Tag Archives: fear

“Two, For The Price Of One!” – Mark 5:21-43†


      

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

My oldest Son, Dan III, is leaving for Naval Basic Training today.  Please keep him and all Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guard personnel in your prayers each and every day.  They are fighting for OUR freedoms granted to us by God and Country.  BTW, this is a great introduction to my next comment about the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign presently going on:

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Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For July:

 General Intention:

For “Work Security”: That everyone may have work in safe and secure conditions.

Missionary Intention:

 For “Christian Volunteers”:  That all volunteers in mission territories may witness effectively to the love of Christ.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   649 – Pope Martinus I elected to succeed Theodore I
†   1381 – Birth of Laurentius Justitianus, [Lorenzo Giustiniani], saint
†   1517 – Inquisitor Adrian Boeyens (pope Adrianus VI) becomes cardinal
†   1681 – Death of Oliver Plunkett, Irish saint (b. 1629)
†   1690 – Army of England’s Protestant King William III defeats Roman Catholic King James II in Battle of Boyne in Ireland
†   1995 – Death of Ronald Farrow, radio producer/priest, dies at 49

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

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Quote of the Day:

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master; Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher; Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer; Had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world; He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him; He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today!!

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Today’s reflection: Jesus heals a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage and raises Jairus’s daughter from death.

 

(NAB Mark 5:21-43) 21 When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.  22 One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.”  24 He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. 

25 There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.  26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had.  Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.  27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  28 She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”  29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up.  She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.  30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”  31 But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”  32 And he looked around to see who had done it.  33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling.  She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.  34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”  36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  39 So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  40 And they ridiculed him.  Then he put them all out.  He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.  41 He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”  42 The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.  [At that] they were utterly astounded.  43 He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel relates two stories of healing by Jesus Christ Himself.  One story tells us about a desperate woman who risks much as she seeks healing from Jesus.  The other tells us about a father’s great love for his dying daughter.  In each story, their request for healing is itself a courageous act of trust and faith.  However, very different circumstances are represented by the lives of each suffering person, both in desperate need of divine intervention. 

Jairus, a synagogue official, and a man of considerable standing in the Jewish community, is distraught over his daughter’s poor health.  He approaches Jesus and asks Him to heal her.  Although Mark doesn’t provide many details, we can imagine that his daughter has been ill for some time and that her condition is deteriorating.

The story of the raising to life of Jairus’s daughter is divided into two parts: Mark 5:21–24; 5:35–43.  Placed between these two parts of Jairus’ story, Mark inserts an account of the cure of the woman with a hemorrhage affliction (Mark 5:25–34).  Mark uses this technique of introducing or sandwiching one story within another at least 10 specific times: cf., Mark 3:19b–21; 3:22–30; 3:31–35; 6:6b–13; 6:14–29; 6:30; 11:12–14; 11:15–19; 11:20–25; 14:53; 14:54; 14:55–65; and 14:66–73.  Per the Lectionary for Mass, the story of the woman can be omitted when reading the Gospel at Mass; however, I hope it isn’t; this story has a teaching value and needs to be heard. 

In this “sandwiched’ story, Mark describes a person who also seeks healing from Jesus, an unnamed woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years (I bet she was anemic!).  This woman secretly touches Jesus’ “cloak” from behind and is immediately cured.  In response, Jesus turns and asks who touched Him.  Jesus’ disciples – – always a little clueless in Mark’s Gospel – – help us to visualize the scene and reactions of the people.  The crowds are infringing on – – literally pushing into and crowding – – Jesus’ “personal space”; and yet He, knowing the “power has gone out of Him” (Mark 5:30), asks who touched Him.  The woman could have remained anonymous, but she steps forward and acknowledges what she had done.  Jesus responds to her by acknowledging her as a model of a true faith and sends her away in peace.

Mark had reasons to parallel the two stories: both involve touch, trust, faith, and daughters (and an important status within Jewish society).  In both accounts, Jesus is concerned and compassionate to these women on the lowliest and bleakest margins of society – – a ritually “unclean” woman and a girl on the verge of adulthood within the Jewish religion and culture; both on the lowest rung of society’s social ladder.

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Today’s story opens with Jesus just recently crossing across the Sea of Galilee by boat, and being met by a large crowd:

“When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowdgathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.” (Mark 5:21)

Jesus frequently used a boat, crossing the Galilean Sea many times during His ministry.  There is a parallel verse about His crossing the Sea in Mark’s Gospel as well:

 “Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to Him and He taught them” (Mark 2:13).

Not only did Jesus teach to them, He was called to heal as well.

Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” (Mark 5:23)

The “Lay[ing] your hands on her” is a purposeful and active “sacramental” outward action for an inward grace from God Himself.  This particular “action” was (and still is) for the purpose of healing – – through the Holy Spirit – – and is reported frequently in Mark’ Gospel:

So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” (Mark 6:5); ***

“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7:32–35);

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes He laid his hands on him and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’  Looking up he replied, ‘I see people looking like trees and walking.’  Then He laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly” (Mark 8:23–25);

And finally,

“They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”(Mark 16:18).

Further accounts of sacramental “Laying of handsis also found in the other Gospels and New Testament books as well:

While He was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died.  But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.’” (Matthew 9:18);

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to Him.  He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” (Luke 4:40);

He laid His hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.” (Luke 13:13);

“So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, ‘Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.’” (Acts 9:17);

And,

“It so happened that the father of Publius was sick with a fever and dysentery.  Paul visited him and, after praying, laid his hands on him and healed him.” (Acts 28:8).

*** Did you notice in the above Mark 6:5 verse, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there”?  According to Mark, Jesus’ power could not take effect because of a person’s lack of faith.  What does that mean for us today?  We need to have trust and faith in Jesus in order to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us personally, intimately, and uniquely.

Also, notice that in both Acts’ accounts mentioned above, Jesus had graced this gift of healing to His disciples.  With faith as small as a mustard seed, one can actually move a mountain (cf., Matthew 17:20).

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Now, in verse 27-28 of today’s reading, a “woman afflicted with Hemorrhages for twelve years”

Heard about Jesus and came up behind Him [Jesus] in the crowd and touched His cloak.  She said, ‘If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.’” (Mark 5:27-28).

This woman, suffering from hemorrhages, believes that Jesus can cure her; and in desperation, she dares to touch – – but only His “cloak” – – aware of the taboo against being touched by an “unclean” person.  “Daughter“, says Jesus (meaning a daughter of Jerusalem, of God), “your faith has saved you” (Mark 5:34).  Jesus not only cures her affliction but gives her back her child-bearing ability; thus restoring her dignity personally and within the Jewish community.

For most people, touching one’s clothes to effect a “cure” seems to be idolatrous.  For a Jew of this time (and in the present day as well), the “cloak” was NOT a simple garment of fashion.  This “cloak” was probably Jesus “Prayer Robe” – – a tallit with Tzitzit attached at the four corners – – worn only by men at Jesus’ time.  For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings, one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholic faithful.  To the dutiful Jewish person, this garment, not only represents the “true” physical presence of God’s divinity, the prayer robe effects the personal promises, presence, and power of God Himself.

So, in touching the tzitzit of Jesus’ Prayer robe, she was – – spiritually AND physically – – directly and trustingly touching and calling upon God Himself to help her in her time of need.  (Now that is awesomely cool indeed!!)

In both situations: Jairus and his daughter (Mark 5:23), and unnamed hemorrhage victim, their personal inner conviction of a physical contact (Mark 5:30) with the fully divine, and yet fully human, Jesus, accompanied by a proper and total faith and trust in His saving power, could both affect, and effect, a rewarded cure:

She said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.’” (Mark 5:28);

 He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’” (Mark 5:41).

Now, do you know we can also touch Jesus, and be touched by Him in a uniquely intimate and personal relationship with Him through prayer.  What a rewarding effect for both us and Him!!

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What fascinates me about today’s Gospel reading is the way words jump off the page while reflecting and meditating on them.  Verse 33b and 34 both remind me of another experience of Jesus’ personal presence in the Sacraments of Healing, and Reconciliation:

“She fell down before Jesus and told Him the whole truth.  He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.’” (Mark 33b-34).

In the Catholic Church today, there are multiple Sacraments of Healing available to the faithful.  The first to be received is Baptism, the effective removing of original (and any temporal [worldly]) sins and their negative effects.  Reconciliation is another great and wonderfully beautiful Sacrament, sadly not often used by most Catholics today (Sorry to say).  Confirmation stirs up the Holy Spirit within the individual, and is effected by the Bishop “laying his hands” on the person’s head.  Finally, the Anointing of the Sick, (AKA) “Extreme Unction” (last rights), is the Sacraments of healing for both the soul and body.  All of these “Sacraments” are outward signs of an inward working of grace from God Himself through the actions of the Holy Spirit working within both the people and priest.  Remember:

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

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Let’s get back to the original story (the bottom slice of the “bread” of the “sandwich”) of today’s reading (Mark 5:35- 43) about the synagogue’s official, “Jairus”, and his daughter “who died”.  Here, Jesus performs another miracle, a true “arising from the dead”.  Jairus, too, believes that Jesus can cure his daughter by “laying hands on her”.  When news comes that Jairus’ daughter has died, Jesus encourages him to “just have faith” (Mark 5:36).  Jesus clears out the house of the unfaithful, bringing in the faith-full, and then takes the child by the hand and tells her to “arise”.  Think about this: the young woman is twelve years old and just entering her child-bearing years.  She, through the actions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, rises to life AND to the capacity to bring new life into the world. (And what better grace is there than the grace of bringing a new life into the world!!)

It took considerable courage and risk for Jairus – – a synagogue official – – to openly go to Jesus, inviting the scorn and ridicule of his neighbors and kin.  Even his family and the hired mourners laughed at him in today’s reading.  Their grief was devoid of any true concern or hope for their child (or for themselves).

Jesus knew Jairus’ daughter was dying; yet, He did not immediately help him.  As if to build a sense of urgency and immediate need, Mark has messengers arrive and confirm Jairus’s (and any parent’s) worst fear – – his daughter had died.  Jesus ignores their message and reassures Jairus.  When they arrive at Jairus’s home, they find family and friends mourning the girl’s death.  Jesus told the mourners that the girl is only “asleep”; then enters the room of the dead girl, takes her by the hand, and instructs her to “arise”, AND she did just that!!

So, we need to realize that the trust and faith of Jairus was put to a twofold test:

(1) His daughter might be cured, and

Now that she had died,

(2) She might be restored to life

Jairus’s faith and trust in Jesus has not been in vain; his daughter is restored to life through Jesus’ intercession and the action of the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, Jairus’ faith contrasts with the lack of faith of the crowd:

“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, He [Jesus] caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  So He went in and said to them, ‘Why this commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but asleep.’  And they ridiculed Him” (Mark 5:38-40).

Jesus said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mark 5:39).  Throughout the New Testament, various books of Holy Scripture often refer to death as “sleep”:

“Tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” (Matthew 27:52);

“He said this, and then told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.’” (John 11:11);

“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6);

 “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–15);

And, in today’s reading parallel verse from Matthew, Jesus says the girl is sleeping:

“He [Jesus] said, ‘Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.’  And they ridiculed Him” (Matthew 9:24).

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In Matthew 5:41, Jesus orders the girl to “Arise”.  The Greek verb “egeirein”, translated “to arise”, is the verb used to express resurrection from death IN ALL THREE Synoptic Gospels:

“The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:5);

“King Herod heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.’  But when Herod learned of it, he said, ‘It is John whom I beheaded.  He has been raised up.’” (Mark 6:14, 16);

And,

“He [Jesus] stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and He said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’” (Luke 7:14).

This word, “egeirein”, is also used to convey Jesus’ own resurrection later in the three Synoptic Gospels as well:

“He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.” (Matthew 28:6);

“He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; He is not here.  Behold the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6);

And,

He is not here, but He has been raised.  Remember what He said to you while He was still in Galilee” (Luke 24:6).

“Sleep”, you probably realized by now, is a biblical “metaphor” for death.  Jesus’ statement is not a denial of the child’s real death, but an assurance that she will be roused from her sleep of death.  All of us will arise from our “sleep” at the Parousia event.  For some, there was no need to wait:

 “Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed.  Then he turned to her body and said, ‘Tabitha, rise up.’  She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.” (Acts 9:40).

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After these two miracles of healing, Jesus orders all to NOT speak of them.  The last verse of today’s reading is very explicit:

He gave strict orders that no one should know” (Mark 5:43).

Why?  Why would Jesus NOT want others to know of His divine nature?  Well, I presume the reason is that it was too early in His ministry for “the word to get out”.  Remember, He was being watched by both the Sanhedrin and the Roman officials (the proverbial rock and hard place).  If Jesus would have become too popular too fast, He would NOT have been able to complete His mission – – God the Father’s will and plan.  As He told His mother, Mary, at the Cana Wedding Feast:

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

Well, His “hour” is here NOW, and is here for ME and YOU – – NOW!!!

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In Summary, in both stories today, we see Jesus’ personal and real concern for the needs of others AND His readiness to heal and restore life.  In, with, and through Jesus, we see the infinite love of God extending to each and every individual.  Jesus gives freely, wholly, and fully of Himself to each person He meets.  Do you approach our Lord Jesus Christ with a confident expectation that He will hear your request and act on it?  (He will!!)

The contrasts between Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage are stark and revealing.  One is a man; the other is a woman.  One is a public official, an important person in the community; the other is a poor woman who has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that separated her from the community (“Unclean” woman are barred from the synagogue and Jewish society.).  One approaches Jesus publicly; the other approaches Jesus secretly.  However, in each case, trust and faith leads them to seek out Jesus in their time of need.

The Gospel reading today concludes with Jesus’ instructions to remain silent about this miracle.  This is typical of Mark’s Gospel and is sometimes referred to as the “Messianic Secret”.  Repeatedly, those who witness Jesus’ power and authority are instructed to not speak of what they have witnessed.  These instructions appear impossible to obey, and it is difficult to understand the purpose of these instructions.  But in each case, they seem to emphasize the fact that each individual, including the reader of Mark’s Gospel, must, in the end, make his or her own judgment about Jesus’ identity.  Each individual must make his or her own act of faith in affirming Jesus as God’s Son, as the expected Messiah for ALL Israel, and as OUR PERSONNAL SAVIOR!!

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To conclude, there are many ways in which we can compare the request for healing made by Jairus and the request of the woman with the hemorrhage of twelve years.  One comparison helps us think about prayer.  Jairus asked Jesus for healing on his daughter’s behalf; the woman with the hemorrhage on the other hand, had no one to speak for her.  She bravely, but secretly, approached Jesus on her own initiative. 

In our prayers, we do both.  We intercede for others’ needs, and we also express our own needs of intercession, to God.  We find a trust, hope, and faith in Jesus’ response to both of these people in today’s Gospel reading.  They both sought Him out in their hour of need, and were rewarded with His healing grace. 

Think about some of the things you have prayed for recently.  Notice that some of your prayers may have been for other people, and some may have been for your own needs.  In today’s Gospel we find encouragement for both kinds of prayer.  What are the unique similarities and differences between the two people who presented their needs to Jesus – – personally and intimately – – in today’s Gospel?  Did you notice that both individuals received the “healing” they sought from Jesus through the direct actions of the Holy Spirit?  We should pray for the needs of others, and for our own personal needs, with as much trust, faith, and hope as did Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage.   Please say a prayer RIGHT NOW for thanks and praise to God, who hears our needs and answers them. 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

“Christ, Savior of all life,
you come to us always.
Welcoming you,
in the peace of our nights,
in the silence of our days,
in the beauty of creation,
in the hours of great combat within,
welcoming you is knowing
that you will be with us
in every situation, always. Amen.”

(Roger of Taize)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Trinity

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …’” (Genesis 1:26) RSV.

“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26) KJV.

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

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784)

In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California.  That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows.  San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard.

Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper.  Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor.  He also became famous for his preaching.  Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America.  Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City.  On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life.  For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula.  He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory.  So the last two conquistadors—one military, one spiritual—began their quest.  José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California.  The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769).  That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition.  Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure.  On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander.  He arrived at the point of death.  The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions.  It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians.  The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns.

Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples.  Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn.  He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000.  His travels would have circled the globe.  He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living.  He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death.  He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Comment: The word that best describes Junipero is zeal.  It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will.  “Always forward, never back” was his motto.  His work bore fruit for 50 years after his death as the rest of the missions were founded in a kind of Christian communal living by the Indians.  When both Mexican and American greed caused the secularization of the missions, the Chumash people went back to what they had been—God again writing straight with crooked lines.

Quote: During his homily at Serra’s beatification, Pope John Paul II said: “Relying on the divine power of the message he proclaimed, Father Serra led the native peoples to Christ.  He was well aware of their heroic virtues—as exemplified in the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha [July 14]—and he sought to further their authentic human development on the basis of their new-found faith as persons created and redeemed by God.  He also had to admonish the powerful, in the spirit of our second reading from James, not to abuse and exploit the poor and the weak.”

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

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

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

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

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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.

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♫ “Oh Johnny Boy, The Christ, The Christ Is Com-um-ing!”♫ – Luke 1:57-66, 80†


 

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

           

Many churches of both the Eastern and Western faiths celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on this day. The Nativity of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde [Southern France] in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil, at dawn, and at midday.

 The Nativity of St John the Baptist on June 24 comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.

(per Wikipedia)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1386 – Birth of Giovanni da Capistrano, Italian saint (d. 1456)
†   1519 – Death of Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander, dies at 39
†   1529 – Zurich & catholic kantons sign Peace of Kappel, ending an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.
†   1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet (d. 1591)
†   1546 – Birth of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (d. 1610)
†   1572 – Death of Joannes van Naarden, OFM priest, hanged
†   1572 – Death of Ludovicus Voets, priest, hanged
†   1923 – Pope Pius XI speaks against allies occupying Ruhrgebied
†   1967 – Pope Paul VI publishes encyclical Sacerdotalis coelibatus, an encyclical on the celibacy of the priest
†   Feasts/Memorials: Feast of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Québec, brush makers and knife sharpeners; also Festival of San Juan observed in Bolivia and Peru, Jaaniõhtu in Estonia.

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

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Joke of the Day:

 

Why did John the Baptist take his shoes off before going into the water?

Why?

He wanted to save soles!

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist is born.  All wonder what he will grow to become.

 

(NAB Luke 1:57-66, 80) 57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”  61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”  62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.  64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today, we read from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  He opens with Jesus’ infancy narrative, a collection of stories about the birth and childhood of Jesus.  However, Luke also presents the parallel scenes (diptychs) of angelic announcements of the birth of John the Baptist AND of Jesus.  Luke’s account shows the parallelism of their births, circumcisions, and presentations in the Temple.  With his parallel stories, the ascendency of Jesus over John is stressed in Luke’s Gospel:

John is the “prophet” of the Most High:

“You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76);

And Jesus is the “Son” of the Most High:

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Then, John is said to be “great in the sight” of the Lord:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15);

And Jesus “will be ‘Great’”:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). 

Finally, John “will go before” the Lord:

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17);

And Jesus “will be” Lord:

“How does this happen to me [Elizabeth], that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:43; 2:11).

In the verses before those read today at Mass, the birth of John the Baptist had been announced by the angel Gabriel to an elderly man, Zechariah, performing his duties as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Archangel Gabriel would then go on to announce the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth.  Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth never had children.  And, Mary is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet come to live together. So, two women physically impossible to get pregnant are graced by God to give birth nonetheless.  The story of John (the Baptist) is placed in the center of the Jewish environment into which he and Jesus were born.  In the next chapter (Luke 2), Jesus’ annunciation and birth begins a movement of the Gospel into the environment of the occupying Roman Empire of Jesus’ adulthood, setting the stage for His Passion. 

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The birth and circumcision of John contained within the Gospel today emphasizes John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant, as promised in Genesis:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty.  Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.  Abram fell face down and God said to him: For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.  God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the agesThis is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.  That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants. (Genesis 17:1–12).

And, again in the book of Leviticus (a great and easy read for first-time bible readers – NOT!!), circumcision is again alluded to as the sign of the covenant:

“The LORD said to Moses: the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:1,3).

Did you know circumcision was actually widely practiced in the entire ancient world, usually as an initiation rite for males at puberty well before Abraham and Moses’ time?  However, with the Jewish nation shifting the time of circumcision to “the eighth day after birth”, the Jewish religion made it no longer a “rite of passage”, but THE sign of an eternal covenant between God and the community of, and descending from, Abraham.

The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepared the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Luke’s next chapter:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21).

So, at the beginning Luke’s books of Holy Scripture (His Gospel and the Book of ACTS), he shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be – – as a whole – – a part of the people of Israel.  On top of this acclamation of faith, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles (cf., Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23), Luke makes a case for Christianity being a direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism which accepted the supernatural origin of the universe, and of Abraham’s family, believing of a life after death, angels, and so on.  Our Jewish friends and brethren are truly our brothers in, and through, Christ – – their Messiah and OUR Savior!!

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The practice of Judaism at this time in Jesus’ time in human form in this world was to name the child at birth.  Furthermore, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child actually after the grandfather, per biblical footnotes:

There is no one among your relatives who has this name” (see Luke 1:61).

In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation for this verse states:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patriautou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

patri is a male ancestor.  This male could be the nearest ancestor, a father of the corporeal nature, such as a male parent.  Or, the male ancestor could be a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, a forefather such as a Grandfather.

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Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice.  He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God in the “Holy of Holies”.  

The naming of the infant John, and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech, should be understood as fulfilling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, given to Zechariah in the Holy of Holies:

“The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”  (Luke 1:13, 20).

Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay from emerging from the Holy of Holies, and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary:

“When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.” (Luke 1:22).

I believe Zechariah also lost his hearing too.  WHAT did I say?!  How can I presume this “strange” fact?  You might even say, “I have NEVER been told this before!”  Well, my evidence comes directly from what is written ALSO in Luke’s Gospel:

“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called” (Luke 1:62).

Why did they need to make “signs” to ask him a question if Zechariah was able to hear?  Zechariah himself would have had to make the signs to answer questions, since he was unable to speak.  Thus, I believe Zechariah was, in actuality, a “deaf – mute”, and not just deaf.

Well, actually, that is what I believed for some time.  I allowed my understanding of American English trapping me into believing what is NOT really there in the original word and meaning.  In the original Greek, the word-by-word translation proves my error in fact:

eneneuon {THEY MADE SIGNS} de tw {AND} patri  autou to {TO HIS FATHER} ti an {[AS TO] WHAT} qeloi {HE MIGHT WISH} kaleisqai {TO BE CALLED} auton {HIM}.

eneneuon actually translates to mean “signifying or expressing ‘by a nod or a sign’”.  So, in reality, Luke 1:62 simply says, “They ‘nodded’ at Zechariah, asking him what he wished for the infant to be called”.

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The last verse from today’s Gospel jumps fourteen verses to this next verse:

The child [John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel (Luke 1:80).

Interestingly, Luke uses very similar words to describe Jesus’ growing into manhood as well:

The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40).

Jesus too, goes into the desert, starting His public Ministry by attending John the Baptist preaching and observing him baptizing in the Jordan River.  Jesus presented Himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River – – two more parallels between John and Jesus indeed.

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To summarize, in today’s reading Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoice with her because God had shown her mercy in the birth of a son – – an heir.  However, they were confused when Elizabeth told them her infant’s name was to be “John”, which means “God has been gracious”.  Zechariah had been unable to speak since the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word.  When Zechariah writes “John is his name” all are amazed.  Then, a great fear comes upon everyone; and this event is spread and heard throughout all Judea:

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:65). 

Fear – – Awe – – along with joy and praise – – is the appropriate response to God’s mercy, per Luke.  I am sure people present and/or hearing of this event wondered what this infant would become, but this question was already answered by Gabriel:

He will be great in the sight of [the] Lord.  He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:15-16).

Zechariah responds with praise in his famous hymn of prayer, the “Benedictus” or “Canticle of Zechariah”:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79).

This canticle (a true song of praise) is not part of today’s Gospel reading at Mass.  Instead we jump to the last verse of this chapter (Luke 1:80), which explains that John will become strong in spirit, living in the desert until it is time to show himself to the people of Israel.  When John appears again at the beginning of Chapter 3, after the stories of the birth and childhood of Jesus, he will prepare those people for the ministry of Jesus by preaching a baptism of repentance for the acceptance of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.

John lived as a “Nazarite” (cf., Numbers 6) – – a person set apart for the Lord (The Old Testament “Samson” is another example of a Nazarite).  Filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother’s womb, he was sent to the people of God – – in the spirit and power of Elijah – – to turn hearts to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (Luke 1:17).  When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit, making our faith “alive and active” to, and through, God’s promises (cf., 2 Peter 1:3-4).  

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To conclude, names have special meanings.  Some people are named after parents or other relatives and ancestors.  Sometimes peoples’ names are symbolic, suggesting something unique about the person or recalling an event or experience related to that person’s birth.  Sometimes, names are even randomly bizarre and of their own in origin.  In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth gives her son the name John, meaning “God has been gracious”.  This name truly sets John apart – – in a special way – – for it was normally the father’s responsibility to name a child, and the name was usually a family name.  The unusual nature of John’s naming suggested (and still suggests) to everyone that he is truly a special child with a special purpose in God’s kingdom.

Spend some time focusing on your name – – and others’ names.  What is the significance of each of these names (?), and how did the naming take place?  Review the parts of today’s reading describing how John received his name.  

How important are names?  How are we as Catholics called to honor the name of God?  How can we emphasize and honor God’s name in our daily lives?  How can we promise to live “our lives” in and with God’s name?

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I would like to end with my favorite verse from today’s reading:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14).

Both John’s birth (June 24th) and Jesus’ birth (December 25th) are not only celebrated once a year, but are celebrated with each and every Baptism, Confirmation, and Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Their “births” are remembered by, and Jesus’ birth is renewed in me (and in you) each time I receive Him:  Resurrected body, blood, soul, and divinity during the Eucharist.  So, we can celebrate His (and our) birthday EVERY day if we wish.  In doing so, we will live by another verse (my all-time favorite verse, the bible verse I take as my personal motto):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17).

When God draws us into His presence, He wants us to be still and quiet – – before Him – – so we can listen to His voice as He speaks to our consciences and our hearts.  In doing so, He reveals His Word, Will, and Plan to us personally, uniquely, and intimately.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord (?) and do you ponder his Word in your heart with a certain trust and confidence in Him? I will finish with the prayer I say continually throughout the day:

My Lord and my God; I love You and I trust You”.

 What else is there to say!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Sign of the Cross

 

“In the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.”

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Faith and Works

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith….Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:18-20) RSV.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-20) KJV.

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“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) RSV.

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….”  But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).   

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic.  He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.  His Baptism, he said, was for repentance.  But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b).  But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b).  Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew.  John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah.  But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus.  John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah.  But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.  For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53).  John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment: John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ.  Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation.  Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives.  The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote: “And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past.  It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced.  He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared.  John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make.  Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist.  These are the weeks of Advent” (A New Catechism).

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 24 & 25 of 26:

24.  To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups.  It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

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25.  Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means.  Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

 

“Tom, Tom, Tom – – Am I Like You In Not Just TRUSTING in Him? And Tom, Do You Also Know Your Head Is On Fire?!” – John 20:19-23†


Pentecost Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

It’s been a little over one year since I made my solemn profession in the Secular Franciscan Order.  Has it changed me?  It changes me EVERY single day; – – and definitely for the better!  I have loved my journey, my peeling back of many layers of my faith, my relationship with God.  I pray my “journey” continues to be as fruit-filled as the past few years since having my own personal “Pentecost” experience.  Thank You Lord!!

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Have a safe and happy Memorial Day this Monday.  Please take some time to remember the sacrifices our military has made in defending our freedom.  Remember: “freedom is NOT free”.  Please fly the US flag with pride and dignity – – for ALL to see!!

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   735 – Death of “Bede”, English historian and theologian (b. 672 or 673)
†   1601 – Birth of Antoine Daniel, Jesuit missionary and martyr (d. 1648)
†   1651 – Birth of Louis-Antoine, Cardinal de Noailles, French cardinal (d. 1729)
†   1979 – Pope John Paul ordains John J O’Conner as a bishop
†   Feasts/Memorials: Augustine of Canterbury; Venerable Bede; Saint Julius the Veteran; Pope John I; Hildebert; Bruno, Bishop of Würzburg; Eutropius

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

“Look for God.  Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.” ~ Quote from book, “Eat, Pray, Love“.

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Today’s reflection:  Jesus appears to His disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

(NAB John 20:19-23) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

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Gospel Reflection:

 

The Easter Season concludes with today’s celebration, the Feast of Pentecost.  On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the “Apostles” gathered together in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church.  The story of Pentecost (with the “tongues of fire” and “speaking in strange languages”) is found in today’s first reading, the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11).  

The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, recounts again, how Jesus personally gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, just in a slightly different way.  Interestingly, this event takes place on Easter Sunday in John’s Gospel.  There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is simply for us to know that after His death, Jesus Christ truly fulfilled His promise of sending to His disciples a “helper”, an “Advocate” – – the Holy Spirit – – who enabled them to be His witnesses throughout the world in their words and actions (and to be ours today).

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The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in truly human, bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ resurrected and transfigured bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed. His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on a specific Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name. “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”; and, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas” as well.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in the Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was also the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time.  Thomas for me was a bona fide, natural pessimist. Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (As all the Apostles) to stand with Jesus during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, AND the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after hearing the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and after seeing the empty tomb, they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL, free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked and secured.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24 of today’s reading, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, and together in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning of the Apostles, parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same NOW, and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, thus equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘” (John 20:17)

Jesus did something which only love and trust and can do.  He commissioned His weak and timid “Apostles” to carry His Gospel – – His “good news” to the ends of the world.  Jesus fulfilled His mission on earth through His perfect love and perfect obedience given over to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  He called His disciples, AND, He calls us to do the same!  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, so to, He breathes on us (personally, uniquely, and intimately) the same Holy Spirit, furnishing each of us – – personally, uniquely, and intimately – – with His power, grace, and strength.

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Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He also greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

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

Now, Mark says:

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

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded? This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated. This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did. ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21). ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18). […] When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching. ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20). So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish. ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16). […] Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16). Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father. ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission. The office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests. Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone also brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles. There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

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

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today. In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two acts of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated. By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”, were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking this (John 20:28) with the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“ (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means. I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly complete as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (from the Greek word “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; His incarnate pre-existing Wisdom;  His being THE instrument or tool of creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.  (Wow!! That’s a mouthful, and yet still incomplete!)

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his very fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

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

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, his Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is still now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in our Old Testament (His First Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe a saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God; and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I think John actually implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion about eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by John’s particular book (Gospel).

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I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today. We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!  Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day somewhat mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt?  (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

In the context of the feast of Pentecost, today’s Gospel reading reminds us about the fundamental, essential, and central connection between the gifts of “peace” and “forgiveness” in and through the action of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus greeted His disciples with a gift of peace.  He then commissions His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus “breathes” the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and sends them to continue His work of reconciliation through the “forgiveness” of sins.

Jesus’ act of breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles mirrored God’s act of breathing life into Adam.  Interestingly, both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”  Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic (Universal) Church is called to be a reconciling – – “forgiving – – presence in the world.  The reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Catholic Church’s “Sacramental” life.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin and become a new creation in Christ.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Catholic Church celebrates the infinite mercy of God the Father through His forgiveness of sins.  This reconciling presence of the Holy Spirit working in and through each of us is also to be a way of life for ALL Christians.  When placed in situations of personal and/or public conflict, we are to be agents of peace, forgiveness, and harmony, among ALL His people.

The readings for our celebration of Pentecost remind us of a “transformative event” taking place when His first Christians, His first disciples, “were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1), in union.  Unity in the Body of Christ completely reflects the unity of the Holy Trinity.  Jesus tells His disciples:

Everything that the Father has is mine and the Holy Spirit “will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:15). 

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are ONE in “love” which Jesus personally offers to each of His disciples as “peace”.

As we transition from the consolation of the Easter Season to the daily invitations of Ordinary Time, how can we foster the unity of the Spirit within the Body of Christ, the Catholic (Universal) Church?  This “unity” is a gift, a grace we receive, and NOT a “goal we achieve”; thus, we are responsible for cultivating our desire to respond fully to this magnificent gift from God Himself.  In all of our interactions with fellow members of His body, we should exercise the Holy Spirit’s fruits:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Lord may “be glad in His works” (Psalm 104:31) in, with, and through each and every one of us.

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Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church.  Today’s Gospel, for Pentecost, reminds us that the Church begins with the command “to forgive”.  Within our family and friends – – the domestic church – – we learn how “to forgive” and to “accept forgiveness”.  The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to do both!!

Today is a fitting time to share a celebration of reconciliation with family and friends.  Gather together and sit quietly for a few minutes, inviting everyone to reflect upon their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness.  If there is a situation or issue needing attention, spend some time reflecting on how it might be addressed appropriately and lovingly.  Reflect on how Jesus Christ gave us the gift, His grace, of the Holy Spirit to help us in both, the work of “forgiveness”, and to bring us peace in, with, and through, Him.  Pray together the “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” asking the Holy Spirit to help each of those present. Finish by sharing with one another the Sign of Peace as Jesus did so magnificently in today’s Gospel.

I will end by sharing my peace with you as well:

Peace be with each of you”.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with Your holy gifts.  Let my weakness be penetrated with Your strength this very day that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously, that I may do what is right and just.  Let my charity be such as to offend no one, and hurt no one’s feelings; so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.  Assist me, O Holy Spirit, in all my trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, protect me in temptations and console me in afflictions.  Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit, and pour Your light into my heart, my soul, and my mind. Assist me to live a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace.  Amen.”

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Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Faith and Works

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 7:21) RSV.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) KJV.

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“‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you?’” (Luke 6:46) RSV.

“Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605?)

In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England.  Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome.  Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel.  Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.

Augustine again set out.  This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian.  Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized.  After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see.  He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands.  As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.

Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success.  Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure.  Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors.

Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible.  The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England.  Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”

Comment: Augustine of Canterbury comes across today as a very human saint, one who could suffer like many of us from a failure of nerve.  For example, his first venture to England ended in a big U-turn back to Rome.  He made mistakes and met failure in his peacemaking attempts with the Briton Christians.  He often wrote to Rome for decisions on matters he could have decided on his own had he been more self-assured.  He even received mild warnings against pride from Pope Gregory, who cautioned him to “fear lest, amidst the wonders that are done, the weak mind be puffed up by self-esteem.”  Augustine’s perseverance amidst obstacles and only partial success teaches today’s apostles and pioneers to struggle on despite frustrations and be satisfied with gradual advances.

Quote: In a letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great wrote: “He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps.”

Patron Saint of: England

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

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Prologue to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS):

Prologue

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Doubting Thomas Came To Believe in Jesus – – AND – – Also In The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus And …!” – John 20:19-31†


    

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1220 – Death of Adolf of Altena, Archbishop of Cologne
†   1250 – Pope Innoncent III refuses Jews of Cordova Spain to build a synagogue
†   1610 – Death of Robert Parsons, English Jesuit priest (b. 1546)
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church
†   1793 – Death of Ignacije Szentmartony, Croatian Jesuit missionary and geographer (b. 1718)
†   1853 – Protestant church questions king Willem III Roman Catholic Bishops
†   1889 – Death St. Father Damien, Belgian missionary to Hawaii Leper Colony (b. 1840)
†   1902 – Pope Leo XIII encyclical “On Church in US”
†   1942 – Birth of Francis X. DiLorenzo, American Catholic prelate
†   1945 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Communium interpretes dolorum”
†   1949 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Redemptoris nostril”
†   1652 – Death of Patriarch Joseph, head of the Russian Orthodox Church

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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Today’s reflection: Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

 

(NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 28Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles.  This detail alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in today’s reading.  This particular Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance of the Risen Jesus Christ happens on the evening of the “first day” (Easter Sunday Eve) on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit, but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus some time later, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples.

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five “marks” of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

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Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on an Apostle, “Thomas”.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  And, the name “Thomas” is actually an Aramaic word, also for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Roman Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  However, he was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time. 

Thomas, for me, was a bona fide, natural pessimist.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people “rising from the dead”.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas is reported as saying to Jesus’ other disciples:

 “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage (as all the Apostles did) to stand with Him, Jesus, during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship during his time of difficulty and hardship.  A few days later, he doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, personally hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, even though he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to Thomas personally and intimately.  Jesus then reassured Thomas that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  The Risen Jesus also reassured them all – – in His appearing to them – – that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples – – without or with Thomas – – has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels, as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples, after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women, and saw the empty tomb; they all (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is STILL free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with these other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus first appeared to them that “first night”.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together in extreme fear, in one room or building within the city walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus surprisingly and miraculously appeared to them in this “fortress”, greeting His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them (and us still today) from their fears and anxieties, and then commissioning them to continue the work of the Resurrection which He had begun during His earthly ministry; His mission, now theirs in the first century, and ours today in this century:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearance, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does for the body and soul.  He commissioned His weak, frightened, and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to ALL peoples and ALL nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus Himself, by His heavenly Father in heaven: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust, and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples to continue this mission, AND, He calls each of US to do the same, now and in the future.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparting to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, equipping us with power, grace, and strength to do the will of His Father, their Father, and OUR Father, in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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 Jesus greeted His followers twice in this reading using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all the Jewish people of the time.  He greets His followers with the same warmth and affection He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.  (I believe He greets us the same way still today.)

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

An inherent theme of rejoicing in today’s reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse found in John’s Gospel:

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in using this “customary” greeting upon His return.

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 John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spirit.  Luke talks about Jesus’ “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before these followers, these disciples, being Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, a word meaning, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus Himself prays:

As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  However, the solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

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

Now, Mark says:

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

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus Christ.  And, He freely gave the eleven “Apostles” a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to make disciples of ALL nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfilled authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles – – now sent – – they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadors of Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops become the successors of the Apostles; thus, Bishops then also share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and missionThe office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now called Apostle’s – – are given a new spiritual life coming directly from Jesus, the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on” someone brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read Ezekiel 37, which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, written hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto the Apostles.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father, making for an awesome vision or image for the reader.

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The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563) defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the Sacrament of Penance, known in the Catholic Church today as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and STILL continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

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

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the “binding-loosing” imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think there are two of special importance to these words: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven through the actions of the Holy Spirit.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth AND the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sacrament of Reconciliation” is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was stretched on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do repent and return, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us (no questions asked), restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him was the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the open wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration – – a venerable “act of faith” – – in the divinity of his dear friend, Jesus Christ.  These words, “My Lord and my God”,  were an unexpected and sudden prayer of faith, praise, and joy; a prayer still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion linking the first verse of his Gospel:

… and the Word was God.“  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate, personal, unique, and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

“The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – an acronym (B.I.B.L.E.) for our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”!

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Consider the following verse:

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29)

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What Jesus is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters in believing and trusting in His kingdom.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity over ALL.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the guarantee and security of faith in Jesus Christ:

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

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The final two verses (about performing many other signs and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book, His Gospel.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have ALL people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the First (Old) Testament (the first Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ IS God, and by believing, we begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses is that I discovered a few manuscripts from the early Church which actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel by using these particular words.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John had a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers, its audience, consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by this particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without seeing”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible even to the disciples who had seen Him, and witnessed Him being brutally crucified, died – – and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  So, Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his human desire for this “hard” proof.  Thomas is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is truly, fully, and really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in, with, and through Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally, individually, and uniquely, a new way of life, given to each of us through the power of His Resurrection, AND all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

Think about Thomas’s response to reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas and his human doubt? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to news that the disciples had actually seen Jesus AFTER His death on the cross.  Some of us want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen!

Many of us have heard the saying, “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this maxim really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.  It is simply a matter of FAITH!!

In our normal “human” lives there will be presented to each of us many opportunities for conflict.  Jesus did not promise us the absence of conflict in our lives, and on our paths to Him.  Instead, He gave us the grace and gifts of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation in order to reduce our personal and unique conflicts.  The measure of a true Catholic Christian is not the absence of conflict, but the manner in how conflict is resolved in our lives.  Filled with the race, the gift, of the Holy Spirit, we ask Jesus to help us to bring peace and forgiveness to situations of conflict in our daily lives.

Today, right NOW, take this opportunity to examine how you resolve conflict.  Recall a recent argument or disagreement and how the conflict was resolved.  Was the conflict resolved peacefully, in the way and spirit of Jesus Christ’s example?  If not, what alternatives might be tried in the future for a proper Christian response to conflict?  We have each received Jesus’ grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit imparted to the first Apostles helps each of us, personally, uniquely, and intimately, to be people who forgive ALL others and seeks peace in their life and their world.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

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

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so
much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen”

ТТТ

 

 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Purgatory:

“Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) RSV.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) KJV.

***

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey …” (1 Peter 3:18-20) RSV.

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient … “ (1 Peter 3:18-20) KJV.

***

But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life..” (Revelations 21:27) RSV.

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelations 21:27) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Caesar de Bus (1544-1607)

 

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life.  After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career.  He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

For a time life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman.  He was confident he had made the right choice.  That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.

He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life.  By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest.  Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places.  His efforts were badly needed and well received.

Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis.  The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops.  Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.

One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, was published 60 years after his death.

He was beatified in 1975.

Comment:

“Family catechesis” is a familiar term in parish life today.  Grounded in the certainty that children learn their faith first from their parents, programs that deepen parental involvement in religious education multiply everywhere.  There were no such programs in Caesar’s day until he saw a need and created them.  Other needs abound in our parishes, and it’s up to us to respond by finding ways to fill them or by joining in already established efforts.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 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.

Т

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

ТТТ

“We are ALL ‘Talent-ed’ Children of God!” – Matthew 25:14-30†


 

 

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

 

ТТТ

  

Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

  

There are only a few more “New Translation of the Mass” portions left for my blog.  I have been posting, and reposting, these new translations of Holy Scripture to be used at Mass for about a year.

With the new Liturgical year, I will be deleting this section, and adding a new section titled, “Catholic Apologetics”.  It will be a simple listing of Scripture verses and Catechism references to explain such things as Papal Authority, Purgatory (yes, it is still a Catholic belief), and so on.  Let me know what you think.

  

ТТТ

             

 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   354 – Birth of Saint Augustine of Hippo, North African theologian (d. 430)
†   866 – Pope Nicholas I answers the envoys of Boris (Ad consulta vestra) about the individual Churches or Rites of the Catholic Church
†   867 – Death of Nicholas I, (the Great), pope (858-67), at age 67
†   1004 – Death of Abbo van Fleury, [Floriacensis], French abbott/saint
†   1565 – Pope Pius IV publishes degree Professi fidei
†   1938 – America’s 1st saint, Mother Frances Cabrini, is beatified
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI gives tiara “to poor”
†   Feasts/Memorials: Bricius of Tours; Mother Cabrini; Saint Homobonus; Stanislaus Kostka, All the Saints of the Premonstratensian Order; St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople

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

 

ТТТ

 

 Quote of the Day:

  

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” ~ Erma Bombeck

  

ТТТ

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable “of the talents”, in which He teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God the Father has given to each of us for use in service to the Kingdom of Heaven.

  

(NAB Matthew 25:14-30) 14“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  15To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  Immediately 16the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five.  17Likewise, the one who received two made another two.  18But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.  19After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.  20The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five.  He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.   See, I have made five more.’  21His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  22[Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents.  See, I have made two more.’  23His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.’  24Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; 25so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.  Here it is back.’ 26His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?  27Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?  28Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  29For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  30And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

 

ТТТ

 Gospel Reflection:

  

This week’s Gospel is the example of how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves as they wait for God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Remember, last week’s reading taught that there is no way to predict the coming of God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus’ disciples must, therefore, remain ever vigilant, and ever ready, to receive the Son of Man at any time.

Today’s parable talks about Catholic Christian discipleship using economic metaphors: something we can understand, see, and feel in order to show a moral point.  Before he leaves on a journey, the “master” entrusts to his servants a different number of “talents”, giving to each “according to their abilities.   Upon the master’s return, he finds that the first and second servants have doubled their money; both are rewarded.  The third servant, however, has only preserved what was given to him because he was afraid to lose the money, so he risked nothing.  This servant is punished by the master, and his talent is given to the one who brought the greatest return.

Recalling, and keeping last week’s parable in mind (the “Ten Virgins” about being ever ready for the Parousia), today’s parable goes on to teach that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts and graces God has given to us.  Our gifts, or “talents”, are given to us for the service of others, NOT for our own personal use!!  If we fail to use these gifts, God’s judgment – – on us – – will be severe.  On the other hand, if we make use of these gifts in service to God’s Kingdom of Heaven, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities.

Т

Today’s parable makes it clear, from the very first verse (Verse 14), a parabolic comparison exists between “a man who was going on a journey” and “the kingdom of heaven”.  Being faithful users of one’s unique and divinely given “gifts” leads to a fuller participation in God’s kingdom.  At the same time, laziness and inactivity to God’s graces and gifts could also exclude one from paradise.

Today’s reading reminds us that Catholic Christian spirituality is neither passive nor inactive in attitude and works.  Let us remember that prayer helps us to discern His gifts, the “talents we have”, given to us freely by God the Father, and to be used for others.  Prayer and discernment should lead us to use our gifts (Time, Talents, and Treasures) in the service of God and our neighbor.  God’s uniquely personal gifts of grace, our “talents”, allow us to share in the work of serving His Kingdom of Heaven.

Т

So, what is a talent anyhow?  There are two distinct and correct answers to this question.  From a literal and historical viewpoint, a talent was a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal (gold, silver, copper) and its place of origin.  It is mentioned in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 18:24 (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant).

The other is from the anagogical viewpoint.  This viewpoint involves an allegorical interpretation of a passage in the Bible as a foreshadowing of people or events in the New Testament.  So, the term “talent” is taken in the literal sense, meaning: “an unusual natural or divinely inspired ability to do something well”.  We all have talents.  Some have many little ones, like wiggling their ears and dancing.  Some have big ones, like remembering everything they see, hear, read, or touch.  Most of us have a wide range of “talents”, from the least useful to the greatest needed in society. 

I know I personally have an uncanny ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, with relative ease.  I am a “people person”.  My wife says I have a great “gift of throwing the bull!!”  I simply consider myself “well-learned”.  In reality, I have been given a strong sense of curiosity, which has landed me in trouble occasionally throughout my many years.

Now, let’s get back on track and go back and read verse 15 of today’s reading again:

To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.” (Matthew 25:15)

Was Jesus talking about pieces of money, special abilities to be imparted to others, or both?  I believe He is more interested in the later than the former.  Jesus Christ was not a materialistic person, and money has no use in His kingdom.

Т

Two of the master’s servants used their “talents”, and in the process gained many more.  The last servant, out of fear, chose not to use his “Talent”.  Instead, he:

Dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”  (Matthew 25:18)

This may seem strange to us, but in the unsettled and often violently ruthless conditions of Palestine during Jesus’ earthly time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.  They did not have banks with safety deposit boxes back then, and the modern mattress had yet to be invented as well.

 

Although the first two servants received large sums, doubling the amount given to them initially, their faithful trading was regarded by the “master” as faithfulness, reliability, and devotion in small matters.  So, he rewards them with “great”, yet unspecified, responsibilities.  I believe Jesus’ statement in this parable:

Share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23)

is reference to the joy of God the Father’s banquet of the heavenly kingdom, as reported earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

Luke offers a parallel verse for verse 21 in Matthew’s Gospel, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities” (Matthew 25:21):

 “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” (Luke 16:10).

Interestingly, Luke seems to go a little bit further in his proclamation.  He adds a second part, recommending a constant fidelity to those with positions of responsibility.

Т

Have you ever been “called on the carpet” for doing something poorly, or creating a bad outcome for your employer?  I have a few times, but chose to use these “experiences” as a learning tool.  I firmly believe we learn more from our mistakes, than from our successes.

The last servant in today’s parable is “called on the carpet” in a big way; he truly messed-up.  He is called a “wicked, lazy servant”.  His sin is He did not even TRY!!  This foolish man’s “inactivity” is not insignificant, financially, but he is still seriously blameworthy for his lack of action.  He failed to use the “talent” he was given to him – – TO USE – – from his “master”.  The result: he loses the gift he had received; it going to the first servant, whose possessions are already great.

Т

What are the results of using YOURtalents” in the service of God?  Jesus says in verse 29:

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

Matthew has a nearly identical application of this proverb earlier in His book:

“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:12)

The reference to “more” being given to those who use their talents transcends a basic understanding or wisdom we have of God’s kingdom.  Matthew is indicating that God the Father gives a further and greater understanding to those who accepts the revealed mystery; and from the one who does not, he will take it away.

This saying or proverb about giving more and taking away is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels:

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

And,

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

Our “talents” truly respond to the “Word of God”!  Those who “hear” the word must “become a light to others” (Luke 8:16).  Our generous and persevering response to the “Word of God”, through our “talents”, leads us to an even further, more perfect response to His “Word”; a beautiful and continual circle of enlightenment.

Т

The last verse of today’s reading (verse 30) is very similar to a verse much earlier in Matthew’s book:

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

This “wailing and grinding of teeth” is a phrase used frequently in Matthew’s Gospel to describe the “Final Condemnation” (cf., Matthew 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  “Wailing and grinding of teeth” is something I believe no one is truly looking forward too; being placed outside the kingdom and not even able to look in.

Т

To conclude, in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the correlation between faithfulness and responsibilities.  Our lives provide many opportunities to illustrate this connection.  As we prove ourselves “trustworthy”, we are trusted to take on greater responsibilities.  Jesus teaches us, in this parable, that when we show ourselves to be trustworthy in small matters; we can be trusted to participate in greater matters of responsibility.

Why is Jesus telling this parable?  I believe it tells us something about how God the Father deals with us, His servants.  The parable speaks first of the “master’s” trust in his servants.  While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best.  While there were no strings attached, this was obviously seen to be a test in order to see if his servants would be productive and reliable in their use of the “talents” entrusted to them.  God the Father, OUR “Master” will reward the hard-working, productive, active, and faithful.  And, he will punish those who sit idly by, and who do nothing with His “talents”, which he has entrusted to us – – TO USE – – in accordance with our abilities.  The essence of this parable seems to lie in the servants’ conception of “responsibility”.  Each servant was faithfully entrusted with the master’s talents, and was faithful to his master’s will, to a certain end-point. 

Sadly, the servant who buried the master’s talent was deemed “irresponsible”.  One can bury seeds in the ground and expect them to become productive; they obey natural laws.  Coins and Talents (big “T” and little “t”), however, do not obey natural laws.  These gifts (graces) obey economic and supernatural laws, becoming productive only when in circulation.  Would it not be presumed then, that the “master” in today’s Gospel reading expected his servants to be productive in the use of his money?

God the Father entrusts His disciples with gifts and graces.  He gives His disciples the freedom to use them as they think best (free will).  With each gift, each talent, God the Father gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in the most fitting and appropriate way: 

Faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God …  this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:5,10) 

I believe we “turn away” from God by our indifference and attitude; saying to Him, “it’s not worth trying”. 

God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing “good deeds” for others.  Those who are faithful – – with even a little – – are entrusted with more!  But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have been given.  There is an important lesson for us to learn here for us.  We either get more OR we lose what we have; God’s kingdom is dynamic and not static in any way.  We either advance towards God or we slip back, out of the picture.  As Peter learned in the boat one stormy night, to walk towards God one must go “overboard”!!  Do you sincerely, seriously, and industriously seek to serve God with the gifts and graces (time, talents, and treasures) He has given to you?

Take some time to recall how you have matured, and how you can NOW be trusted with greater responsibilities (hopefully).  Our “trustworthiness” in small matters shows that we can also be trusted to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven. We share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven when we use our talents to help and serve others.  So, as a gift to God, choose something to do this week to serve others; and repeat doing this gift-giving action every week.  

 

 ТТТ

  Reflection Prayer:

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  And kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you will renew the face of the earth.
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.  In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation.  We ask this
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

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New Translation of the Mass:

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

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

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

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

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

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

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  A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)

  

Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first United States citizen to be canonized; she became a U.S. citizen in 1909.  Her deep trust in the loving care of her God gave her the strength to be a valiant woman doing the work of Christ.

Refused admission to the religious order which had educated her to be a teacher, she began charitable work at the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadogno, Italy.  In September 1877 she made her vows there and took the religious habit.

When the bishop closed the orphanage in 1880, he named Frances prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  Seven young women from the orphanage joined her.

Since her early childhood in Italy, Frances had wanted to be a missionary in China but, at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, Frances went west instead of east.  She traveled with six sisters to New York City to work with the thousands of Italian immigrants living there.

She found disappointment and difficulties with every step.  When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage in the United States was not available.  The archbishop advised her to return to Italy. But Frances, truly a valiant woman, departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to establish that orphanage.  And she did.

In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick.  Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes.

As a child, she was always frightened of water, unable to overcome her fear of drowning.  Yet, despite this fear, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times.  She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago.

Comment:

The compassion and dedication of Mother Cabrini is still seen in hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens, not yet canonized, who care for the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and state institutions.  We complain of increased medical costs in an affluent society, but the daily news shows us millions who have little or no medical care, and who are calling for new Mother Cabrini’s to become citizen-servants of their land.

Quote:

At her canonization on July 7, 1946, Pius XII said, “Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that, knowing the will of God in her regard, she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of a woman.”

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

  

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and Penance

 

Is Reconciliation an act of faith on my part?

How can I better determine my characteristic fault?

How does spiritual blindness hurt us?

Do we need to offer satisfaction for our own sins and those of others?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’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.

Т

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.

 

 

 

“Mary says, ‘My Son DOES Walk on Water’!” – Matthew 14:22-33†


 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

One week from tomorrow, my four boys go back to school; two in Middle School and two in High School.  Let us all pray for a safe year for all our students and their families.

BTW – Did I mention that my boys will not be home all day – – EVERY day (Hee, hee, hee – Party time).

 

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Today in Catholic History:


†   768 – Stephen III [IV] begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1547 – Death of Cajetanus van Thiene, Italian saint, dies1814
†   1547 – Pope Pius VII reinstates Jesuits
†   1978 – Thousands of mourners file past body of Pope Paul VI

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water, and the disciples acknowledging Him as the “Son of God’.

 

(NAB Matthew 14:22-33) 22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  23 After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.  24 Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  25 During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.  27 At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  29 He said, “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  30 But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  32 After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  33 Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s Gospel directly follows last week’s account of Jesus feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 (plus) people with just five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  For the sake of the crowds, Jesus had deferred His time of private prayer and rest.  In today’s reading, Jesus finally finds some time for quiet reflection and private prayer.  He sends His disciples ahead of Him by boat, dismisses the crowds, and then withdraws to His favorite place on a mountain to pray privately.  Jesus Christ being on a mountain to pray reminds me of a Chinese proverb:

“You must climb the mountain if you would see the plain.”

 

Does the Lord seem distant when trials or adversity come your way?  It was at Jesus’ initiative that the disciples sailed across the lake, only to find themselves in a life-threatening storm:

“When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and He was alone on shore.  Then He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:47-48).

Can you picture being thrown about, in a turbulent sea, in a glorified open rowboat?  In the midst of all the mayhem, you look up and see a person walking towards you – – ON THE WATER!!  Though experienced fisherman and sailors, the disciples, laboring to keep the boat aright against the violent sea, are saved by Jesus in a most miraculous and mysterious way.  

The disciples were not faring well.  Indeed, they had gotten into some serious trouble.  These seasoned men of the sea were struggling to ride out the blowing wind and foaming waves, making little progress in their journey.  While Jesus was not with them in the boat, He watched over them in prayer.  When He perceived the danger of their situation, He went to them, on the sea, and startled them with His unexpected appearance.  Do you look for the Lord’s presence when you encounter difficulty or challenges?  When you are “startled”, look for God – – He is there for and with you.

Т

Jesus does not calm the seas immediately!  The disciples demonstrate fear and wonder when they see Jesus walking toward them on the water.  In this story, it is not the storm which is feared but the sight of Jesus Christ coming towards them on the water.  No wonder they mistake Him for a ghost.  (The “Holy Ghost” was already with them.  I wonder if they realized this bit of fact.)

Jesus is demonstrating to the disciples His power over the waters.  Remember, from earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:26), a similar occurrence happened on the same sea; and Jesus took control of the weather and sea then as well:

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

In the earlier occurrence, Jesus CALLS to the disciples and calms their fears.  In this second occurrence, Jesus COMES to the disciples and calms their fears – – AGAIN!  In both these occurrences, Jesus is neither ghost, nor a spirit; He is the “Messiah” walking on the water in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The spontaneous, hasty Peter seeks proof that the person walking towards them on a path of deep water is indeed Jesus Himself.  He asks Jesus to command Him to come to Him on the water; and Jesus grants this request.  Jesus simply commands Peter:

Come!” (Matthew 14:29)

Peter actually obeys and gets out of the boat, and starts walking towards Jesus Christ on the water.  The reason given in the reading is that Peter became “frightened”.  I wonder if the real reason is that Peter realized the Jesus was going to make him the “rock” the church will be built upon; and everyone knows a ROCK SINKS!!!  (Hee, hee, sorry for this one.)

 

Peter’s human fear and self-imposed doubt overtake him as he is supernaturally walking on the water.  He cries out for help.  Jesus immediately reaches out and saves Peter as he is sinking into the sea “like a rock”!  When Jesus and Peter enter the boat, Matthew relates that the wind ceases.  The disciples, onboard this small, open vessel, confess that Jesus Christ is TRULY the “Son of God”.

Jesus’ control over the sea, in both of these “sea stories” may be meant to recall the Old Testament theme of God’s control over the “chaotic waters”:

You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (Psalm 65:8);

You rule the raging sea; you still its swelling waves.” (Psalm 89:10);

The flood has raised up, LORD; the flood has raised up its roar; the flood has raised its pounding waves.  More powerful than the roar of many waters, more powerful than the breakers of the sea, powerful in the heavens is the LORD.” (Psalm 93:3-4).

And so, the Lord …:

Hushed the storm to a murmur; the waves of the sea were stilled.”(Psalm 107:29).

Into today’s Reading, Jesus’ divine power is expressed by His walking on the sea instead of simply “calming” the seas:

“During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them, walking on the sea.”(Matthew 14:25);

Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.” (Psalm 77:20);

And,

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.” (Job 9:8).

Т

The sea is a unique place; in speaking about the sea, writer have used unique terms.  The “fourth watch of the night” (verse 25) is a nautical term meaning between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. – – early morning or late night (six of one OR half-dozen of another).  It is a historical fact that the Romans were the first to divide the twelve hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called “watches.”  This is still the norm in some navies of the world.

Т

During this fourth watch, Jesus’ reply, “It is I” is a powerful, revelational, and declarative statement, from Jesus Himself, to the fearful disciples. The same statement is related in Mark’s Gospel:

They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:50)

That powerful, declarative statement: “It is I”, literally means, “I am.”  This statement reflects the divine revelatory formula found in the Old Testament passages which reveals the hidden divinity of Jesus as the divine Son of God:

When Moses asks God, “What should I tell the Israelites when they ask, ‘who sent you?’”  God replied, “Tell them, ‘I am who am’ has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

Later, through Isaiah, God revealed the following:

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning.  I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.  Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.   Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”(Isaiah 41:4, 10, 14).

And, again in Isaiah 43, God says:

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.  You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen To know and believe in me and understand that IT IS I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.  … yes, from eternity I am He; There is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:1-3, 10, 13).

So, God set the stage through Moses and the prophets for identifying the “true” “Messiah”: His name shall be “I AM”!   Another translation of the Hebrew and Greek word for “I am” is “It is I”!

Т

This dramatic incident on the Sea of Galilee revealed Peter’s character more clearly than from the others present for this experience of a sign of Jesus’ true divinity.  Here we see Peter’s impulsivity of his faith; his tendency to act without thinking inspired him to “get out of the boat”.  Then, that same impulsivity inspired Peter to doubt, to worry, and to become scared to death.

Peter often failed and anguished as a result of his impulsiveness.  In contrast, Jesus often hinted to His disciples how difficult it will be (and is) to follow Him; how difficult His path which He taught and lived, is.  You may think and feel that you are sinking at times, overwhelmed by waves of worry, and in the depths of fear; however, the truth is: Jesus Christ is always there to take your hand.  

Т

Two other interesting things said by Jesus in verse 31 of today’s Gospel reading are revealing as well:

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

First, “you of little faith” is also found in Luke, and earlier in Matthew:

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

And,

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

You of little faith” is used by Jesus Christ for those of His disciples whose faith in Him is not as deeply rooted as it should be.  That was certain in Peter’s situation.

Then, the second phrase, “why did you doubt?” uses a verb distinctive to Matthew used in only one other place, in Matthew 28:17:

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

 

The confession, “Truly, you are the Son of God“, made by all the disciples after they witnessed Jesus helping Peter back into the boat, is in striking contrast to Mark’s description that the disciples are “completely astounded“:

“He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded.” (Mark 6:51)

Т

In summary, I believe this story is about the disciples’ growing understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ, living physically among them during their daily struggles.  Related to last week’s Gospel about the feeding of the “crowds”, today’s Gospel is also about what the disciples’ faith in Jesus will enable them to do in THEIR daily lives.  In last week’s Gospel, when the disciples see the crowds, they ask Jesus to send them away.  However, Jesus turns the circumstances around, telling the disciples to feed the crowd with the miniscule provisions they have with them.  For me, both of these Gospels tell much about what ministry “truly” is, and why we need to participate in Jesus’ ministry then, now, and into the future.

 Faith in Jesus Christ, their Savior and ours will enable the disciples to do the work (the mission) which Jesus has done and is still doing on earth.  Remember, Peter truly did walk on water.  The disciples truly fed a large mass of people mysteriously and miraculously with the five loaves and two fish.  Jesus’ disciples (all of US) can and will participate in the work of the kingdom of heaven when we allow Him into our lives, hearts, and souls.  When Peter fears and doubts, he falters in his faith.  Peter’s example teaches us that “true” Catholic Christian ministry (work) emerges from a faithful belief that Jesus is the “true” Messiah, God’s only Son:

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?  For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:24-26)

The mission (work) of the Catholic Church is to continue the work Jesus started during His time on earth.  The family, – – the “domestic church”, – – participates in this mission as well.  Please remember that Jesus Himself said:

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

I believe people think too logically – – too “earthly” – – in regards to this particular verse.   “Where two or three are gathered together” does not mean a direct gathering, as one unit or group.  The two or three can be separated by miles, even in different parts of the world, yet still be together – – gathered – – in praising, adoring, and worshiping God.  This is why the “Divine Office” is the official prayer of the Catholic Church.  It is said privately, and as a group, throughout the world, continuously, and in unison.

 

How do you, your family, and your friends participate in the mission (works) of the Catholic Church?  In what ways can you seek to reach out to your neighbors and other people in need through acts of kindness, mercy, and justice?  Peter wanted to be like Jesus, to walk on water as Jesus did.  Take note: Peter was “successful” for a time; but then he doubted as he focused on the externals, the waves and the wind; then he began to sink into the water (like a “rock”).  How are your acts of mercy and justice rooted in your faith in Jesus?  Pray that Jesus Christ will continue to work through you to prepare the kingdom of heaven on earth.

A great deal of failure in Catholic life is due to acting on impulse, emotional fervor, and passion without counting the spiritual cost for such actions.  Peter, in the moment of his failure called out for help, seized Jesus, and held Him firmly in his grip.  Every time Peter fell, he rose again.  His failures only made him love the Lord Jesus Christ more deeply, and to trust Him more intently.  

Jesus Christ keeps watch over us at all times, especially in our moments of temptation, challenges, and difficulties.  Do you rely on Jesus for His strength and help?  Jesus assures us that we have no need to fear if we trust in Him and in His great love for us.  When trials and temptations threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond?  Do you withdraw?  Or do you stand your ground knowing you have a powerful ally: Jesus Christ?  Let’s “get out of the boat” and stand together in our common, “universal”, Catholic faith!!

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Franciscan Morning Prayer

 

“Jesus Lord, I offer you this new day because I believe in you, love you, hope all things in you and thank you for your blessings.

I am sorry for having offended you and forgive everyone who has offended me.

Lord, look on me and leave in me peace and courage and your humble wisdom that I may serve others with joy, and be pleasing to you all day.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

There is only one change in the “Holy, Holy”.  Where we presently say:

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest”,

with the new liturgical text we will say:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

While this may make many people think of round Communion wafers, the meaning here is “armies,” and it refers to the armies of angels who serve God.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Cajetan (1480-1557)

 

Like most of us, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life—first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia.

His life took a characteristic turn when he joined the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, a group devoted to piety and charity, shortly after his ordination at 36.  When he was 42 he founded a hospital for incurables at Venice.  At Vicenza, he joined a “disreputable” religious community that consisted only of men of the lowest stations of life—and was roundly censured by his friends, who thought his action was a reflection on his family.  He sought out the sick and poor of the town and served them.

The greatest need of the time was the reformation of a Church that was “sick in head and members.”  Cajetan and three friends decided that the best road to reformation lay in reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. (One of them later became Paul IV.)  Together they founded a congregation known as the Theatines (from Teate [Chieti] where their first superior-bishop had his see).  They managed to escape to Venice after their house in Rome was wrecked when Charles V’s troops sacked Rome in 1527.  The Theatines were outstanding among the Catholic reform movements that took shape before the Protestant Reformation.  He founded a monte de pieta (“mountain [or fund] of piety”) in Naples—one of many charitable, nonprofit credit organizations that lent money on the security of pawned objects.  The purpose was to help the poor and protect them against usurers.  Cajetan’s little organization ultimately became the Bank of Naples, with great changes in policy.

Comment:

If Vatican II had been summarily stopped after its first session in 1962, many Catholics would have felt that a great blow had been dealt to the growth of the Church.  Cajetan had the same feeling about the Council of Trent. But, as he said, God is the same in Naples as in Venice, with or without Trent or Vatican II (or III).  We open ourselves to God’s power in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, and God’s will is done.  God’s standards of success differ from ours.

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Role Models

 

How is Saint Francis a good model for the norm by which we can judge ourselves, and even others?

(This leads to honesty with God, and serves us well with our examination of conscience – to see how we are in the sight of God – not how other persons see us).

How is the Blessed Virgin Mary a great model for the virtue of humility?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 7 & 8 of 26:

 

07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.”  Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

Т

08.  As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

“Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! My Much Beloved Doubting Thomas!” – John 20:19-31†


 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday [TODAY]), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonized Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy if to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and “in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).”

A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful “whom, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”

(From http://catholicism.about.com website)

 Т

John Paul the Great is Beatified today.  One more step till he is officially declared a Saint in the Catholic Church.  I am excited and in awe.

 

Т

Today in Catholic History:

†   1555 – Death of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italian Pope (1555), at age 53
†   1572 – Death of Pius V, [Antonio Ghislieri], great-inquisiteur/Pope (1566-72) (born 1504)
†   1948 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical “Auspicia quaedam”, an encyclical on worldwide public prayers to the Virgin Mary for World peace and the solution of the problem of Palestine.
†   1987 – Pope John Paul II beatifies Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun who was gassed in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
†   Feast/Memorials: Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker; Saint James the Less; Saint Philip the Apostle; Saint Andeol; Saint Asaph; Saint Brieuc; Saint Sigismund of Burgundy; Saint Theodulf; Saint Augustin Schoeffer

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

Т

Joke of the Day:

 

Т

 

Today’s reflection is about Thomas coming to believe because he saw Jesus at His first appearance to the Eleven, (soon to be) “Apostles” and touched His wounds.

 (NAB John 20:19-31) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus
came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

 

Т

The Gospels tell us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on numerous occasions after they discovered His tomb was empty.  This appearance happens on the evening of the first day on which He rose from the dead.

The “mystery” of Jesus’ Resurrection is that He personally and truly appeared to His disciples, His followers, NOT as a spirit but in bodily (“resurrected” flesh and blood) form.  However, as with His appearances to Mary Magdalene and the travelers on the road to Emmaus, Jesus’ bodily form was not readily recognized to His disciples. 

Yes, the Resurrected Jesus had a physical presence, but the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus Christ unless He allowed them.  His Resurrected body, though “transfigured”, nonetheless, showed the five marks of His crucifixion: hands, feet, and side.  The “Risen” Jesus chose to reveal the glory and magnificence of His Resurrection to His disciples, – – gradually, – – over a forty-day period of time.

 Т

Today’s Gospel puts the spotlight on Thomas, the Apostle.  John’s Gospel also calls him “Didymus” (Hee, hee; what a funny name.  “Yo, Diddy-man, let’s play ball.”).  Didymus is the Greek word for “twin”.  The name “Thomas” is actually the Aramaic word for twin.  Other manuscripts give Thomas
yet another name: “Judas”.  I am glad this “other” name is not well known in Catholic tradition; it would get too confusing with a “Judas (Thomas)”, a “Judas (Iscariot)”, and a “Judas” Thaddeus, also called “Jude”.

Thomas was the last of the original twelve “Apostles” to meet the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He also was the first disciple to go with Jesus to Jerusalem at this last Passover time.  Thomas was a bona fide, natural pessimist to me.  Maybe, in reality, he was just skeptical of tales and stories about people rising from the dead.  When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus two days after receiving news of his illness, Thomas said to the disciples:

“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage to stand with Jesus during His passion and crucifixion.  After Jesus’ death, Thomas apparently withdrew from the other disciples.  He wanted solitude rather than fellowship in his time of difficulty and hardship.  He doubted the women, even Mary Magdalene, who reported seeing the “Resurrected” Jesus Christ.  He even doubted his fellow disciples, hand-picked by Jesus Christ Himself, as he too was one of the “chosen” few.  When Thomas finally gained the courage to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus made His presence known to them again, and to him personally.  Jesus then reassured him that He had indeed overcome death and had “Risen” again to new life in, with, and through God, His heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  He also reassured them all in His appearing to them, that they will rise again, as well.

John’s narrative of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples, without or with Thomas, has somewhat rough parallels in Mark and Luke’s Gospels,
as compared to today’s John 20:19-23;

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said  his, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20:19-23).

Now, compare these verses above with the following verses from Mark and Luke.  First, from Mark:

“(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raisedHe said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” (Mark 16:14-18).

And, then from Mark:

“While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39).

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Even after the two (at least) disciples saw the empty tomb after they heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the Mary Magdalene and other women; these same disciples (not just Thomas) were still weak in their faith, and extremely fearful of being arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Jesus’ “Resurrected” – – Transfigured and perfected – – human body was then, and is now free of earthly physical limitations and constraints.  Jesus Christ appeared to His frightened and hiding disciples despite the fact that their doors were locked.

Thomas, as revealed in verse 24, was not with the other disciples when the “Risen” Jesus appeared to them that first night.  Ten of the Twelve Apostles (Judas was already dead and Thomas was absent) are gathered together, in one room or building, in Jerusalem out of extreme fear.

Jesus greeted His disciples with the gift of “peace” and the gift of the “Holy Spirit”.  In doing so, Jesus freed them from their fears and anxieties, and then commissions them to continue the work of the Resurrection that He has begun; His mission, now theirs:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

During His appearing, Jesus showed the integral, vital, and fundamental connection between “the gift of the Holy Spirit” and God’s “forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus did what only love, and trust, and faith actually, naturally, and even supernaturally does.  He commissioned His weak and timid Apostles to carry the Gospel – – His Word – – to the ends of the earth: to all peoples and nations.

This sending out, this commissioning, of the Apostles parallels the “sending out” of Jesus by His heavenly Father: God.  Jesus fulfilled His mission through His perfect love, trust and obedience to the will and plan of His heavenly Father.  Jesus called His disciples, AND, He calls each of US to do the same.  Just as Jesus gave His first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, He also “breathes” on each of us, imparts to each of us, the exact same Holy Spirit, who equips us with power, grace, and strength to do His will of His Father, and their Father in heaven:

Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”  (John 20:17)

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Jesus greets His followers twice using the same words of greeting both times: “Peace be with you.”  I believe this greeting was customary among all
the Jewish people.  He greets them with the same warmth and affection as He displayed to them prior to His Passion and dying.

Peace be with you” may have been simply an ordinary greeting for Jesus to give, however, John intends here to echo an earlier verse:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

This theme of rejoicing in this reading also repeats and reinforces an earlier verse in John’s Gospel:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16:22).

Jesus, in essence, recreates His customary character of familiarity, closeness, and understanding of His Apostles as friends, and even brothers, in
using this “customary” greeting.

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John mentions Jesus showing His disciples “His Hands and His side” in order to dispel any thought of His presence being ONLY a spiritLuke talks about His “hands and feet,” basing his version on Psalm 22:17:

“’Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:39-40);

“Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet –.” (Psalm 22:17 – RSV).

There is no longer any doubt of the image before them being that of Jesus Christ, Himself, truly “Risen” from the dead.

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By means of Jesus’ sending: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you“, the eleven trusted and personally picked disciples were made “Apostles”, which means, “those sent with full authority”.  Another example of Jesus sending His disciples out into the world with God’s authority can be found just a little earlier in John’s Gospel, in which He Himself prays:

“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:18).

It is note-worthy that John does not use the noun “Apostle” in reference to the eleven “hand-picked” men.  The solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the eleven men in the Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew says:

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

Now, Mark says:

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

And, Luke says:

“… repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).

Universal power, “full authority”, belongs to the risen Jesus.  And He freely gave the eleven a mission that is also universal.  They were sent out to
make disciples of all nations: Gentiles and Jews alike; and this required a participation in the universal power and fulfillness of authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  As Apostles now sent, they have become full delegates of Jesus Christ, their Lord and their God.

Pope Leo XIII explained how Jesus Christ conveyed His mission on earth to the Apostles:

“What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?  This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated.  This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did.  ‘As the Father bath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21).  ‘Ad thou bast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18).  […]  When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching.  ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.  Going therefore teach all nations….teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).  So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.  ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned’ (Mark 16:16).  […]  Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own – ‘He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me’ (Luke 10:16).  Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father.  ‘As the Father sent Me so also I send you’ (John 20:21).” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 6/29/1896).

The Apostles are “ambassadorsbof Christ”.  In this ambassadorship mission, Bishops are the successors of the Apostles; Bishops also then share in Jesus’ consecration, mission, and divine authority:

“Having sent the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father, Christ, through the apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission.  The office of their ministry has been handed down, in a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.  Established in the order of the priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.” (Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, Presbyterorrum Ordinis, 12/07/1965)

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This action of “Breathing on them” recalls a verse from Genesis:

“The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed on the first man, Adam, and gave him life.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ – – now Apostle’s – – new spiritual life comes directly from Jesus, Son of God, through the Holy Spirit.

“Breathing on someone” brings to my mind prophesies found in Ezekiel 37.  In his prophesy, Ezekiel sees the revivification (an imparting a new life, energy, or spirit to something or somebody) of the “dry bones” of the whole house of Israel.  It is a very interesting chapter and read, so please read which deals with prophesies of the salvation of all Israel, hundreds of years prior to Jesus Christ’s birth.

Today’s Gospel reading is John’s version of the “Pentecost” narratives: the Holy Spirit coming onto them.  There is a definite connection presented between the imparting of the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ’s glorious and magnificent ascension to His heavenly Father that makes for an awesome
vision or image.

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The Council of Trent defined that the power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Matthew uses very similar words in describing this grace imparted to the “Eleven” Apostles, and continuing through their spiritual descendants: Catholic Bishops and Priests, all of whom being in a direct line of faith with the first Bishops: the Apostles.

“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19);

And,

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

There are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery used today.  In reflection, I believe there are several meanings to this metaphor of “binding and loosing”.  I think two others meanings have a special importance to these words, “binding and loosing”: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The Apostles’ exercise of authority in the Catholic Church on earth is confirmed in heaven.  In this way, there is an authoritive and intimate connection between the Catholic Church on earth and the kingdom of heaven.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is, for me, the most inspiring and uplifting  manifestation of God’s mercy.  This beautiful Sacrament of the Catholic Church is described so vividly in Jesus Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (cf., Luke 15:11-32).  God always awaits us, with His arms wide open (open as wide as when He was on the Holy Cross), waiting for us to turn, to repent and to return completely to Him.  If we do so, He will immediately and lovingly forgive us, restoring us to the dignity of being His son and daughter.

The Popes have consistently recommended for Catholics to have a regular practice of using this most beautiful and loving of Sacraments:

“To ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, should be earnestly advocated.  By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.”  (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 88, 6/29/1943)

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Thomas initially doubted that the one present before him could be the “Risen” Jesus Christ.  After Jesus placed Thomas’ fingers into the wounds of His crucifixion, Thomas extolled:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas’ reply is not simply exaltation, a feeling of intense or excessive happiness, awe, and exhilaration.  It is a declaration, a venerable “act of faith” in the divinity of Jesus Christ.  These words were an unexpected and abrupt prayer of faith, praise, and joy, still often used by Catholics, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist (the Eucharist – Communion).

Consider John’s following statement:

“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

In making this statement, John is using a literary inclusion with the first verse of his Gospel:

“… and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1)

I have been asked many times what “THE WORD” actually means.  I believe an exact definition cannot ever be truly completed as it is such an intimate and truly “living” study; yet, here is an answer I think comes fairly close:

The Word” (the Greek word is “logos”) is a term which combines God’s living, very active, and creative word; incarnate pre-existing Wisdom; being THE instrument or tool of God’s creative activities; and the definitive, authoritative, completely full, the supreme precision and clearness of His truth, love, and trust for us.

“THE WORD” is our Bible! – – our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”: the B.I.B.L.E.!

Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29):

This verse of today’s Gospel can be viewed as a type of beatitude, maxim, or guiding principle from Jesus Christ, meant for future generations.  What He is saying is that faith, and not sight, is what truly matters.

Like everyone else, Thomas needed the grace of God in order to “believe”.  However, in addition to God’s grace, he was given an extraordinary confirmation of Jesus’ living presence, power, and divinity.  Just imagine how Thomas felt having Jesus Christ place his fingers into His wounds.  Thomas’ faith would have had more worth if he had truly accepted and believed the testimony of the other Apostles without any need for proof.  Revealed truths are normally transmitted by word; by the “testimony” of others who, – – sent by Jesus Christ, and aided by the Holy Spirit, – – preach the Word: the bond, the guarantee, and the security of faith in Jesus Christ:

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

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The final two verses (performing many other signs, and coming to believe) in today’s Gospel reading are unmistakably a start of John’s conclusion
to his Gospel.  He clearly states, as only a good author does, his reason for writing the book.  These last verses sum up John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel – – to have all people believe Jesus Christ was, and is now, the true Messiah, the “Christ”, the Son of God announced by the prophets in the Fist Testament (Covenant).  He wrote this Gospel, so that all who read would believe this saving truth, – – the heart and foundation of Revelation, – – that Jesus Christ is God, and by believing this begin to share and participate in His eternal life.

What I found interesting for me, personally, in researching these verses I discovered that a few manuscripts from the early Church actually state: “continue to believe”, instead of John’s “come to believe” (verse 31).  I believe John implied a missionary purpose for His Gospel.  He was urging his readers to go out and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  John has a definite opinion on eyewitness testimony leading to the “truth”:

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows  that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may (come to) believe.” (John 19:35).

Other manuscripts (the “few” early ones that I just mentioned), suggest to me that its readers consisted of Christians whose faith needed to be deepened or motivated by their particular book.

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In concluding, I see the story of Thomas as an excellent exemplification of our Catholic experience today.  We are ALL called to believe “without
seeing
”!   Thomas’s doubt is, in reality, hardly surprising from a “human” understanding.  The reports of Jesus’ appearance were barely credible to the disciples who had seen Him, witnessed Him, being brutally crucified, died, and then hastily buried.

Thomas’s human nature compelled him to want physical, observable, and provable, “hard” evidence that the person who appeared to the disciples after Jesus’ death – – was indeed – – the same Jesus who had been crucified and buried.  Thomas was given a special opportunity, by Jesus Christ Himself, to actually and personally take action on his desire for this “hard” proof.  He is OUR eye-witness that Jesus is really “Risen” and “Alive” today, in OUR lives.

When Thomas recognized his Master, his friend, and his Leader, he came to believe.  He proclaimed that Jesus was “truly Lord and truly God!”  Through the gift and grace of faith, we also proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord, Savior, and our God.  My daily “mantra” prayer which I repeat continuously throughout the day mirrors Thomas’ exclamation:

“My God and My All; I Love You and I Trust You!” (DEH)

Jesus died and rose that we too might have new life in Him.  Jesus Christ offers each of us a new life in His Holy Spirit so that we may know and walk with Him personally in His “new way of life”.  Jesus Christ offers to each of us, personally and individually, a new way of life, given through the power of His Resurrection, and all of these are continued in the seven Sacraments of the Holy Catholic “Universal” Church.

 

Think about Thomas’s response to the reports of the risen Jesus Christ.  Is Thomas’s doubt a reasonable one?  How does Jesus respond to Thomas? (Is it with frustration, anger, or love?)  Jesus grants Thomas the evidence that he needed to believe, but Jesus also affirmed the faith of those who will be called upon to believe without a “hard-proved” first-hand experience.

Many of us can relate to Thomas’s response to the news that the disciples had seen Jesus.  We want to see for ourselves too.  We grow in faith by learning to trust the experiences and knowledge of others.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we receive the same “Holy Spirit” that Jesus brought to His first disciples.  We are among those who are “blessed” because we believe without having seen.

Many of us have heard the saying “Seeing is believing!”  Take some time to consider what this saying really means.  What are some things we believe because we see them? (My parent’s love for me is an example)  Is there anything we believe without seeing? (For me, it’s Santa and the tooth fairy, along with protons and neutrons).  Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith sometimes asks us to believe things we cannot see with our eyes.

We are among those whom Jesus called “blessed”.  What is the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ?  It should be the witness of the first disciples (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest of the Apostles), the Holy Gospels, the continuing activity of the Holy Spirit in your life and the lives of others, and in the community of the Catholic Church.

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 “Act of Faith

 
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen.”

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

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New Translation of the Mass

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

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

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

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the prayers of the priest have several changes, but the only change for the assembly is the addition of the word “Holy” to the response just before the Prayer over the Offerings.  Where we now say, “for our good and the good of all his Church,” the new text says, “for our good and the good of all His Holy Church.

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

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955.  But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation.  Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating.  Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15).  The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation.  We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation.  Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation.  Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work.  Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

Daily Conversion II

What is the “spirit of lent” in the church year?

Was Francis a Christian “fundamentalist”?

In what ways do change and conversion require detachment and humility (a form of poverty)?

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Secular FranciscanOrder (SFO)
Rule #’s 1 & 2 of 26:

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

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

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