Tag Archives: fall

♫“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

Advertisements

“Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold, Jesus Christ is Eight Days Old!” – Luke 2:22-40†


  

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2011

 

General Intention: That the family may be respected by all in its identity and that its irreplaceable contribution to all of society be recognized.

 

Missionary Intention: That in the mission territories where the struggle against disease is most urgent, Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ to those who suffer.

 

 

Today in Catholic History:


    
†   672 – Death of Saint Chad
†   962 – Translatio imperii: Pope John XII crowns Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, the first Holy Roman Emperor in nearly 40 years.
†   1119 – Guido di Borgogna elected Pope Callistus II
†   1613 – Birth of Noël Chabanel, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
†   1649 – Birth of Benedict XIII, [Pierfrancesco Orsini], Italy, 245th pope (1724-30)
†   1769 – Death of Clement XIII, [Carlo Rezzonico], Pope (1758-69), at age 75
†   1854 – Pope Pius IX encyclical “On persecution of Armenians”
†   1882 – The Knights of Columbus are formed in New Haven, Connecticut.
†   1906 – Pope encyclical against separation of church & state
†   1925 – Birth of David Abell Wood, priest
†   1974 – Pope Paul VI encyclical “To Honor Mary”
†   1983 – Pope John Paul II names 18 new cardinals
†   1986 – Dalai Lama meets Pope John Paul II in India
†   1995 – Death of Andre Frossard, French publicist (Defense of Pope), at age 80
†   Feasts/Memorials: Candlemas; The Presentation of the Lord; The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Adelbald; St. Cornelius
†   Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church: Encounter of our Lord with Simeon – Major Feast Day
†   World Day for Consecrated Life (also February 3 in the United States).

(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:

 

“Catholic Church’s are prayer-conditioned for your (eternal) enjoyment!”

 

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 10 of 13 Parts

John Paul II, in his Message in 2002, questions this and challenges us to see to it that we never fail in our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession:

If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your own secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity” (Nove millennio ineunte 31). You must be sincerely committed to that “high standard of ordinary Christian living” to which I invited the faithful at the end of the Great Jubilee of 2000 (Ibid).

Let us be called, brothers and sisters, by these exhortations to renew our commitment and walk with courage and humility in the ways of the Lord.

It is all about, dearest brothers and sisters:

  • examining our own faith
  • examining our faithfulness to our vocation and Profession of Evangelical Life
  • examining and renewing the authenticity of our permanent “conversion”
(Continued on next published blog)
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’ presentation in the Temple.

 

22 When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.  26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.  27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.  (NAB Luke 2:22-40)

 

The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows that Joseph and Mary were devout Jews and faithful followers of the Mosaic Law (Like we really need more proof!).  Just as John [the Baptist] had been incorporated into the Jewish faithful of Israel through his circumcision (just a few months earlier), the infant Jesus becomes a member of God’s “chosen people” through the same action of His own “sacred” circumcision.   By Mosaic Law, it is at this time that a Jewish baby received his name:  in this case, “Jesus”, meaning “God Saves.”   Jesus is now considered part of the “chosen people” of God, in the same respect and distinction religiously as Simeon, Anna, and even the parents of John:

Both [John’s parents] were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  (Luke 2:25)

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  (Luke 2:36-37).

 

Any woman who gave birth to a boy was unable to touch anything sacred (except her husband – [he, he]), or to enter the temple area by reason of her “legal” impurity for forty days according to the Mosaic Law:

 ”Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period.   On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.  If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood.  “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.  The priest shall offer them up before the LORD to make atonement for her, and thus she will be clean again after her flow of blood.  Such is the law for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl child.  If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean.”  (Leviticus 12:2-8)

At the end of this period she was required by Mosaic Law to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering, and a turtle-dove or young pigeon as an atonement of sin.  The Holy Family could not afford the customary offering of a lamb.  According to today’s Gospel, Mary’s offering instead was two turtle-doves or two young pigeons (as allowed by Mosaic Law).  So, is this proof of Mary and Joseph led a humble and austere life?

 Yep, Jesus was born in an ordinary home without many (if any) extras or luxuries. Like all God-fearing parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in a belief, fear, and wisdom of God through their Judaic religious faith, practices, and traditions.  With such devout parents, Jesus, being obedient to His mother and stepfather, grew in wisdom and grace.

 

They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (which means “city of peace”) to present him to God.  As the firstborn son, Jesus was consecrated to God as the Law required:

Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.  You shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD.”  (Exodus 13:2, 12) 

 

The “Law” further stipulated that any firstborn son should be redeemed by the parents through a payment of five shekels. 

You shall take five shekels for each individual, according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel.   Give this silver to Aaron and his sons as ransom for the extra number.” (Numbers 3:47-48) 

Five shekels amounted to just about 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of pure silver.   The probable reason for the Temple obligation of “redeeming” the firstborn son through the giving to the Temple expressly “five shekels” is found in the Book of Numbers:

“Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed.   The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs to the shekel.”  (Numbers 18:15-16)

I found a couple of possible explanations for “five shekels” of silver being used for the regulation just mentioned above.  One of which I found elsewhere in Holy Scripture, and the other in Wikipedia.  

First, let’s look at Holy Scripture.  In Genesis, Rachel’s firstborn son, Joseph (You know, the one with the fancy coat) was sold by his brothers for twenty silver pieces (which is equivalent of “five shekels” per my Bible commentaries).

“They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt.”  (Genesis 37:28)

This may have established that the “standard price” for a firstborn son being “five shekels” for the ransom to “redeem” the child.  Interesting for me is that “twenty pieces of silver” was the exact price paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.  Could this infer the payment required to redeem us?!

The Second source for this amount of money comes from the “Zohar”, a book from a Jewish “mystical” belief known as Kabbalah.  Per the “Zohar”, the number five (5) is symbolic of the Hebrew letter “hei”, which was added to Abram’s name (becoming Abraham) when the time came for him to father Isaac, – – and the Jewish nation – – as written in the Book of Genesis:

No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.”  (Genesis 17:5)

God’s choosing of the Jewish people as His “nation”, and the consecration and redemption of the firstborn alludes to Abraham.  Thus, FIVE (5) shekels is the price for redemption.

 

What we DO know for certain, is that Jesus is presented to God at the Temple in Jerusalem as a baby; paying for the privilege of being consecrated to the service of God, as was all firstborn sons of the Jewish faithful.  Jesus however, also paid for OUR privilege of being saved from sin and death through His human pain, suffering, and death on that Holy Tree some thirty odd years later into His human and earthly life.  He will again be presented in this same place, this SAME Temple, at the end of His earthly ministry.  At this time Jesus will be presented not as the newborn infant, but instead as the “Messiah Christ!!”  Still a consecrated servant of God, Jesus offered far greater than a few coins to pay for His privilege of servicing God, and redeeming His people.  He offered His life and death – – for our “redemption”. 

Simeon (His name translates to “God has heard” – WOW!) was not a priest, but instead simply just a devout worshiper, always in the Temple.  He reminds me of an elderly gentleman I know (named John) whom I see at my local parish church nearly every single time I am there.  This man is always observed picking up little pieces of trash, straightening books, cleaning the parking lot, pruning the church and grotto flowers, dusting,  – – and of course praying! 

Though not a priest, Simeon obviously was close to his (and ours) loving God in the simple and miraculous fact that he received a prophetic vision that very few fellow “sinful humans” are privileged to experience.  This vision was given to him directly from God (no messenger here), and it was about the “Messiah”.  Simeon here (and Anna later) speaks about the child “Savior” that all faithful Jews were awaiting with anticipation.  Jesus is the ONE awaited “child” who is the “Redeemer” of Jerusalem as prophesized in the Old Testament.  Simeon recognized Jesus as “a sign that will be contradicted” – – a Messiah “destined for the fall and rise of many.” (Luke 2:34)

Simeon and Anna represent the hopes and expectations of faithfully devout Jews who were looking forward to the full and true restoration of God’s rule in Israel.  The birth of Jesus joyfully and gloriously brought these hopes to fulfillment for these two faithful servants of God (and for many others also).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was to be “a light for revealing to the Gentiles“.  Five centuries earlier Malachi prophesied such an event (Malachi 3:1).  The Holy Spirit always reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are open, receptive and ready to receive him.  Do you recognize the presence of the Lord within and working through you?

How exciting it would be to actually see someone of a divine nature you had actually hoped and prayed for over many years, and to actually recognize that divinity in the infant child fully and truly alive and present before you.  In his excitement Simeon extols openly and publicly a beautiful prayer:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30)

He is now ready to die – – ready to be with God in paradise – – because he has found “salvation” in his very presence on earth.  A salvation he had awaited his entire life.

I still remember the instance I looked at my wife on our wedding day, and each of my new-born children in the delivery room.  The excitement and happiness I felt at those moments was so elating.  Would not gazing upon the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, have to be many times greater than these most profound moments I witnessed in my life?  I cannot wait to gaze upon you, my Lord and my all

The Jewish “Presentation” ritual, along with the associated circumcision of males, and the redemption of the first-born, points to the fact that children are truly and fully gifts from God. So why are large numbers of infants killed daily in an infanticide erroneously called “therapeutic abortions”?  There is absolutely NOTHING “therapeutic” about this tragedy! 

Remember, Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord’s presence in the temple.  Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Anna was a beautifully spiritual woman.  Through her faith and actions, she presents a model of devoutness, righteousness, and saintliness to the trust, hope, and faith in God as we advance in age, especially into the elder years.  Advancing age, and the tragedies and disappointments of life, can easily make us sad, cynical, and hopeless if we do not have our hope and trust in eternal paradise with God firmly rooted into our soul.  Anna’s hope and trust in God and His promises grew in her with age.  It resulted in a bountiful harvest of spirituality blossoming in, through, and out of her soul and heart.  She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with a hope and trust in God’s plan of salvation.  

 

When reading Simeon’s prophesies, they are so somber to me.  “Many will reject Jesus.”  Even in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus (and the Holy Family) was ostracized by neighbors who may have thought Jesus was simply an illegitimate child of Mary, whom herself was merely thought of by many “neighbors” as an “adulterer” while still only “betrothed” to Joseph.  Jesus brought a new “covenant” to all people (including His town-folks) regardless of their status, nationality, or even beliefs, past actions, and/or behaviors. 

 “And you yourself a sword will pierce” (from verse 35) is so dismal, depressing, and prophetic for me!  Who would want their mother to be in pain?  However, Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the life and teachings of her loving child, Jesus.  Her gift of being the mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son, Jesus!!  Jesus Himself describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”

“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.  He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’   (Luke 11:27-28)

“He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.’  He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.’”  (Luke 8:20-21).

Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph.  He prophesied to Mary about the destiny of Jesus, and the suffering she would undergo for His sake.  The Virgin Mother was given the “blessedness” of being the true mother of the Son of God (and thus the mother of God as well).  That blessedness was also a two-edged sword, piercing her heart as her beloved Son suffered and died upon the Holy Tree.  She received simultaneously – – a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow – – as her son received a crown of thorns.

Jesus did not come wielding a sword, or destructive weapon of any kind.  Yet, He dies at the hands of others.  Weapons of evil and destruction are wielded against Him.  Instead of a destructive weapon, Jesus wielded a CON-structive weapon against evil – – His “good news” – – the Gospel of salvation!  Loyalty to Jesus leads each of us to a pointed sword pressing against our “hearts” and souls: – – our relationships, our reputations, our ambitions, and even our monetary and earthly treasures.

 

The Jerusalem Temple is long gone, leaving a simple piece of one wall as its only physical remnant to the past.  However, Jesus is now the NEW temple: (John 1:14; 2:19-22).  

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)   

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)   

In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” at night as He led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.  God’s magnificent and supreme glory came to dwell in a visible way over the ark and tabernacle:

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.  Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the Israelites would set out on their journey.  But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward.  In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey.”  (Exodus 40:34-38)

When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God’s glory came to rest there (cf., 1 Kings 8).  After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave it (cf., Ezekiel 10).  But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (see Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9).  That promise is fulfilled when the “King of Glory” himself comes to his temple:  

“Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter.  Who is this king of glory?  The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.”  (Psalm 24:7-10)

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

Through Jesus’ coming in the flesh along with His saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples for his Holy Spirit:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”  (1 Cor. 3:16-17) 

Open the doors to your heart, soul, thoughts, and actions for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, and to work in and through you.  Welcome Him in with open arms.  Grasp God in a bear hug of love and want.  Give Him your best in everything.

 

What a radical departure from ‘traditional’ JudaismJesus awakened and probably scared some people in His teachings, approach, and life style.  There appeared to be many reasons for not wanting to be “around” this man named Jesus, or to follow Him.  However, when condensed, all these reasons were simply and purely out of plain, simple fear; a fear that I believe stemmed from ignorance.  This ignorance could be seen throughout Holy Scripture in the fear emanated from the watchful eyes of the Temple priests and elders; and in the fear from the Roman government who was concerned about civil unrest and uprisings stemming from Jesus’ teachings and activities.

The model believer of trust and hope, the model disciple of Christ – – was Mary.  She had to decide what her role was going to be in salvation history: either to follow God’s plan or her own.  Though she was truly the faithful mother of God, Mary still had ‘free will.’  Family ties do not create faith – – only faith creates faith

She did not want to leave her homeland any more than Joseph wanted to leave.  However, according to God’s plan, Mary would have to escape to Egypt in order to protect her baby Jesus.  She would have to experience the fear of losing a child for three days in His youth.  And, Sadly, Mary would have to witness the devastation and despair of Jesus’ trial, scourging, crucifixion, and burial.

Mary, and Jesus, had to tread a rough and treacherous path hewed out for her by God, but isn’t sacrificing the “language” of love?  It is because of her sharing so much in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of Jesus, that she is called the “co-redemptrix” – – the co-redeemer – – in the Catholic Church.

Through all of these trials of faith – – Mary never faltered.  I believe she handled all these “sorrows” because she knew what was needed, and expected from herself, and from her son.  More importantly, Mary trusted in God’s providence at every stage in hers and Jesus’ life.  Even prior to Jesus’ birth, the teenage Mary had already surrendered her soul, her heart, and her body to God.  She allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in her – – and act through her.  Mary had NO doubts about God in her life, and in her priorities.  Even in the worst of times for her and her son on this earth, she never lost her faith, love, and trust in God’s plan for her.  We can, and we need, to learn from her example.  Please help me Lord to find the strength and fortitude to love, trust, and follow you as did your blessed mother, Mary, so perfectly demonstrated for us all.  

Do you know the joy of submission to God? Do you seek to pass on the Catholic faith, helping others to grow in wisdom, grace, and obedience to His word?  What do you hope for in your life, and in your families’ future?  How can you grow in hope?  We all must place our total faith, hope, and trust in the promises of Jesus Christ.  We must rely on the love, grace, and support of the Holy Spirit.  Does your hope and fervor for God grow with age?

Jesus promised that “no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).  God gives us a mysterious grace of joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain, and which neither life nor death can take way.  One of my favorite short prayers highlights this mystery:

Jesus, there is nothing that is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

Ask Jesus Christ to renew your faith in the presence of His Holy Spirit living within you, and working through you for His glory.  Give Him thanks and praise for coming to you and each of us individually.  Thank Him for making His home (and place of business on earth) with and within you – – and through you!

 

Morning Offering

 

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for the intentions recommended by our Holy Father for this month.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.

O Mary, my Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve.  Wherefore good Mother, as I am your own, keep me, guard me as your property and possession. 

St. Joseph, model and patron of those who love the Sacred Heart, pray for me.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Presentation of the Lord

 

At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journal, discovered in 1887, gives an unprecedented glimpse of liturgical life there. Among the celebrations she describes is the Epiphany (January 6), the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession in honor of his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later—February 15. (Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually “unclean” for 40 days after childbirth, when she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice—her “purification.” Contact with anyone who had brushed against mystery—birth or death—excluded a person from Jewish worship.) This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple more than Mary’s purification.

The observance spread throughout the Western Church in the fifth and sixth centuries. Because the Church in the West celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25, the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas.

At the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession; at the end of the same century the blessing and distribution of candles which continues to this day became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name: Candlemas.

Comment:

In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed in the temple by two elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation; they acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Early references to the Roman feast dub it the feast of St. Simeon, the old man who burst into a song of joy which the Church still sings at day’s end.

Quote:

“Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him…. But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? …[T]he candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice” (Paul VI).

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 2 & 3 of 26:

 

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

 

 

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

“Mary, Did You Know ….!” – Luke 2:33-35†


 

Today is the Feast of “Our Lady of Sorrows”

 

By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to certain devotions.  This month, it is “Our Lady of Sorrows.” The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows takes place today, the day after the “Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.” We are to remember the suffering Mary endured as she stood at the foot of the Cross and witnessed the humiliation, torture, and death of her Son.

  

            †

 

Yesterday, (and 1 week shy of six months of trying), I weighed myself and officially passed the “century” mark by a half-pound.  100 Lbs lost in 51 weeks has actually been fairly easy for me.  My mind set is healthy living, and never using that four letter word that is not even allowed to be uttered in my house – “DIET!”  After all, “DIET” is 75% “DIE.”  I am on a “LIVING” plan with God’s help (and yours).

Basically, All I have done is to stop eating processed foods and deep-fried items.  I eat whole grains, low-glycemic veggies and fruit, a lot of fish and chicken, a little pork, and very little beef.  Also careful of any sauces and all sodium levels.  Along with exercise (I love swimming) and journaling all food and exercise, I pray a lot!!

 

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†  608 – St Boniface IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†  1352 – Death of Ewostatewos, Ethiopian monk and religious leader (b. 1273)
†  1803 – Death of Gian Francesco Albani, Italian Catholic cardinal (b. 1719)
†  1859 – Death of John LA Luyten, Catholic Member of Dutch 2nd parliament, dies at 72

 

(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:

 

Suffering with truth decay?  Brush up on your Bible.

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s sorrows for Jesus, and for all of us in need.

 

33 The child’s father [Joseph] and mother [Mary] were amazed at what was said about him [Jesus]; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”    (Luke 2:33-35)

 

On this upcoming December 1st, my wife and I will be celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary.  I can still remember kneeling next to her on the altar, holding her beautiful hands, and vowing to God that I will “love, cherish, and keep her in sickness and in health ….”  God also said the same vows that day to both of us.  My covenant with Jeanine is also a covenant with God – the ultimate, and only papal approved, love triangle.

My love has yet to cease increasing in intensity for her with each and every day.  I still consider us in our honeymoon period!  But boy, was I naïve on that happy day!  Our day-to-day relationship has also had some serious setbacks, disappointments, and challenges that had to be mutually surmounted.  Marriage, though wonderful and exciting it its own nature, is also extremely hard work – something I could not truly realize twenty years ago!  True love is patient, kind, generous, and triumphs through, and over, all the bad times.

I do not believe it would be wrong to state that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most blessed and honored person to come from God – the “twinkle” in His eye!  It is hard for me to even picture in my mind the extreme joy and glee Mary had in the role of being God’s mother, and the challenges for her that this role also encountered.  Mary had to frequently contemplate and wonder about both hers and Jesus’ life, but also treasured the words and actions she saw unfolding before her very eyes as Jesus grew to adulthood and throughout His public ministry.

She also experienced the deepest and most profound of human sorrows.  Mary was not untouched by the various reactions and consequences in the role of being Jesus’ mother.  Her blessedness as mother of the Lord was challenged by her son Jesus who describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”  In Luke 11:27-28, a woman in the crowd called out to Jesus saying, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”  His reply, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  

This saying by Jesus Christ, a true beatitude, should in no way what-so-ever be inferred as an admonishment of His mother. Rather, it emphasizes that attention to God’s word is more important than any biological relationship to Him: Jesus.  This is what is meant in verse 35, “(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 

In Luke 8:20-21, Jesus was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.”  His reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”  The universal (Catholic) family of Jesus does not necessarily involve a physical relationship with Him but as one of obedience to the word of God.  Luke softened Mark’s genealogical picture of Jesus’ family, I think because Mary had already been presented as the “obedient handmaid of the Lord” who fulfilled the requirement for belonging to the eschatological family of Jesus (Luke 1:38).

Mary embraced her role in salvation that God had laid out for her, and throughout her entire life continued to live by a total and unconditional love and faith in God.  She never lost her virtue-laden gifts of joy and hope, even during the darkest times of hers and Jesus’ life.

Mary is NOT “Our Lady of Sorrows” solely because of all the horrific and dreadful times she went through, but also because she allowed and encouraged her heart and soul to be intertwined with the heart and divinity of God.  Mary understood how truly intensive God’s heart and desire is for all His creation.  God is aching and pining with an un-measurable love for His wayward people. 

Mary’s heart was pierced by the sight of Jesus’ suffering AND by all the suffering in the world!  Her heart is still pierced yet today!  She continues to weep over all the devastating, overwhelming, and severe needs of this world.  And even today, she still intercedes with her Son in heaven.  Mary IS the mother of anyone who suffers in any way.  She IS OUR mother, and she loves us all as only a mother can!

 

“To the Mother of Sorrows”

 

“Most holy Virgin and Mother, whose soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the Passion of thy divine Son, and who in His glorious Resurrection was filled with never-ending joy at His triumph; obtain for us who call upon thee, so to may be partakers in the adversities of Holy Church and the sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff, as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolation for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Sorrows

 

For a while there were two feasts in honor of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September.

The principal biblical references to Mary’s sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon’s prediction about a sword piercing Mary’s soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus’ words to Mary and to the beloved disciple.

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment.

St. Ambrose (December7) in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed but offered herself to her persecutors.

 

Comment:

John’s account of Jesus’ death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary’s role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke’s account of Jesus’ conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus’ Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.

Quote:

“At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.”
(Stabat Mater)

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 15 & 16 of 26:

 

15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

 

 

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

“ALLRIGHT ALREADY, Just Leave Me Alone – I’m Busy Saving Souls!” – Mt 15:21-28†


 

Today in Catholic History:


†   70 – The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.
†   1521 – Birth of Pope Urban VII (d. 1590)
†   Liturgical Feasts: Saint Sithney, patron saint of mad dogs; Saint John Vianney (Jean-Marie Vianney), parish priest, patron saint of priests

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

Part of asking God for something is the asking; and the asking IS part of the answer: a deepening faith in God. – Dan Halley, SFO

     

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ breaking with his usual procedure of ministering only to Israelites up till this point in His earthly ministry, and answering our prayers.

 

21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”  23 But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”   26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. (NAB Mt 15:21-28)

 

Tyre is a city in what is the Southern part of Lebanon today. The city juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean and is located about 50 miles south of Beirut. The name of the city means “rock” after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built.  Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city that has many historical sites, including its Roman Hippodrome.    

Sidon is also on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Southern Lebanon, about half-way between Tyre to the south and Beirut to the north.  Its name means “a fishery.”  Hmm; I wound what the main occupation was in Sidon?

Canaanites, like the woman in this Gospel reading, were inhabitants of a region in the area of what is the present-day Gaza Strip, Israel, West Bank, and Lebanon.  “Canaan” predates the ancient Israelite territories described in the Bible, and describes a land with different, but overlapping boundaries.

In this story of the daughter of the Canaanite woman, Jesus establishes a break with his standard procedure of ministering only to Israelites, and also prefigures the Apostles and Churches mission to the Gentiles.

This Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, is identifying Jesus as her “Lord” and “Son of David!”  By saying these two phrases, she is exclaiming publically that Jesus is the one having power and authority over all others as the divine ruler by hereditary right and ascendancy from God the Father in heaven – FOR Jew and Gentile!  She is also declaring that Jesus, the true Messiah, is due our love, worship, and obedience.

Jesus tells this Gentile lady, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  What did He mean by this?  Didn’t He come for the entire human race?!  I believe it may have been a foretelling of a future mission Jesus gives the Apostles.  Like Jesus, the Twelve Apostles were initially sent only to Jewish territories and people: a way to “get their feet wet.” This statement may reflect an initial early Christian refusal of missions to the Gentiles.  Or, it could just be an expression of the limitation that Jesus Himself observed during his ministry, by travelling no further than about 100 miles from His birthplace.

This woman reminds me of my wife: she won’t take “no” for an answer.  The woman in this story keeps calling out after Him, to the point of annoying the Apostles.  Jesus finally relents, and not only listens to her pleas, but acts on her pleas immediately. 

In recalling Jesus’ encounters with women, this seems to be a normal pattern for Him: swiftly relenting to the women in His life.  Mary, His mother asks Jesus to help the wine stewards at the feast in Cana; Margaret asks Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead; and Mary Magdalene had seven “spirits” removed after asking Jesus. 

Now, here’s a little secret!  He does the same thing still today for both men and women!  All we need to do is ask Him for help, and He will help.  His intervention may not be swift enough for you, and may not even be the way you wanted something carried out.  To be quite honest, you may not recognize that Jesus intervened at all, but He always helps anyone who asks.  The divine wisdom of God has no boundaries.  Every action He takes has a purpose and reason.  How He acts on a specific request is always for the best outcome of the person making the request, the people involved, and for future circumstances.

“The children” Jesus was speaking of, were the people of Israel: the Jewish people.  The term “dogs” on the other hand, was (along with the word “swine”) a Jewish term of scorn for Gentiles.  This saying in today’s Gospel reading, some scholars have said, may have resulted from the early Christian community’s opposition to preaching the Gospel to non-Jews (Gentiles).  In the light of the verse found in Matthew 28:19: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” their understanding, for me, has an element of error in their logic.  Rather, I believe that this saying [children and dogs] applied to early Christians having to deal with stubbornly brazen fellow “Christians,” as shown in Matthew 18:17: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” 

Just like in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant found in Matthew 8:10: “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”  Matthew credits Jesus’ granting the request to the woman’s great faith.  Her persistence in open dialogue: her loud and sincere “prayer” to Jesus was heard, and He acted on her behalf. 

We don’t pray to change God’s mind.  We pray that our minds are changed instead. If we got everything we ask for, then we would be God, and would have no need for faith in anyone! There would be no opportunities for other doors to open; and no need to see Jesus in others we come into contact.  I believe that without faith, there would no longer be anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or gifts of the Holy Spirit.  How sad would be the world then!
         

“Parents’ Prayer for Their Children”

   

“O God the Father of mankind, who hast given unto me these my children, and committed them to my charge to bring them up for Thee, and to prepare them for eternal life: help me with Thy heavenly grace, that I may be able to fulfill this most sacred duty and stewardship. Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me to be gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful; and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence, and the excess of severity; and grant that, both by word and example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety, so that at last I may, with them, be admitted to the unspeakable joys of our true home in heaven, in the company of the blessed Angels and Saints.   Amen.

O Heavenly Father, I commend my children to Thy care. Be Thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is lacking in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Thy grace into their hearts, and strengthen and multiply in them the gifts of Thy Holy Spirit that they may daily grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving Thee here, may come to rejoice in Thy presence hereafter.   Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
           

*****
          

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. John Mary Vianney 1786-1859
    

Seldom has a priestly life been so holy, so self-sacrificing, so fruitful of good for the salvation of souls as the life of the Cure’ of Ars in France, St. John Mary Vianney, who died August 4, 1859. It is a distinct honor for the Third Order of St. Francis that he was one of its members.

He was born in Dardilly, not far from Lyons, of simple and devout parents. Very early his pure heart experienced a burning desire to consecrate himself to God in the priestly vocation, and to win very many souls for our dear Lord. His talents were very meager; but his diligence and piety helped him to overcome all obstacles so that he was ordained in 1815.

Three years later his bishop sent him as curate to Ars, a little village in the diocese of Lyon. His parish was at the time in a very pitiable condition. The fear of God and the practice of virtue were rare things there. Attendance at divine services and the reception of the sacraments were quite generally neglected, and the young folks were mindful of nothing but amusement, a dance taking place practically every Sunday.

It was, therefore, with a heavy heart and yet with great confidence in God that the curate entered upon his duties. He realized that God’s help was his first great need. Throughout the entire day he knelt before the blessed sacrament and prayed for his erring sheep.

This zeal at prayer was soon noticed, and the grace he had asked for continued its work. The people were astonished at the devotion John Mary displayed while celebrating holy Mass. His very mortified life made a deep impression upon them. His love for the poor and the sick, his mild word to everyone soon won for him all hearts.

He invited them to pray, in the morning to attend holy Mass, in the evening to recite the rosary. He also introduced a Eucharistic confraternity. He strove to eliminate the dangers to which the people were exposing themselves by their weekly dances. When a certain person, who was earning his livelihood by means of these dances, said to him, “But a person must live,” the priest replied, “True, but one must also die.” He conducted the divine services with all possible solemnity, and this proved at attraction for the people. By means of frequent instructions, especially in catechism, he taught his parishioners about virtue and vice, and portrayed in vivid terms the reward God has reserved for the good and the punishment that will be inflicted on the wicked.

He was tireless in administering the sacrament of penance, always showing not only great zeal but also practicing meekness and charity in an extraordinary degree. In a few years the parish was completely transformed. The few dissenting voices were entirely ignored, and their worldly attractions were not heeded. The fame of the blessed success and the holy life of the priest of Ars spread rapidly. Strangers came in ever increasingly numbers in order to have their consciences set aright and to obtain advice and consolation in every type of need.

From the year 1828 the concourse of people took on the semblance of organized pilgrimages; the number of strangers was estimated to be at least 20,000 annually. Numerous conversions of a most remarkable nature occurred, and many sick persons were miraculously restored to health. These cures the humble pastor ascribed to the intercession of St. Philomena, who was venerated in his church.

The demands made upon the servant of God were, naturally, very great. He spent from 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Besides, he conducted a catechetical instruction in the church each day, and led the rosary every evening. Along with these superhuman exertions he also practiced rigorous mortification, fasted almost constantly, and slept on a board. In his way he spent himself in the fullest sense of the word as a good shepherd, and labored for the salvation of souls until he was 74 years old.

Completely worn out, he collapsed at the last day of May, 1859, and died peacefully in the Lord without any agony on August 4. Pope Pius X beatified him and Pope Pius XI canonized him and made him the patron of all priests who have the care of souls.
        

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.,
© 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

     
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #4:

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

“Keep Your Friends Close, & Your Enemies Closer!” – Mt 5:43-48


 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Truths that little children have learned:

You can’t trust dogs to watch your food!
Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair!
Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time!

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 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.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NAB Mt 5:43-48)

  

Did you notice this series of verses left out the end of the quote from the first sentence.  There was no “as yourself” at the end of the quotation.  There is no Old Testament commandment demanding hatred of one’s enemy.  The “neighbor” of this “love” commandment was understood as one’s fellow countryman.  Both in the Old Testament, and in the Qumran (1QS 9:21), hatred of evil persons is assumed to be permitted and all right.  Jesus extends the love commandment to the enemy, and the persecutor.  As children of God, we must imitate the example of the Jesus.  Christianity is purposely not aggressive by nature and intent.  Aggression displayed is transformed into a strategy of winning through the wisdom of love.

 Jesus distinguishes between earthly rewards, and Godly rewards.   The tax collectors were Jews of the region, who were engaged in the collection of indirect taxes such as tolls and customs.  Such tax collectors paid a fixed amount of money for the right to collect customs duties within their districts.  Whatever they collected above this amount was profit to them.  The abuse of extortion was widespread among tax collectors. Hence, tax collectors were regarded as sinners and outcasts of society, and were disgraced, along with their families.  Tax collectors were a symbol of low morality, being often associated with extortion and collaborating in the Roman occupation of Palestine.  Tax collectors were hated publicly, verbally, and sometimes violently.  It would have been difficult to be hated more than a tax collector.  Jesus ate with tax collectors frequently, during His ministry.  He instructs that loving those that hate you, increases God’s love for you.  Loving our enemies is a must for all Christians.  Remember, all people are God’s creation, and we should see Jesus in everyone we meet.  If you don’t see Jesus in everyone,  get your vision checked in the confessional, and at mass.

Jesus’ disciples must not be content with the usual standards of conduct in society.  In the time of Jesus, the “greeting” mentioned above, was a prayer of blessing on the one greeted.  In the last sentence of this reading, the word “perfect” was used.  In the gospels this word occurs only in Matthew; here and in Matthew 19:21.  In Luke’s gospel, the parallel verse (Luke 6:36) demands that the disciples be merciful.  The idea of perfection for the Jews of that time, was a man who observed the whole law without exception.  We need to transform ourselves to be like Christ, and follow His whole laws.  The Franciscans’ have a saying: “commit yourself to daily conversion.”

“Lord, I love you above all.  Help me to love all others as much as I love you.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum

Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

Franciscan Saint of the Day: Bl. Sebastian of Aparicio

 

Sebastian lived from 1502 to 1600, and he was a bridge builder mostly in Mexico. At age 72, he distributed all he had among the poor and entered the Franciscans as a brother. He is known as the “Angel of Mexico” and is the patron of travelers.

 (From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

 

Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule,  Chapter 1:

 

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

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