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“If Jesus Felt A Need To Pray, Shouldn’t WE Do Likewise?!” – John 17:11b-19†


    

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

My Oldest son’s (Dan, III) last day of school, and his last day at work was this week.  He leaves for boot camp in a month and a half, planning to be a part of Naval Special Operations Group as an “Aviation Rescue Swimmer”.  He’s NOW a man, and I am still concerned for him – – and SOooo PROUD of him!!  It is hard to describe the feelings I have over his “adulthood” and the danger he has chosen to place himself in for OUR protection (He even had a full-ride scholarship and turned it down to serve our country).  I Love him and want to keep him safe – – but can’t. I can only pray for him instead, placing him in God’s hand.  Please pray for him as well.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   325 – The First Council of Nicaea – the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church – is held
†   1277 – Death of Pope John XXI (b. 1215)
†   1444 – Saint Bernardino of Siena, Italian Franciscan missionary (b. 1380) dies at age 63
†   1470 – Birth of Pietro Bembo, Italian cardinal (d. 1547)
†   1571 – Venice, Spain & Pope Pius form anti-Turkish Saint League
†   1825 – Death of Papaflessas, Greek priest and government official (b. 1788)
†   1906 – Birth of Giuseppe Siri, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1989)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Bernardine of Siena; Saint Lucifer; Saint Austregisilus; Saint Ivo of Chartres; Abercius and Helena

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“I don’t honestly believe that any man or woman can get all priorities in life straight alone.  We will always have doubts, fears, tensions, and wonderings without prayer.  We will continuously feel as if we are involved in a great juggling act with all the balls up in the air at once, soon to come plummeting to the ground.  But before God in prayer, we can get our priorities in right order and become one: one integrated person in Jesus Christ.” ~ Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., “Appointment with God“, Apostolate for Family Consecration

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Today’s reflection: Jesus prays for His disciples

 

(NAB John 17:11b-19) 11 Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.  12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13 But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.  16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  17 Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.  18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The background of today’s reading – – Jesus’ prayer to His Father – – comes at the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell discourse He delivered to His disciples at the Last Supper.  The entire 17th chapter of John’s Gospel is a prayer by Jesus – – to His Father – – entrusting and committing Himself to His Father and expressing His care and concern for His disciples.  At the end of this prayer, Jesus and His disciples depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus will ultimately be arrested, starting His Passion and Execution. 

In reading this “Prayer of Jesus” at Mass during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Jesus Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we hear Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Since the sixteenth century, this 17th chapter of John’s Gospel has been called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus.  Through this “prayer”, Jesus speaks as OUR intercessor.  He uses words addressed directly to God the Father and NOT to His disciples, who instead, probably overhear Jesus at prayer.  

On the eve of His sacrifice on the cross, and in the presence of His disciples, Jesus made His high priestly prayer: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that they may be one as we are one“.  Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples and for ALL who would believe in Him.  Jesus’ prayer for His people is that we be united with God the Father, in His Son, and through His Holy Spirit; and we will be joined together in unity with all who are members of Christ’s body.

Jesus’ prayer is one of petition, starting with His asking for an “intercession” in the reading just prior to today’s (cf., John 17:6–19), and for the “security” of future disciples immediately after this particular Gospel reading (cf., John 17:20–21).  Many phrases appear to be reminiscent of Jesus’ example of “how” WE should pray: “the Our Father” prayer.  

Although still in this world, Jesus already looked on His earthly human ministry as a thing of the past.  Jesus has, up to this time, stated that His disciples could not follow Him:

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.” (John 13:33);

Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, where are you going?’  Jesus answered [him], ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.’” (John 13:36).  

Now, in today’s reading, He wishes them to be with Him “in union” with God the Father:

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you.  I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.  I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”  (John 17:12–14).

Several important themes appear throughout Jesus’ prayer to His heavenly Father.  First, Jesus’ prayer reaffirms the complete “union” between Himself and God the Father.  Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has been presented as the “ONE” who preexisted with God the Father, AND, as the “ONE” sent by God the Father to do His work on earth.  In today’s reading, we hear Jesus include ALL His disciples, all of us, in this “union” with His Father.  We are reminded through Jesus’ prayer, that Jesus Christ IS the source of Christian unity.  Through Jesus Christ, we are united with one another AND with God Our Father Himself. 

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So, who is Jesus talking about when He mentions the “son of destruction” in today’s Gospel?  Is it the same “person” John mentioned in a different “title” a few chapters prior:

“I am not speaking of all of you.  I know those whom I have chosen.  But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’” (John 13:18).

I wonder, is Jesus talking about Judas Iscariot, about Satan himself, or about any of his evil disciples on earth?  I believe the answer is, in a way, “YES” to all three possibilities.  What I also believe is that those who follow Jesus with a certainty of faith, trust, and love, will not be overcome by the “son of destruction”!!  John, in his next chapter, will go on to explain this fulfillment of faith, trust, and love: 

“This was to fulfill what he had said, ‘I have not lost any of those you gave me.” (John 18:9).

The above verse (John 18:9) is also referring to two other places in John’s Gospel:

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.” (John 6:39);

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.” (John10:28).

By following Jesus, by have faith, trusting and loving Him, we become His “trusted friend”, eating His “bread”, and thus allowing Him to dwell IN each of us – – nurturing us with His grace:

“Even my trusted friend, who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me” (Psalm 41:10);

When comparing John 13:18 with Psalm 41:10 verse, “Even my trusted friend…has raised his heel against me”, John is characterizing specifically Judas as a false friend.  However, Jesus had many “false friends”, even still today. 

So, Jesus warns His followers about the danger of betrayal, especially toward Himself, or His Heavenly Father:

The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24);

The enormity of such a horrendous deed is such that it would be better not to exist than to do it.  Judas Iscariot was a close disciple of Jesus and should have realized the enormity of his betrayal of Him.  As stated in Bible’s the book of ACTS, Judas was truly and fully warned:

“My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16).

Judas Iscariot was led into an act of deception by not allowing the Holy Spirit to act in and through him.  Instead, Judas allowed the “son of destruction” to claim him.

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Let’s leave Judas and come back to Jesus.  What motivated Jesus to lay down His life on the cross – – as THE atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world?  Well, it was love – – love for His Father in heaven and love for each and every one of us who are made in the image and likeness of God the Father.  Jesus was sent into this world by His Father for a purpose, and that purpose was a mission of love to free each one of us from the slavery to sin, Satan, fear, death, and hopelessness.  Through His endless and infinite love, Jesus dedicated Himself out of pure JOY.

Jesus, in today’s reading, speaks of the joy that can fill each of us who dedicated themselves to His will:

I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely” (John17:13).

A “complete joy” is an important theme for John to relay to his audience.  He previously mentioned a possessing of a “complete joy” in chapter 15 as well:

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

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In this prayer from today’s Gospel, Jesus describes part of His mission in a language of “protection”.  He has protected those who were given – – to Him – – by God the Father; and we hear echoes of dualism reflected throughout.  Beginning with the opening chapter, John has presents Jesus’ human mission in the context of an immense struggle between good and evil – – represented by light and darkness.  In Jesus’ human and divine presence, His disciples have been protected from Satan.  Now, as Jesus is preparing His return to His Father, He prays that His disciples will continue to be protected from the “evil one”.  We can’t help but note the validation of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “the Our Father”.

In Jesus’ prayer to His (and our) Father in Heaven, He utters a simply complex petition resembling a part of the “Our Father Prayer”.  The petition John is referring to in today’s reading is, “deliver us from the evil one.”  

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world j but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

We know this petition is taught to all His disciples, for it can be found in two of the Synoptic Gospels as well, Matthew and Luke:

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13);

Do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:4).

In all three instances of God the Father’s protection from the “final test”, they refer to Satan rather than to abstract evil.

Do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13);

In Jewish “apocalyptic” writings, a period of severe trial will come to ALL before the end of the age.  This period has sometimes been called the “messianic woes” by some Jewish people, yet even still today.  The three examples of this petition just mentioned (John’s, Matthew’s, and Luke’s) asks for Jesus’ disciples (including us) to be safe a “final test”.  Even Paul’s Second letter to his Thessalonians, and John’s first letter to his roman Jewish Christians, relays this promise of safety and security from Satan and evil:

“The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3);

We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18).

Also present in this 17th chapter is the distinction between the world and the disciples.  Disciples are in the world, but they do not belong “TO” the world.  Like Jesus, they (and we) are sent INTO the world for the world’s salvation, knowing the world may not accept His disciples with open arms.  Again, we hear reverberations of John’s theme of the cosmic battle between light and darkness; the world PREFERING darkness.  However, His “light” will never be overcome by the darkness – – His light of truth will prevail.

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Jesus asks His Father to “consecrate” His disciples “in the truth”, and that “truth” being His “Word”:

Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

So, what is “consecrate”? – – what is “truth”? – – and what is “word”?   To consecrate is to make holy, to set apart, to sanctify.  In essence, consecration is a purification of oneself through the words and actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.  (It is a great flushing out of the old self and a gaining of a new and improved “self” – – with and in Christ.)  Peter teaches about this “purified selves” in his first letter to the Christian communities in Asia Minor (A peninsula of western Asia between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; generally the same area as Asian Turkey.):

 “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Jesus also said, “Consecrate in the Truth”.  What is “truth”?  Per the dictionary, “truth” is something honest and sincere, corresponding to fact, or to reality.  Purifying oneself in the honest and sincere fact and reality of Jesus as the “Son of God”, – – OUR personal Redeemer and Savior – – IS the ultimate goal for any Catholic Christian.  Consecrating or purifying oneself in “truthIS immersing oneself in His “Word”!!  In wrapping ourselves in God’s “Word”, we are wrapping our “selves” into what has ALWAYS been, and will always “BE”:

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 beWhat 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)

The “Word” is MUCH more than simply words written into a book.  God’s “WordBegan ALL, Created ALL, Lives through ALL, and Lights the way for ALL.  When the Deacon or Priest holds up the book of the Gospels in procession, or at the Reading of His “Word” (in Mass), he is holding up GOD for all to SEE!!  God’s “Word” burns brightly in each of His disciples.  How bright is your flame?

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In the last two verses of today’s reading, Jesus wraps His “truth”, His “Word”, around each of His disciple, cloaking them in His personal love and protection as He sent them (and us) to continue His work in this world:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (NAB John 17:18-19).

From this day forward, the eleven disciples closest to Jesus were now to be forever called “Apostles” (which means, “those sent”), for they were “sent” out to proclaim His “Word”, love, and peace.  This “sending” of the Apostles (and us – His current disciples) is also the subject of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19);

He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’”  (Mark 16:15);

“And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47).

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In summary, Jesus’ aim and mission was to glorify His heavenly Father.  All He said and did truly gave glory to His Father in heaven.  Jesus saw glory in the cross rather than shame.  Obedience to His Father’s will was His glory.  Jesus kept His Father’s word, even when tempted to forgo the cross.  Jesus did not rely on His own worldly human resources and strength to accomplish His Father’s will.  Instead, He trusted in His Father to give Him strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of opposition, trials, and temptation.  We are encouraged to take up our personal crosses (the big ones and little ones), following our Lord Jesus wherever He may call us to go.  Jesus will give us the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to live as His disciples.

Reading today’s prayer of Jesus, as found in John’s Gospel, during the Easter Season, and through the lens of His upcoming Resurrection, we know that the light of Christ has definitely overcome the darkness of sin and death in our world.  In the opening line of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, we heard Jesus pray that His disciples will be kept “in the name” which He was given by God the Father.  We know salvation is given to us in the name of Jesus, and that Jesus’ name—“God saves”—announces His mission on our behalf.

Jesus prayed that His disciples would be sanctified and consecrated in God’s truth and holiness.  The scriptural word for “consecration” comes from the same Hebrew word meaning “holy” or “set apart for God”.  This word, consecration, also means “to be equipped with the qualities of mind and heart and character for a task or service”.  Just as Jesus was called by His Father to serve in holiness and truth, so are we called and equipped for our task of serving God in the present world as His ambassadors.  

God’s “truth” frees us from ignorance and the deception of sin.  It reveals to us God’s goodness, love, and wisdom; and it gives us a desire for God’s holiness.  The Holy Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness.  As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, He transforms us by His purifying fire, and changes us into the likeness of Christ.  Is your life consecrated to God – – Look in the mirror?

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To conclude, one of the greatest gifts we are given in life is protection from harm.  We personally, in family, and in society, work together to keep one another safe from physical harm.  Think of the effort we parents have taken to make our homes child proof for example.  We, as Christians, also attempt to protect each other from emotional harm as well.  In another example, we attempt to talk to one another in a way as not to hurt one another’s feelings by our words.  And, most importantly, we, as Christians, should work together in protecting each other from what might harm another spiritually.  

When we work together to strengthen God and community, we build a spiritual strength making us able to turn from what would lead us away from God and the Church.  Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in today’s reading is also a prayer for us today.

Jesus left them, and US, with a great blessing along with His sending out message found in today’s reading; a blessing of calm and harmony – – “PEACE”:

 “[Jesus] said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” (John 20:21–22).

I end today’s reflection with the same blessing He gave to each of us, – – “Peace BE With You” as well.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The ‘Our Father’ Prayer

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

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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.

Scripture and Tradition

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

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Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

Most of the saints suffer great personal opposition, even persecution. Bernardine, by contrast, seems more like a human dynamo who simply took on the needs of the world.

He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following St. Francis of Assisi’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”

Compared with St. Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy.  He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary.

When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown, Siena.  Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital.  Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months.  He escaped the plague but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months.  He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt (her parents had died when he was a child) and at her death began to fast and pray to know God’s will for him.

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later.  For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach.  He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.

Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun.  This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions (for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines).  The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings.  Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation.  Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of a branch of the Franciscan Order, the Friars of the Strict Observance, he strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law.  When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000.  He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.

Comment:

Another dynamic saint once said, “…I will not be a burden, for I want not what is yours, but you…. I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes” (2 Corinthians 12:14).  There is danger that we see only the whirlwind of activity in the Bernardines of faith—taking care of the sick, preaching, studying, administering, always driving—and forget the source of their energy.  We should not say that Bernardine could have been a great contemplative if he had had the chance. He had the chance, every day, and he took it.

Patron Saint of: Advertising; Gambling; Compulsive behavior; Italy; Public relations

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 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.

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


Palm Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

Spy Wednesday:

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

PASCHAL TRIDUMM:

Holy Thursday (AKA, Maundy Thursday):

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

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

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

Holy Saturday:

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

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

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

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

  

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The second verse in today’s reading states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verse 24 of Today’s reading states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).

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

INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

 The Apostles Creed

 

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Papacy

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“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.


 

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


 

Sixteenth Sunday
of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Deliberation:

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

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Discovery:

 

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

 

Declaration:

 

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

 

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Today’s Gospel Reading:

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

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

And

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

 

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

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

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

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

 And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously, Jesus also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,  

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Components and Meanings of
“The Parable of the Weeds”

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 86

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Creation and St. Francis

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

 

Day 5  Sun, 7/17

 

Imitation: Cont.: Book 3, Chap. 40

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

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

 

Now recite the daily prayers for Part 1

 

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

 

Veni Creator

 

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

 

Ave Maris Stella

 

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

 

Magnificat

 

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

 

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


 

 

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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Gospel Reflection

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

Т

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26).

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

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

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

 And,

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

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

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In verse 14, Jesus’ cites Isaiah:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

And,

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

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

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

Т

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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 “Psalm 65

 A prayer of praise to God for his abundance

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Holy Scripture

 

How do you use Holy Scriptures in your daily life?

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

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

What is the difference between Divine Revelation and Sacred Scripture?

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…”♫ – Luke 11:29-32†


 

“Wednesday of the First Week of Lent” 

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  During all the fun, frivolities, and “partying”, please reflect on the true purpose and person of celebrity:  St. Patrick Himself.  He is an awesome man of faith, hope, and trust.

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As a father of four teenage boys, and a husband to a very beautiful woman (in body, heart, and soul), this Saturday (March 19th) is a special day for me.  It is the Feast of St. Joseph, Patron of families and fathers. 

Though St. Joseph says absolutely NOTHING in Holy Scripture (my wife says I should follow his lead) in words, his actions say so much about love, trust, and hope.  Remember what St. Francis said:

“Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words”.

 

            Т

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   597 BC – Babylonians captures Jerusalem, replaces Jehoiachin with Zedekiah as king.
†   1072 – Death of Adalbert of Hamburg, German archbishop
†   1249 – The Servite Order is officially approved by Cardinal Raniero Capocci, papal legate in Tuscany.
†   1517 – Pope Leo X signs 5th Council of Lateranen
†   1620 – Death of St. John Sarkander, Moravian priest, died of injuries caused by torturing
†   1649 – Death of Jean de Brébeuf, French Jesuit missionary (b. 1593)
†   1878 – Birth of Clemens August Graf von Galen, German archbishop and cardinal (d. 1946)
†   1988 – North-Ireland Protestant fires on Catholic funeral, 3 killed
†   1998 – Pope John Paul II asks God for forgiveness for the inactivity and silence of some Roman Catholics during the Holocaust.
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Heribert of Cologne (died 1021); Saint Agapitus

(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:

 

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.  The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though they are very large mammals, their throats are very small.

The little girl stated “Jonah was swallowed by a whale”.  The teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it is impossible.

The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.”  The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?”

The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

 

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Today’s reflection is Jesus’ association about “sign’s” from Jonah and Solomon in regards to God’s wisdom and message.

 

(NAB Luke 11:29-32) 29 While still more people gathered in the crowd, he [Jesus] 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.  30 Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.  32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

 

Ever wonder what Jesus would say to our generation if he was physically seen by all, and could actually “talk” to us as a whole group?  Just imagine what the world would be like if we could tune in our radio to “’AM Heaven’ – ‘333 on the radio dial’”!  I believe Jesus would give us the same stern warning He gave to the people of His “human” time; a warning given after the people demanded a sign of His divinity and the future from Him.  Are we still “demanding” signs from Him today? 

At a fast food restaurant this weekend, a nice gentleman whom I personally know as being a devout Christian asked if the earthquakes of the past few years, the tsunami of this past week, and even all the middle-east turmoil happening recently could be a “sign” of the end times.  It certainly doesn’t look good to have “mother earth [sic]” so upset, but in reality, “only God knows the future!”

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

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In Luke’s Gospel, the “sign of Jonah” was a discourse for the need of repentance by a prophet, Jonah, who came to Nineveh from a far away country.  The “sign of Jonah” was interpreted by Jesus as being about His death and resurrection.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus relates a warning regarding Jonah’s mission:

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.  At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.  At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’” (Matthew 12:38-42)

Nineveh was a city in Mesopotamia (in present day Iraq).  The Ninevites accepted Jonah’s warning from God when he spoke to them during His three day sojourn across that large and modern city (for the time period) preaching his warning and prophesy.  After hearing Jonah’s promised warning and prophesies, they repented from their sinful activities.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is evident in Jonah’s mission.  The people confessing and repenting were the key goals of Jonah in his mission.

The Holy Spirit grew out of Jonah, entering into the inhabitants of Nineveh, and then grew in them as well.  I love what the Evangelist John says about being born in the Holy Spirit:

What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)

(Jonah must have given one “whale” of a testimony!  Sorry, I simply had to use this pun!) 

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The Queen of Sheba (from southwestern Arabia) recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 10: 1-10).  Jonah was God’s “sign” and His messenger for the people of Nineveh (cf., Jonah 3).  The Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit offers us a grace of freedom from sin, and a gift of wisdom through the “word” and the presence of the same Holy Spirit in our lives.  To receive this gift and grace, we only need to choose to listen to Jesus, and to follow the path He has set out for us. 

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It was typical and distinctive of the Jewish people to demand a “sign” from God’s messengers – – the prophets – – in order to authenticate their claims.  The religious leaders of the area (the Scribes and Pharisees) pressured Jesus to give proof for His claim that He is sent by God.  In reality, they actually needed no further evidence, from heaven or anywhere else.  All they needed to do was to just listen to Jesus’ beautiful and fully alive words, and to watch His actions, and His love that He displayed towards all He came into contact.  

These Scribes and Pharisees were not satisfied, nor pleased, to accept the sign of God’s divinity – – Jesus Christ – – actually and physically standing before their very eyes.  They were closed minded, and closed hearted!  They had previously rejected the message of John the Baptist in regards to Jesus being “from above and above all”:

John answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him.  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease.’  The one who comes from above is above all.  The one who is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of earthly things.  But the one who comes from heaven (is above all).   He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.  For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.  He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.  The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”  (John 3:27-36)

These same Scribes and Pharisees are again rejecting Jesus as God’s “Anointed One” – – the “Messiah”.  In doing so, they refused to listen to, and to pay attention to, His teachings and message for them.  I wonder if their refusal to listen and pay attention was actually part of God’s plan.  (Hmm)  Thirty or so years earlier, an old man in the Temple named Simeon, had prophesied that Jesus was:

destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34- 35). 

Jesus confirmed His message with many revelations and miracles in order to prepare the Jewish “chosen” people for the greatest of all “signs” (then and now) – – His Resurrection – – during that Passover Sunday morning we now call Easter, and three days after His death on the Holy Tree. 

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There is a particular irony or paradox in what Jesus said (with His obvious biting wit) about “something greater” than Jonah or Solomon having arrived.  (I see a refined and distinct sense of humor in Jesus’ words and actions at times.)  In reality, Jesus is much greater than any other prophet or leader that came before Him, or claimed to be a prophet after Him (i.e., Mohammad, Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.)!  Jesus preferred to restrain and curtail any difference between Himself and any individual found in Old Testament Scripture, no matter how important they were in salvation history.  Jesus did not have the vice of “pride”; do you?!

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Is there a craving for God’s wisdom, via the Holy Spirit, dwelling in and through you?  In His address to the Jewish Christian Community, James said:

Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” (James 3:17). 

Someone who has a proactive, ambitious, and determined purpose to seek God in their lives can receive His message, – – His “wisdom”.  One needs only to want for, long for, and ask for, two things – – “goodness”, and “orderliness” in one’s life according to God’s “wise” plan for salvation and redemption.  Pray to the Lord for His message and wisdom.  Pray for Him to renew your mind with His “word”, and to increase your desire for His wise way.

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Today, I am combining two famous “Franciscan” prayers into one prayer for desire, wisdom, and orderliness:  

 

Saint Francis’ Meditation Prayer, &
Saint Francis’ Vocation Prayer

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clement Mary Hofbauer (1751-1820)

 

Clement might be called the second founder of the Redemptorists, as it was he who carried the congregation of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the people north of the Alps.

John, the name given him at Baptism, was born in Moravia into a poor family, the ninth of 12 children.  Although he longed to be a priest there was no money for studies, and he was apprenticed to a baker.  But God guided the young man’s fortunes.  He found work in the bakery of a monastery where he was allowed to attend classes in its Latin school.  After the abbot there died, John tried the life of a hermit but when Emperor Joseph II abolished hermitages, John again returned to Vienna and to baking.  One day after serving Mass at the cathedral of St. Stephen, he called a carriage for two ladies waiting there in the rain.  In their conversation they learned that he could not pursue his priestly studies because of a lack of funds.  They generously offered to support both him and his friend, Thaddeus, in their seminary studies.  The two went to Rome, where they were drawn to St. Alphonsus’ vision of religious life and to the Redemptorists.  The two young men were ordained together in 1785.

Newly professed at age 34, Clement Mary, as he was now called, and Thaddeus were sent back to Vienna.  But the religious difficulties there caused them to leave and continue north to Warsaw, Poland.  There they encountered numerous German-speaking Catholics who had been left priestless by the suppression of the Jesuits.  At first they had to live in great poverty and preached outdoor sermons.  They were given the church of St. Benno, and for the next nine years they preached five sermons a day, two in German and three in Polish, converting many to the faith.  They were active in social work among the poor, founding an orphanage and then a school for boys.

Drawing candidates to the congregation, they were able to send missionaries to Poland, Germany and Switzerland.  All of these foundations had eventually to be abandoned because of the political and religious tensions of the times.  After 20 years of difficult work Clement himself was imprisoned and expelled from the country.  Only after another arrest was he able to reach Vienna, where he was to live and work the final 12 years of his life.  He quickly became “the apostle of Vienna,” hearing the confessions of the rich and poor, visiting the sick, acting as a counselor to the powerful, sharing his holiness with all in the city.  His crowning work was the establishment of a Catholic college in his beloved city.

Persecution followed him, and there were those in authority who were able for a while to stop him from preaching.  An attempt was made at the highest levels to have him banished.  But his holiness and fame protected him and the growth of the Redemptorists.  Due to his efforts, the congregation, upon his death in 1820, was firmly established north of the Alps.

He was canonized in 1909.

Comment:

Clement saw his life’s work meet with disaster.  Religious and political tensions forced him and his brothers to abandon their ministry in Germany, Poland and Switzerland.  Clement himself was exiled from Poland and had to start all over again.  Someone once pointed out that the followers of the crucified Jesus should see only new possibilities opening up whenever they meet failure.  He encourages us to follow his example, trusting in the Lord to guide us.

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

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Creed

 

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

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

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Prayer II

What forms of prayer do you use (structured prayers; meditation; and contemplation)?  Why, or why not?  Should you?

What are the forms of recommended structured prayers for “our SFO office”? (Ask someone if you do not know the various structured prayers)

Do your prayers express or capture the same exuberance we find in Sts. Francis and Clare?  Why?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

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

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

“Enough Already, ENOUGH! Worry About It Tomorrow – Or, Maybe Not At All!” – Matthew 6:24–34†


 

Why is this Sunday called “Septuagesima”?  How did Lent come to be 40 days in length?

Because in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans, some pious Christian congregations in the earliest ages of the Church, especially the clergy, began to fast seventy days before Easter, on this Sunday, which was therefore called Septuagesima” – the seventieth day. The same is the case with the Sundays following, which are called Sexagesima, Quinquagesima , Quadragesima, because some Christians commenced to fast sixty days, others fifty, others forty days before Easter, until finally, to make it properly uniform, Popes Gregory and Gelasius arranged that all Christians should fast forty days before Easter, commencing with Ash-Wednesday.

http://calefactory.org/books/goffine/septuagesima.htm

 

 

 

With this blog reflection, I have added a new “temporary’ section titled,”New Translation of the Mass”.  I will rotate and repeat 11 changes in the congregation’s part of the Mass, until the beginning of Advent this year.

Hopefully it will be interesting and educational.  Please let me know.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1862 – Saint Gabriele dell’ Addolorata, patron of Italian Catholic youth, dies at age 23
†   1891 – Birth of Anne Samson, oldest-ever nun documented (d. 2004)
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI publishes constitution “motu proprio Quo aptius”
†   1994 – Maronite church near Beirut bombed, 10 killed
†   1995 – Death of Philip Sherrington, opus Dei Priest, at age 51
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows; Saint Leander; Saint Honorine

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.”  – Blaise Pascal 

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

On February 6, the Church celebrates the memory of the first Christian martyrs of Japan (protomartyrs), all 26 of whom were crucified on a hill just outside Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. This group consisted of 6 Friars Minors, seventeen Japanese Franciscan Tertiaries, three other Japanese, Jesuit priest Paul Miki, and his two catechists. Among the friars, the most known was Pietro Battista, a Spanish priest who had been sent to evangelize Japan along with other Franciscans from the Philippines in 1593.

They worked tirelessly proclaiming the gospel, and building churches and a hospital in Meako. In November 1596, more Franciscans had arrived in Japan when their ship ran aground because of a sea storm. Among them was Felipe de Jesus who was traveling from the Philippines to his native Mexico to be ordained as a priest. Since he began collaborating in the mission, he was also condemned to die when emperor Taycosama, who had initially accepted Christian missionaries, imposed an edict condemning to death these friars coming from the Philippines and their companions.

The group was forced to walk from Kyoto to Nagasaki, a distance of over 800 km, enduring cold weather conditions, and suffering imprisonment, torture and public scorn. Once they were crucified, their executioners pierced them on both sides with two spears crossing each other inside the chest and coming out of their bodies by the shoulders, causing them to die almost immediately.

Felipe de Jesus was the first one to be executed and became the first Mexican saint. In one of the letters Peter Baptist wrote during his final days, he stated: The sentence pronounced against us was written on a sign and carried before us. The sign read that we were condemned to death because we preached the law of Nauan (i.e., the law of Christ) contrary to the command of Taycosama and would be crucified when we reached Nagasaki. For this we were happy and consoled in the Lord since we had forfeited our lives to preach his law.

These martyrs provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our Christian commitment to proclaim the gospel in our present world not only with our words, but also with our lives. They were courageous and faithful in witnessing Christ through evangelization, service, and accepting persecution gladly and with relentless hope.

Their witness also helps to illustrate the content of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of Peace 2011 (numbers 6-10), especially regarding the public dimension of faith. This dimension should be acknowledged and respected by all societies as a path for true peace and integral human development.

http://www.ciofs.org/ratio/2010/EN201102.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching about the meaning of “Enough”.  His message is: “Don’t worry about tomorrow”.  Jesus tells all to not look at the past too long; rather, let tomorrow take care of itself.  Pay attention to today.

 

24 “No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?  27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  28 Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.  30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  32 All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  (NAB Matthew 6:24–34)

 

Our ultimate goal is God; and to attain this goal, one needs to commit oneself – – fully, totally, and entirely to God. (Could I stress the complete surrender one needs any better?!)  One cannot have two supreme and opposing goals. 

Today’s Gospel reading is the final (third) part of the instructions from the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus.  Today, He is teaching on the way of life in the kingdom of Heaven on earth.  This reading, and its associated reflection, is about trusting God and performing “acts of loving service” to our neighbor’s on a daily basis. 

(The first two parts of the “Sermon on the Mount” and its associated reflections can be found at):

Part one: “Blessed are the …. AH, You Know ‘em! So, start LIVING ‘EM!” – Matthew 5:1-12a:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/%e2%80%9cblessed-are-the-%e2%80%a6-ah-you-know-%e2%80%98em-so-start-living-%e2%80%98em%e2%80%9d-matthew-51-12a%e2%80%a0/

Part two: ♫“All We Need Is Love; Dah, – Dah, Dah Dah, Dah!”♫ – Matthew 5:38–48:

https://sfodan.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/%e2%99%ab%e2%80%9call-we-need-is-love-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah%e2%80%9d%e2%99%ab-matthew-538%e2%80%9348%e2%80%a0/

 

What do the phrases “serving two masters” and “being anxious” have in common?  They each have the same internal source: a division within oneself.   The word “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds”. 

“But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)

(It sounds a little schizophrenic to me.)  “Anxiety”, as used in today’s Gospel reading, is when someone tries to live in two “kingdoms”: God’s kingdom, and a materialistic (some may say Satanic) “kingdom.”  Anxiety and God’s kingdom are in conflict with each other; yet, we find ourselves apparently needing to do both.

However, Jesus is telling us “NOT TO WORRY”!  Anxiety and worry can pull us away from our relying on God just as assuredly as deliberate acts of evil!  We know we chose to follow God’s principles and values, His path; OR, we find ourselves following the world’s principles and values, which, at the moment, may appear to be the right thing to do.  That, which we choose to do, becomes our “master”.   Jesus is informing us that there are some true absolutes; He reveals that we come to a point of choosing between God, OR, “mammon”.

“Mammon”?  What is “Mammon”?  (Hint: It is NOT a pagan God of old.)  It is an Aramaic word (Jesus’ native language) meaning “wealth” or “property”.  Jesus is stating that we can have only one “FIRST” priority in life; either God or earthly processions (without God). 

The word “mammon”, in reality, does not have a negative connotation.  Jesus is NOT saying we must forgo earthly material processions and wealth.  He is only saying that God needs to be our preeminent and foremost priority in life.  One can have both God and “mammon”; but can only “serve” one or the other.  We human beings are not self-sufficient; we are dependent on something outside ourselves.  Jesus, in no way, denies the reality of our human needs.  In fact, Jesus teaches us that our first or top-most priority, that of seeking God and His kingdom, assures us He will provide all material “wealth” and “property” needed (all our human material needs).  For Jesus reveals an awesome fact:

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32)

Jesus goes on to say:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) 

However, He forbids us from making earthly material processions an object of worry, fret, and restless care.  In doing so, we would in effect, become a slave to materialism instead of a “slave” to God and His divine will and providence.  In a sense, we would be practicing a form of idolatry in placing earthly material objects “first”, over God’s love and providence.  We have to keep God first in all we do, all we say, all we see, and all we think.

As for me, I believe I am in the palm of His hands, and He will work for my “good”:

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I just pray every single day that I don’t “spit” into His hands, which are holding me!

Since we DO need material “goods”; we do know God works “good” in all we do, therefore, that is why Jesus tells us NOT TO WORRY, no less than four times in today’s Gospel reading!  So, Jesus is simply reminding us NOT to be anxious or “worry” over our needs and wants.  

Look at the beauty of nature.  The birds “do not sow or reap”.  The flowers “do not work or spin” cloth.  Yet they are still provided for by God.  Human beings are worth much more than any other creations of God – we are given a soul, and the graces of free-will and reasoning.  So, how could God not provide for us, as He does for all other creation?  If what we place first in our lives is God and His kingdom, along with His providence and justice, we will have what we need. PERIOD!

I think Jesus is really awesome when He shows us the value of the very ordinary things in life: eating, drinking (of course, only milk and diet Mt. Dew), and our choice of clothes.  He is teaching us, even still to this day, to put our entire trust and love in the providence of God, our heavenly Father; and simply to surrender ourselves into the arms of our Father, God.

Jesus asks:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:27)

Jesus is actually asking His disciples if worry can add anything to one’s physical size, length of life, or quality of one’s actions and beliefs.  Compared to eternity in heaven or hell, Worry is an emptyconcept; it has no value when God is a priority in one’s life.

We need to realize that to do the job of “self-reliance”, we need one positive help (God’s grace/truth), and one negative strategy (Don’t worry).  For example, we can’t prevent all sickness and injury in ours and others lives, not to mention death.  So, just stop worrying!  It actually should be liberating for us to know that our well-being and that of others as well, does not depend SOLELY on us!  God is at work in our lives individually, and continuously – – oftentimes invisibly, in the background (if not around the corner) – – to provide for us and others, and to make up for what is lacking in our lives.

 

The words “of little faith” (verse 30) are found in five places in Matthew’s Gospel, but only once in one parallel verse from Luke’s Gospel:

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

It is used by the Gospel writer, Matthew, for those who are Jesus’ disciples; yet, whose faith in Him is not as deep as it should be (sounds like a lot of people I know, even today, within the Catholic faith.).

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

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

“When Jesus became aware of this he said, ‘You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?’” (Matthew 16:8)

“He[Jesus] said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:20)

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying:

“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

What does Jesus mean by seeking the “righteousness” of the kingdom?  Righteousness is an awareness of orderliness in relationship to God; it is also an awareness of Jesus’ sovereignty.  Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, proclaims Jesus to be the “mightier” one (cf., Matthew 3:11) who was to come, and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  For us, as disordered, sinful humans, righteousness given to us is in the saving ability and activities of God in our lives.  Righteousness comes to us in our willingness to submit to God’s plan for our salvation.  Our seeking and receiving sets us apart onto God’s property, making us holy.  (Holiness means being set apart for a specific purpose.)

 

I found it inspiring that Pope Paul VI specifically commented on today’s reading with relationship to the idea of poverty, when he said,

“Why poverty?  Is it to give God, the kingdom of God, the first place in the values which are the object of human aspirations.  Jesus says: ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.’  And He says this with regard to all the other temporal goods, even necessary and legitimate ones, with which human desires are usually concerned.  Christ’s poverty makes possible that detachment from earthly things which allows us to place the relationship with God at the peak of human aspirations.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, January 5, 1977)

I began to realize that His relationship with God was the peak of Jesus’ human aspirations.  That priority set Him apart from all His brethren.  Jesus’ seeking first the kingdom set Him apart as the ONE “master”, who alone, has the power to set us free from slavery of the disorder of sin, fear, pride, and all those other bad things, vices, and disordered desires.  That “master”, the Lord Jesus Christ is saving us daily from all that would keep us constrained in such fears, anxieties, and sins by our worrying.  God provides for his creatures in the natural order of His creation, as well as in the order of grace.  So, how much more can we expect our heavenly Father – – our creator – – to do in order to sustain not only our physical bodies, but also our spiritual minds, hearts, and souls as well?  It is His nature to love, heal, forgive, renew, and to make whole again His image of Himself in us.  His way, saves us when we choose to place Him and His kingdom of righteousness FIRST in our lives.  

So, by not worrying, we are freed to address each day’s problems as they come.  Therefore, do not harbor worries and frustrations; they consume the mind, heart, and soul!  Instead, be confident that we are each individually, in God’s loving and magnificently merciful care.  He will most certainly care for us, if we allow Him!  Do not worry then about what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow. 

One who pays heed to the wind will not sow, and one who watches the clouds will never reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

“Do your duty ‘now’, without looking back on ‘yesterday’, which has already passed, or worrying over ‘to-morrow’, which may never come for you.” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 253)

In foregoing worry, we are given a grace of wisdom based on God’s Fatherly providence, as well as on our own life experiences.

 

In our life-span, we learn to care for our own needs, and the needs of others.  As we grow, we learn to take responsibility for ours and others’ needs.  Sometimes, caring for one’s need means being unable to do other tasks which we would much rather enjoy.  At times, I am certain we are all enticed, coaxed, and/or tempted to NOT take responsibility for our given obligations.  We are tempted to put our own needs ahead of others.  

What are the consequences of making such a choice in our life?  Food for thought: How you spend your time, your money, and your THOUGHTS, will reveal to you what is MOST important in your life – – and what “god” you truly follow: God Himself, OR god the idol of things! 

The previous sentence highlights “your Thoughts”; it was a revelational doozy for me!  I could understand, and diligently support, the concepts of spending one’s time, talents, and treasures to show one’s love for God.  But our “thoughts” as proof of our dedication to God?!  Yep; one’s preoccupations, one’s consuming interests, and even one’s daydreams are truly and definitely important indicators of what one worships in life! – WOW!

Can you think of a time in which you have experienced God’s care for yourself and your family and friends?  God cares for us, on an individual and communal basis, every single day (every single moment) of our lives and the lives of others!  He will never, ever, forget us!  God looks after the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field.  Please remember, and thank God daily, that we are worth much more than ALL the other things within His creation.  

 

Prayer of St. 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; and where there is sadness, joy.

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

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862 )

 

Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.

His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.

Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.

Comment:

When we think of achieving great holiness by doing little things with love and grace, Therese of Lisieux comes first to mind. Like her, Gabriel died painfully from tuberculosis. Together they urge us to tend to the small details of daily life, to be considerate of others’ feelings every day. Our path to sanctity, like theirs, probably lies not in heroic doings but in performing small acts of kindness every day.

Patron Saint of: Clergy and Bitterness

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)

 

 

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.

Currently, the priest says, “The Lord be with you” five times: at the Entrance Rite, before the Gospel, when the Eucharistic Prayer starts, at “the sign of peace”, and finally at the dismissal. The new response from the congregation will be “And with your spirit”, instead of “And also with you”.

This is a more direct translation of the Latin and matches what many other language groups have been using for years.  It will obviously take some adjustment, since we have been used to saying, “And also with you,” for so long.

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule: 

 

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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