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


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

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

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

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

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

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

Pax et Bonum,
Mike DePue, OFS

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PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE “YEAR OF FAITH”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joke of the Day:

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

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

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Gospel Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus answered him,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:  

Prayer of Surrender

 

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

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

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

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

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

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“You Cannot Mention My Father’s Name. However, I Truly Want You To Use MINE!” – Mark 9:38-48†


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

As Catholics, we are to achieve a “unity of life”, letting our faith form our political decisions as we prepare to vote this November:

“We have important obligations as citizens.  But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God” (Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles).

We, per Jesus’ “Word”, are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”  We are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws, and to respect society and government.  These responsibilities are what we render unto Caesar. 

What we render unto God – – IS FAITH. This means that “we can’t forget about the Church’s teachings and the demands of God’s law.  We have to make sure our participation and our contributions ALWAYS reflect the moral and religious values we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church.

When Catholics go to the voting booth, there are NON-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching.  Abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between a man and a woman, are among those that are non-negotiable!!

However, many issues ARE, and can be, debatable among Catholics.  Such issues include the economy, taxes, government spending, immigration, foreign affairs, and helping the poor and marginalized.  All these topics are matters for careful judgment – – careful CHOICE.  In such areas, we are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles and teachings among members of our faith community.

So, what is a Catholic to do this November when we go to vote for our future?  What is important to remember is that we are always think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church in voting and in other civic responsibilities.

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Quote of the Day:

 

“We want with all our hearts to love, to BE “love”.  When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.  God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us.  And so we should see Christ in others.” ~Dorothy Day, “My Wounded Hands“, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that whoever is not against Him – – is FOR Him.  Are YOU a fan, or a follower?

(NAB Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)  38 John said to him, l “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Last week we heard Jesus rebuke His disciples for their arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus taught them that the greatest among them will be those who serve the least among us.  Today, Jesus’ closest disciple, John, questions Jesus about an “unknown exorcist”, driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John’s question to Jesus, in today’s reading, looks to have been motivated by simple jealousy:

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us (Mark 9:38). 

I believe John’s question is evidence that Jesus’ disciples have not completely grasped the meaning of Jesus’ “Words”.  These twelve extremely close followers of Jesus continue to compare themselves to others, especially others who appear to have greater healing powers than they possess.  They DO NOT want to share the power of Jesus’ name with others.  John and the other “disciples” even try to stop the man “because he was not following us“.

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Jesus’ reply is, in itself, filled with wisdom:

Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me (Mark 9:39).

Jesus strongly warns against jealousy and intolerance toward others who do not follow in His and our particular ways of faith, and leading to making false judgments.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian’s:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Let me ask you all a question: “Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to stand out more than us?”  I remember as a child being told by the Nuns teaching at my parochial school that ONLY Catholics would go to heaven.  All others would go to Hell, purgatory, or the infamous “limbo” (with the un-baptized infants), and going no further towards a full glory found in heaven.  Thank God (literally) that our closed-minded misunderstanding of dogma no longer exists in the Catholic faith today. 

All of us have to keep in mind that the Catholic Church was established by Christ Himself, at the “Last Supper”, and it has continued without a break in Apostolic Succession to the present day.  Yet, this “perfect” Church is filled with imperfect, sinful souls.  All can achieve the glorious perfection of heaven through their individual actions in this world, even without ever hearing the “Words” of Christ.  Christ knows all of us BY our works:

I [God] know your works (Revelations 3:15);

Christ knows all of us BY our faith and HOW we show our faith through our works:

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

With this in mind, there are many Catholics walking on the much easier road to Hell than much more difficult path to paradise.  These materialistic, jealous, judgmental people think they will be saved simply because they attend Mass when necessary, by sending their children to a parochial school, and by supporting their parish and diocese.  At the same time, they cheat, steal, tell lies, look at pornography, and so on.

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In today’s more medically advanced society, the “demon possession” described in Mark, might be seen as only a form of mental illness.  However, the need for healing, including for those with mental illness, was as real for them in the first-century, as it is for us still today.  “Exorcism” was a common practice during Jesus’ time on earth.  We know some people had the power to heal the symptoms of possession then, just as priests are able to do so now.  One of the strategies used in “driving out demons” was, and is still, by invoking the name of a person or figure believed to have the divine power and authority to heal: e.g., Jesus Christ.

The disciples observed that the “unknown exorcist” invoking Jesus’ name was potentially successful in his healing of others (hot-diggity-dogma!!).  This unknown healer recognized the power of Jesus’ name as truly having a divine power in itself, even though this “healer” who was not a member of the clan following of Jesus.  Even though this “healer” was an “outsider”, he must have believed in Jesus, by the fact of using His name. 

In Jesus’ reply to His disciples, He acknowledges that deeds of faith certainly can – – and DO – – precede the words of faith.  Our actions are more powerful than words alone.  Jesus continues teaching His disciples that they should not be reluctant to share Jesus’ healing powers with others.  In other words, we should “spread the wealth” of His grace and its power!!

In Mark 9:40, Jesus’ axiom truly demonstrates a broad attitude, belief, and tenet found in displaying His divine patience, lenience, and charitable tolerance toward others:

Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).

Even the smallest of considerations are shown to those who teach in Jesus’ name: – – and they will not go unrewarded!!  This axiom, this saying, compels a warning: there is NO position for a “neutral” stance where Jesus is concerned.  He Himself states to ALL present that they are either for or against Him – – they are either hot or cold.  NO lukewarm faith is allowed in His Kingdom:

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

Jesus goes on further to speak about the positive effects in works of faith; in other words, those who act their faith in their love for God and others are those who are “hot”:

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

Т

Was Jesus’ exaggerating when He urged His followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences found in the last half of this reading (Mark 9:42-48)?  (I believe not.)  The last six verses (Mark 9:42-48) of this Gospel relate to the consequences of sin on one’s life.  Tying a heavy stone and being thrown into the sea, cutting your hand or foot off, or plucking your eye out, in order to save yourself from Hell, is an extremely vivid and morbid image to contemplate.  These images make me think of the idea of ALL of His children being part of His Church body.  If one of us sins, it truly affects ALL of us.  If a “sinner” remains unrepentant, they separate themselves from the Church body (Self-excommunication, which means they are out of fellowship with Christ – – until they choose to acknowledge their sin and repent). 

Just as a doctor might remove a limb, or some other part of the body, in order to preserve the life of the whole person, so too must we be ready to part with anything causing us to sin, leading to a spiritual death.  Jesus warns His disciples of the terrible responsibility of not putting stumbling blocks in the path of another.  Jesus warns us to not give offense or bad example, which may lead another to sin.  Even the first-century Jews understood that giving offense, or giving a bad example, is sinful since leads another TO sin.  If we lead another to sin, that person in turn may lead still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end – – and with assured devastation occurring – – unless someone harkens to an inspired conscious and grace, then to acknowledge their behavior as sin, and finally, to ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. 

Т

Remember: Christ came to heal; He was the first “medic” coming into – – and onto – – the field of battle: the Jewish nation, PLUS, ALL our individual souls, i.e., the whole human race.   His salves and bandages are the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  They all heal our wounds of sin and strengthen our moral character.  Jesus treats ALL who come to Him (His practice is open 24 hours per day) with a pure love.  He expects us to treat people with His healing example of love.

With Jesus, there is no longer a need to cut off, or pluck out, anything to gain entrance to heaven.  Instead, we are to put on a great gift which Jesus gave to each and every one of us: the sanctifying grace of Himself and His Spirit!!  Through a proper faith in Jesus, we no longer have to worry about eternal misery with Satan.  After all, “Gehenna” does not sound like a fun place to be:

 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

Ironically, it is interesting the number of people who end up going to Hell, even though they are aware of the consequences to their earthly actions.  There is not much, if anything, written about Hell that is positive.  So, why do we sin, knowing our action puts us on this road?  The answer is “Satan”  Satan is always wanting another soul – – NOT – – to go to paradise in heaven, but instead, to come to eternal misery and pain in HIS kingdom.  This is his only goal: JEALOUSY – – to take a soul away from GOD!!

The word, “Gehenna” (Mark 9:44, 46), is an interesting word indeed.  It refers to a valley just southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  To the Hebrew’s, this valley is known as the “Valley of Hinnom” (pronounced “gê-hinnōm”), or the “Valley of the son of Hinnom” (“gê ben-hinnōm”).  Gehenna was at one time the center of an idolatrous cult during a monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice.  This specific place is mentioned in two books of Jewish Scripture, our present-day Old Testament:

The king also defiled Topheth [a place of torment and punishment where the wicked are sent after death] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation [killing; sacrifices] of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech [a Semitic deity]” (2 Kings 23:10);

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they go on building the high places of Topheth to sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire, something I never commanded or considered”(Jeremiah 7:31).

The concept of punishing sinners by fire, either after death, or after the final judgment, is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature:

Seventy shepherds were judged, and found guilty, and they also were thrown into that abyss of fire.  And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house. (Enoch 90:25-26**)

** (The “Book of Enoch” is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from a group known as “Beta Israel”.  It is regarded however, as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, but no other Christian group. ~ From Wikipedia)

“Gehenna” is traditionally used as an image of the invisible reality of the place of eternal punishment written about in the New Testament – – HELL!  Saying either Gehenna or Hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, reminds me of another morbidly vivid description found in the book of Isaiah:

 “They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence [revulsion] to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24).

Per Isaiah, God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the “New Jerusalem” – – understood to be heaven.  As in the time of Isaiah, Jesus’ time on earth also had huge cemeteries of dead and decaying corpses, filth of every type, and societal/human waste scattered about in this “Valley of Hinnom” – – Gehenna – – JUST outside the city.  There still are many of God’s enemies surrounding us today – – the “living dead” who have rejected Jesus Christ.

Т

Jesus teaches us NOT to create obstacles for those who are just beginning to have faith, but to encourage even the smallest signs of faith.  In the vivid terms of today’s reading, Jesus teaches His disciples the consequences of putting obstacles before people on their road to faith.

The second part of today’s Gospel (Mark 9:42-48) contains a strong message for those sharing the responsibility of fostering faith in Jesus to others, an AWE-some responsibility.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that “FAITH” is a continuous, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, lifelong journey toward happiness – – which is God Himself!!  We don’t always understand our journey, or even stay on-track at times.  However, we should pray daily for the grace – – His grace – – to acknowledge and build upon even the smallest signs of faith, in ourselves, and in others.  This is what HOPEIS for Catholic Christians.   In today’s world, there are plenty of obstacles preventing the growth of faith in many individuals.  Pray you are not contributing to the obstacles, thus hindering another person’s continuously growing faith in Jesus Christ; instead continue to choose to encourage and strengthen that faith in others as well as ourselves.

We have a calling to confront obstacles to faith.  In dealing with obstacles confronting you, you may be called upon to use courageous, bold, outspoken word, and unpopular actions in order to surmount and break down that obstacle.  Perhaps God is calling YOU to break down that obstacle for another.  Saint Francis, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and a radical challenger to Church of his day, broke down many obstacles in his public ministry, always with a sincere love, and with definite actions of faith and love.   Saint Francis routinely said:

Preach the Gospel, and at times, use words”.

Are you being called for a “challenge”, just as Saint Francis was called?  In a little, dilapidated, weathered chapel known as San Damiano, Jesus Christ spoke to him with the following words:

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

Т

There are many people and things in our daily lives nurturing our faith, and, also attempting to hinder our faith.  Those nurturing our faith include: healthy family relationships and friendships, good literature, EWTN, Healthy Church life, retreats, and so on.  Those things that might be obstacles to our faith may include: improper relationships, scandals, bad habits, sin, and so on.

Jesus teaches us, in today’s Gospel, that we are to do everything possible to help another HAVE faith in Jesus Christ.  We are also to do everything possible to avoid creating obstacles hindering another’s faith life.  Pray that you will be a faith-filled Catholic Christian, helping others grow in faith, that you do not create obstacles for others obtaining or growing in faith.  YOU ARE the next “unknown exorcist” to proclaim God’s Word and Plan by your actions, and by passing on your faith to the next generation!

ТТТ

 

 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

ТТТ

 

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


            

Today in Catholic History:


†   1154 – Death of Saint Wulfric of Haselbury Plucknett
†   1431 – Death of Pope Martinus V, [Oddo Colonna], Italian, (b. 1368)
†   1798 – Louis Alexandre Berthier removes Pope Pius VI from power.
†   1994 – Pope John Paul II demands juristic discrimination of homosexuals

(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:

 

An “eye for an eye” will make the whole world blind. ~ Gandhi

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Bringing the Christian message to modern man. We have stressed the importance of this theme of evangelization on many occasions. On June 22, 1973, we said to the Sacred College of Cardinals: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity.” And we added that in order to give a valid answer to the demands of the Council which call for our attention, it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible.

 

Burning questions. This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization. It poses three burning questions, which the 1974 Synod kept constantly in mind:

– In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience?

– To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?

– What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?

Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people’s hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?

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

 

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus commanding us to love our enemies, and to pray for your persecutors.

 

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.  43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?  47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.   (NAB Matthew 5:38–48)

 

Imagine Sister Death [a Franciscan concept and term] coming for you and taking you to the paradise we know as heaven.  The very first person you meet, after Jesus of course, is the one person you liked the least in life!  It is a very possible reality!  Remember, God loves each one of us, individually, and without regard for OUR perceived earthly status of others!  The Pharaoh of “Moses” fame, King Herod the Great, Judas, Hitler, and even today’s abortion practitioners may be in paradise with us.  After all, these much loved creations of God (though hated by man) may have chosen to repent, acknowledge their sinfulness, and may have received forgiveness for their transgressions on earth.  A prime example is St. Dismas while hanging on the cross:

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:39-43)

When Jesus talked about the law God gave to the Jewish people, He did something no one previously had ever done before.  He gave a new benchmark or norm based not only on the condition of “justice” (a sound or good reason, fairness and reasonableness), but also based on the higher law of grace and love.

Today we have the last two teachings offered at the “Sermon on the Mount”.  They both deal with love of our enemies.  Jesus is speaking extremely powerful words here.  In the first part of His discourse, He is teaching on a well known (to the common Jewish person) Levitical Law:

 “Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth!  The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return.”  (Leviticus 24:20)

Jesus knew the Mosaic Law – – and its intention – – better than any Pharisee, Sadducee, or Scribe could ever conceive and understand.  In today’s reading, Jesus quotes from Mosaic Law:

But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:23-25)

We should not understand “an eye for an eye” as an extremely harsh punishment for all crimes.  It was actually meant to limit acts of revenge by making sure the punishment was not excessive, but equitable: only “fitting” the crime or act done.  

Scripture scholars believe the language of this law came from the Semitic people surrounding them, from whom the Israelites stemmed.  So, this old ‘law” may seem quite cruel by today’s standards.  However, this law meant to limit vengeance, and to promote mercy.  In reality, the law was not normally taken “literally”, but instead served as a guide to discern for a “judge” as equitable punishment and penalty for a particular offense or crime.  It was prescribed so that the punishment from one “injured” would not exceed any injury done during the initial crime/sin.  

Now, Jesus uses this part of Holy Scripture to contrast His idea of the better, higher, more humane standard with the limited law of basic qualities.  Then He is asking His followers to take a different approach by resisting retaliation altogether.  Jesus is saying that, for His disciples, the way in His everlasting paradise in heaven, goes far beyond what this old covenant law prescribes.  We are now challenged to suppress the proportionate retaliation previously set by law, and to take the courageous step to even forgive the offender.  This is living the new law of mercy, set by Jesus Himself.  Of the five examples found in verses 38-42 of today’s reading, only the first example (eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) deals directly with retaliation for evil.  The other four speak of charity, kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy, and even LOVE for one’s enemy.  A sense of forgiveness and an absence of pride are the “new” norm which plays the essential role in His “love” command.

 

Jesus’ country was invaded by, occupied by, and ruled by a Roman government and military.  Roman soldiers in Jesus’ Palestine had the right to annex and/or requisition any property and/or services of the Jewish population by Roman civil law.  This could also include forcing people to perform specific functions – a type of conscription.

If you remember the Passion narratives, Simon is conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross:

“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.” (Mark 15:21)

Jesus is saying that the righteous man will purposely “go the extra mile” for another, with no expectation of reward or thanks. 

 

Mercy me!  Mercy Me!  Mercy is the key!  (I’m a poet & didn’t know it!)  The Old Testament is full of citations involving the directive that we must be merciful:

 “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18). 

Say not, ‘As he did to me, so will I do to him; I will repay the man according to his deeds.’”  (Proverbs 24:29)

If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink.”   (Proverbs 25:21). 

 “Let him offer his cheek to be struck, let him be filled with disgrace.”  (Lamentations 3:30). 

The response to a person who strikes us on the face, takes us to court, or demands a service of us is not simply to resist and retaliate, but to offer ourselves to seek reconciliation and even to be ready and willing to surrender our property out of love.  Those who are called to the Kingdom of Heaven are to go beyond the way of the secular world and to serve God’s people and kingdom.

The next difficult level expected of those followers who are invited to God’s kingdom is the willingness and the ability to embrace our enemies: first to forgive, and then to love them.  

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”  (Leviticus 19:18)

There was a religious attitude among the people of Jesus’ time on earth that allowed one to hate those not “neighbors” (meaning anyone not Israelites), and to distance oneself from those who are not their “neighbor”.  Jesus corrects this misinterpretation (cf., the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).  

In contrast to “hate”, Jesus emphasizes that “love of God” and the “love of neighbor” are the two primary and essential directives on which all other commandments and laws revolve.  He further extends these “love” commandments to our enemies and our persecutors.  He extends its meaning to encircle, to take-in, all men – – even our enemies.   His disciples, as children of God and followers of Christ, need to imitate the example of God the Father, who grants His gifts of “sun” and “rain” to all people and all creation, both good and bad.  A Christian, a true Catholic, has NO personal enemies!  Our ONLY enemy is evil – – SIN – – and NOT the “sinner”!

There is absolutely NO room for retaliation or retribution in God’s kingdom.  We need to avoid returning “evil for evil”.  We must seek the good in those who wish us a bad fate, ill-will, or harm.  The virtue of love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian – – of a Catholic: universal LOVE!  The universal call to holiness is not a recommendation, but rather, a commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How often have you accepted insults and abuse without any resentment, malice, or anger – – as Jesus showed us in His example?  When you are required to do more than you believe you should, do you insist on an equitable division, special attention, and/or “rights”; OR, do you respond with grace, joyfulness, and contentment?  

 

“Tax collectors” were Jews who engaged in the collection of taxes, tolls, and customs.  Tax collectors contracted with the Roman civil government for the right to collect these taxes within their districts.  In essence, they became sub-contractors of the Roman government, the “occupying force” in Palestine.  Whatever they could covertly and overtly collect above their allotment of pay became a profit by “embezzlement or extortion”.   Reasonably assumed, and without any doubt in my mind, abuses of embezzlement and extortion were widespread among the Jewish population.  Under-handed and crooked tax collectors were well-known and NOT liked.  Therefore, Jewish tax officials were not only NOT liked, they were disgraced, regarded as sinners and outcasts of their Jewish community – – along with their families.

Jesus’ disciples are not to be solely content and happy with the usual standards of conduct expected under Jewish Mosaic Law.  Jesus is commanding us to love all people, not just the ones we like or we think deserve love.  Even our enemies (such as the tax-collector) deserve our love.  The dishonest, the thief, the murderer, the ponzi-schemer, and so on, could become a Saint through the actions of the Holy Spirit working with, in, and through them, and you to bring them to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those they harmed.  Remember, even one of Jesus’ twelve Apostle’s was a tax-collector:

As He [Jesus] passed by, he saw Levi [Matthew], son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)

 

In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 5:48) Jesus introduces an image or concept as difficult for us today as it was for His disciple friends:

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

And then, He (Jesus) repeats this concept fourteen chapters later, when talking to a young rich man:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.'” (Matthew 19:21)

So, what did Jesus mean by “perfect”?  Talk about high standards!  (That’s way above me and my pay grade.)  Thankfully, the Catholic Church has asked this same question throughout the centuries.  In Chapter 5 of Vatican II’s Constitution “Lumen gentium”, it is written:

The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples, in every condition.  He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life: ‘Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect’ […] ‘Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity [love]; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.’”  (Vatican II’s Constitution “Lumen gentium”, 40)

 

The “fullness of Christ’s life” is in loving God, and loving every person and all God’s creation as fully as we can.  We are God’s “work in progress”, “Striving to reach the completeness we are called to in God’s kingdom.”  Attempting to “love our enemies” is definitely a part of our striving for completeness.  Completeness includes seeking the good and even the best for the “unjust” as well as the “just” (verse 45).  Perfection then includes desiring and encouraging the utmost “good” for, and towards, others.

Jesus’ new standard is God the Father’s own perfect, complete, universal, and practical love for each person.  His perfect love becomes the “model” each of us is called to imitate and live by, through Jesus’ invitation and command.

To enable us to do what He, Jesus Christ, calls us to do, He provides us with the enabling ability to do this command in the person of the “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit, with the gift of grace which sanctifies us, encourages us, empowers us, and inspires us.

God freely gives power and grace to those who believe, trust, and accept the grace of the Holy Spirit indwelling with us, and working in and through us.  God’s divine and totally full “love” towards each and every one, even our enemies triumphs over even our own hurts, fears, prejudices, grief’s, and every other imperfection of our lives.

This attitude is, for me, the key with understanding what Jesus was intending us to understand when He said:

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

 

As “sinful” human beings, it is far easier to show kindness, love, and mercy when we expect to benefit from doing our actions.  However, it is much harder when we expect NOTHING (not even a return of love) in exchange.  Yet, your “enemy” can actually assist you to surmount your overwhelming goal of “perfection”!  If you want to be perfect – – love all your enemies.  After all, you could be “stuck” with them for eternity!

To encourage you, my dear readers, to continue on this endeavor to be “perfect” as our heavenly father is, I offer the following:

  1. Instead of embracing and sheltering improper and hateful thoughts, say a short prayer for the person who provokes your emotions and hostilities. 

 “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”  (1John 1:7-9)

 

  1. Ask God for forgiveness when you realize your faults. 

 a.  Our actions, prayers, and love for those who do us ill-will and harm will ultimately help us overcome the strength, influence, and clout of vengeance and retribution.

 b.  Unconditional love further liberates the divine power of that “love” to do “good”, even in the face of pure evil. 

 

How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will?  Well, just remember:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Take advantage of EVERY opportunity – – every invitation granted to you – – to love another, especially the enemy.  The perfection of God will begin to emit and shine from you as you succeed.

 

We learn many practical skills in our lifetime.  Such skills include cooking, cleaning, hygiene, driving, how to deal with teenage sons, and so on.  Most of us also learn about caring for others as well as ourselves by sharing, forgiving, and loving through our personal and interpersonal experiences.

Love is the most important thing one can share with another.  The same is true in God’s kingdom.  Jesus taught His followers how to love others beyond those who are closest to them (“neighbors”).  Jesus tells us to love “even our enemies”.  As members of God’s kingdom, we are called to love everyone without any prejudice – – even “those who hate and persecute us”!

 

Jesus wants for us to love ALL others as if we were Jesus “Himself”.  If we extend ourselves in love to others, then we will be doing exactly as Jesus did, and as Jesus desires and empowers us to do..  Perfection is simply an unmitigated, non-prejudicial, and complete love for all people and all creations of God.

Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor?  Remember, you are not alone in this process.  Ask the Holy Spirit to fill and transform you into the image of His Son so that you may walk in the joy and the freedom of “the boy that was before Him.”  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.”   (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 

 “Act of Love

 

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto (1910-1920; 1908-1919)

 

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon.  At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war.  Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months.  She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”  They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism.  Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home.  He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952.  Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father.  She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951.  Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000.  Sister Lucia died five years later.  The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year.

Comment:

The Church is always very cautious about endorsing alleged apparitions, but it has seen benefits from people changing their lives because of the message of Our Lady of Fatima.  Prayer for sinners, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and praying the rosary—all these reinforce the Good News Jesus came to preach.

Quote:

In his homily at their beatification, Pope John Paul II recalled that shortly before Francisco died, Jacinta said to him, “Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners.”

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

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 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.

 

 

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

“You Thought You Had It Hard Before, Check Out These Laws!” – Matthew 5:17–37†


 

“Vigils for Victims” of underage sex trafficking are being organized outside Planned Parenthood offices coast-to-coast on Monday, February 14, from Noon to 1 PM in each U.S. Time Zone …

… and YOU can make a profound impact in one hour!

We must act swiftly and take a public stand against Planned Parenthood’s harmful agenda — raising awareness in the communities where we live, and calling upon Congress to IMMEDIATELY strip the abortion chain of all tax funding.

This Monday, February 14, all people of faith and conscience are being called upon to hold one-hour “Vigils for Victims” of human trafficking during the Noon hour in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood offices nationwide.

 This requires rapid action, but will show Planned Parenthood — and the media — the power of pro-life America to bring about change!

For more information, go to http://www.40daysforlife.com and follow the links.

Please join me at the following location:

Central West End Planned Parenthood facility
4251 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO  63108

 

 

 

            

Today in Catholic History:


   
†   1130 – Death of Honorius II, [Lamberto], Pope (1124-30)
†   1130 – Gregorio de’ Papareschi elected as Pope Innocent II
†   1480 – Birth of Girolamo Aleandro, Italian Catholic cardinal (d. 1542)
†   1585 – Death of Alfonso Salmeron, Spanish Jesuit biblical scholar (b. 1515)
†   1599 – Birth of Alexander VII, [Fabio Chigi], Siena Italy, pope (1655-67)
†   1888 – Death of Jean Baptiste Lamy, 1st Archbishop of Santa Fe (b. 1814)
†   1913 – Birth of Guiseppe Dossetti, Italian politician/priest
†   2005 – Death of Lúcia Santos, Carmelite nun and Fatima visionary (b. 1907)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Beatrice; Saint Ermenildis; Saint Fulcran; Saint Polyeuctus

(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:

 

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.  The wife said, “You should do it because you get up first, and then we don’t have to wait as long to get our coffee.”  The husband said, “You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.”  His wife replies, “No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.”  The husband retorts, “I can’t believe that, show me.” 

So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says – – “HEBREWS”!

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 13 of 13 Parts

Let us not forget, dearest brothers and sisters, that there are nearly 450,000 of us professed Secular Franciscans, in every corner of the globe.  We are a great potential force for good and grace in the service of the Church.  We make up 75% of all the Franciscans in the world!

Can you imagine what we could accomplish in the service of the Kingdom and the Gospel if only we were all true, authentic, good Secular Franciscans?

Come on, then, brothers and sisters, let us answer the call of the Church: let us “put out into the deep”, Duc in Altum, with courage, and not keep the Church waiting any longer as She urges us to retake our place fully in the Church and in the world.

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ coming to NOT abolish the Mosaic Law, and Old Testament prophecies – – but to fulfill them.

 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  21 You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’  22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.  23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.  Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.  27 ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.   31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’  32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’  34 But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the evil one.  (NAB Matthew 5:17–37)

 

Today’s reading is the first part of three readings concerning Jesus’ teachings on the true way of life for entrance into God’s kingdom.  Part one concerns the Mosaic Law.  The second reading will deal with worship, religious practices, and prayer (Jesus’ model for His disciples).  Part three focuses on trusting God and giving proper acts of loving service to our “neighbors”.

Here in part one, we have a statement of Jesus’ position concerning the Jewish Mosaic Law.  It is composed of traditional material, plus Matthew’s own editorial touches (after all, he wrote the book).  Jesus did not come to change, tweak, amend, or even abolish Mosaic Laws.  Nor did Jesus want to distort the words and prophecies of the many biblical prophets who preceded Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill all the laws, prophecies, and promises concerning the “Messiah” and the new kingdom to come!  I know about sixty prophecies (more or less) from the Hebrew Scriptures, written 1500 to 400 years before the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  To fulfill ALL, and not just some, prophesies would be a statistical improbability (And for me, impossible!  Only God could make that happen.)  And, He promised He would, He did, and in the Person of the “Messiah”.

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the new kingdom – – the new covenant – – is a direct offshoot of the old.  In my opinion, Catholics are a second generation or first cousin of the Jewish faith.  Jesus, a Jew, proclaims this when He asserted that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity. 

Jesus requires us to follow the moral laws, “the Commandments”, not the desert code for worship during the exodus, which Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.  Since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the moral laws He gave us then are indeed perfect in nature; and thus, of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted – ever!

Those who do not obey any of the Ten Commandments, even in the smallest of ways, or who teach others to not follow the Ten Commandments, are guilty of serious moral evil (sin).  Sin affects not only the entire body of Christ, but also the human Church (us).  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church and separates the sinful one from a permissive and loving God and weakens the bens of love among the brethren (the human Church).

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  They have become Christian”, an Imitator of Christ!  The greatest gift one, as a Christian, is their best “self”!

 Jesus said,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself(Luke 10:25-28):

Then He said

“And do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Matthew 7:12).:

Peace, love, and humility are graces God bestows upon and within us.  We are to share His graces and gifts with all people we encounter – at all times and in all places.  After all, a talent or gift not shared with others is, sadly, a talent or gift wasted!  Don’t be afraid to embrace your calling, your mission on earth.  It really is possible to live the life God desires of you.  In fact, all humankind is so dearly in need of your witness to God, which only you can give.

The commandments identified in verse 19 denote those of the Mosaic Law.  However, I think Jesus was (and is) talking about more than the Jewish civil and religious regulations.  He is teaching a universal and perpetual system of moral standards and principles “until heaven and earth pass away.”

Jesus wants us to look further the Mosaic Laws and into the “heart” (the intention) of the Law-giver: God!  God wants a sincere, unconditional, and total submission, compliance, and reverence to the intentions underlying His laws.  Ok, yes the standards are immense and challenging!  However, so too are His graces and rewards! 

 

From verse 21, and extending to verse 48, Jesus gives six examples of conduct expected of His disciples wishing to follow Him and His teachings.  {We are only covering the first four examples in today’s Gospel reflection).  Each situation deals with a commandment of Mosaic Law.   Each one is presented in the second person format.  (Isn’t Jesus the “second” person in the Trinity? – Hmm.)  The first example introduces “your ancestors did something” formula.  Jesus responds by introducing a different, higher, more important standard of behavior.  He emphasizes the difference by using the very strong words: “But I say to you ….”  By doing this He is declaring an authoritative clarification of what He (and God the Father’s) expects of His sons and daughters.

In today’s reading, two of the directives accept the “old” Mosaic Law fully, while extending or deepening the directive (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28).  The two other directives in today’s reading are partially rejected as a standard of conduct for Jesus’ followers (Matthew 31-32; 33-37).  I say “partially” because His improvement is more of a “clarification of God’s intent” rather than complete rejection. [Again, Matthew 5:38-39 and 5:43-44 are not covered in this reflection]

 

The first directive, found in verse 21, in today’s reading is about killing someone.  The Mosaic Law can be found in two specific places in the Old Testament:

You shall not kill.”  (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17)
(The Hebrew word is “murder”.)

However, the second part of the verse, “whoever kills will be liable to judgment” is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament directive found in the book of Exodus:

Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death.”  (Exodus 21:12)

Jesus counters the current interpretation when He says, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment ….”  Jesus goes deeper and broader by declaring a new standard of doing harm by using just words.  Jesus’ intention is to (1) avoid harming your brother verbally, and (2) seek reconciliation with your adversary.   This standard of behavior is found in Luke’s Gospel:

“If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison.  I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  (Luke 12:58-59).

The severity of the “judge” in either (Matthew’s or Luke’s) parable is a strong warning to all people (not just Jesus’ disciples, or even the Jewish people as a whole) concerning the fate for unrepentant sinners in the coming judgment by Jesus – – the Parousia.

Anger is probably the greatest motive leading murder.  Insulting someone, using improper nicknames, and/or strong descriptive labels, are simple steps leading to anger and murder. “Raqa” (verse 22) is an Aramaic word meaning “fool”, “imbecile” or “blockhead”; using it is clearly improper and disparaging terms of abuse towards others.  These “words”, as well as the aforementioned act of murder, are forbidden in God’s kingdom. 

The Jewish people understood that not all offenses are equal.  Some are minor, others are major.  The Jews had an increasing order of punishment for issues involving anger.  There was (1) judgment, (2) being called before the Sanhedrin Court, and (3) Condemnation (death)!  This reveals the various levels and degrees of seriousness in each of the offenses (name calling, anger, and murder).  Judgment would probably first take place by the local council or congregation.  Next in order, would be a trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Temple court in Jerusalem.  The Sanhedrin was the highest judicial body of the Jewish religion, a Supreme Court of sorts.  Finally, for the most serious of charges, condemnation to “Gehenna” was the ultimate penalty – – death and burial outside the city. 

Gehenna, the “Valley of Hinnom,” or “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” was (and still is) an area geographically southwest of the city of Jerusalem.  At one time, it was the center of an idolatrous (pagan) cult in which children were offered in fire sacrifices:  

“The king [Josiah of Judah – descendant of David] also defiled Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be an immolation of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech. (2 Kings 23:10)  

“In the Valley of Ben-hinnom they have built the high place of Topheth to immolate in fire their sons and their daughters, such a thing as I never commanded or had in mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31)

(A Side Reflection:  A common method of abortion is to inject a super high concentration of salt into the amniotic (babies) fluid in which the fetus lives.  This barbaric act literally, and brutally, BURNS the fetus to death in its own – – once life giving – – fluid.  Can you just imagine the pain of physically and slowly burning to death?  Our society is no better than the pagan cult that once lived in Gehenna!)

The concept of punishment for sinners by fire after death or the final judgment can be found in Jewish apocalyptic literature such as Enoch 90:26:

And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned.  And that abyss was on the south of that house.” (Enoch 90:26)

In verse 29-30 of Matthew, Jesus is telling us that any sacrifice of self, for others out of love, is never too little for inclusion into God’s kingdom.  In reality, sacrifice of self, for others out of love, may keep one from inclusion to the horrors of total destruction in Gehenna.

 

Next are the laws regarding “adultery” and “divorce”.  The Mosaic Law is very direct when it comes to adultery:

You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

Notice the period behind the verse!  It is there for a reason!!  Adultery is a misleading name for me.  A true “Adult” would never violate that “intimate” (meaning “shared privacy”) covenant made not only with a spouse, but also made with God Himself!

The Old Testament Mosaic Law was quite interesting when it came to divorce.  Read Deuteronomy 24:1-5:

When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house: if on leaving his house she goes and becomes the wife of another man, and the second husband, too, comes to dislike her and dismisses her from his house by handing her a written bill of divorce; or if this second man who has married her, dies; then her former husband, who dismissed her, may not again take her as his wife after she has become defiled. That would be an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring such guilt upon the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage.  “When a man is newly-wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him. He shall be exempt for one year for the sake of his family, to bring joy to the wife he has married.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

The Old Testament commandment that a “bill of divorce” be given to the woman (she usually sends the bill NOW) assumes that the divorce itself is for legitimate reasons.  Jesus is denying that most divorces are, in fact, legitimate in any way. I believe this is proven in the fact that He says, “Unless the marriage is unlawful”.  This “exceptive clause,” can be found elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel as well:

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

BUT, there are other sayings from Jesus about divorce which clearly prohibit it absolutely.

“He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”  (Mark 10:11-12)

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  (Luke 16:18)

To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband and a husband should not divorce his wife.”    (1 Cor 7:10, 11b)

Most bible scholars agree that these verses represent the true attitude and stance of Jesus Christ (and thus, GOD).  Matthew’s “exceptive clauses” (“unless”) are believed by some scholars to be a modification of the absolute prohibition to divorce.  It seems, however, that the “unlawfulness” that Matthew gives as a reason why a marriage can be broken refers to situations unique to his own first century early Catholic community.   These situations stem from violations of Mosaic Law that forbid marriage between persons of certain blood affinities and/or legal relationships:

None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse with her. I am the LORD.  You shall not disgrace your father by having intercourse with your mother. Besides, since she is your own mother, you shall not have intercourse with her.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your father.  You shall not have intercourse with your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in your own household or born elsewhere.  You shall not have intercourse with your son’s daughter or with your daughter’s daughter, for that would be a disgrace to your own family.  You shall not have intercourse with the daughter whom your father’s wife bore to him, since she, too, is your sister.  You shall not have intercourse with your father’s sister, since she is your father’s relative.  You shall not have intercourse with your mother’s sister, since she is your mother’s relative.  You shall not disgrace your father’s brother by being intimate with his wife, since she, too, is your aunt.  You shall not have intercourse with your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, and therefore you shall not disgrace her.  You shall not have intercourse with your brother’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your brother.  You shall not have intercourse with a woman and also with her daughter, nor shall you marry and have intercourse with her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; this would be shameful, because they are related to her.  While your wife is still living you shall not marry her sister as her rival; for thus you would disgrace your first wife.” (Lev 18:6-18)

Marriages of this sort was (and still are in most parts of the country) regarded as incestuous (“porneia” in Greek, from which we get the word “porn”).  However, some first century rabbis allowed Gentile converts to Judaism, who had married in such a way, to remain in their incestuous marriages.  Matthew’s “exceptive clause” is against such permissiveness for Gentile converts to Christianity, and can be seen in a similar prohibition of incestuous marriages found in Acts:

 “Tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.   Namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.” (Acts 15:20, 29)

In the interpretations, there is no exception to the prohibition of divorce, when the marriage is lawful.

 

Verse 33 (false oaths) is not a “precise” quotation from any Old Testament text. It can be deduced from several verses in the Pentateuch:

You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11)

You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)

The true purpose of any oath is to guarantee truthfulness – – by calling on God as your witness.  Remember the Old Perry Mason TV episodes wherein the person testifying in court put their hand on a bible and said, “I swear to tell the truth …”?  Also, every President of the United States, and all elected federal officials place their hand on the religious book of their faith, (usually a bible in this country), when taking the oath of their office.  One’s oath is a form of a covenant with God – – and you don’t want to purposely break a covenant with God!

Recently, in the prevalent secularization of America, and in removing God from anything and everything [a personal opinion], the use of “God-based” oath formulas, and acts such as placing your hand on a bible (never done in a courtroom anymore) are attempts, simply, to avoid God’s divine name in public. 

However, one is still in fact swearing by His name regardless.  All the things sworn to or by, – – are related to God

I had a “dah” moment in reading Verse 37.  What did Jesus really mean by saying”:

“Let your `Yes’ mean `Yes,’ and your `No’ mean `No’”? 

Was Jesus literally meaning, “Let your words be “Yes, yes,” or “No, no” without any misrepresentation, misinterpretation, or misdirection in what you say to anyone at anytime?  Some scholars believe that this statement is in fact, a milder form of an oath, permitted by Jesus.  If you look at verse 34 again, it says, “Do not swear at all“.  If taken as “biblical”, it is highly unlikely that any human could uphold this regulation.   I believe Jesus clearly explains His statement with the second half of the verse, “Anything more is from the evil one”.  Any “oath-taking”, in reality presumes our sinful weakness; namely, our sinful predisposition to lie.  Otherwise, why would an oath ever be needed?  Jesus is simply insisting that His disciples be truthful at all times, thus making any oath essentially unnecessary.  (How about that, for a much higher standard!)

 

Initially, to fulfill the Mosaic Law meant for me to literally follow each of the laws exactly to the slightest detail, forever (yeah, right!).  After a period of reflection, I have come to believe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most would think.  Instead, this “passing away” may refer to the termination in our “human” understanding and knowledge of our existing universe, for a more divinely inspired and mysterious understanding.  I believe we may be living in the early stage of the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  Isaiah declares:

“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) 

Jesus’ ministry on earth points to the “new kingdom”.  His mission never deviated from Old Testament prophecies.  In fact, I believe His ministry actually remained within the framework of Mosaic Law!  However, Jesus brought about a significant anticipation and hope of a new age and a new covenant – – His kingdom on earth.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  Are you?!

There is a responsibility for all of us to help each other, in an individual and communal way.  We are to gain knowledge to understand our faith, and God’s love and trust He has for each individual one of us – – personally!  We also must help shape the hearts and souls of others, in addition to our own.  You don’t have to be perfect (trust me, that would be impossible); you just have to give your best.  Surrender to the Holy Spirit; allow Him to work with, in, and through you.  The Holy Trinity will certainly do the rest of the work, again – – with, in, and through YOU!  YOU really can change the world, one person at a time.

Jesus does not overturn the Law of Moses, nor does he set His disciples free from the Law. He instead requires his followers to go beyond Mosaic Law by doing more than it requires. 

I sense that most people remember more through their eyes than they ever will through what they read or hear.  We need to “show” All others (not just people with whom we are comfortable) how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle.  This is done by demonstrating a proper Catholic standard of living and routine at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

We all live by rules.  Without rules, life would be chaos.  Think of the rules that you are all called to follow in order for you all to get along with others in your life.  In reality, following rules is a way of showing love and respect for one another.

“This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:21)

 

In Summary, the Law condemned murder. Jesus condemns anger. The Law condemned adultery. Jesus condemns even lustful looks.  As Jewish Christians who had always been faithful to the Law, Matthew’s community needed a way to understand the difference Jesus, and the kingdom He brings, have made.  They believed that God had always been at work in history through “the Law and the prophets.”  The written scriptures and their interpretation in tradition are surpassed by Jesus, whose life, His birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and glorification – – are THE definitive revelation of the will of God, our Father.

 

The Prayer for Controlling Anger

 

“O Lord, must I fear Your wrath?
Retribution is Yours by right!
May I never dishonor Your Divinity,
My
soul seeking to maintain Your love.
Shape my being into earnest kindness,
A reflection of Your perfection.
Grant me the
grace of self-control,
That I may not display any anger.
Should I have such an outburst,
Instantly remind me to seek redress,
For such is offensive to You.
Anger is Yours alone to avenge!  Amen.”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph (1729-1812)

 

In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter or most often as official beggar for that community.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Comment:

People often become arrogant and power hungry when they try to live a lie, for example, when they forget their own sinfulness and ignore the gifts God has given to other people. Giles had a healthy sense of his own sinfulness—not paralyzing but not superficial either. He invited men and women to recognize their own gifts and to live out their dignity as people made in God’s divine image. Knowing someone like Giles can help us on our own spiritual journey.

Quote:

In his homily at the canonization of Giles, Pope John Paul II said that the spiritual journey of Giles reflected “the humility of the Incarnation and the gratuitousness of the Eucharist” (L’Osservatore Romano 1996, volume 23, number 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)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 13 & 14 of 26:

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

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

 

 

14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.