jesus Christ.  Again, WOW!!

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To conclude, our lives are often balancing acts in which we “prioritize” and attend to a variety of sometimes overwhelming and competing needs.  In time, most of us learn the value of putting others’ needs ahead of our own when necessary.  We also learn that when we make personal sacrifices to serve others, we gain so much more than we may have lost.  In these times, we are living up to what Jesus asks of us: to follow His example of personal sacrifice.  

Reflect on how important it is to you to gladly serve one another, especially those you do not know or personally like.  Consider the last time someone asked for help.  What was your response?  Did you “cheerfully” try to honor their request, or, did you ask, “Why me?”  How do you think Jesus would want us to respond when someone asks for help?  Realize “the help” may not be the “help” the requester wanted; it may be helping in a way they NEED instead.  Make a commitment for the next week (or more) to try to respond cheerfully to requests for help.  Ask for God’s help with this commitment; He WILL respond in a way which may surprise you!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The “Papacy”

“‘Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32) RSV.

“’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) KJV.

***

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:42) RSV.

He brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, goes back to the fourth or fifth century.  Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us.  From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human.  Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized.  The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love.  Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan.  From all eternity God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world.  We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation.  Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption.  It is a God-given role.  It is God’s grace from beginning to end.  Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace.  She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined.  She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth.  She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence.  She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God.  She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life.  She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become.  She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God.  She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Comment:

Sometimes spiritual writers are accused of putting Mary on a pedestal and thereby discouraging ordinary humans from imitating her.  Perhaps such an observation is misguided.  God did put Mary on a pedestal and has put all human beings on a pedestal.  We have scarcely begun to realize the magnificence of divine grace, the wonder of God’s freely given love.  The marvel of Mary—even in the midst of her very ordinary life—is God’s shout to us to wake up to the marvelous creatures that we all are by divine design.

Quote:

“Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1:28).  To the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38).  Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 56).

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 means. Local 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.

“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.

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


 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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  Joke of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

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 Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 131

We find peace in the Lord.

 

 

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

Have you ever thought of Christ as your brother?

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

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

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

 

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Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule:

 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis
to the Brothers & Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

 

Chapter 1

 

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May the Best Man Lose His Life – – to Jesus!” – Matthew 18:15-20†


 

Twenty-Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Popes Prayer Intentions for September

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asks that we join him in prayer for the “concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the missions.”  These are our Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

GENERAL INTENTION:
That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

MISSIONARY INTENTION:
That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

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Next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of this country’s attack by fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists.  Please pray for all the affected souls (dead and alive) from this disaster of pure hated.  Lord, please be in our prayers, hearts and mind, on this sad, yet glorious day.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   422 – St Boniface I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1085 – Death of Irmgarde van Keulen, German countess of Aspel/saint
†   1571 – Catholic coup in Scotland
†   1781 – Los Angeles, California, is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion) by 44 Spanish settlers.
†   1918 – Jhr Ch Ruys de Beerenbrouck, Jhr. Charles Joseph Maria Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (1 December 1873 – 17 April 1936) was a Dutch nobleman and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1918 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933, who becomes 1st Dutch Catholic premier

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 

(NAB Matthew 18:15-20) 15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship?  Jesus offers His disciples a special grace of spiritual freedom and power for restoring the broken or injured relationships within His faith community.  He makes it very clear that His followers should not tolerate a break, infringement, or outright violation in relationships among themselves.

This reading gives direction to the actions of Jesus Christ’s reputable disciples toward those who have strayed from their teachings and practices.  Today’s discourse is the “how-to” for dealing with someone who sins, and yet continues within the community (Sort of like many of our present day Catholic Legislators).  Them, and many others in the Catholic Church today are “Catholics Only In Name”: “COINs”!!

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from a part of Matthew’s book which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order discourse”.  In this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly, openly, and frankly about Catholic (Universal) Church discipline and Church order.  

Today’s reading is only one of two instances wherein Jesus uses the word “church” in Matthew’s Gospel.  In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ “Word” and teachings, we can also hear and experience reverberations of the kinds of questions and problems faced by the first-century Catholic Christian community for whom he wrote.

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Not in today’s reading, but found immediately prior to this reading (Matthew 18:1-14), is the first part of the “discourse on the Church.  Matthew addresses the Catholic Christian community’s concern about hierarchy.  In this previous “first” part, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  His response indicated that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children!!  He further cautioned the “church leaders” who might lead His disciples going astray – – off path of salvation, by accident or purposely.

Next is today’s part, the second section of Jesus’ “discourse on the Church”, Matthew 18:15-20.  Here, Jesus addresses a very common occurrence in the early Christian community: a dispute between two or more members of His Catholic Church.

Sin must be confronted, and help must be offered, in restoring a damaged personal or communal relationship of love, trust, and faith.  When these relationships between brothers and sisters of Christ are damaged, then we must spare no effort; we must use all resources – – human and divine – – to help the brother or sister “at fault” to see their error, and to set the relationship “just and righteous” again.

Regardless of the decision in dealing with one in error, the church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven – – by God the Father Himself.  The three-step process of rectification in today’s reading relates (though not exactly) to the Qumran community procedures found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8).

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In the conclusion of today’s reading, Jesus ends with a proverb about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to a very small number of prayers (Hope hopeful is this!!).  Jesus Christ is always in “the midst” of any gathering of His disciples, no matter how small.

After reading and reflecting on this Gospel reading multiple times, I wonder whether this context of prayer, as portrayed in today’s reading, has anything to do with the preceding judgment of the unrepentant sinner.  It seems uncertain in context, but not in concept.  Let’s see what I say about this, in detail, later.

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Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters in a fair way; a procedure which continues, in a very similar form, to this day.  First, the victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement.  If this fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront – – in a loving manner – – the “offender” again.  If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire church community.

Finally, and sadly, if the offender refuses to adhere to the restoration arranged by and approved by the church community, then Jesus Christ Himself suggests the “offender” may be expelled from the Church, – – “excommunicated”.

 

Jesus starts His discourse with a profound and heavily-laden theological sentence:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) 

Your brother”, from verse 15, is the colloquial term for a Catholic Christians fellow disciple in Christ.

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8).  

The bracketed words, “against you”, (also in verse 15) are words widely attested to in many versions of Holy Scripture.  However, they are not in the ancient manuscript texts, “Sinaiticus” and “Vaticanus”, nor in some other written documents.  Their omission in these important documents only broadens the type of sin in question to ANY type of sin!  

Still in verse 15, “Won over” literally means “gained.”  Saying, “we won over this person”, means this person has come too understood, and corrected his fault.  In doing so, he has gained his own personal insight, and, at the same time, you gain a friend and companion on your faith journey.

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Taking two or three with you as witnesses (verse 16) when confronting a person who is in error, is not a new concept.  In actuality, this exact model is even covered in Moses writings, the Torah:

One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

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What is meant by the word “church” (verse 17) in this reading?  The words, “the church” is the second of the only two instances of this specific word in Matthew’s Gospel; the other being Matthew 16:18:  

“I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Here, it refers not to the entire church of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 16:18, but instead, to the local congregation instead.

 

Also in verse 17, what did Jesus mean when He said, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”?  Well, history shows that in first-century Palestine, observant and pious Jews avoided any interaction with “Gentiles” and “tax collectors” – – “heathen sinners”!!  In the same way, Catholic Jewish-Christian disciples of this biblical time also had to separate themselves from the arrogantly un-repented, sinful member who refused to repent, even when convicted of his sin by the whole church (his brothers and sisters in Christ).  This person was (and still is) to be put outside the fellowship of the Catholic Church community; he or she is “excommunity-cated”.

 

The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector points to a stage in Matthew’s first-century Catholic (Universal) Church, wherein, it was principally composed of Jewish Christians.  Though this period of a “Jewish-only” Catholic Church has long since passed, the principle of exclusion (including the severest form, excommunication) for such a sinner remains to this day, and has spread from Matthew’s local church, to the entire worldwide church community.  Saint Paul even made a similar demand for excommunication in his first letter to the Corinthians (Corinthians 5:1-13), in regards to incest and pride:

“It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.  And you are inflated with pride.  Should you not rather have been sorrowful?  The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2).

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus’ instruction (and if anyone knew about sin, he did!!):

 

When any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound.  Therefore ‘rebuke him between thee and him alone,’ intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.  For it may be that through shamefacedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse.  ‘Rebuke him’ therefore ‘between him and thee alone.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;’ because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it.  But ‘if he: will not hear thee,’ that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, ‘take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’  Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren.  But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected.  For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.” (Sermon 82.7)

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What can we learn from today’s reading, along with the above passage from St. Augustine, about how to repair a damaged relationship?  

If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus Christ says the first step is to speak directly, yet privately, to the individual who has done you harm.  The worst thing one can do is dwell on any grievance, poisoning the mind, heart and soul.  Retaining grievances (resentment) makes it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.  If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it “face-to-face” and “heart-to-heart”.  

If this fails to resolve the issue, then the second step is to bring another person (or persons) to help in the “repair of the relationship”.  This “witness” should be mature, wise, and compassionate person rather than someone who may be equally hot-tempered and/or judgmental.  Remember, the goal is not to put the “offender” on trial, but to persuade the “offender” to see his error, and to be reconciled with each other (and the church).  

If this loving (and second) interaction fails, we still must not give up.  Instead we should seek the help of the entire Catholic Christian community – – the “Church”.  Notice the emphasis and importance is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Catholics, who will pray, seeking a solution for reconciling the matter, based on Christian love and wisdom rather than relying on coercive force, threats, and legal action.

Lastly, if the church fails to bring about reconciliation, what else is there to do?  Jesus Christ says we have the right to abandon stubborn and inflexible offenders, treating them like social outcasts.  

The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religiously pious Jews.  However, we know from Holy Scripture that Jesus was often a companion and friend of tax-collectors; He ate with them, and even praised them at times!  Even if excommunicated, we should always hope and pray for a conversion of heart in the “offender”, and reconciliation with the church family.

 

Jesus does not discourage, in any way, disagreements within the Church community.  After all, being human in nature, disagreements are inevitable.  He even acknowledged the reality of conflict and error in our world, and offers His disciples a specific, respectful, and loving means for addressing such matters.  

I love what Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said about disagreeing with the “infallible teachings” of the Magisterium:

“You have two choices if you disagree with the Church’s infallible teachings:

1)  Change your mind, or
2)  Change your mind!!”

(Bonus Trivia Question:  Can you name ALL the “infallible” teachings of the Catholic Church.  You may be surprised at how many there are in fact.  The answer will be at end of today’s reflection.)

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Let’s go on to the next verse:

“I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

Except for the use of both singular and plural verbs for “bind” and “loose” in verse 18, it is practically identical with Mathew 16:19b:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:19b).

Many bible scholars take it as a granting (a grace given) to all Jesus’ disciples what was previously given to Peter (the first Pope) alone.

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It is in the conclusion to today’s reading (verses 19 & 20) that a great message of hope is found: Jesus is “truly” present with the Catholic Church community, and will guide His Church community in its relationships.  If decisions are taken to Him in prayer, then His church community can be assured of the Holy Trinity’s assistance.

 

Some bible scholars take verses 19 and 20 as relating to “prayer” when the church community gathers in order to deal with the specific un-repentant sinner of verse 17.

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

Unless an “a fortiori” argument (argument “from [the] stronger [reason]”) is assumed, this seems unlikely to me.  After all, God’s answer to the prayer of “two or three” (as stated in both verse 19 AND 20) envisions a different situation than prayer involving the entire church body (the congregation).  In addition to this argument for a separate meaning and purpose, the object of “prayer” in today’s reading is expressed in the most general of terms, as it expresses “anything for which they are to pray”, and is not specific to the un-repentant sinner.

 

However, this last verse of today’s great message is one of “hope inspired by a grace”, from Jesus Christ Himself:

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

His presence guarantees the value, merit, and importance of prayer.  This verse is similar to one attributed to an unknown Rabbi, executed in 135 A.D., at the time of the second Jewish revolt:

“…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3).

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In conclusion, conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family, church, and societal life.  Yet, within these groups, we are given an opportunity to learn how to “fairly” resolve disagreements by treating people with love and respect.

It needs to be reiterated, Jesus Christ refuses NO ONE who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.  A call to accountability is inevitable, and we can’t escape it, both in this life, and at the “Day of Judgment” (the “Parousia”) when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Do you tolerate broken relationships?  Or, do you seek to repair, restore, and amend relationships in the way God gives you, through opportunity and His grace given process?  While we have the opportunity to do so in this life, we must not give up on our stubborn, inflexible, “offenders”.  Instead, take every opportunity and make all effort to win them back into the fold – – with, in, and through the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.  

This week, reflect on your way of resolving disputes at work, and at home.  What kinds of things produce disagreements for you?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples the proper way to handle conflicts within the Catholic (Universal) Christian community – – the Church.  Try to summarize Jesus’ steps He personally proposed for resolving conflicts.  How might today’s Gospel enlighten you in handling disagreements?  

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promised (and still promises) He will help those who pray to Him with their needs.  Pray that you (and your family and friends) will learn to handle inevitable conflicts in a respectful, loving, Christian way.

 

(Bonus Trivia Question Answer:  There are only TWO “ex cathedra” (infallible) teachings in the Catholic Church; both are about the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

First, is her “Immaculate Conception”, declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.  And the second is about her bodily “Assumption” into heaven, declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

 

Rose achieved sainthood in only 18 years of life.  Even as a child Rose had a great desire to pray and to aid the poor.  While still very young, she began a life of penance in her parents’ house.  She was as generous to the poor as she was strict with herself.  At the age of 10 she became a Secular Franciscan and soon began preaching in the streets about sin and the sufferings of Jesus.

Viterbo, her native city, was then in revolt against the pope.  When Rose took the pope’s side against the emperor, she and her family were exiled from the city.  When the pope’s side won in Viterbo, Rose was allowed to return. Her attempt at age 15 to found a religious community failed, and she returned to a life of prayer and penance in her father’s home, where she died in 1251.  Rose was canonized in 1457.

Comment:

The list of Franciscan saints seems to have quite a few men and women who accomplished nothing very extraordinary.  Rose is one of them.  She did not influence popes and kings, did not multiply bread for the hungry and never established the religious order of her dreams.  But she made a place in her life for God’s grace, and like St. Francis before her, saw death as the gateway to new life.

Quote:

Rose’s dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God.  Live so as not to fear death.  For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”

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

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Peace

 

How do you explain what “peace” is? 

What are some different meanings for the word “peace” – among governments, neighbors, in families, relationships?

What did Francis mean by this word: “Peace”?

What does Sacred Scripture mean by this word: “Peace”?

Since we are called to be “peacemakers” by Christ, go line by line and explain how each suggestion (pledge line) of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis [above] helps promote peace.

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsections #’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.