Tag Archives: Fire

“Is ‘Baptism’ By ‘FIRE’ As Painful As it Sounds? For Some, It Just May Be! We Call Them Martyrs” – Luke 3:15-16,21-22†


  the-Baptism-of-Jesus

“The Baptism of the Lord”

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Postures and Gestures at Mass: Catholic Calisthenics

So, why all the exercising at Mass: genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, bow, kneel, sit, stand, and finally, genuflect?  Wow, I’m tired just writing the sentence!  Well, in the celebration of Mass we are to raise our hearts, thoughts and voices to God.  Being creatures composed of “body” as well as 00000000000000063560“spirit”, our “prayers” are not confined to solely our thoughts, hearts and voices; it is also expressed by our bodies as well.  When our bodies participate in praying – – we truly and fully pray with our “whole person” – – as the embodied spirits God created us to be.  This engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us to pray with greater attention

During Mass we assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting, and make a variety of gestures.  These postures and gestures are far from being merely ceremonial in nature.  They truly have profound meaning, and can certainly enhance our personal participation in Mass.  In fact, these actions ARE the way in which we engage our entire self, body and soul, in the prayer that we know as “Mass”.  Each posture underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part during that specific moment in our worship.  

Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly.  This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.  When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us.  By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift.  We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.

The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!  So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving.  In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently 00000000000000063360this posture has come to signify adoration.  It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  

Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion.

Gestures too involve our bodies in prayer.  The most familiar of these is the Sign of the Cross with which we begin Mass and with which, in the form of a blessing, the Mass concludes.  Because it was by his death on the cross that Christ redeemed humankind, we trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and hearts at the beginning of the Gospel.  But there are other gestures that intensify our prayer at Mass.  During the Confiteor the action of striking our breasts at the words through my own fault can strengthen my awareness that my sin is my fault.  

In the Creed we are invited to bow at the words which commemorate the Incarnation: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.  This gesture signifies our profound respect and gratitude to Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, sharing our human condition in order to save us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.  This gratitude is expressed with even greater solemnity on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and on Christmas when we genuflect at these words.

The Our Father is followed by the Exchange of Peace, the gesture through which we express a prayerful greeting of peace, that we are at peace, not enmity, with others.  This exchange is symbolic.  The persons near me with whom I share the peace signify for me, as I do for them, the broader community of the Church and all humankind.

Finally, with the new General Instruction for the Roman Mass (GIRM), we are asked to make a sign of reverence, to be determined by the bishops of each country or region, before receiving Communion standing.  The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a bow, a gesture through which we express our reverence and give honor to Christ who comes to us as our spiritual food.

In addition to serving as a vehicle for the prayer of beings composed of body and spirit, the postures and gestures in which we engage at Mass have another very important function.  The Church sees in these common postures and gestures both a symbol of the unity of those who have come together to worship AND a means of fostering that unity.  We are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.  When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/resources-bulletins3.shtml

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. Joke laughingJoke of the Day:

 Luke03v15to17&21to22_2010

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is baptized by John.  What is the difference between John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms?

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(NAB Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.  21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Baptism of the Lord”.  In today’s the other Gospel accounts of Je040111_ssus’ baptism, we hear “John the Baptist” address, and correct the confusion of the people who thought that he might be the “Messiah”.  In his response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with that of the Baptism which Jesus inaugurates – – with water AND the Holy Spirit.  The type of Baptism that John performed during his ministry mission was not yet a full Christian Baptism.  Instead, it was the preliminary foundation for the Christian Baptism of, through, and in Jesus Christ – – through which OUR sins are forgiven AND the gift of the Holy Spirit are received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke (but not in John’s).  Noticeably, the three Synoptic Gospels report the same event is quite rare and revelational. 

Both Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective, with “the voice from heaven” addressed to Him.  However, Matthew’s Gospel has instead “the voice from heavenspLOI-Voice-of-Godeaking to everyone.  Also, in Luke, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during His time of “prayer” – – after His “baptism”.  Through His Gospel today, you will notice Luke shows Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds AND His disciples as well, in order to pray to His heavenly Father privately.  Jesus goes on to teach His follows “HOW” to pray.

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Today’s reading begins with the people at the scene of the event wondering and questions whether JJohn_the_Baptist%20imageohn the Baptist may actually be the promised “Savior-Messiah”:

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). 

And so, John knew their questions, and he responded to their inquiries by saying:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is comingI am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandalsHe will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). 

Luke even reiterates John the Baptist’s response in his other book, “The Acts of the Apostles”:

“John heralded his [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not He.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’” (Acts 13:24-25).

So, what does John mean by saying about Jesus:Through_Water_and_Fire_MAIN

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Well, John is stating that he only gives a “baptism with water” representing repentance.  Jesus, however, will “baptize with the Holy Spirit AND with fire”.  From the point of view of the early [1st Century] Catholic-Christian Community, the “Holy Spirit and fire” was understood as a representation of the “fire” poured out from the Holy Spirit in the desert, in the Temple, and finally, in the upper room at the time of Pentecost (the Jewish remembrance  of the “fire” and brimstone on Mt. Sinai):

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

There are two core symbolisms in these four verses from the above passage from Acts (Acts 2:1-4); I’ll cburning_bushomment on both.  I’ll start with “fire”.  Fire” in biblical times was associated with God and with His action in the world AND , His personal presence in the lives of His people during their exodus, and during His enduring personal presence in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of “fire”, such as in the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (cf., Exodus 3:2). 

The figure of “fire” was also used to represent His holiness (cf., Deuteronomy 4:24), His protective presence (cf., 2 Kings 6:17), God’s glory (cf., Ezekiel 1:4, 13), His wrath against sin (cf., Isaiah 66:15-16), and His righteous judgment (cf., Zechariah 13:9),.  

So, writers of the New Testament books were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use “fire” to represent the actions of the Holy Spirit – – Himself (cf., Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3).  God’s “fire” both purifies and cleanses; and it inspires a reverent fear of God – – and a reverence for His “Word”.  

The second core symbol is the “strong driving wind”.  The sound of the “strong driving wind” heralded a “new action of God” in His history of, and plan for, the salvation of all the human race.  tonguesThe “tongues as of fire” symbolizes the presence of God initiating again – – renewing – – His covenant on Mount Sinai:

Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire.  The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18).

At Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” acts upon the Apostles, preparing them to “proclaim” the spirit-of-pentecost-the_t_nvNEW covenant, with its unique gift from the Holy Spirit, “to speak in different tongues”.  This gift of “speaking in tongues” is a grace of ecstatic prayer – – in praise of God.  This gift of the Holy Spirit is appreciated (cf., in Acts 2:6, 11) through a speaking in foreign languages, and thus symbolizing the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church.

However, as part of John the Baptist’s preaching, the “Holy Spirit and fire”, he is relating them to their Jewish Scripture references about their “purifying” and “refining” natures:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

 “But who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.  He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malichi 3:2–3).

So, as a quick summary of the differences and representations between Jbaptism_of_jesusohn the Baptist’s and Jesus Christ’s Baptism’s is that the “water baptism” of John the Baptist will be followed by either an “immersion” of the repentant in the “cleansing power” of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) – – OR, an “immersion” of the “unrepentant” in the devastating fiery wrath of God at their final judgment.  

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Today’s event in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the heavenly message identifying Jesus as God the Father’s “Son” – – AND, through a reference by “Isaiah”, as being the “Servant of Yahweh”:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; He shall bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

Three other passages have also popularly been called “Servant of the Lord” verses (cf., Matthew 49:1–7; 5pbwu-servant0:4–11; 52:13–53:12).  Ultimately however, the description of the “mission” of the “servant” has been applied ONLY to Jesus Christ:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope (Matthew 12:18–21).

I can’t help but think of the Passion narratives when thinking of Jesus as the “sent” “Servant”.  Jesus proclaimed the “Word”; He never was contentious or cried out; He was struck many times with reeds; and He brought justice into our world.  WOW!!  With all this (plus many other connecting verses from Holy Scripture), who can deny the divine “Servant-hood” of the man, Jesus Christ!!

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Through the life-giving “baptism with water and the Holy Spirit”, Jesus has been, and is still creating a NEW people of God, both Jew AND Gentile alike.  In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the pebranch2ople of Israel by submitting to John’s “baptism of repentanceAND in His bearing, on their behalf, and OURS, the burden of God’s decisive judgment:

“He [John the Baptist] went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sinsAfter all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:3, 21).  

In His humble submission to John’s “baptism”, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” found in His ge0274ruesomely bloody death upon the Holy Cross of Redemptive Salvation.  Jesus’ “baptism” signifies His acceptance to, and the beginning of, His earthly mission as God’s “suffering Servant”.  Jesus allowed Himself to be numbered among sinners, and to die as one, without being one!!  Jesus submitted Himself entirely to His Father’s will of redeeming His human creatures, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Out of love, Jesus consented to this “baptism” of death – reflections on Christ - crucifixion– “baptism” by “fire” – – for the remission of OUR sins. So, please realize, understand, and know the JOY of trust and submission Jesus had to His heavenly Father, God, even to that of a known death in His name, a Martyrdom of Salvation.   

At the Jordan River, in the desert of Sinai, in the wilderness of Judea, “Israel’s” Sonship with God is to be renewed through JesuthCAW7PLKLs’ “baptism”.  And, the “descent of the “Holy Spirit” on Jesus Christ anoints Him for His public ministry:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD … Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations … The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners … in their every affliction.  It was not an envoy or a messenger, but his presence that saved them.  Because of his love and pity the LORD redeemed them, Lifting them up and carrying them all the days of old (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9).

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Luke regularly presents Jesus “at prayer” during important points in His public ministry:

  • ·        Here, in today’s reading, at His baptism; jesus-at-prayer
  • ·        Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve (cf., Luke 6:12);
  • ·        Before asking His disciples “Who do the people say that I am?”, and “Who do you say that I am?”(cf., Luke 9:18);
  • ·        On the Mountain of the Transfiguration (cf., Luke 9:28);
  • ·        When teaching His disciples to pray (cf., Luke 11:1);
  • ·        During the Last Supper (cf., Luke 22:32);
  • ·        In the garden on the Mount of Olives (cf., Luke 22:41); and finally,
  • ·        On the Holy Cross of Redemption and Salvation (cf., Luke 23:46).

A uniqueness found in Luke’s Gospel, and not in any other Gospel, is Jesus praying immediately following His Baptism:

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21). 

Jesus’ actions and prayers are answered in a unique, intimate, very personal – – AND often times PUBLIC – – ways:

Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a doveAnd a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22)

The Father proclaimed His entire delight in His “Son”, speaking audibly for all present to hear.  The HLOI-Voice-of-Godoly Spirit was also present as He “anointed” Jesus for His public ministry beginning on that day – – as He rose from the waters of the Jordan River.   

Jesus’ Greek brethren publically were aware of a previous declaration of God, through David, concerning not only David himself, but also of the future “King of the Jews”, revealed as God’s “Servant Son”, today “begotten” by God the Father:

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:7).

God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His divinely unique Son, the object of His love.  His expressing of His delight in, approval of, Jesus Christ is the assurance that He, Jesus, will fulfill His messianic mission of redemption and salvation – – for ALL people – – Jew and Gentile alike!!

Luke goes on to write:Desceding Dove b_w

The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). 

The “dove” is a symbol of the NEW creation in the flood, talked about in Genesis, and well-known in Jesus’ community of “Israel”:

“He [Noah] released a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth” (Genesis 8:8);

“Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like birds, like doves, from the land of Assyria; And I will resettle them in their homes, oracle of the LORD” (Hosea 11:11).

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T. summarize titlehe “baptism” of Jesus is considered a “manifestation” of God in Jesus HIMSELF – – another “epiphany.”  Today, on this last day of the Christmas Season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ true relationship to God the Father.  The “son” (little “s”) of Mary and Joseph is also God’s OWN “Son” (big “S”)!!  

Jesus came to give us the “fire” of His Spirit so that we may radiate the JOY and truth of His Gospel to a world desperately needing God’s lightpenti and truth.  His “Word” has power to change and transform our lives, making us “flaming lights” pointing others to Jesus Christ.  We are called to follow Jesus in His public ministry of teaching, healing, and loving.  We are also called to oppose unjust and violent powers in the world today.  Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ in all of our endeavors.  Let Jesus Christ’s power, grace, and love burn brightly in your life!  Ask Him to “fill” – – “fulfill” – – you with His Holy Spirit.  As we follow Jesus into the Catholic Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time”, identify what needs to be “filled” – – “fulfilled” – – in your life, and in others.  Amen; Amen!!  (“Selahi”, which means “Take breath, relax, rejoice, and saver what you just read – – the truth.)

In today’s Gospel, notice that all three “persons” of the Holy Trinity are manifested:  God the Father in the voice, th1983254601_3cd17489a9_oe Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus the Son in the one being “Baptized” and “Anointed” for His unique public ministry.  

Luke is communicating to us the crucial information about the true identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses following today’s reading, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to thbrazzers-adam-evee first person of creation, Adam, who is also identified as the “son of God” (cf., Luke 3:23-38).  We – – the children of Adam and Eve – – are again made children of God – – made NEW – – through Jesus’ Baptism.

Examine Jesus’ humility in today’s Gospel reading.  Ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility in your own heart.  As you do so, “heaven will open” for you as well.  The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to renew and refashion each of us th2012-LT-Theme-Wallpaper-1600x900rough His Holy Spirit, AND also to anoint us for OUR special and unique mission – – as His ambassadors.  The Lord wants His love and truth to shine through us so that others may see the goodness and truth of God’s message of Redemptive Salvation.  Ask Jesus Christ to “fill” you with His Holy Spirit, allowing YOU to radiate the JOY of His Gospel to ALL those around you.

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Every. conclusion person has a unique identity which is defined by their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations governing their daily lives and existence.  Each aspect of our identity is influenced by our personal history; eaidentity_52205ch expression is unique within him/her self.  In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus’ behavior, attitudes, and expectations were governed by His identity as God’s beloved Son.  In our personal “Baptism”, we were made from above, were made true, and are made children of this very same heavenly Father.  So, your individual identity – – as a living member of the “family of God”, and as a “brother or sister” of Jesus – – also shapes your own daily life and existence.  Think about this!  Selahi!!

Identify some of the expectations and behaviors that govern your life by answering the following question: “What are some of the things that make your life unique?”  Once you know the answer, once it is revealed to you, celebrate these things about your life.  How does this identity as a member of the family of God govern and shape your life?  Conclude today’s reflection with a prayer that we ALL will remain faithful to our baptismal identity as children of God and as brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ.  Amen!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

 

Our Father

 

Our Father,
Who art in Heaven, pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

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 Our%20Father2

“Are You The Wheat, Or Are You the Chaff? Got Me, I Grew Up In The City!” – Luke 3:10-18†


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3rd Sunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

The history of the Christmas tree has many stories of origin, and has had quite of few adaptations to its usage throughout history.  In my research of the Catholic aspect to Christmas tree history and origin, I left no [xmas] “leaf” unturned.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Christmas Tree

 

Despite many historians’ attempts to link the Christmas tree to an ancient pagan practice, it is actually “Christian” in origin.  Whoa, how is that fact for a baited hook to get you to read on?!

Although it is highly unlikely that the Christmas tree – – as we know it today – – was first used in the 8th Century, some people believe the idea for the tree was invented by St. Boniface at that time.   Legend holds that St. Boniface 14was the first to co-opt the “tree” tradition for Christianity in the 8th century.  He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol.  He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that the evergreen branches pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.  These new “converts” then began worshiping the Balsam fir tree as a Christian symbol. 

There are also claims that the first proper Christmas tree was erected in Riga, Latvia (one of the Baltic States) in 1510.  Today, there is a plaque in the Town Hall Square, in Riga, that is engraved with the text “The First New Year’s Tree in Riga in 1510“.  It is believed that this tree was possibly decorated with paper flowers, and then burned during the New Year’s celebration. 

Another legend has Martin Luther as being credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany.  2011-11-13_10-48-16_573_288x287Out on a winter evening one night, while composing a sermon, he was awed by the beauty of the stars.  When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

We do know with certainty that the Christmas tree goes back to medieval German mystery plays.  One of the most popular “mysteries” was the “Paradise play”, representing the creation of man, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  It usually closed with Christmas-Fir-Branches-2457977the consoling promise of the coming of the Savior, and referencing to His Incarnation.  These plays were performed in the open, on the large town squares in front of churches, or, sometimes even inside the house of God.  The Garden of Eden was indicated by a fir tree with apples hung on the branches.  It represented both the “Tree of Life” and the “Tree of KNowledge of Good and Evil”, which stood in the center of Paradise:

“Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

When the pageant was performed in church, the “Paradeisbaum” (German for “Tree of Paradise”) was surrounded by lighted candles.  Inside a ring of lights surrounding the tree, the play was performed. 

In the 15th century, after the suppression of the “mystery plays” in the German churches, the symbolic object of the play, the tree itself, found its way into the homes of the faithful, and the Christmas tree then became a symbol of christmas_tree_albert2-747156the “Tree of the Savior”.  During this same time, the custom of a “tree” in the home developed into decorating the “Paradise Tree”, already bearing apples, with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist.  These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.  Finally, other cookies were introduced to this tradition, bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

The first known documented use of the fir tree as a Christmas tree is found in a description written by a German traveler visiting the city of Strasbourg (in the Alsace region of France, but formerly part of Germany) in 1605.  In this description, he tells of trees being planted in rooms, and that they were ornamented with “roses of colored paper, apples, tinsel, sugar cubes, and cookies”.

Until the 17th century the “Christbaum” (as the tree is called in German, meaning “Christ tree”) had no lights.  The Christmas candles, generally used in medieval times, were placed on a Christmas “pyramid”, made of graduated wooden shelves.  As time went on, the tree replaced the pyramid in its function of representing Christ as the “Light of the World”.  The candles and glittering decorations were eventually transferred from the pyramid to the tree.  

In the 1700’s the Christmas tree custom had spread throughout northern Germany.  People began decorating the tree with candles that were lit on Christmas Eve, a practice still done today in many homes across Europe.  As the 108n-grChristmas tree custom spread through Germany, the Roman Catholic Church eventually recognized the tradition in the early 1800’s.  It was introduced to Vienna in 1816, quickly spreading across Austria, and in 1840 to France by the duchesse d’Orleans.

German immigrants were most likely to have set up the first few Christmas trees in America, as early as 1710.   During the Revolutionary War, Hessian (German) soldiers were responsible for rapidly disseminating the practice throughout the entire US Eastern seaboard.  However, the Christmas tree did not become the principal symbol of Christmas in America, and was not used generally throughout American homes until late in the 19th century. 

treeIn 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was actually German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  As a result of this picture, the popularity of Christmas trees soared both in England and America.  By 1920, the custom of having a Christmas tree was almost universal.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneer families who settled in areas where evergreen trees were scarce made Christmas trees out of bare branches, painting them green, or wrapping the branches with green paper or cloth.  Sometimes a “tree” would be made by drilling holes in a broomstick and inserting branches of cedar or juniper into it.  Often the only Christmas tree in the community would be in the Church or school.  In the absence of a Christmas tree, presents were often hung by ribbons from a decorated clothesline strung across the corner of a room.

While many Christmas trees are set up in the home around the first of December (or earlier!), and are in the dumpster by January 2, many Catholic families often delay decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, still today.  It is thCAGLANJNappropriate, and a popular custom, to delay lighting the tree and to put gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve when we celebrate the coming into the world of the infant Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

On Christmas Eve, parents might adorn the tree after small children are asleep, so that the first sight of Christmas morning is the gloriously adorned tree.  Families with older children could even make the decorating of the tree a family affair.  Many families bless their Christmas trees.  A Blessing for the Christmas tree could be said on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Through the use of the Christmas tree, we are reminded that our first parents (Adam & Eve) were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption – – by hanging on a tree.  Being reminded that Christ is the “Light of the World” and that His light is everlasting, bringing joy and light into our dark world – – a christmas_angel_tree1-150x150blessing truly appropriate for this great Christian symbol of faith.  Here is a simple blessing for your Christmas tree:

“Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.  May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, which we may always rejoice in the new life which shines in our hearts.  Lord God, may the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.  May its light keep us mindful of the light You brought into the world.  May the joy and peace of Christmas fill all our hearts.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Information obtained from the following sites:
http://www.wf-f.org/04-4-Traditions.html
http://www.christmastreehistory.net/christian
http://catholicexchange.com/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree/

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“Let us submit ourselves to His guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to Him that He may forgive us, cleanse us, change us, guide us, and save us.  This is the true life of saints.” ~ Blessed John Henry Newman, “Life’s Purpose”, Pauline Books & Media

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Today’s reflection: John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.  Did you hear what I heard?

hear 

(NAB Luke 3:10-18) 10 And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”  11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing “the way” for Christ.  Recall last week’s reading describing John’s appearance in the desert and establishing his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel.  If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him, and John’s calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance.  

With this in mind, I am starting with a few verses prior to this week’s reading (and also situated between last Sunday’s Gospel and 1211-gospel-lthis Sunday’s, Luke 3:7-9).  In this way, I would like to describe to you the three types of preaching by John the Baptist: (1) eschatological, (2) ethical, and (3) messianic.  An eschatological preaching (1) concerns the human soul (the person) in its relation to His death, judgment, and destinies – – either heaven or hell.  John the Baptist urges the crowds present around him – – getting their feet wet in the faith (and maybe their entire bodies as well) – – to reform their lives in view of the coming “wrath” expected with the appearance and coming of the Lord:

“He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7,9).

John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites.  Why (?): because true, authentic “children of Abraham can be raised up from stones” (Luke 3:8).  Rather, repentance must be observable in one’s actions.  So, the crowds, probably now questionfrightened by his words, ask John the Baptist:

What then should we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Hmm, I wonder how often I ask this same question: What am I to do Lord?  I know the answer, and sadly, I don’t like my answer.  Forgive me Lord, please!!  I will try to do better in the future with your help.  Amen.

John answers the crowds by drawing attention to, and preaching on, concrete ethical standards (2) (principles of correct moral conduct) for reforming their social behavior:

He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food shoul03advientoC3d do likewise.’  Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’  He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’  Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:11–14).

Interestingly, Luke mentions in particular two groups of people who came to John the Baptist for spiritual advice: tax collectors and Roman (some even Jewish) soldiers.  Both groups were regarded as “dangerous” by the Jewish authorities – – and society as whole.  They were treated as outcasts among both the Jews and the Romans.

John, in his instructions, is saying we must do six seemingly simple, but rather complex, things in order to have a true conversion of heart, body, and soul:

  • ·        SHARE what we have with others: wealth and food;
  • ·        STOP  doing wrong: don’t cheat, extort, or make false accusations;
  • ·        BE SATISFIED with what you have; 
  • ·        BE CHARITABLE;
  • ·        BE JUST; and,
  • ·        BE HONEST.

John does NOT tell them to adopt his desert way of life. He does NOT tell them to make sacrificial offerings or wear sackcloth and ashes.  John the Baptist doesn’t try to purposely upset the existing social order.  However, John DOES call for a real concern for a person’s “neighbor”.LetsBeHonest

The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel and for John the Baptist.  John tells the soldiers to make no false arrests, to be content with their pay, not to take bribes, and not to bully anyone.  When talking to the tax collector, he knew that they were outcasts among the Jewish people, though Jewish themselves.  John knew they were detested as “traitors” by the Jewish people and as nothing more than “robbers” approved by the Roman Government.  As for as the Roman government was concerned, if the tax collectors wanted to collect a little bit more than the government required, that was fine with them.  They could keep the extra money for themselves; all the Roman government was concerned about was getting their tax money!!  

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John obviously knew how to get his message across to these groups of people.  Through his divinely-inspired words – – and witness – – to God the Father and to others around him:

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15).

The people recognized John as an extraordinary man of God and a prophet for their times.  John broke the prophetic silence of the pJohn_the_Baptist%20imagerevious centuries when he began to speak the “Word” of God.  His message was similar to the message from the earlier Jewish prophets who scolded the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who cried out BOLDLY to awaken true repentance within them.  

John proclaims his water baptism of his followers to be clearly in immediate preparation for the coming of the actual, true Messiah.  John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation.  He announces to the crowds his messianic preaching (3) (relating to the Messiah instituting of the promised golden age of peace, truth, and happiness), the coming of the “ONE” mightier than he:e0274

John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fireHis winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:16–18).

When John the Baptist talks about someone coming who is “mightier and more powerful than he”, John is ultimately speaking NOT of the “earthly” Jesus (though he may not have realized this fact), but the Risen Christ, third_advent_cgrwho baptizes us with the Holy Spirit in a very personal and intimate way.  When John says “He [the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), he is contrasting his prophetic baptism – – just with water – – to Jesus’ additional messianic baptizing with both the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit’s “refining fire”.   When this Gospel was written decades after the Pentecost event, the early Christian community’s point of view understood,  “the Holy Spirit and fire” to be seen in light of the “fire symbolism” found in the “pouring out of the Holy Spirit” at Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1–4).

Jesus’ “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” fulfilled John’s “water baptism” mission on earth.  Jesus’ baptism will also be accomplished by an “immersion”, an immersion of the repentant in water, and in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God.  There will also be an immersion the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s wrath and judgment of them!! 

John’s preaching of the “Holy Spirit and fire” is revealed in, and related to, the purifying and refining characteristics found in Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament):  First, from Ezekiel – –

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of fleshI will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27);

Now, from Malachi – – refiners-fire-c

“Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand firm when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lyeHe will sit refining and purifying silver, and He will purify the Levites, Refining them like gold or silver, that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2–3).

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John the Baptist goes on to describe the actions of the coming Messiah Savior in terms this “well entrenched urban city” boy just cannot understand:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Iwinnowing_fork_2 am pretty certain I know what wheat is, but a “winnowing fan” (?), “threshing floor” (?), and “chaff” (?) – – what the heck are these??!!  I definitely had to  research these items, and the why and how they are related to the actions of the coming Messiah Savior.

A “winnowing fan” was a forklike shovel with which the “threshed” (separated) wheat was thrown into the air.  The wheat kernels fell to the ground – – to the “threshing floor” to be picked up later – – while the light “chaff” (the dry covering bracts [modified leafs] of grains being separated by the process of threshing) were “blown off” by the wind, gathered later, and then burned in a nearby fire.

Fire” in Old Testament times was associated with God and with His purifying action in the world, His cleansing actions in the lives of His people.  God sometimes manifested His presence by use of fire, such as in the example in the story of the “burning bush” burning_bushwhich was not consumed when God spoke to Moses:

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). 

John, in describing the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff, is using the image as a comparison for what will happen to the “good” and the “bad” in this world by God when He returns with His judgmental and saving actions in the person of the RISEN CHRIST!

In the New Testament, the image of fire is also used with regard to the Holy Spirit, who comes to cleanse us from sin and to make utongues-of-fires holy:

 “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).

God’s fire purifies and refines.  This refining purification, through baptism, confirmation, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also increases our desire for holiness and for the joy of meeting the Lord when He comes again.  Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Holy Spirit results in a “new birth” and entry into God’s kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters:

Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). 

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John the Baptist ends his preaching in today’s Gospel with a message of hope:

Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)

For me, God’s “Word” ALWAYS offers hope, even in the most dismal of circumstances characters in the bible seem to get into.  After all, they enter those bad circumstances, usually, not because of God Himself, but because of them turning their backs on BIBLEHim!!  God was (and is) always with them, even in the BAD times; they just did not believe in his “word”, nor could they realize His presence!  So, read the Bible, re-read the Bible with YOU as the character in these stories, and then re-re-read the Bible so that you realize that the 73 books which make up this great “Bible” (in the Catholic edition) are truly “instructions” on how to live as a Catholic Christian and an honorable son or daughter of God in the world!!

The third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday”.  “Gaudete”, a Latin word – – meaning “rejoicthCA2A51IGe”, with its form being a “command” – – is another way of exhorting hope.  This command to rejoice is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:4-6).

The Catholic Church obeys this command by lighting a pink candle instead of another purple one already on the Advent wreath.  In doing so, it is a reminder that the Advent season is a “Season of JOY” and “Re-Joy-Sing” [rejoicing] because our salvation is truly already at hand.

John the Baptist’s message of “good news” inspired many to believe God was about to do extraordinary things in their midst.  John the Baptist’s task – – his mission – – was simply to awaken the interest of his people to God’s “Word”, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough “good will” to recognize and receive the Messiah when He appearance on the scene.

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. summarize titleToday, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: (1) the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and (2) the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  John’s teaching to the crowd suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation.  He is encouraging them to follow his model of faith and hope in their own personal Horizontal_Logo9life’s positions and status.  It is our personal, human cooperation in His divine plans that is THE great mystery of God’s initiative to empower and to encourage each of us to participate – – through our believing and rejoicing – – in His plan.

John the Baptist basically called the people to turn back to God and to walk in His way of love and righteousness.  Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed it has the power to awaken the faith in people, thepathofsinandrighteousnessand to change their lives for good.  John’s baptism was for repentance; a turning away from sin and taking on a new way of life according to God’s “Word”.  

Hmm, my life has its own temptations, and its own opportunities to take advantage of others, using them for my own personal gain.  Does yours?  As I prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas, I will consider my own life situation, my own temperament, and my own personality in heeding John the Baptist’s words from today’s reading.  I believe I may need to make some adjustments.  How ‘bout you?

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. conclusionThe theme of the season for Advent is sometimes described as “a period of waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ”.  However, today’s Gospel reading suggests something much different.  John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to wait for the Messiah.  Instead, he told them to prepare for the Messiah through acts of repentance.  If RepentBelieveTheGoodNewsBwAdvent is a time of waiting, it is not the “sitting in waiting room or office lobby” kind of waiting.  It is a busy time of preparation, more like the waiting we might do when “preparing for dinner guests”.  Our challenge as Catholic Christians is NOT to make this season a frantic, disordered, and/or apathetic time, but rather a time of “joyful anticipation”, making ready for God who comes to dwell among (and in) us, changing our lives with His gift (grace) of redemptive salvation.

Think about the preparations you are making during this season of Advent period.  Reflect on these activitiechanges, not only on what you are doing but WHY you are “choosing” to do these things.  Remember, Advent is a time for making ourselves ready to receive Jesus Christ – – anew and more – – in our personal lives.  Could you make some changes in your Advent activities so that you are MORE prepared to celebrate the gift of salvation at Christmas?  Hmm, I think I can for sure.  Pray that you, and your family and friends, will be able to live the “spirit” of Advent as it should be, and not as a secular time of the year.  Heck, why not sing an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as you light the third candle on your Advent wreath this evening at dinner.  I will, and I’ll possibly report on the interesting looks I receive from my family members who ALL say I have a voice made for paper!!

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

An Advent Prayer

 

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Chuprayerrch: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to His return at the end of time.  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which His presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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


 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

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

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

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francis, rebuild my church”!

What is Christ saying to YOU?!

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

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

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

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

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“Jesus, Take Me, The Barren Branch, And Allow Me To Be Made Glorified And Cherished Grapes In Your Kingdom!” – John 15:1-8†


Fifth Sunday of Easter

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:

 

Great news!!!  The PepsiCo Boycott is finally OVER!!  Per “LifeNews.com”, “Pepsi Stops Using Aborted Fetal Cell Lines to Test Flavors”.  After months of pro-life protests and opposition, PepsiCo has indicated it will alter its contract with biotech firm Senomyx Inc., which uses cells from a babies killed in an abortion to provide “materials” in conducting flavor testing. 

 “We are grateful to PepsiCo and especially to all those who sent a loud and clear message to the management of this company. It’s incumbent upon us to closely monitor the situation to be sure that PepsiCo remains true to their word.  There are moral cell lines Senomyx can and should be using — not just for PepsiCo research but for all their customers.”

We are ALL strongly encouraged to take one more important step: write to PepsiCo and thank them — and then go buy your favorite Pepsi products to celebrate.

Contact Pepsico:
Jamie Caulfield, Sr. VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form:
http://cr.pepsi.com/usen/pepsiusen.cfm?time=5189878

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Today in Catholic History:

†   973 – Birth of Henry II, Roman Catholic German king (1002)/emperor (1014-1024)
†   1312 – Pope Clement V closes Council of Vienna (Was the fifteenth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church that met between 1311 and 1312 in Vienne.  Its principal act was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar)
†   1501 – Birth of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italy, humanist/Pope (1555, 22 days)
†   1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, died fighting the forces of Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant’Angelo.
†   1536 – King Henry VIII, orders translated [KJV] Bibles be placed in every church
†   1542 – Francis Xavier reached Old Goa, the capital of Portuguese India at the time.
†   1574 – Birth of Pope Innocent X (d. 1655)
†   1638 – Death of Cornelius Jansen, (was Catholic bishop of Ypres (Belgium) and the father of a theological movement known as Jansenism) (b. 1585)
†   1708 – Death of François de Laval, first bishop of New France (The first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec) (b. 1623)
†   1830 – Birth of Guido Gezelle, Flemish priest/poet
†   1962 – St. Martín de Porres is canonized by Pope John XXIII.
†   1975 – Death of József Mindszenty, Hungarian Catholic Cardinal (b. 1892)
†   2001 – During a trip to Syria, Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to enter a mosque.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Justus; Saint Lucius of Cyrene; Saint Justus; Saint Dominic Savio, patron saint of studying youth; Saint Evodius of Antioch; Saint Gerard of Lunel; Saint Henryk Kaczorowski; Saint Petronax of Monte Cassino; Saint Theodotus; St George’s Day — Ðurdevdan (Serbian), Gergyovden (Bulgarian), Giorgoba (Georgian)

(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: Jesus teaches He is the vine and His disciples are the branches.

 

(NAB John 15:1-8) 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  4 Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  5 I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is the middle part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, and is the beginning of a fairly long monologue (15:1–16:4) on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  We need to remember, John tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper differently from the other Evangelists.  In his Gospel, the Last Supper begins with Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.  Jesus then provides them with a series of instructions we call the Last Supper discourse or Jesus’ farewell discourse.  In these chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His followers, His disciples, about the importance of following His example of love and service, about the gift they will receive when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, and about their relationship with Jesus and with the world.  The Last Supper discourse concludes with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (cf., John, Chapter 17).

Today, Jesus speaks about His relationship to His disciples.  In His symbolism of the “vine and the branches”, Jesus is referencing passages from the Old Testament.  In the “Hebrew Scriptures” (the OT), Israel is the vineyard, and “Yahweh” Himself watches over and cares for the vineyard.  One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

Today’s long discourse (15:1–16:4) focuses on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  Jesus’ “Words”, a monologue, goes beyond the immediate crisis of Jesus’ departure: He will still be present with them, even after His physical departure. 

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The first part of this discourse, John 10:1–5, resembles a parable in that he likens Jesus to something they would immediately recognize and understand.  They have seen vineyards in their experiences, and knew they would possibly recognize this imagery from the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 5:1–7 is his prophesy entitled, “The Song of the Prophesy”.  Please read this inspired and inspiring prophesy, especially the last verse:

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry!” (Isaiah 5:7) 

And, a similar vineyard is also described in Matthews Gospel (cf., Matthew 21:33–46), “The Parable of the Tenants”.  (Have you read it yet?  If not, why not do so now.)  Interesting enough, King David and the Prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea, also uses this special image of the vine and vineyard:

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it.  You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land.  The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches.  It sent out its boughs as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.  Why have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?  The boar from the forest strips the vine; the beast of the field feeds upon it.  Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.  Those who would burn or cut it down— may they perish at your rebuke” (Psalm 80:9–17);

I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to me, a spurious vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21);

Son of man, what makes the wood of the vine Better than the wood of branches found on the trees in the forest?” (Ezekiel 15:2);

Your mother was like a leafy vineplanted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.” (Ezekiel 19:10);

And finally,

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth.  The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; the more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.” (Hosea 10:1)?

My question is this: “Is Jesus using this image of the vine for a “special” purpose?”  So, what is that purpose?

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The identification of the vine as the “Son of Man” in Psalm 80, and Wisdom’s description of herself as a vine in Sirach, are further backgrounds for portrayal of Jesus by the figure of the vine and Israel as the branches:

“Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.” (Psalm 80:15-16);

I bud forth delights like a vine; my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit.” (Sirach 24:17).

“The fruit of the vine” symbolism, as described in today’s reading, may have a secondary symbolism for the Holy Eucharistic.  (I believe so, do you?)  Remember what Mark reports in his Gospel:

“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25).

“The fruit of the vine” is a STRONG reference to the blood of Christ – – that is why the Catholic Church proclaims, “body, blood, soul, and divinity” as the core of OUR faith in Jesus being BOTH God and man).

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Verse three of this Gospel refers to God’s “Word”:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15:3).

John uses the word, “Word”, to relate its true meaning of this “word” as being revealed at the very beginning of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

In the above verse, “In the beginning” is a phrase found the very first words of the first book of the Old Testament (cf., Genesis 1:1).  John uses the verb “was” three times, with three different meanings, in this verse: existence, relationship, and affirmation of identity.  

The “Word” (in Greek: logos) is a term combining God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis), His personified pre-existent Wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (as found in Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of true reality (as found in Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The phrase “with God” comes from a Greek preposition (“meta”) indicating a communication with, and being in the presence of, another.   And, finally, “was God” signifies an affirmation of identify.

However, what does Jesus mean by saying:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you” (John 15:3)?

I think it means: His disciples are saved, nurtured, and given extreme care by hearing God’s “Word”.  The effect of hearing God’s “Word” is to cause Jesus’ disciples to GROW, to be more productive in His kingdom, and giving each of us, through hearing His “Word”, the opportunity to become a pristine fruit (with pristine seeds) in His kingdom as well.  Later on, John will write:

Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’” (John 13:10).

Both “Pruned” and “Bathed” seems to suggest a symbolic reference to baptism for the first century Jewish Catholics.  Through the Sacraments – – especially Baptism, Confirmation, and Reconciliation – – we STILL become the pruned, pristine, fruit and seeds of His kingdom growing yet today.

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The above “Joke of the Day” section refers to verse six about the “withering branch” and being “thrown into a fire”.  I believe Jesus is referring to two specific verses of the Old Testament in regards to the imagery of vine, both from Ezekiel:

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Like vine wood among forest trees, which I have given as fuel for fire, so I will give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I will set my face against them: Although they have escaped the fire, the fire will still devour them; you shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.” (Ezekiel 15:6–7);

The second reference:

Your mother was like a leafy vine planted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.  One strong branch grew into a royal scepter.  So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage.  But she was torn out in fury and flung to the ground; The east wind withered her up, her fruit was plucked away; Her strongest branch dried up, fire devoured it.  Now she is planted in a wilderness, in a dry, parched land.  Fire flashed from her branch, and devoured her shoots; Now she does not have a strong branch, a royal scepter!  This is a lamentation and serves as a lamentation.” (Ezekiel 19:10–14).

In the Old Testament reading, the “vine” is Judah; the “one strong branch” is the Davidic king.  In the above readings from Ezekiel, the allegory describes the deportation of the Davidic dynasty to Babylon and laments the destruction of the house of David.  From Ezekiel’s perspective, the arrogance of Judah’s kings lead to this tragedy. 

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The image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was covered with numerous vineyards.  Jesus is using the “vine” to mean ALL people of ALL nations, especially Israel.  The “one strong branch” is Jesus Himself.  Jesus is leading (and still leads) all who believe in Him on a new Exodus to a great feast in the paradise of Heaven.  Jesus is rebuilding a New Jerusalem in Himself and in each and every one of us.  How great is this to be part of the “City of God”!!

When Jesus calls Himself the “true vine”, He makes it clear no one can claim their spiritual inheritance through association with a particular people or bloodline (ie. the Jewish people).  Rather, it is only through Jesus Christ AND one’s faith in Him and His mission that someone can become “grafted” into the true “vineyard” of the Lord.

Jesus teaches His disciples that His relationship with them will not end after His death; He will remain with them always!  This new and unique unity between Jesus and His followers, His disciples, is the foundation and source of their (and OUR) ability to continue to do the work which He began.  Similarly, Jesus’ presence with each of us – – through the Grace of the Holy Spirit – – enables each of us, individually and personally, to continue the work of love and reconciliation which He began.

Jesus offers true life, an abundant life coming from God the Father and resulting in great fruitfulness for the true disciple.  How does the vine become fruitful?  The vine must be carefully pruned, eliminating the waste, before it can bear “good fruit”.  Vines characteristically have two kinds of branches — those which bear fruit and those which don’t.  The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back in order for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit.  Jesus used this image, well known to all in first-century Israel, to describe the kind of life He produces in those who are united with Him through faith:

 “… the fruit of ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit’(Romans 14:17).

 Jesus says there can be no fruit in our lives “apart from Him”.  The “fruit” He speaks about allegorically here is the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it also was used in Holy Scriptures as a sign of an unhealthy falling apart of the family, the nation, their religion, and their relationship with God.  Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard which “yielded wild grapes” (cf., Isaiah 5:1-7): those choosing not to follow Christ, choosing to live a “worldly” life, will be “branches” surely “cut off”, “dried”, and “used as fuel”.  Sounds pretty ominous to me! (There’s a message in there somewhere!)

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There is a simple truth in today’s reading.  Each one of us is either “fruit-bearing” or “non-fruit-bearing”.  There is NO in-between, NO straddling the fence, on God’s “vine”.  The nurturing and care of healthy fruit requires drastic pruning – – in our own personal and public lives, as well as in God’s kingdom!!  Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him and allow Him to nurture, care for, and feed us!!  So, get out the pruning shears and help God make you a great GRAPE!!

For those of us who remain faithful to God’s “word”, we will be given all we need, according to His will.   John even mentioned this same notion in his last chapter:

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13);

And, also in his first epistle:

 “We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us(1 John 5:14).

Matthew and Mark also talk about God giving His faithful all we ask for, according to His will:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7);

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24);

Simply believe, ask, trust, hope, love, and receive!  Your prayers will be answered; maybe not the way you want, but according to His will and plan for you.

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We “glorify” God the Father by living a true and faith-filled life, with Him always present in what we do, say, and believe.  Our “Words’, our “actions”, and our “decisions” are as important today, as they were with Jesus’, two millennia ago!

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16);

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

How well do YOU glorify God?  Does He shine in your life?  Or, is He a dull and tarnished notion of days past?  Even if so, it is never too late to get the polish out and start “buffing” away the tarnish on your heart out, making room for His heart to shine instead.

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To summarize, Jesus taught His disciples about the importance of “the word”.  Just as Jesus will remain in His disciples, so too will His (and His Father’s) “Word”.  We come to know Jesus through the Holy Scriptures – – the “true, full, and living ‘Word’ of God”.  Our commitment to be Jesus Christ’s true followers and disciples is sustained through God’s eternal “Word”.  This commitment is strengthened, nurtured, and more fulfilled, by our life of prayer, and fed and cultivated by frequent receiving of the Holy Eucharist.  Through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Himself, physical and spiritually dwells personally and intimately in each of us, remaining with each of us, and transforming each of us so that we might bear much fruit in His name.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!

We observe many people who act in ways which show their personal commitment to serve their neighbor with a true love Jesus displayed (and still displays), required (and still requires) from each of us, Catholics, other Christians, and even non-Christians to care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and give alms to the poor.  These decisions and actions become acts of Christian discipleship when they are motivated by our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Whatever the immediate results of this “worldly” act, Jesus promises us that these actions will bear much fruit, in His kingdom, when we do them in His name.

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To conclude, the goal of our life of prayer is to increase our awareness that Jesus lives with each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way – – ALWAYS!  It is much more than a simple dialogue with God.  Prayer is a lifting of our minds and hearts TO the Triune God so that the Triune God might dwell and act IN, WITH, and THROUGH each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way!  The summit of our prayer life – – our personal and public “communion” with the true and physically present Jesus Christ – – is in the Holy Eucharist.  Through this Blessed Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ, we receive Jesus Himself, AND He remains with us.  Our prayer life, AND our personal, unique, and intimate union with Jesus, will naturally lead each of us to “fruit-full service” to others.  (How ‘bout them grapes!)

Jesus talked about His relationship to His disciples using the “vine” and the “branches” as symbols.   Think about the ways in which we are invited to “relate” to Jesus as His disciples in today’s secularized and materialistic world – – prayer, Holy Scripture, Holy Eucharist, and so on.  When we do these things, Jesus promises to remain with us AND to lead us to serve others in a good, effective, way.  Take some time to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you continue to be attentive and always open to Jesus as He works in, with, and through our lives today.  Let’s MAKE ROOM FOR GOD in our lives – – ALWAYS!!

I think I’ll get a glass of great wine now!  Thank you.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

A Prayer About Making Room For God

 

“Most Precious Lord Jesus, Gentle And Wonderful God, Truly Awesome And Ever-present Holy Spirit, Precious Lord Jesus, I love you.  Do not let me be arrogant.  Show me what life is like for the weak.  Help me reach out to help the weak to be stronger.  Never let me boast about the cravings of my heart.  Never let me bless or benefit the greedy.  Never let me make fun of your flock.  Turn my eyes upon you.  Place within me a seeking heart to find you.

Above all, help me always have room for you within my thoughts.  Every hour I take refuge in you.  Wickedness and sinfulness lurk in the shadows ready to devour me.  The more upright I try to be, the more arrows are set against the bows of the wicked to slay me.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me cling to you and cling to your old rugged cross.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me make room in my heart and life for your love and grace.  All these things I humbly pray in the name of my most Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, my Mighty God, and my Ever-present Holy Spirit upon whom I can rely.  Amen”

http://www.findthepower.com/PrayerPages/PrayerPagesMakeRoomForGod.htm

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 Catholic Apologetics:

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit 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, Laying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

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

Scripture and Tradition

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) RSV.

“ Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) KJV.

**

Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) RSV.

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Gerard of Lunel (13th century)

Gerard, born into a noble family in southern France, showed an early inclination to piety—so much so that he received the habit of the Third  Order of St. Francis at the age of five.  When he was 18, Gerard and his brother, Effrenaud, hid themselves in a cave on the banks of a river and began two years of living as hermits.  Both brothers then decided to go on a pilgrimage, in part to discourage the many visitors to the hermitage who had heard of their reputation for holiness.  Making their way to Rome on foot, they spent two years there, visiting its many famous churches and shrines.

They intended to continue to Jerusalem, but Gerard collapsed on the way.  While his brother went to seek help, he left Gerard in a simple cottage near Montesanto, Italy, but Gerard expired before his brother’s return.

Many miracles are said to have taken place at Gerard’s tomb, making it a favorite place of pilgrimage.  People who were afflicted with headaches or subject to epilepsy experienced special relief through his intercession.  The city of Montesanto has long venerated Blessed Gerard as its principal patron.  He is sometimes known as Gery, Gerius or Roger of Lunel.

Comment: Gerard didn’t have much success in reaching his goals, including his hope to visit the holy places in Jerusalem where Jesus walked.  However disappointed he may have been by all these setbacks, Gerard nonetheless managed to walk in Jesus’ footsteps throughout his life.

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 6 & 7 of 26:

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

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

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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.

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


 

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Last Sunday of Ordinary Time for Liturgical Year

 

 Today’s Content:

 

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

  

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

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 Quote of the Day:

 

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

  

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

  

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

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jesus Christ is going even further in saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Love

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

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

The Gloria

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Information from Wikipedia

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and His Message

 

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

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

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

  

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


 

Sixteenth Sunday
of Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

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

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Deliberation:

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

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Discovery:

 

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

 

Declaration:

 

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

 

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

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

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

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

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Today’s Gospel Reading:

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

 

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

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

And

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

 

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

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

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

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

 And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously, Jesus also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,  

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Components and Meanings of
“The Parable of the Weeds”

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

And,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 86

 

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “The Nicene/Constantinople Creed

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Comment:

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

Quote:

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

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

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

 

Creation and St. Francis

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

 

Day 5  Sun, 7/17

 

Imitation: Cont.: Book 3, Chap. 40

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

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

 

Now recite the daily prayers for Part 1

 

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

 

Veni Creator

 

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

 

Ave Maris Stella

 

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

 

Magnificat

 

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

 

“Happy Birthday to the ‘Boo-Man’!”


 

Pentecost Sunday

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is a Feast day marking the birth of the Catholic Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.  Red is the liturgical color worn by the priest at mass today.  The color red recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples of Jesus on that first Pentecost.  The color red also reminds us of the blood of martyrs; those believers who [by the power of the Holy Spirit] held firm to their faith, even at the cost of their lives.

 

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I, and the whole family, had a great time on vacation.  We spent the week in Mississippi.  Went to the beach several days, saw some military and historical “stuff” (Mine and two of my four sons favorite parts of our trips), and ended our vacation with a trip to New Orleans.

The kid’s exposure to the eclectic personalities of New Orleans was a rather humorous event.  Their eyes sometimes looked as those of deer in headlights.  It led to some fairly deep discussions on the car ride home.

I am presenting a short reflection today, for lack of time to go into as much detail as I have been.  Hopefully, next week I will be able to go into more detail of the Gospel reading than here.  I pray you still enjoy what I have written. 

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

Sainthood is not reserved for monks living cloistered lives of private prayer, or for martyrs who gave up their bodies to the cruelest forms of brutality. Sainthood is a state of grace for all who avail themselves of God’s holy fire of heart, allowing it to burn, burn, burn, right through to the core.” – Liz Kelly May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, Loyola Press

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Today’s reflection is about the Holy Spirit entering our lives as Jesus’ Advocate

 

The Easter season concludes with today’s liturgical celebration.  Today is the “Birth” of the Catholic Church.  As a seed dies to be reborn as a tree or flower, so to did Jesus Christ die to be reborn in each of us.

Pentecost was the beginning of the Church: its birthday.  When I was little, and saw all those different famous paintings and icons of the Holy Spirit coming down on the Apostles as flames (tongues of fire), I thought, “Why would God do this?  It would burn their heads!”  I now know that the Apostles, – – with those tongues of fire on top of their heads, – – represent the candles at the Church’s birthday party.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, what is Pentecost all about; what is all the fuss?  For me, the answer is simple.  Pentecost allows us to see Jesus in an entirely new and exciting way.  When we pray, or when we are together at Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and any other liturgical event, the Holy Spirit – -His Advocate – – wants to reveal Jesus in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus’ love, majesty, divinity, mercy, and power.  Through the power of fire that represents the Holy Spirit, sins and iniquities keeping us from Jesus’ embrace are burned away.

Jesus defeated sin and death.  He was (and sill is) declared “Lord over heaven and earth!”  By sending the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise to send an “Advocate”, (a helper also known as the “Paraclete”) who would enable Christ’s believers to be witnesses to His “good news”, and to be a reconciling presence in the world.  There is an important connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness, and the actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.

In today’s reading, it is written, “… there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind …” (Acts 2:2).  The words “wind and spirit” are also mentioned in John:

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

The word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” (and the Hebrew word “ruah”) meaning both “windandspirit.”  Could it be that the sound of a great rush of wind is a sign of a new action from God in regards to salvation history?  With this in mind, I may look at spring storms a little different in the future.

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The tongues of fire have always been a curiosity of mine.  This type of “fire” is also mentioned in Exodus:

“Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire …” (Exodus 19:18).

Fire symbolized the presence of God initiating the “covenant” on Mount Sinai.  The Holy Spirit, the third “person” of the Trinitarian God, acted upon the Apostles and disciples by preparing them to proclaim the “new covenant”.  Jesus previously commissioned His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: to teach, to forgive sins, and to baptize.  The Holy Spirit gives them the power to complete His work. 

Jesus wants all His followers to be instruments and means of peace and harmony among all peoples, and in all places of the world.  So, He gave us the same tool to do His work as well – – the Holy Spirit working through us, in us, and with us.

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To speak in different tongues (languages) is a form of ecstatic prayer.  This type of prayer is sometimes also called “charismatic” prayer.  Interpreted in the book of Acts as speaking in foreign languages:

“… both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” (Acts 2:11).

This speaking in “tongues” symbolizes the worldwide mission of the church.  Everyone speaking differently wasn’t to confuse the masses of people.  Instead, “speaking in tongues” actually helps bring all peoples of the world together under one large umbrella: the Catholic, or universal Church.

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To live as a disciple of God – – through, with, and in the Holy Spirit, – – is a gigantic privilege.  The Advocate (or Paraclete) brings us peace and works through us to teach Christ’s message.  Along with this privilege comes a huge responsibility.  As the Apostles and early disciples had done centuries ago, we are still expected to spread the “good news” of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and of His coming again soon.  Are we willing to surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit?  Are we eager and willing to bring His “good news” to this oft-times violent and secularist world?

Today is the perfect day to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, and to share the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with others in your life.  Reflect on your need to forgive, and upon concerns you may have with giving and accepting forgiveness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help bring you peace through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to burn away everything that keeps you from Jesus.  After all, in this case, heart burn is a good thing!

The following prayer may help in finding the Holy Spirit, and in kindling that fire inside you.

 

“Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit”

“O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive; into my mind, that I may remember; and into my soul, that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy.  Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end.  May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy.  Amen.”

Saint Anthony of Padua

 

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Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO