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“Is it YOU to God, or, God to YOU, Who IS Saying ‘YOUR will be done’?!” – Mark 10:17-30†


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Sunday of the Year of Faith

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The following is a letter I wish to convey to you from my OFS Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, OFS:

During October we have the Feast of Francis.  October is the month of the Rosary [as well]. October 11th, in the traditional calendar was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and Pope Benedict has noted that when Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on this day in 1962, he “wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary.”  Also in October, the Eastern Churches celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Sadly, our society still has many persons who need the protection of Our Mother – – and of those of us willing to express concern.  So, we need to note that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a web page called When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm).  The bishops address this statement to several audiences, including “society, which has made some strides towards recognizing the extent of domestic violence against women.”

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that your locality is immune from this social ill.  The only fundamental question is: What will be your Franciscan response?

Pax et Bonum,
Mike DePue, OFS

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PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE “YEAR OF FAITH”

Per a decree made public on October 5th, 2012 in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI will grant a Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the “Year of Faith”.  The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

The day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II”, the text reads, “the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decreed the beginning of a Year especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of – or better still the pious meditation upon – the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”.

“During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

“(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

“(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

“(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, … in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

“(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

“Diocesan or eparchal bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, … may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence”.

The document concludes by recalling how faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence “if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite … the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers which concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives”.

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.  What must YOU DO to gain eternal life?  Are you ready to give up ALL, to become a “slave” for Christ to gain eternal life … REALLY?!

(NAB Mark 10:17-30)  17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  18 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”  20 He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  24 The disciples were amazed at his words.  So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”  27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  28 Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”  29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

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Gospel Reflection:

Today, we continue reading in Mark’s Gospel from where we left off last Sunday.  In last Sunday’s reading, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees in regard to the requirements for divorce per Jewish Law.  At this time period, Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem.

Still travelling, in today’s Gospel, an “unnamed man” approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to “inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17).  Jesus replies that he must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses.  This is not an unusual statement as this command had been followed for centuries by pious Jews.  So, the man acknowledges that he has obviously observed all of these Laws since his childhood.  Jesus then says to the man that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Him [Jesus].  The man leaves Jesus in sadness because he owned many possessions which he obviously cherished greatly. 

My question to you: “Is it surprising that Jesus put a condition on what had been ‘Mosaic Law’ for centuries prior to Jesus’ arrival?”  My answer is NO, it is not surprising at all!  Jesus had added “conditions” in the past when teaching the beatitudes, and even added conditions in last week’s dialogue in regard to divorce. 

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So, this “unknown man” approaches Jesus and says:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

Jesus answered him,

Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). 

Jesus is rejecting the term “good” for Himself and directs it instead to God the Father, the true source of all goodness – – and, who alone can grant the gift of eternal life.  The theme Jesus is going to reveal is that if you wish to enter into life in the kingdom of God, you need to keep the commandments of paramount importance in your life:

“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:17-30).

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The “unknown man” had the best the secular world could offer – wealth and security.  However, he came to Jesus because he lacked something.  He wanted a lasting peace and happiness which NO money could buy him.  The answer he received from Jesus however, was not what he was looking for in his quest for peace.  (Remember, God has a unique sense of humor at times.)  This “unknown man” swore to Jesus that he kept all the required commandments.  However, Jesus spoke to him of the underlying dilemma in his heart and soul.  Only one thing kept him from giving himself totally and completely to God.  While he lacked for nothing materialistically, he was nonetheless selfishly overprotective of what he had acquired in his life.  He placed his hope and security in what he possessed materialistically, not spiritually!  His priority was values of this world, not the next!

Jesus makes two requirements of this wealthy man who approached Him (and even for all of us today):

Sell what you have, and give to [the] poor … then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

The first requirement is that he must give up his possessions in order to “inherit eternal life”.  Throughout history, many Christians have taken this requirement literally word-for-word.  Those who have given up ALL possessions, like St. Francis of Assisi, have showed witness to a fundamentally extreme commitment to the Gospel of Jesus.  Others have read this passage as a particular requirement directed solely to this specific “unknown man” in today’s reading.  And, still others have sought to explain the meaning intended in this passage as giving up those things and items preventing one from following Jesus (I believe this is the most popular and common belief).  

Christians have generally understood that following Jesus required believers to hold material possessions “with a loose knot”, and to remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating material possessions.  The Rule for Secular Franciscans mentions freeing oneself from material needs in two of its 26 articles: 11 and 12:

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

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

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

The second requirement for inheriting “eternal life” is the exact same invitation given to this “unknown man” as is extended to ALL would-be disciples, then and NOW:follow me” (Mark 10:21).  Jesus very much wants this “unknown man” to be a disciple of His; Jesus wants ALL of us to be disciples of His!!  The Catholic Christian faith is one in which each distinct and unique individual believer is in a personal, intimate, and unique relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Just as today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the “unknown man” and is sad when this man departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow Him – – when we turn our backs to Him.

When Jesus challenged the “unknown man” to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became troubled and saddened.  With distress and sadness in his heart and on his soul, he turned his back on Jesus, walking away from Him.  Hmm, why did he turn away from Jesus with sadness rather than stay with Him with joy?  I believe his treasure and his hope for happiness were certainly mislaid; his treasure and hope were in his material items.  Out of a deep, underlying fear for losing what he had gained in this world, he was afraid to give to others.  This “unknown man” sought happiness and security in his worldly items rather than in Jesus Christ, whom he could love, serve, and give of himself in a devotion of true faith.

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The words of Jesus about entering the kingdom of God surely provoked a jaw-dropping, bewildering shock among His disciples:

’How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ … It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23-25).

Do you know why I say these Men (and women) were confused and unnerved by Jesus’ “Words”?  Because His “Words” seem to contradict Hebrew Scriptures concept in which wealth and material goods were considered a sign of God’s favor.  Here are just three examples:

“Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land”  (Job 1:10);

“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways.  What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper” (Psalm 128:1–2);

Happy the just, for it will go well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat.” (Isaiah 3:10).

The Old Testament often speaks of God offering material rewards for observance of His laws.  This, I believe, was because the “future life” was not yet revealed to them receiving the “heavenly” reward prior to Jesus’ role as redeemer of the world.  It was therefore taken for granted, in spite of opposing evidence, that riches were a sign of God’s favor.  (One very popular television evangelist still preaches this exact notion every Sunday.)

So, why does Jesus tell His followers to “sell all” for the treasure of “eternal life” in His kingdom?  Well, “treasure” has a special connection to the heart; it is the thing we as human-beings most set our heart on to be our highest treasure.  Jesus Christ Himself is the greatest treasure we can ever obtain and can ever possess, and should be our HIGHEST possession.  

Since wealth, power, and advantage generated a false sense of security and sanctuary among God’s children, Jesus rejects them outright as a claim to enter God’s kingdom.  In reality, achievement of God’s salvation is beyond any human capability.  God’s salvation depends solely on the mercy and goodness of God the Father, who offers His claim to salvation and heaven freely TO ALL – – as a gift to be accepted:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  (Mark 10:27).

Those who are generous towards God – – and His children, our neighbors – – will find they cannot be out-given in return by God.  His generous return to us will always be greater than what we give to others of His “children”.  God blesses us, and graces us NOW, with treasures from His kingdom.  They are:

(1) Freedom from the clutching force, fear, and power of sin; from selfishness and pride opposing His love and grace in our lives;

(2) Freedom from loneliness, isolation, and rejection keeping us from living together in love, peace, and unity; and,

(3) Freedom of hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment blinding our vision of God’s magnificent power to heal every hurt, to bind every wound, and to remove every blemish injury the image of the Trinitarian God within each of us.  

God the Father offers to each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – a treasure which any amount of money can never buy.  God – – And ONLY God – – satisfies the deepest longing and desires of our heart, soul, and being.  PLEASE, be willing to part with, to separate yourself from, anything keeping you from seeking the true and completely full JOY in, with, and through Jesus Christ?

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Wealth can make us falsely independent creatures.  The church at Laodicea * was warned about their attitude towards wealth and its false sense of security:

“For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. “ (Revelations 3:17).

* Laodicea was a Christian community established in the ancient city of the same name (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia).  The church was established in the earliest period of Christianity, and is probably best known for being one of the seven churches addressed by name in the Book of Revelation (Revelations 3.14-22) ~ per Wikipedia.

Per one of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles written to the administrator of the entire Ephesian** community, wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness:

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains”  (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

** Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey.

Giving up ALL we have in order to have Jesus Christ as OUR treasure is not to be considered as a sorrowful act; it is the greatest act of joy, one can lovingly do for others.  Selling all that we have may mean many different things.  It could mean letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, status, entertainment, or even you’re your manner or means of life.  Anything standing in the way of our loving and making God first and foremost in our lives, AND, anything standing in the way of giving Him the best we can with our time, talents, and treasures, should be removed from our presence and lives.  Do we truly want God saying to us “YOUR will be done” instead of us saying to Him “thy will be done”?  I know I don’t want Him saying this to me!!

Jesus is offering a further condition in this reading from Mark’s Gospel today: a condition which challenges disciples following Him who are materialistically wealthy and trying to enter the Kingdom of God.  (Give it up and follow.)  In reply to the disciples’ astonishment at the strictness of the two requirements Jesus speaks about in today’s reading, He reminds His followers:

For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27).

Our eternal salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon, to trust completely in, and to hope completely for – – God in our lives ALWAYS!!

Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything.  Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded.  This is not a FUTURE HOPE – – IT IS HAPPENING NOW!!  This reward begins NOW, in the new community one gains in this present life, and continuing into the eternal age to come.  Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, in its fullest, the Catholic Church.  So, if you have left the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, please come home today!

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Today’s Gospel might make us uncomfortable about our personal materialistic possessions.  This discomfort actually may offer each of us an opportunity to consider what we have in relation to our commitment to the poor and marginalized.  Without any doubt, material possessions are truly a necessity in our society and way of life.  However, our amount and use of these possessions, and our attitude about their importance, IS our choice.  We have a “free will” to choose who or what, we truly worship – – God or manna.  In making this choice, we must be aware of our love, trust, and faith in Jesus Christ who commits each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – to care for the poor and marginalized of this world.

I would reason that there are items in each of our houses we no longer need or use.  Reflect on Jesus’ remarks about material possessions and how you feel about Jesus’ teaching today.  Tomorrow, choose an action showing your commitment to the poor.  It could be as simple as donating some of your extra or unused items to another in need.  Repeat this process often.

Holy Scripture gives us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.  Generosity will be abundantly repaid, both in this life and in eternity:

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow (Proverbs 3:9-10);

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:38).

Jesus offers us an incomparable, never-ending treasure which NO money can EVER buy; a treasure NO thief can ever steal.  I want to share His treasure with you!  God’s gift to us is the gift which keeps on giving.

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Reflection Prayer:  

Prayer of Surrender

 

“Loving Father, I surrender to you today with all my heart and soul. Please come into my heart in a deeper way.  I say, “Yes” to you today.  I open all the secret places of my heart to you and say, “Come on in.” Jesus, you are the Lord of my whole life. I believe in you and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I hold nothing back.

Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.  I surrender all to you: my time, my treasures, my talents, my health, my family, my resources, my work, relationships, time management, successes and failures.  I release it and let it go.

I surrender my understanding of how things ‘ought’ to be, my choices and my will.  I surrender to you the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep.  I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to you.  I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my sexuality.  I especially surrender ______ (Here mention other areas of surrender as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.)

Lord, I surrender my whole life to you, the past, the present, and the future.  In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to you.  (Remain with the Lord in a spirit of silence through your thoughts, a heart song, or simply staying in His presence and listening for His voice.)

Read more: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2011/06/25/a-prayer-of-surrender#ixzz290gBY9rZ

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“Do You Say ‘Yes’ To Your Faith, Or, Do You Say ‘Possibly’?!” – John 6:60-69†


21st 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:

Two years ago FAN (Franciscan Action Network) introduced the “F.R.A.N.C.I.S. Commitment to Civility in Discourse”.  I encourage each of you to take this commitment.  Send it to all your friends and ask them to take it.  Also, along with yourself, ask your friends to send it to candidates for local, state, and federal offices, and consider sending it to the media as well.

The F.R.A.N.C.I.S Commitment to Civility in Discourse

Take a quiet moment in prayer and then recite the following out loud or to yourself.  Each verb begins with a letter which, when taken together, spells out the name FRANCIS:

Commit to:

    • FACILITATE a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
    • RESPECT the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.
    • AUDIT one’s self and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.
    • NEUTRALIZE inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
    • COLLABORATE with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
    • IDENTIFY common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
    • SUPPORT efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity.

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There will be no reflection blog next Sunday September 2nd.  Sorry, but I will be actively involved in some family business which I cannot reschedule.

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Quote of the Day:

I am not moved by what I see. I am moved only by what I believe.” ~ Smith Wigglesworth, “Ever Increasing Faith”, Pentecostal Classics

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Today’s reflection: Simon Peter confesses his faith by saying Jesus alone has the “Words” of the eternal life.  What do you TRULY say about your faith?  Is it hot, cold, or lukewarm?

(NAB John 6:60-69) 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?  62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.”  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Gospel Reflection:

For our Gospel today we hear the conclusion of John’s sixth chapter, known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.  In the preceding verses proclaimed in the Mass over the past few weeks, we have heard Jesus explain that He is “the Bread of Life”, given so that those who believe may come to share His eternal life (cf., John 6:47-48).  Today’s reading follows the miracle in which Jesus feeds more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (cf., John 6:11-13).  This particular reading is about how “hard” it is to be a disciple of Christ.  My question: What is SO hard about following Christ?  Well, possibly because the “hard” in today’s reading is the audience “hearing” Jesus talking about what they perceive as cannibalism, the most serious heresy for any Jewish person.  Many in the “crowd” consider His “Words” as blasphemy.  Thus, John’s Gospel describes the crowd as “murmuring”, unable to accept Jesus’ “Words” as literally true.  Influenced by the crowd’s response, Jesus turns to His disciples, asking a question:

Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)

Jesus’ “Words” certainly shocked a good portion of His followers.  This leads to the challenge for the usually outspoken Simon Peter to declare his faith and understanding of “who” Jesus truly is: the Holy Son of God! 

Why do many of us (including some Catholics) find it easy to accept the claims which Jesus made in today’s Gospel, and others find it so “hard” to accept?  Some accept Jesus when it was (is) easy to see Him doing great works, but not when it was (is) difficult to accept His “Word” that HE is the true Son of God sent down from God the Father as Moses had prophesized.  Many are attracted to Jesus solely because He offers something irresistible: a visible sign of God the Father’s mercy and love which Jesus demonstrated (and still demonstrates today) through His supernatural works of healing and freeing us from evil through the mystery of the Eucharistic grace. 

After witnessing everything transpired during Jesus’ public ministry, I cannot believe that some of Jesus’ disciples – – His devoted followers – – were still not convinced about His divinity and true nature.  Decades later, there STILL were some in his own faith community finding it difficult to accept Jesus.  This is the reason John zeroed-in on this portion of his Gospel.  The issue here is the importance of faith as a divine gift which enables us to see and believe Jesus as what He says He truly is!

Just as the larger crowd (the 5000) struggled with Jesus’ teaching, many “disciples” present in today’s story somehow also cannot accept Jesus’ “Words”.  Jesus knows about their murmuring and responds by acknowledging their unbelief.  At the same time, Jesus reveals that only those drawn by God the Father will choose to believe in and follow Jesus to the end.  John’s Gospel reports here that many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples “murmured” and ceased to follow Him at this point in His public ministry.  The number of people following Jesus then dwindled from a crowd of more than 5,000 to possibly only 12 men and a few women and children.   It is to these Twelve men (Apostles) to whom Jesus now turns His attention; asking:

Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

Jesus saying this provided John the opportunity, through Simon Peter, the central, essential statement of faith, the core essence of our Catholic faith.  In essence, Jesus was asking if their faith was full and true, or if their faith had conditions attached to it.  Like most politicians today, some of whom are members of the Christian religion, and even the Catholic faith, they (and we) are siding with the majority are favorite stance instead of the morally correct position on serious issues, especially “life” issues: i.e., abortion, euthanasia, health and medical care, immigration, and so on.    So, you can see I believe Jesus’ question is being asked of ALL Catholics and other Christians – – universally.  (That means you, dear readers – – and me as well!)

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The question, “Do you also want to leave?”, is meant to inspire our declaration of faith in Jesus then, as the Holy “One” now, as His supernatural real presence in the Holy Eucharist. 

To me, this text makes me think that Jesus could be giving us an insight to His supernatural AND natural true union in the Holy Eucharist today.  My question: Is Jesus not only giving us His dual-nature union of body and blood (plus His soul and divinity) in the Holy Eucharist, but also the path we are to take on our journey to His kingdom?  I am drawn to what was written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.  So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam[Jesus Christ] a life-giving spirit.  But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritualThe first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.  As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (1 Corinthians 15:44–49).

The last Adam, Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21–22) has become a life-giving spirit, a life-principle transcendent, spiritually different from the natural soul of the first Adam.  Furthermore, the “last Adam”, “Jesus the Christ”, is not just alive, but, life-giving – – a truly divine source of a real, everlasting life for others indeed.

So, in today’s reading, Jesus states:

The words I have spoken to you are spirit AND life” (John 6:63). 

By saying, “spirit and life”, Jesus is declaring that HIS “bread of life” – – the “RISEN HIMSELF” – – IS the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  WOW indeed!!!

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Many stumbled on their spiritual path when Jesus made claims which only God can make.  Jesus claimed to be “the bread of heaven” – – the very life of God – – given to us freely as the spiritual food to sustain us on our journey to the promised land of heaven.  Jesus’ discourse on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (cf., John 6:51-59) not only caused many of His followers to feel offended, but also pointed to – – pre-figured – – the “Last Supper”.  

Jesus did not leave any middle ground for those listening to Him.  They could either accept, that is believe His “Word” as divine and fully true, or they could reject it as the claim of an imposter.  It seems there is no “in-between”; forcing one to be either “hot” in faith, or “cold”.  A “lukewarm” faith is as unacceptable and as deadly as a “cold” faith:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16).

Even the “Twelve” of His closest disciples (the Apostles) admitted His “Words” on “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” was a “hard saying” to understand (but not to believe).  Jesus promises His disciples (then and still now) nothing less than the full and complete blessing of eternal life along with a fully complete union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures His disciples (then and now) that it is His (and our) heavenly Father who invites and gives the grace to follow Him – – even when it comes to the “hard sayings”.  

Jesus knew some would not only reject Him and His “Word”, but would also be offended.  Through this offended “spirit”, these people would eventually betray Jesus to His enemies.  After all, Jesus always knew that there would be those who would not believe Him, plotting to destroy Him as agents of evil:

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him” (John 6:64).

 Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus would again reiterate His prior knowledge of betrayal by others:

For he [Jesus] knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:11).

I cannot even fathom how someone who witnessed Jesus’ public ministry, and believed in Him at one time, could now NOT believe any longer.  Everything Jesus had promised had been fulfilled (so far), yet some still could not believe.  They saw, yet they were still blinded.  Humans can be a stupid bunch at times!!

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Jesus warned all who could hear Him:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:44).

Even with this stern yet loving warning, many of Jesus’ disciples had lost heart and returned to their former ways of life:

As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). 

Was this abandonment because they could not comprehend what Jesus was truly saying when He talked about eating the true body and blood of Christ?  Or, did they leave due to an underling fear of their families and other Jews shunning them for following a man going against Jewish food laws?

Thankfully, those who stayed (and us), know a few things, however.  We know that the Holy Eucharist is a gift – – a grace – – from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.  We know the Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ – – transubstantiated.  And, from today’s reading, we know Jesus did not chase after anyone who left Him; giving further proof the Holy Eucharist IS the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, to be shared with all who believe!!

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Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ question about whether those “Twelve” closest to Him will also leave:

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

Simon Peter’s response reminds me of the reports of Peter’s confession of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (cf., Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20).  Peter announces, on behalf of all the Twelve, that they have come to believe all Jesus has taught about Himself:

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Jesus is truly the “One” sent from God the Father, and in whom they (and we) have found the true path to eternal life.  Each of the four Gospels has declared this statement of faith:

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

“[A man with an unclean spirit] cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:24);

Ha!  What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34);

“She [Martha] said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:27).

Sometimes, you definitely CAN believe what you read!!

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Today’s conclusion of John’s “Bread of Life” discourse focuses on a intimately personal faith in a life of Christian discipleship.  Each person must make his or her own judgment about who Jesus is in their own life.  In doing so, we determine the way of our life, our personal path, which we will follow to eternity.  God’s grace invites each of us – – personally – – to be a disciple of Jesus.  However, each of us must also respond to the grace of God by confessing a full and true belief in Jesus Christ being truly the “One” sent from God the Father for our redemption and salvation.   This absolute, non-conditional, faith then commits us to the righteous path of life, leading us to eternal life in a heavenly paradise.

Real faith is not blind or uninformed; faith seeks understanding and is ACTIVE – – always at work in our lives.  This is why God the Father imparts to us the help and comfort of the Holy Paraclete – – the Holy Spirit – – to enlighten the eyes of our mind and soul to understand His truth and wisdom:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

Jesus offers His life-giving “Word” and “spirit” to those who truly and fully believe in Him, obeying His “Word” without ANY conditions.  Simon Peter’s profession of faith and loyalty was based on a personal relationship with Jesus!  His belief was not simply based on what he knew about Jesus, but in knowing that when Jesus spoke, God spoke(!); when Jesus acted, God acted!  (PERIOD!!!) . . .

Through the personal grace (gift) of faith, Simon Peter came to understand Jesus as the true Messiah Savior, the Holy “One” of God the Father.  Simon Peter believed in the “Words” Jesus spoke, because he accepted Jesus as the Son of God and therefore Savior of the world.  “Faith” is a personal response to God’s revelation of Himself to each of us.  “Faith” is the key to understanding and experiencing God’s action and work in our own personal lives.  Ask the Lord to increase your faith so you may grow in your relationship with Him and in the knowledge of His unlimited love for you.

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At baptism, we (or our parents) promised to believe (or teach) all articles of the faith.  In the example of Simon Peter, we learn each person must also make his or her own profession of faith in Jesus as the one sent by God the Father to save us.  As we matured in the faith, we learned, accepted, and believed (and still believe) Jesus Christ IS the “Word” of eternal life.  We also chose to follow the way of Christian discipleship at some point in our adult life, and hopefully still choose the same today.

Think about the promises made at your baptism (even if by someone else on your behalf).  What is the importance of this promise made by you then and now?  How are you trying to honor this commitment in your daily lives?  Please pray that you continue to grow in your faith, always remembering Jesus is the true “One” sent by God the Father – – who alone – – has the “Words” of eternal life.  

Promises are decisions; and we make numerous small decisions every day (and a few significantly important ones) which determine the course of our (and others) lives.  Being a parent, I have recently been reminded (with brutal honesty) that young people can hardly wait to be free of their parent’s – – to make their own choices.  We, as adults, learn (sometimes painfully) that certain decisions have consequences so serious that they should not be made lightly.  Just as some disciples in today’s reading did then, some people still today find it easier to give their decision-making responsibilities over to another: i.e., someone in the household, a politician, a religious leader, and so on.  In today’s first reading at Mass (from Joshua’s 24th chapter), Joshua doesn’t mince words:

“… decide today whom you will serve …” (Joshua 24:15).

Do NOT put off to another day, but decide now, today, about your faith.  Remember, Joshua’s people, reminded of all God had done for them, decided to:

 … serve the Lord, for He is our God (Joshua 24:18b).

Today’s Gospel account opened with Jesus’ disciples murmuring:

This saying is hard …” (John. 6:60).

Hard”, without a doubt – – and Jesus knew it is “hard”.   His “good news” – – the “Word” – – is not for lukewarm, fair-weather, or timid followers.  Because of this “hard saying” in today’s reading, many of Jesus’ followers became disillusioned and left Him.  The decision of the “Twelve” to stay with Jesus was NOT made because they had no other choice – – all of them had homes and families to whom they could have returned – – but was made because Jesus had “the words of eternal life“.  They were convinced and knew without any conditions that Jesus was truly the “Holy ‘One’ sent from God the Father.”

Many of Jesus’ “Words” are not easy to hear; they actually are quite challenging to one’s faith-life.  It is difficult to “love your enemies”, “lose your life for His sake”, and so on.  Like Simon Peter, those who follow Jesus Christ today, do so out of love for this Holy “One” who has the “Words” of eternal life, even though some “Words” are very “hard” and challenging indeed: yet, they are all trustworthy and BELIEVEABLE!

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Reflection Prayer: 

“O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen”

(Collect Prayer for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time)

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“Those Who Do Not Believe Develop Heart and Soul ‘Murmurs’!” – John 6:41-51†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in OrdinaryTime

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

This next Wednesday, August 15th, is the “Feast of the Assumption of Our Mother Mary”.  Each year for the past 6 years, on this date, I have completed my preparations and renewing my “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary”.  This devotion was created by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and takes 33 days of preparation by means of prayer, reading, meditation, reflections, and personal promises – – a true “metanoia” (conversion process)!  (But then again, each and every day, I try to convert myself to God’s will, even if ever so slightly.)  Each time I have completed this particular devotion, the experience and journey itself seems to “taste “a little sweeter.  I’ll take this as a good sign to continue this yearly practice.

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There will no Reflection next Sunday, August 18th.  I will be on my yearly Franciscan (OFS) Retreat at King’s House in Belleville, IL.  Our OFS Region (about 100 Secular Franciscans) will get together there for the weekend to celebrate, learn, rejoice, pray, contemplate, and enjoy each other in community.  It is truly an awesome, up-lifting, powerful, and exciting time for me, both personally and spiritually.

Anytime spent with friends, family, and God – – all rolled into one experience – – is a true grace from God Himself.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

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 Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus responds to the murmurs of the crowd, who wonders what He means when He says, He “came down from heaven”.  What are your “murmurs” towards Jesus?

 (NAB John 6:41-51) 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.  46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

On this Sunday, we continue to read from the “Bread of Life discourse” found in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.  We have been reading from this chapter for the past two Sundays and will continue to read from it for another two.  (Since I have grown to love John’s unique multi-dimensional viewpoint of Jesus Christ, one month of solely John’s Gospel (at the Sunday Mass) is totally awesome.).  Last week, the crowd with whom Jesus had been dealing for two liturgical weeks now asked Him for a sign which would show that He truly came from God. (So, He’s not a magician or con-artist).  Jesus replied by saying that “HE” is “THE” sign ANDthe bread of life” truly sent by God!

Today’s Gospel begins with a report that the Jews (the crowd) are “murmuring” about Jesus’ claim regarding His identity.  After all, they knew Jesus’ family (Mary and Joseph). So, they could not comprehend what Jesus meant when He said that He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41).  Jesus responds to the crowds request by saying, “Only those who are chosen by God will recognize Him” (John 6:44) as the one sent by God; this is (and will be) a recurring theme in John’s Gospel.  WOW!  Reflect on the fact that God chooses those who will have faith in Jesus. (And He always chooses those who wish to follow Him – – to come to Him!!)

In the verses which follow in today’s reading, Jesus talks more about His unique unity, His personal union, with God the Father.  He is the “One” who has seen God the Father and, therefore, truly and fully knows God the Father, and as His Father.  (But let me ask: “Was He the ONLY one?” The answer will come a little later.)  Those who listen to God – – and HEAR Him and BELIEVE (John 6:47)- – will recognize Jesus as being the “One” sent from God the Father Himself.  Those who believe this will have eternal life according to Jesus’ proclamation.  

Jesus will conclude today’s reading with the essential principle of our Eucharistic theology – – the Source and Summit of our Catholic Faith – – Jesus, “the bread of life”, will share ETERNAL life to those who believe Him!!  Jesus promises that His “bread of lifewill bring ETERNAL life to those who come to, and partake of it.  Jesus also prophetically tells us “the bread of life” will be “His own flesh, given for the life of the world” (John 6:51).  The flesh Jesus is referring to is the reality of His “Risen” self to a new life.

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In Capernaum (the location of today’s reading), Jesus is rejected solely because His origins are known to the people there.  By their “murmuring” (John 6:41), Jesus’ audience (the crowd who followed Him to Capernaum from Bethsaida) behaved like the Israelites of the Exodus, while lingering in the desert.  If you recall, their own “murmuring” provoked the gifts of water and manna being delivered to them from God the Father:

As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood.  When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh.” (Exodus 15:24-25);

Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. … in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, when he hears your grumbling against him.  But who are we that you should grumble against us? …[God says] I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2,7,12).

This crowd’s “murmuring” was an example of the unbelief as prophesied in Isaiah and the Psalms:

But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the utterance of the king of Assyria’s proud heart, and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.” (Isaiah 10:12);

Next they despised the beautiful land; they did not believe the promiseIn their tents they complained; they did not heed the voice of the LORD (Psalm 106:24-25).

Familiarity with His family and societal background led them to regard Him as pretentious and boastful in His claim.  They saw Jesus as a person they felt they knew completely and intimately; yet they were truly blind.

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Jesus’ command to “stop murmuring” (John 6:43) is followed by a short series of sayings.  The next two verses of today’s reading reiterate that only those “drawn by God” will believe in Jesus:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:44-45) 

John is demonstrating the claim that God Himself is responsible for the faith of those who believe in Jesus.  There is NO knowledge of God the Father apart from Jesus:

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46).

John is repeating Holy Scripture, reminding his readers of verses found in both Exodus and earlier in his own Gospel:

But you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20);

No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1:18);

This belief reflects the Jewish tradition: to see God meant instant death!!   However, this belief is contradicted by others who DIDsee God”, yet live:

To the LORD who spoke to her [Hagar] she gave a name, saying, ‘You are God who sees me’; she meant, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after he saw me?’” (Genesis 16:13);

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 32:31).

In seeing Jesus Christ, this crowd truly SAW God.  Yet, we see the Holy Eucharist; we are also truly witnessing the Risen “God” is being revealed to us in a unique visible and spiritual (supernatural) way.  “Seeing”, and partaking of God in the Holy Eucharist, does not bring death, but everlasting life through Jesus Christ!!  “Seeing” is believing in and partaking of – – participating in – – God’s communion (co-union)!  This “seeing” God by faith does not bring death but everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus concludes His series of sayings with this final affirmation:

 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) 

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The following “final” verse from today’s reading is an extremely powerful revelation:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51),

At the end of this sixth chapter of his Gospel, John will shift his Gospel from the topic of Jesus as “the revealer of God the Father” – – to Jesus as the “living bread” which He Himself gives to us as a gift, revealing to us the grace, which we have learned to call “the Holy Eucharist”. 

Here follows is the next portion of John’s sixth chapter.  The verses which immediately follow today’s reading are also the verses for next week’s Gospel reading at Mass:

“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.’  These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:52-59)

These verses definitely say, and identify, the “Holy Eucharist” to me!  Does it to you?

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In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as He did in last week’s Gospel, that “HE” is “the bread of life” (John 6:48).  We also hear Jesus adding that HE is “the living bread” (John 6:51).  Both of these statements help us understand better the gift Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist.  We celebrate this special and unique gift (grace) of Jesus each time we gather for Mass.  We, as Catholics, truly and fully believe that receiving the “Risen” Jesus in the Eucharist will lead us to our eternal life in the paradise of heaven, with our Trinitarian God.  (His “bread” is truly divine – – truly “heavenly”!!)

Today’s Gospel draws our attention to the faith in Jesus’ real, true, full, and Risen presence in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus IS then, truly and fully “the bread of life”.  He gives us His Body and Blood as “the living bread” so that we may have eternal life.  When we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, with the proper attitude, our lives reflect the reality that our communion – – our unique union – – with the divine Jesus Christ Himself, is truly preparing us to see the way to reach His kingdom.  Our Holy Eucharist leads us to live as His people of promise, confident we will one day share the fullness of life with, and united to, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!!  (Not a bad deal for us sinners!!)

The crowd in today’s story despised Jesus because they thought they knew who He was – – understanding Him to be an uneducated laborer from a rural “Hick” town called Nazareth.  They regarded His mother, Mary, and His “foster” father, Joseph as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name or identity.  Their collective thoughts were: “How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman?”

This crowd surrounding Jesus became even more offended when Jesus claimed something only God could claim.  His claim which He revealed to them is that He is the very source of life who comes from God the Father, and who lasts forever and ever (John 6:51).

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I am sure we all make the same mistake as did the crowd in today’s Gospel.  We sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) refuse to listen to others solely because we think they are inferior to us?  (No humility in thinking such thoughts, is there?  NOT!!!!)   We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially when He speaks through these “inferior beings”.  We can miss what God says to us, if we despise and spurn the “instrument” God chooses to work through.  John states that the Jews from today’s reading “murmured” at Jesus.  They listened to Him, but with a critical spirit rather than “hearing” Him with faith, with an open ear, and with an earnest desire to learn and believe what God the Father wanted (and still wants) to speak to them (and us) – – through His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  There are many different ways people can choose to listen to others: with an attitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit, wishing to learn, believe, grow, and ultimately, to be transformed.  Let me ask: With what “way” do you listen to God’s “Word”?

God is offering His people an abundant life; yet, we can miss out on this unique gift.  What is “the bread of life” which Jesus offers us?  When Jesus offers us a true life, He brings us into a new relationship with God the Father – – a relationship of trust, love, and obedience.  Jesus offers us a true, abundant, ever-sustaining life – – lasting forever and ever.  Jesus offers us a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the “One” who made us “in love” to be uniquely united with Him forever and ever!!  

Think about your hope that one day you will share eternal life with God in heaven.  This “hope” can transform the way you (and we) live out our daily experiences and lives.  We are called to BE people “of hope”; we are taught to believe in God’s promises and to have confident “hope” that we will experience the fulfillment of those promises in our daily lives.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us this gift of eternal life in and through the Eucharist.  Jesus taught us that those who listen to God know that He had been (and is still) sent by God the Father – – for the life of the world – – and for ALL creation.  Jesus is fulfilling His promise to us through His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Jesus Christ gave (and still gives) us the gift of HIMSELF in the Holy Eucharist – – in His Body and Blood – – given so we may have, and grow in, eternal life with Him.  Ask God to increase your faith in His true and full presence present in each morsel of the Holy Eucharist, and each sip of the cup of salvation, which we experience with all our senses.  (Doesn’t smell fishy to me at all!!)

There is NOTHING to “murmur” about when it comes to God the Father’s Salvation plan FOR US!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Peace Prayer

 

“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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“Who Are You, Lord, And Who Am I?!” – John 6:24–35†


 

 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I am asking for some input from my readers in regard to my blog format.  It is trying for me to amass all the information I needed for each blog normally posted on Saturdays.  For this reason, I have decided to change my format somewhat.  Starting next week, I will be splitting my blog sections between Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On Wednesdays, I will post the following sections:

  • ·        (on occasion) Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Catholic History Today
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on an article of  the OFS Rule

Then, on Saturdays, I will continue to post these sections:

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

Please let me know your opinions on this matter, and if I should add or totally delete sections from my blog.  After all, this blog is as much yours as it is mine, because it is for YOU.

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Do not forget to vote on Tuesday, August 7th, (in Missouri at least).  Although a “Party Primary” election, local and state issues may also be on the ballot.  Voting is a “right” every eligible American should be proud to participate in as a citizen of this great “Godly” country.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1579 – Death of Stanislaus Hosius, Polish Catholic cardinal (b. 1504)
†   1900 – Death of James Augustine Healy, black Roman Catholic bishop, dies at 80
†   1912 – Birth of Abbé Pierre, French Catholic priest (d. 2007)

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches the crowds that He is the “bread of life.” We know who He is: the question I’m supposing is, “Who Are WE??!!”  Ask yourself this question: “Why are you seeking out Jesus?”

 

(NAB John 6:24–35)  24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  26 Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”  28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?  31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:  ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.   33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last Sunday, we heard about Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish, leaving enough leftover to fill twelve wicker baskets.  Between last Sunday’s Gospel and today’s Gospel is the short story of the disciples leaving for Bethsaida for Capernaum by boat as Jesus leaves for “the mountain alone” (John 6:15).  After an unknown amount of time (probably several hours at least):

the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

This Sunday we continue to read from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, but not in continuity with last Sunday’s Gospel.  What we are not told (and what the “crowd” did not see) is the story between these two readings: Jesus’ walking on water (cf., John 16-21).  This event will be explored, and possibly revealed, in my reflection blog at a later date.

In today’s gospel, upon discovering the absence of Jesus and His closest of disciples, the crowd went in search for them:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6:24).

Upon finding their “New Moses” (please refer to my reflection from last week), they inquired of Jesus how He arrived there, and arrived there BEFORE them (since they knew Jesus went into the mountains):

When they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25)

In the dialogue that follows, Jesus unfolds for us the gift of “Himself”, which He gives to us in and through the Holy Eucharist.

The crowd had come by boat, the fastest way possible for them, knowing Jesus would have had to walk to Capernaum since there were no other boats available for Him to use.  However, Jesus’ answer was NOT the one they were expecting to hear:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:25). 

Amen, Amen” – – Interesting words indeed!  A little trivia time: did you know there are 25 “Amen’s” in John’s Gospel alone (with only 52 “Amen’s” total in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels)?  So, why do you suppose Jesus decided to start a sentence with a word never before used at the beginning of a statement?  These initial “Amen’s” are truly unique to Jesus, and are unparalleled, otherwise unknown in any other Hebrew writings.  Why (?) – – the reason is that “Amen” – – at the beginning of a sentence – – does not refer to the words of a previous speaker as one would assume (I bet His English teacher was mad at Him for such usage!).  I believe Jesus used the combined (and amplified) words “Amen, Amen” to introduce a new thought, a new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.  In this case, the new way for gaining entrance to God’s kingdom is in seeing and believing His signs of His divine nature.

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Jesus goes on to say in today’s reading:

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal(John 6:27).

Jesus is telling all who come to Him (then and now) to change their priorities, both in life and in death.  Our secularized and materialistic world will someday perish.  I am sure we have all heard the axiom, “You can’t take it with you”.  This axiom references the materialistic, worldly items we accrue though life.  What you WILL take with you on your day of judgment is the way – – the “how” – – you USED these materialistic items, and the “way and how” of using ALL of God’s graces, powers, and “Words” given to you freely and FREE!  (Jesus has already paid the cost!!)

Jesus answers the crowd, saying who HE truly is:  “the bread of life”:

“This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:50, 51, 54, 58).

Only through Jesus Christ’s grace, can you, I, or anyone else, enter into God the Father’s Kingdom.  Only through Jesus Christ are we provided the life-sustaining food (and water) which endures and gives eternal life:

Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

The above verse (John 4:13) gives a new meaning to Christ being present – – truly and fully – – in each morsel and drop of both “species” of the Eucharist: the body and blood of the Risen Jesus Christ!

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Having heard what Jesus just said, the crowd wanted to know:

What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” (John 6:28).

Jesus answered:

This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” (John 6:29)

That just seems to be a little too simple, maybe even cunning or crafty, in the simplicity of His “Words”.  Many believe that ALL you have to do is simply “believe Jesus is the ‘one’ sent by God”.  However, there is a “little” more to this statement than just “believing”; for to believe, one must also accept the premise that Jesus is truly “the one sentas prophesized in Jewish scripture.  In reality, in order to believe Jesus is truly “the one sent”, you must also believe ALL that the prophets had to say about this “one sent”.

  

Image from the following website:
http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/
prophecies-concerning-jesus-and-their-fulfilment\

In believing, the crowd would be accepting that Jesus IS (and STILL IS) fulfilling EVERY prophecy made from the entirety of the great Prophets of old; where and who He would be born to, His work and mission, how He would die, His resurrection, and His ascension into heaven.  Through Jesus Christ, these prophecies of a “kingly” and “suffering” Savior Messiah had arrived to this crowd (and to US!)! 

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This crowd wanted even further proof from what they had already seen – – as a perfect sign in itself – – with the multiplication of the bread and fish.  So, the crowd says to Jesus:

What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” (John 6:30).

Haven’t they seen ENOUGH to prove who Jesus truly and fully was (and is)?  Oh, those of so little faith!!  Then again, they were not the first ones to ask for proof from Jesus regarding His divine nature.  They were not the first to ask for, nay, demand a sign.  So, when:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. (Matthew 16:1);

Then, Jesus responds thusly:

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ ” (Matthew 16:4).

Luke further elaborated on this:

 “While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation’” (Luke 11:29–30).

The “Son of Man” was a “sign” to this generation (and ours) as Jonah was a “sign” to the Ninevites of his generation.  Jonah is the “sign”, and his message was repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural dimension of their lives.  Jesus is the “sign”, and His message was also that of repentance, and, looking at and seeing the supernatural divine nature of the “Son of Man”.

The Jews of the Exodus story demanded a “sign”, demanding bread from Moses – – and God gave them “manna”.  The crowd demanded from Jesus what the Israelites demanded of Moses – – a “sign” – – the “bread from heaven”:

 “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). 

For the Jews of His day, Jesus is declaring that He IS the prophesized “sign”, the “bread from heaven” as revealed in Exodus:

 “Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. …  But Moses told them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. … Moses then told Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put a full omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to keep it for your future generations.’” (Exodus 16:4-34)

 This “bread from heaven” – – the “manna” – – was a divine sign, a gift from God the Father to His children.  This “manna” is similar to a natural substance, still found today in small quantities, on the Sinai Peninsula, and is associated with the honey-like resin from the tamarisk tree.  However, God’s “manna” is clearly an extraordinary, supernatural sign of God’s providence toward His “chosen” people, who needed His help.  Per Jewish tradition, the “manna” – – the “food” from heaven – – was (and is) expected to reappear miraculously at Passover, during “the last days”.  Christian tradition regards the “manna” of Exodus as a type of the Eucharist which Jesus fulfilled and is still fulfilling today.

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In verse 6:31, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”, Jesus now starts referencing a single, specific, part of the prayer He taught to His disciples during the “Our Father” prayer:

Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

St. Francis of Assisi explained this specific portion of the “Our Father Prayer” in a beautiful and succinct way:

“Give us today our daily bread: Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to remind us of the love God showed for us and to help us understand and appreciate everything that He did or said or suffered.”

Jesus Christ IS OUR DAILY BREAD!!  (I can’t say this fact enough!)  Through Jesus in the Eucharist, we are reminded and showed to understand and appreciate the true, and full totality of His life, death, resurrection, ascension, promises, hope, love, trust, and return – – in our lives NOW!!.  HOLY WOW!!!  HOLY AWESOME!!!

The “manna” of the Exodus story prefigured, and pointed to, the superabundance of the unique “bread” of the Eucharist which Jesus gave to His disciples on the eve of His sacrifice.  The “bread” Jesus offers His disciples still sustains us not only on our journey to His heavenly paradise; it also gives us the abundant supernatural life of God Himself, sustaining us now and for all eternity.  

When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ Himself, who makes us sharers in His body and blood, thus partaking in His divine life.  The Holy Eucharist is the “supernatural food” of healing – – for both body and soul – – and gives us strength for our journey to the paradise of God’s heavenly banquet (cf., Hebrews 12:18-24).

After initially answering the crowds question for a “sign”, Jesus then directly and unequivocally says:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

I believe Jesus could not have been much clearer.  The people present certainly knew Jesus was referring to the prophecies in Isaiah and Amos among others:

 “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy?  Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.  Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.  I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the steadfast loyalty promised to David.”  (Isaiah 55:1–3);

“See, days are coming—oracle [revelation] of the Lord GOD— when I will send a famine upon the land: Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. … On that day, beautiful young women and young men shall faint from thirst” (Amos 8:11–13).

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true “bread of heaven” which can satisfy the deepest hunger, thirst, and longing every human being experiences in life.  We must believe in Christ, listen to His “Word”, pay attention to Him – – and most importantly – – “come to” Him in the Eucharist!!

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In today’s Gospel, there are four exchanges between Jesus and the crowd.  In the first, the crowd, after finding Jesus already at Capernaum, before them, asks a very “matter of fact” question: “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus replies by identifying their motivation in pursuing Him: their being fed earthly, worldly, bread.  Jesus acknowledges their physical feeding, yet challenges them to see beyond their material needs.  Instead, they (and we) should be seeking out Jesus because He can give eternal life!

As the second dialogue begins, it seems that the crowd might be on their way to accepting Jesus and His mission.  They ask: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  Jesus replies that the “works of God” is that they “BELIEVE” (have faith in) the one sent from God.  

Notice, Jesus is clearly declaring that He IS the One sent by God the Father – – the “New Moses”!!

However, in the third dialogue, the crowd reveals their inability to see Jesus’ true identity; the crowd reveals their “blindness”.  They ask Jesus for a sign so that they might know Jesus is truly sent from God the Father.  This request for a sign sounds strange since Jesus had just fed more than 5000 people, and for the most part, the SAME people now asking for a “sign” again.  I must add, what more is expected from Jesus to prove His true divine nature?  (Maybe He needs to raise someone from the dead!  Um … wait; He does, including Himself!)

The crowd cannot see beyond the surface of the “sign” Jesus gave in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  By their description, they identify Jesus with Moses.  So, just as Moses gave the people “manna” in the desert, the crowd wanted Jesus to give them a sign so they will know Jesus was truly from God.  They were looking to identify Jesus as a “prophet” without realizing “God the Son” was standing before them.  

As God “fulfilled” the crowd’s ancestors’ needs in the desert, so God still provides food for eternal life (and still provides NOW TODAY)!   In the bread which they received from Jesus, they received physical nourishment as well as spiritual nourishment.  Jesus wanted the crowd then (and wants us today) to see beyond the surface – – to the One who provides true nourishment, God the Father through God the Son working through the Holy Spirit, even through material things.

The conclusion of the dialogue also further reveals the crowd’s “blindness”: they CANNOT “see” the divine Christ in their midst.  They asked for what Jesus had just told them they have found: “Sir, give us this bread always” (verse 34).  Jesus answers plainly that He Himself IS the “Bread of Life” they are seeking; the Bread of Life who will satisfy every hunger and thirst.  We can understand this fact better when we remember that God revealed His name to the “chosen” people of Israel as “I am” – – “Yahweh”.  Jesus claims this name – – “I AM” – – for Himself!!  Jesus’ claim [to fame] will bring many into His kingdom.  On the other hand, Jesus’ claim – – though it is true – – will have a negative effect as well, for some.  In the weeks ahead, in the Gospel readings at Mass, we will see how this claim offended others in the crowd.

Jesus offers a new relationship with God, a new life – – a life of sacrificial love, selfless service, and the forgiveness of others – – corresponding to God’s mercy, goodness and loving kindness.  This new life is a life of holiness, purity, and truth, corresponding to God’s holiness.  This new life is a life of obedience and trust, corresponding to God’s offer of abundant life, peace, and happiness.  This is the true definition of “work” which Jesus directs us to do, and enables us to perform through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am truly hungry for the “bread” which comes down from heaven; and I thirst for the “Words” of everlasting life in, with, and through God!!  (What about you?)

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Sometimes, we don’t recognize the wonderful things our Trinitarian God has done for us in ours, and in others, lives.  Sometimes, out of habit or need, we simply forget and ask for further evidence of His love and care.  Pray that God, in these times, will remove our “blindness” so that we can receive and appreciate – – with thanks, praise, and love – – all the wonderful things which God truly accomplishes in our lives.

St. Francis said, Who are You, Lord, and who am I?”  The “manna” from heaven and John’s supernatural Christology (nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ) draws out the theme of nourishment from God, and especially, the new life we receive through Christ, who is the “Bread of Life”.  How awesome and wonderful is it that we ALL have a Trinitarian God who is close to us – – truly one of us – – through the “Risen” human flesh of Jesus, and as near and physically present as in the Holy Eucharist.  We need to come to realize that the importance of the immanent nature (God existing in, and extending into, all parts of the created universe) of God is truly and absolutely important for our daily spiritual lives!!

The second half of Saint Francis’ question above, Who am I?” is as equally important as the first half, Who are You, Lord.  I might rephrase this question as: “Who am I that I can relate to my (and your) immanent God and His call to freedom and a new life?”  Like the Israelites, we actually sometimes desire a bondage to our personal addictions or societal failings.  Let us remember that we do have choices.  We can choose to feed on the “Bread of Life”; or we can feed on the “dry bones” of an exploited, materialistic, and secularized human existence without everlasting life.  (Here Fido, you take the bone and I’ll take the bread!)

It is interesting for me that, often, we are not only complacent with oppressive situations and rewards in life, we are also even sometimes “grateful” for the mere “scraps” we receive in life.   We need to remember that in times of trials and tribulations, the “scraps” of worldly materialistic items and conveniences are no match for the overwhelmingly bounty of God – – through the “Bread of Life”, Jesus Christ!

Recall the wonderful gifts God has given you, and the remarkable deeds God has accomplished in and through you.  Remember, it is truly important to stop and count our blessings.  We can all easily miss recognizing all of the wonderful things God has done (and does) for us on a daily basis.  Recall that we have this gift from Jesus – – in the Eucharist – – TODAY and FOREVER!!  (and even in heaven!)   Thank God for all He had (and has) given to us. 

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Bread of Life Prayer

 

“Bread of Life, you feed
us through word and sacrament.
The bread we share
a remembrance
of your presence with
us. Strengthen us for
service, that seeds we sow
in fertile places
might grow and flourish,
that food we share
in fellowship
might nourish and revive,
that words we share
in our daily walk
might glorify your name.
Bread of Life, you feed us
through word and
sacrament that we might feed others.
Blessed be your name!  Amen.”

http://www.faithandworship.com/Jesus_bread_of_life.htm

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Christ’s Divinity

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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A Franciscan’s Saint [Commemoration] of the Day:  Dedication of the Church of St. Mary Major Basilica

 

First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431.  Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary.  Standing atop one of Rome’s seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica.  Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine’s era.  Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity.

St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church.  St. John Lateran represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark; St. Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary’s, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.

One legend, unreported before the year 1000, gives another name to this feast: Our Lady of the Snows.  According to that story, a wealthy Roman couple pledged their fortune to the Mother of God.  In affirmation, she produced a miraculous summer snowfall and told them to build a church on the site.  The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome every August 5.

Comment:

Theological debate over Christ’s nature as God and man reached fever pitch in Constantinople in the early fifth century.  The chaplain of Bishop Nestorius began preaching against the title Theotokos, “Mother of God,” insisting that the Virgin was mother only of the human Jesus.  Nestorius agreed, decreeing that Mary would henceforth be named “Mother of Christ” in his see.  The people of Constantinople virtually revolted against their bishop’s refutation of a cherished belief.  When the Council of Ephesus refuted Nestorius, believers took to the streets, enthusiastically chanting, “Theotokos!  Theotokos!”

Quote:

“From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, in whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs.  Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the People of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation…” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 66).

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 5 & 6 of 26:

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.

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06.  They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession.  Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

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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.

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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.

“In Order To Have Eternal Life, We Should ALL Wear A ‘Nicodemus’ Patch – It’s a Great Addiction!” – John 3:14-21†


 

Fourth Week 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:

 

The fourth Sunday of Lent is sometimes called Laetare Sunday.  “Laetare” is a Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  Traditionally in the Catholic Church, Sundays are named after the first word of the liturgy’s opening antiphon.  

Today is the midway point of the Lenten season when we look forward to our celebration of Jesus Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection.  On this Sunday, the antiphon is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; Rejoice with her in her joy, all you who mourn over her— so that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink with delight at her abundant breasts!” (Isaiah 66:10-11).

Even as we observe our Lenten requirements, we “rejoice” in anticipation of the joy that will be ours in just a few weeks – – at Easter. 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   417 – St Zosimus begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   731 – St Gregory III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   978 – Death of Saint Edward, the Martyr, King of Anglo-Saxons, murdered at age 15
†   1227 – Death of Pope Honorius III, [Cencio Savelli], (1216-27), (b. 1148)
†   1380 – Birth of Saint Liduina van Schiedam, Dutch “Christ’s bride”
†   1532 – English parliament bans payments by English church to Rome
†   2005 – Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube is removed at the request of her husband, fueling a worldwide debate on euthanasia.
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386); Saint Alexander of Jerusalem; Saint Anselm; Saint Edward the Martyr (d.978); Saint Narcissus; Saint Salvator

(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 telling Nicodemus “the Son of Man will be raised up” in order for those who believe in Him will have eternal life.

 

(NAB John 3:14-21) 14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.  20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.  21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Do you recognize the healing power of Christ’s redeeming love for each one of us?  Hopefully, today’s Gospel reading will help you understand Jesus’ unique love for each of us individually.

Today’s Gospel reading is from John’s Gospel.  It consists of two parts.  The first part is the final portion of Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a “ruler of the Jews”, who approached Jesus, at night (the darkness), in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover:

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  He came to Jesus at night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.’” (John 3:1-2).

Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus as someone who had come from God and seemed to want to be a follower of Jesus.  (Wow, proof that not all the Pharisees were against Jesus.)  

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Jesus instructs Nicodemus on the necessity of a new birth from above – – from His Father in heaven – – by responding to Nicodemus with an observation: one must be born “from above” in order to see the Kingdom of God.  

Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” (John 3:3).

The dialogue that followed, between Jesus and Nicodemus, was about the meaning of the phrase “from above”.  Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus at every point, but there was no hostility in the questions he posed to Jesus.

In the conversation with Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, Jesus referred to an incident reported in the Old Testament (Numbers 21:4-9).  When the Israelites grumbled against the Lord during their sojourn in the desert, God sent venomous serpents to punish them for their complaints.  The Israelites repented and asked Moses to pray for them.  The Lord heard Moses’ prayer [of intercession for the Israelites] and instructed him to make a bronze serpent and “mount it” on a pole.  All bitten by a serpent, and then able to gaze upon the bronze serpent made by Moses, were miraculously cured.  In recalling and referring this story from the book of Numbers, Jesus alludes to the hope and salvation being accomplished through His death and Resurrection.

(Interesting trivia:  the symbol of the medical field is taken from Moses “rod and serpent”.  The medical emblem is called a “Caduceus”.)

The second part of today’s Gospel is a “theological” reflection on Jesus’ “Words” spoken to Nicodemus.  It seems John is known for this kind of reflection, as is presented within today’s Gospel narrative.  The words of John are in continuity with the words of the prologue to John’s Gospel:

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

In these reflections, John elaborates on a number of themes that are found in his Gospel: light and darkness; belief and unbelief; good and evil; salvation, judgment, and condemnation.

Today’s Gospel reading continues John’s description of the self-manifestation of Jesus, concluding in Jerusalem, begun earlier in John 2.  This is the first of John’s discourses and we see a shifting from one of dialogue to a monologue format (John 3:11–15) to a reflection of the evangelist, John (John 3:16–21).  

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The prophets never stopped speaking of God’s love, faithfulness, and compassion towards those who would return to God with trust and obedience:

Early and often the LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent His messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 36:15).

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in the darkness, He prophesied His death on the cross, and His Resurrection, would bring healing and forgiveness – – along with a “new birth in the Spirit”; AND, eternal life for those who believe:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’”  (John 3:3);

Everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).

I love the sound of “eternal life” with God and the entire celestial court, don’t you?

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Moses’ bronze serpent pointed to Jesus’ death on the Holy Cross defeating sin and death, thus obtaining “everlasting life” in paradise with God Himself for those who believe and repent.  The result of Jesus “being lifted up on the cross” and His rising to God the Father’s “right hand” in heaven, is OUR “new birth in the Spirit” – – OUR adoption as His beloved children.   God not only redeems us, but He “fills” us with His own divine life and power so that we might share in His everlasting “glory”.  Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit in order that we may have His power to be His witnesses, and to spread and defend the Gospel (the “Good News” of God) by OUR words and actions.  The Holy Spirit gives us His seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and His ways, and a holy fear in God (cf., Isaiah 11) so that we may live for God and serve Him with, in, and through the power of His strength.

The phrase “lifted up” (verse 14) is a unique and purposeful term used by John.  As previously stated, Moses simply “mounted” a serpent upon a pole:

Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.” (Numbers 21:9).  

Here, in today’s reading, John substitutes a verb implying “glorification”.  So, Jesus is exalted to “glory” on His “pole”, the Holy Cross, AND, at His Resurrection.  In dying for us and raising Himself from the dead, He comes to represent healing for ALL who believe.

In the very next verse (3:15), what was meant by John saying the reward for belief in Jesus Christ would be “Eternal life”.  This is the first time John used this term.  Used here, in today’s Gospel, “Eternal life” stresses a “quality” of one’s life rather than its “duration”.

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This next verse from today’s Gospel, I believe, is one of the most famous verses in Holy Scripture.  It is an obviously well-known verse plastered on billboards, signs, pamphlets, scripture tracts, and even a famous football player’s game attire:

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

God the Father “gave” His Son as a gift in Jesus’ Incarnation.  God also “gave” His Son as a gift “over to death” in His Crucifixion:

He who did not spare His own Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?”  (Romans: 8:32).

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Continuing to the next verse, the Greek root word for “Condemn” (verse 17) means both “judgment” along with “condemnation”.  Jesus’ purpose for coming to us in human and divine nature was (and is) to SAVE all who believe in Him.  However, Jesus’ “coming” also provokes “judgment”, which means some actually “condemn” themselves by turning from His wonderfully warm and illuminating “light”. 

Judgment is not only a future event, the “Parousia”, the second coming, is realized here and now in an incomplete way.  The “Judgment” will be finalized at the Parousia, but we are still responsible for our actions, words, or thoughts AT THIS MOMENT in time!!

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In John’s reflection, we find an observation about our innate human sinfulness.  Jesus is truly the “light” coming “into” the world.  However, we oft-times seem to prefer the “darkness” of sin, as Nicodemus was when he approached Jesus.  We want to keep our sins hidden from others eyes, and even from God Himself, but we all subconsciously know that it is not possible to hide anything from God, for He knows all.  Jesus came into the world to reveal – – to illuminate – – OUR sins so that we can see them and be forgiven.  What GREAT and “Good News” for all of us.  His coming into this world is the reason for our great rejoicing during this Lenten season, and throughout our entire lives.

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To Summarize, how do we know that the Trinitarian God truly loves us and wants each of US, individually, to be with Him forever in paradise?  God the father proved His love for us by giving us the best He had to offer – – His “only-begotten” Son – – who freely “gave” Himself as an offering to God His Father, for OUR sake, as the atoning sacrifice for OUR sin and the sin of the world.  

Today’s reading teaches us of the awesomely great dimension of God’s love.  His love is NOT an exclusive love for just a few, or for a single nation, but is instead an All-embracing redemptive love for the whole world.  God’s love is a PERSONAL and INTIMATE love for each and every individual whom He created “in His own image or likeness”.

Then God said: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.’” (Genesis !:26).

Our God in heaven is a loving Father!!  He cannot rest until ALL of His wandering children have returned home to Him.  Saint Augustine of Hippo was known to have said:

“God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.”

God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love (free-will).  Jesus showed us the contrasting paradigm of His love and judgment to come.  We can love the “darkness” of sin and unbelief, or, we can love the “light” of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness.  If our love is guided by what is true, good, and beautiful, we will choose God, loving Him above all else.  What we choose to love shows, in reality, what we prefer in (and from) life.  Do you love God above all else?  Do you give God a priority – – THE priority – – in your life, in your thoughts, in your decisions, and in your actions?  I pray that I DO, and that YOU do also?!!

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To conclude, today’s story reminds me of my children when they were afraid of the dark in their early lives.  I am awed by John’s observation that darkness is preferred to light for many of us “sinful” humans.  Is this the way it should be?  Hmm … food for thought!!

God made us to live in the warm, bright “light” of His love and mercy.  However, the original relationship with God was eternally corrupted by a worldly desire, a sin.  Our innate sin STILL causes us to withdraw from Christ, the “light” who has come into the world for OUR individual salvation.  During the season of Lent, we try to fight this tendency by remembering God’s great mercy – – His salvation – – which we have received through Jesus Christ.  We do not (and should not) fear in confessing our sins personally, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, knowing readily God forgives us.  So, during Lent, let us all seek out opportunities to celebrate this great gift, this great grace Jesus Christ has given to us freely – – the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Sit for a time in total darkness.  And after a period of time, light a single candle in the room.  Think about what it felt like to be in the darkness, and compare this feeling to what you experienced when the candle was lit.  What can you know see by the limited glow of the candlelight, which you could not see when sitting in total darkness?   John’s Gospel teaches us Jesus was truly the “light” who came into the “darkness” of the world.  In this “light” we reveal ourselves to be sinners, but we are not condemned!  Instead we have been saved; we have been forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Holy Cross.  Thank you Lord for the great gift, the great grace, of forgiveness we have received through your Son, Jesus Christ.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Contrition

 

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I
dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because I love Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my 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

“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.  The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter …” (Matthew 10:1-2). RSV

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.  Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; …”(Matthew 10:1-2). KJV

***

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’” (Matthew 16:18-19). RSV

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew. 16:18-19). KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Salvator of Horta (1520-1567)

 

A reputation for holiness does have some drawbacks.  Public recognition can be a nuisance at times—as the confreres of Salvator found out.

Salvator was born during Spain’s Golden Age. Art, politics and wealth were flourishing.  So was religion.  Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1540.

Salvator’s parents were poor.  At the age of 21 he entered the Franciscans as a brother and was soon known for his asceticism, humility and simplicity.

As cook, porter and later the official beggar for the friars in Tortosa, he became well known for his charity.  He healed the sick with the Sign of the Cross.  When crowds of sick people began coming to the friary to see Salvator, the friars transferred him to Horta.  Again the sick flocked to ask his intercession; one person estimated that two thousand people a week came to see Salvator.  He told them to examine their consciences, to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion worthily.  He refused to pray for those who would not receive those sacraments.

The public attention given to Salvator was relentless.  The crowds would sometimes tear off pieces of his habit as relics.  Two years before his death, Salvator was moved again, this time to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.  He died at Cagliari saying, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  He was canonized in 1938.

Comment:

Medical science is now seeing more clearly the relation of some diseases to one’s emotional and spiritual life.  In Healing Life’s Hurts, Matthew and Dennis Linn report that sometimes people experience relief from illness only when they have decided to forgive others. Salvator prayed that people might be healed, and many were.  Surely not all diseases can be treated this way; medical help should not be abandoned.  But notice that Salvator urged his petitioners to reestablish their priorities in life before they asked for healing.

Quote:

“Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” (Matthew 10:1).

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 18 & 19 of 26:

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

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19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.


 

“Judge Me Not – – Um, – – Actually, Please Judge Me Lord!” – Matthew 25:31-46†


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Last Sunday of Ordinary Time for Liturgical Year

 

 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:

 

One week to the beginning of the Advent Season.  What are your plans to make this Advent personally special and more faith fulfilling for you?  Let me know.

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   284 – Diocletian was chosen as Roman Emperor.
†   1168 – Giovanni di Struma elected “anti-Pope”
†   1342 – Pope Clemens VI names John IV of Arkel as Bishop of Utrecht
†   1437 – Death of Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, cardinal and lord chancellor; excommunicated, reinstated by anti-pope John XXIII (b. 1363)
†   1529 – Death of Karl von Miltitz, papal nuncio to Germany and envoy of Pope Leo X to Martin Luther
†   1621 – Birth of Avvakum, Russian priest and writer (d. 1682)
†   1761 – Birth of Pope Pius VIII, [Francesco S Castiglioni], Italy, 253rd Pope (1829-30)
†   1778 – Death of Francesco Cetti, Italian Jesuit Jesuit priest, zoologist and mathematician (b. 1726)
†   1890 – Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical on slavery in missions
†   1934 – Birth of Valentine J Peter, Omaha Nebraska, priest (Boy’s Town 1985- )
†   1942 – Birth of Paulos Faraj Rahho, Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Bishop (d. 2008)
†   1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Mediator Dei”, suggesting new directions and active participation instead of a merely passive role of the faithful in the liturgy, in liturgical ceremonies and in the life of their parish.

(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:

 

“Every time a parent and child ‘express their love and care for one another,’ wherever that may happen, our world has become a little more perfect.” ~ Chris Lowney, “Heroic Living”, Loyola Press

  

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching that when the Son of Man comes in glory, He will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.  (Judgment of Nations)

  

(NAB Matthew 25:31-46) 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’  37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching discourse with His disciples.  The topic is about the “end of time”, – – the coming of the Son of Man, – – and the Final Judgment: the “Parousia”.  We are hearing today, this description of this “changing” event, at the conclusion of our present liturgical year, “the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King”.  Next week starts a new Liturgical year in the Catholic Church (Cycle “B’, using Mark’s Gospel predominately).  With the ending of Matthew’s Gospel, today’s passage might also be read as a wrapping up of Matthew’s account and testimony on Jesus’ life and ministry as well.  The remaining chapters go on to tell the events of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

Do you remember last Sunday’s parable of “the Talents”?  It goes along with today’s narrative.  The “Talents” parable, along with today’s reading, teaches us that the gifts and graces we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us.  Our final judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones of His creations.  In fact, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served “these least ones”, we have served Jesus Christ Himself.  How awesome is that fact!!  (As much as we might like to judge the parables, the parables, nonetheless, judge us as well.) 

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Today’s narrative of Jesus, which is distinctive only to Matthew’s Gospel, portrays the “Final Judgment” that will accompany the “Parousia”.  Although most people call today’s reading a “parable,” it really isn’t a parable, per se.  The only elements of a parable are the 1) depiction of the “Son of Man” as a “shepherd”, and 2) of the “righteous” and the “wicked” as “sheep” and “goats” respectively (Matthew 25:32–33).  

In today’s reading, Jesus describes to His disciples the scene of the Final Judgment of the “Son of Man”, Jesus Christ.  “All the nations” will be assembled before Him, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture.  The “Final Judgments” made by Jesus Christ, will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  Without a doubt, Jesus Himself, – – who suffered through His scourging, and who died a painful death on the Holy Cross, – – identified (and still identifies) Himself with the “least ones” of His flock.  The decisive factor of “judgment” will be the deeds of mercy that have been done for the least of Jesus’ brothers (Matthew 25:40).  

A difficult and important question is how we identify these “least brothers”.  Are they “all people” who have suffered hunger, thirst, etc. (Matthew 25:35-36) or a particular group of such sufferers?  Bible scholars even seem to be divided in their response to this question.  Arguments can be realistically made for either side of the question.  For me, it seems a stronger case can be made for Matthew’s view being that the sufferers are his “Christians”, and probably Christian the missionaries whose sufferings were the result of their preaching of the Gospel.  The measurable criterion of judgment for “all the nations” (verse 32) is revealed by their treatment of those who have heard the message of Jesus Christ, and their ultimate acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ Himself:

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).

So, I think Jesus meant, by saying, “all the nations will be assembled before him”, a reference to the time before the Parousia event when ALL will hear (and thus be responsible) for God’s message:

This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).

Wow!  This means the “Gentiles and Samaritans” will be judged on their response to His “Word” as well.  The phrase “all the nations” includes the Jewish people AND non-Jewish peoples who will be brought to His throne at the “Final Judgment”:

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

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Goats are animals that will consume ANYTHING.  Jesus states that the “Goats”, will be placed to the left – – not an honorable position.  In verse 41, Jesus says:

Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41) 

The “accursed” (Matthew 25:41) – -the “goats” of today’s reading, will be surprised and dumbfounded that their neglect of “the sufferers” was also – – at the same time – – neglect of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Furthermore, they will receive – – from Jesus Christ Himself – –  a similar response at the “Final Judgment”:  separation from His kingdom.

 

Jesus’ story about the separation of goats and sheep must have unsettled His audience, nearly everyone either being shepherds or related in some way to shepherds.  In the barren and parched lands of Palestine, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day because green pasture was sparse indeed.  These animals were only separated at night, as goats apparently need shelter.  Goats were also less submissive and meek; more often “on edge” than sheep are.  Goats even came to symbolize evil, and the expression “scapegoat” has become a common expression for someone who is made to take the blame for others. 

There is even an Old Testament passage eluding to this “scapegoat” expression, and of the ritual expulsion of the “sin-bearing” goat on the Jewish “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur):

When he has finished purging the inner sanctuary, the tent of meeting and the altar, Aaron shall bring forward the live goat.  Laying both hands on its head, he shall confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and their trespasses, including all their sins, and so put them on the goat’s head.  He shall then have it led into the wilderness by an attendant.  The goat will carry off all their iniquities to an isolated region.” (Leviticus 16:20-22)

Jesus is telling us that separation is an inevitable consequence of His judgment.  The Day of “Final Judgment” will reveal who showed true compassion and mercy toward their neighbor (the sheep), and those who have not (the goat).  

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At any banquet of Jesus’ time, the preferred place of honor was ALWAYS to the right of the host.  In today’s reading, the “sheep” will be placed in the place of honor at God’s heavenly banquet.  This expression of the “place of honor” can be seen throughout Holy Scripture, and medieval art.  In the famous painting of the last supper, Simon Peter was immediately to the right of Jesus.  St. Dismas, the good thief, is shown crucified to the right of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus’ throne in Heaven is to the right of God the Father:

“From this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:69)

This right hand “place of honor” is so important of a position that ONLY God the Father can grant such a place hold:

My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left [, this] is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:23)

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So, what are we to “DO” to gain entrance to His kingdom?  Jesus gives more than a hint in verse 35-36:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) 

The Church calls the actions that Jesus described in today’s Gospel the “Corporal Works of Mercy”.  These works are:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit those in prison
  7. Bury the dead

The “righteous” will be amazed to know that in caring for the needs of “sufferers”, they were actually ministering to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as well.  We have to remember the famous verse from Matthew 10:

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42).

 Jesus Christ is going even further in saying:

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

Not only are we to see Jesus in all who we meet, we also “DO” to Jesus whatever we “DO” to each and every person we see.  Hmm, what does that mean when you curse at someone, “flip the bird” at another, or do something immoral or inappropriate toward a neighbor, friend, or family member? (You know the answer!)

Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for others as a role we should endeavor in as faithful Catholics.  God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done, but also for what we have failed to do!! 

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Verse 41 of today’s reading has a scary and prophetic message for all of us, especially thegoats” among us.  I personally do not like the hot weather of St. Louis summers, so this image of a “fiery” hell truly scares me.  This image scared the Jewish people as well.  1 Enoch 10:13 (an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally attributed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah) says of the evil angels and their leader:

When their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is forever and ever is consummated.  In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined forever.  And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all.” (1 Enoch 10:12-14)

I highly recommend a book titled, “23 minutes in Hell”, written by Bill Wiese.  It is an extremely eye opening personal account of someone given the “grace” of being placed at the entrance to hell for a very short period.   Not an enjoyable “read”, but well worth the time.  It may literally scare “the hell” out of you!!

Is there an example of how to live this “doing” to others?  Well, when Saint Martin of Tours, a young Roman soldier from the 4th century AD, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he did an unbelievable thing for that time period.  He stopped at the man, cut his coat in two, and gave half to the stranger.  That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak.  One of the angels asked Jesus, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?”  Jesus replied, “My servant ‘Martin’ gave it to me.”  Martin’s disciple and biographer, Sulpicius Severus, states that as a consequence of this vision, Martin “flew to be baptized”. 

 

In the chapters that follow, in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn the great and boundless extent to which Jesus Christ identifies with the least ones; to the point of giving up His life for the least among us.  In accepting a horrible and excruciating death on the cross, Jesus Christ shows Himself to be one of the hungry, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.  To accept Jesus IS to accept Him – – who suffered and died on the Cross –as one of the least ones.

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To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that we will be judged on only one thing: one’s acts of mercy, which we have shown to the least among us.  Knowing the answers will not suffice; “DOING” the answers is all that counts!!  Jesus identifies with the least ones; thus we serve Him whenever we serve one of the least ones!!  In these actions, these “Corporal Works of Mercy”, we show God’s compassion and mercy to those “least one’s” in need of faith, hope, and love.

God’s boundless love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness.  When we do something for one of Christ’s least and marginalized ones, we do it for Christ Himself.  Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love – – as Jesus Christ has treated you?

Reread the list of the “Corporal Works of Mercy” mentioned earlier.  What are some concrete examples of how you might “DO” these actions in your community?  Why is it important that we “DO” these things, especially for others?  Why does Jesus say we ought to – – need to – – DO these works of mercy?  (The answer is simply because whenever we show mercy to another person, we are also showing mercy to Jesus himself.)  Choose one “Corporal Work of Mercy” to “DO” this week; then add to it each week.  Pray that you will always see, and always serve, Jesus Christ in the least and marginalized ones among us.

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

“O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Edmund Rich (1175 – 1240)

 

Archbishop of Canterbury England, who battled for discipline and justice, also called Edmund of Abingdon.  Edmund was born in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on November 30, 1180.  He studied at Oxford, England, and also in Paris, France.  He taught art and mathematics at Oxford and was eventually ordained to the priesthood.  

He spent eight years teaching theology and became Canon and treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral.  An eloquent speaker, Edmund preached a crusade for Pope Gregory IX and was named archbishop of Canterbury.  He became an advisor to King Henry III and presided in 1237 at Henry’s ratification of the Great Charter.  When Cardinal Olt became a papal legate with the patronage of King Henry, Edmund protested.  

A long-lasting feud between Edmund, the king, and his legate led him to resigning his See in 1240.  He went to Pontigny, France, where he became a Cistercian Priest.  He died at Soissons, on November 16, 1240.  Edmund was canonized in 1246 or 1247.  A hall in Oxford still bears his name.

Patron of: Abingdon, Oxfordshire; Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth; St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

Information from Wikipedia

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and His Message

 

If Saint Francis were writing a letter to your local SFO Fraternity, what do you think he would include in that letter? – Make a list.

Using this idea, can you make up a letter from Saint Francis to your Fraternity?

What inspiration(s) have you found in the letters of St. Francis?  (If you haven’t. you should.)

  

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 20 & 21 of 26:

 

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

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

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

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