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“The ‘Sign’ Read: ‘If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy!’” – John 2:1-11†


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2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

T. table_of_contentsoday’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, Discoveris, & Declarations:

 

Please let me explain why I did not publish a blog Wednesday.  I have a chronic eye condition known in the medical field as “keratoconus”.  Patients with this condition have misshaped globes of the eye.  Instead of the ckeratoconus-demoorneas being round and smooth, my eyes are shaped like the ends of footballs, and with ridges on their surfaces.  Thus, I wear specially made (very expensive) contacts in order to see well enough for daily living.  Without these contacts, my vision is like looking through a very thin layer of petroleum jelly.  Eventually, I will have to have corneal transport surgery on both eyes, but obviously, I wish to postpone this surgery as long as is reasonable.

One of my eyes has started to develop blood vessels on the cornea; some2816_2835_3thing very bad for future corneal transplant surgery.  Thus, I have to use four different medications on the eye throughout the day and night, and I am unable to wear a contact in this eye until some point after my surgery.  Laser surgery is scheduled for late February (He will burn the blood vessels on my cornea with the laser). 

For now, it is difficult to read due to the resultant blurriness of not wearing the contact.  For this reason, I have to limit my reflection blog to Sundays – – only FOR NOWI am also asking for your prayers in this matter.  Thank you in advance.

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Quote of the Day:

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.” ~ Frederick William Robertson

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Today’s reflection: Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus heard and obeyed His mother, Mary – – the mother of God; Do YOU?!

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(NAB John 2:1-11)  1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”  So they filled them to the brim.  8 Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”  So they took it.  9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs * in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

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Gos. Reflectionpel Reflection:

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.  For many Sundays in this lectionary cycle (Cycle C), our readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke.  Occasionally, however, we will read from John’s Gospel [as we do in every lectionary cycle].  Today’s Gospel reading comes from John, describing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and His first miracle – – His first “sign”.

To situate today’s reading within the context of John’s Gospel, we need to know that this event follows Jesus’ call of His first six disciples (cf., John 1:35-51).  John tells us that Jesus and His disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary.  This event is unique to John’s Gospel.  There are no parallel reports of this miraculous “sign” at Cana in any of the Synoptic Gospels.

Today’s Gospel is about “Signs (“sēmeion” in Greek).  John uses “signs” to re5030826-directional-signs-vector-or-xxl-jpeg-imageveal Jesus as the true promised Messiah to ALL “Israel”.  John uses “signs” to symbolize Jesus’ wondrous actions, His deeds.  We need to remember that the Gospel according to John is quite different in character from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  His writing style is highly literate and symbolic in nature.  It does not follow the same order, nor reproduce the same stories, as the other three Gospels.  To a much greater degree as that of the three other Gospel writers, it is the product of a theological reflection growing out of a different circle of readers, and their different traditions.  John’s Gospel was probably written in Ephesus during 90’s AD. 

John’s Gospel narrative contains a series of “signs”, seven to be exact (They will be listed near the end of this reflection.).  John’s Gospel’s relates God’s “Word” through a series of wondrous deeds – – actions – – by Jesus Himself.  It gives the impression that John is primarily interested in the “significance” of these actions. 

The first sign in today’s Gospel reading, is the “transformation of water into wine” at a wedding feast in a place called Cana (John 2:1jesus_wine1–11).  This first “sign” represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings (John 2:6), and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus then, and still today.  He is still actually transforming US ALL through our hearing of His “Word” and the fellowships of our Church’s seven Sacraments.

So, the Old Testament exodus stories provide the background for today’s reading:

“Recall today that it was not your children, who have neither known nor seen the discipline of the LORD, your God—His greatness, His strong hand and outstretched arm; the signs and deeds He wrought in the midst of Egypt, on Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on all his land; what He did to the Egyptian army and to their horses and chariots, engulfing them in the waters of the Red Sea as they pursued you, so that the LORD destroyed them even to this day … Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all His servants and to all His land(Deuteronomy 11:2-4; 29:1-2).

God’s intervention in human history is anew again – – in a new, fulfilled, and fulfilling way – –  through Jesus Christ in the midst of His brethren today.

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The first verse talks about Jesus being in a place called “Cana”:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there” (NAB John 2:1-11). 

Cana is NEVER mentioned in the Old Testament.  The only other (two) biblical references to “Cana” can be found(1) in John 4:46, which mentions Jesus, while in “Cana”, being asked to heal the son of a royal official at Capernaum; and (2) in John 21:2, where the Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels’) comes from “Cana”.  Cana of Galilee is not mentioned in any other book of the Bible, or in any other contemporary literary source.  So where is “Cana”, and why is this place significant to John?  I do not know with certainly.  Speculation is rampant among bible scholars, but I would love to find this place someday when finally discovered with certainty.  I hear the wine there is truly divine!

Also in the first verse, “The mother of Jesus” is never mentioned by name.  Matter of fact, Mary is never mentioned by name in John’s Gospel.  And, on tsecret-rosary13aop of this, Joseph is not present at the wedding feast as well.  I suspect Jesus’ earthly “father” had died sometime between his finding his lost Son in the Temple and this event some eighteen years later.

Jesus, per John, addressed His mother by saying “Woman”:

Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

This was NOT a ‘diss (slang word for “treat with contempt”) on Mary!!  Today, a child would possibly be given the “eveyesil eye” for calling his/her mother “woman” in this way.  However, in actuality, this was a normal and POLITE form of addressing one’s mother during Jesus’ time.  He also calls her by this SAME title while dying on the Holy Cross, at His most intimate – – and final – – time with her:

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’” (John 19:26).

The word “woman” was a revealed word which was highly exulted (like the word “king”) amoung the Jewish peoples.  Jesus is “the Word made Flesh”.  When Jesus Christ calls His mother “woman”, He is revealing the promised fulfillment in Genesis:

 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Genesis 3:15).

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Wine was running low, a good “sign” of the celebration being in full force, but a bad sign because – – they are RUNNING OUT OF WINE!  So, Mary, probably helping at the celebration, goes to her son and says:

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine” (John 2:3).

Jesus replies to “His mother”:

Woman, how does your concern affect meMy hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

If itwasn’t His time”, why did Jesus do what His mother asked?  After all, Jesus never worked miracles solely to help His family and friends.  I believe He performed this first miraculous “sign” out of OBEDIENCE to His mother, ObedienceToTheWordknowing the importance of [what we today know as] the Fourth Commandment and its great importance in God’s kingdom:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you … Take to heart these words which I command you today…  Bind them on your arm as a ‘sign’ and let them be as a pendant on your forehead” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:6, 8)  

I wish people today saw and appreciated the need and JOY to be obedient to God’s Commandments, and not to subjugate them – – to de-prioritize them – – out of personally selfish wants and desires. 

Now, let’s go on to discuss the second (of three) points about His reply to His “mother”: 

How does your concern affect me?” (John 2:4)

Everything Jesus says is a fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  He is telling His mother that if He does what she implies, the “cats are ‘gjesusturnedwaterintowineonna be out of the bag”!  Mary is hastening God’s will, My source and My authority by doing a miracle to meet the wedding parties need.  That’s why, I believe, the third revealing point in this one verse relates to Jesus saying: 

My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

The “hour”, I believe Jesus is referring to, is His Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven:hourglass

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

I wonder how much Jesus knew about His future at the time of the wedding feast miracle.  Did He know every single detail about His gruesome torture and death to come?  Did He know the beauty He will find in His ascension?  I believe He did.  Do you?  However, Jesus was focusing on His mother’s concern for the wedding couple.  He moved up the clock, revealing His divine authority.  So, He begins a series of seven signs here at “Cana”.

Only after John has Jesus fulfilling these seven “signs”, does the “hour” of Jesus fully arrive.  The whole Gospel of John is a progressivglory-to-god-by-brandon-halliburton-free-photo-11978e “revelation” – – a REVEALING – – of the glory of God’s only begotten Son.  At “Cana”, Jesus is beginning to reveal God the Father fully; which will ne fulfilled later when He returns – – in “glory” – – to His heavenly Father on our behalf.  Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

Jesus’ reply was tjohn2_5SCruly revealing in nature.  However, Mary was not going to take an implied “no” for an answer.  She simply looks at the “servers” and says:

Do whatever He tells you(John 2:5).

Mary knew her Scriptures well; she helped teach them to Jesus.  Mary, in her reply, may have been referencing a verse from the Book of Genesis:

When all the land of Egypt became hungry and the people cried to Pharaoh for food, Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: ‘Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you’” (Genesis 41:55).

What I believe was important about Mary’s reason for wanting Jesus to perform a “sign” before His “time”, and His willingness to obif_mama_aint_happy_aint_nobody_happy_magnet-p147594797048165970b2gru_400ey her fully, may have been one of simple logic and survival for Jesus:

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Do not forget the Fourth Commandment.  Jesus didn’t!!

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John goes on to report that:

There were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons” (John 2:6). 

Twenty to thirty gallons” is a litermarriageincanaal present day translation for the “two or three measures” of Jesus’ day.  This vast quantity of wine recalls prophecies of “abundance in the last days” from Jewish Scripture:

Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, flocks of sheep and cattle; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again neglected” (Jeremiah 31:12);

 “Yes, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—When the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps and the vintager, the sower of the seed; The mountains shall drip with the juice of grapes, and all the hills shall run with it. will restore my people Israel, they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits.” (Amos 9:13–14).

With this “first sign”, the changing of the water to wine, Jesus is replacing the “Jewish ceremonial washings” with His divine body, blood, soul, and divinity washing away all affects of original sin.  This event also presented the initial revealing – – the initial revelation – – of Jesus’ divine nature and authority at the outset of His public ministry.  

Jesus’ action in this reading points to the “wine of the new covenant” and the “bread of life” He establishes in the “Last Supper” anjesusfirstLOGOd in our present Eucharist.  It also points to the Messianic banquet which Jesus personally will host at the end of time.  (Behold the Lamb of God … Hapy are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!)

The miracles of Jesus’ public ministry – – His “signs” – – demonstrate the power of God’s love and mercy for His people.  God’s kindness knows no limits!  And the ultimate expression of His love is revealed in the person of His Son, our Lord – – Jesus Christ.  He became flesh for OUR sake; He died for OUR redemption; He rose from the dead for OUR glorification!! 

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John ends his Gospel today by going to the beginning: the beginning of Jesus’ “signs”, the beginning of His revealed “glory”, the beginning of His public ministry, and the beginning of His disciples truly believing in Him as the true promised Messiah:

Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him” (John 2:11).

God reveals His “glory” in the most unlikely places: in a stable at Bethlehem, at a wedding party in Cana, in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, and on a blood stained crosto-god-be-the-glory_137_1024x768s outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Jesus’ first public miracle – – His first “sign” – – was performed at the confident “invitation” of His mother.  In doing as His mother requested of Him, Jesus blessed a young couple, bringing JOY to their wedding feast: first, by His presence, and second, by His surprising response to Hhis mother’s concern, saving them from an embarrassing situation. 

Changing water into wine was a remarkable act of kindness; but saving the best to last was unheard of in Jesus’ day.  In Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament) wine was often seen as a gift anDo-Whatever-He-Tells-You-1024x1024d symbol of God’s blessing (cf., Deuteronomy 7:13; Proverbs 3:10, Psalm 105).  With Jesus miraculously producing 180 gallons or so of the best wine possible, and many times more than what actually was needed for the feast, He showed the superabundance of the blessings He Himself came to offer to All “Israel”, to ALL peoples.

What other signs will Jesus go on to do during His public Ministry?  Well, now would be a good time to list the seven “signs” John reveals through his Gospel:seven-signs

  • The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents, as I mentioned earlier, the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.

  • The second sign, the cure of the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46–54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus’ life-giving “Word”.  

  • The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in John 5, continues the theme of water offering newness of life.  In the preceding chapter, to the woman at the well in Samaria Jesus had offered living water springing up to eternal life, a symbol of the revelation Jesus brings.  Here Jesus’ life-giving “Word” replaces the water of the pool which failed to bring life.

  • John 6 contains two signs: the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  These signs are related to the “crossing of the Red Sea” and the manna” of the first exodus, manifesting a new exodus in process.  The multiplication of the loaves anticipates the future revelation of God in Jesus which the bread of life is His visible “sign” which we call the “Eucharist”.  

  • The sixth sign is presented in John 9, the sign of the young man born blind whom Jesus heals. This is a narrative illustration proclaiming the triumph of light over darkness.  Remember, this event takes place in the Temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles (aka, the Feast of Lights) at which there were a multitude of candelabras lighted throughout the “Holy Place”.  Jesus is presenting Himself as the Light of the Temple, and of the world.  The young man had been given his sight by Jesus.  This “sign” was an object lesson, revealing the divine power of Jesus to give light to the eyes, and at the same time, subtly revealing the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and Levites attending to the Menorah.

  • And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in John 11, is the climax of signs.  Lazarus is presented as a token of the real, spiritually alive, life which Jesus, THE Resurrection and THE Life, who will now ironically be put to death because of His gift of life to Lazarus, desires to give ALL to those believing in Him then, and after He was seen raised from the dead.  Notice the irony of Jesus raising Lazarus and then enduring His own death in place of Lazarus.

John’s purpose in describing these seven signs in their unique order is clearly expressed in what some bible scholars say was the “original” ending of his Gospel, at the end of Chapter 20.  Besides these seven just described:

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

Amen!!  Amen!!          

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In the Church’s lit. summarize titleurgical history, the “wedding feast at Cana” is closely associated with the “adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi” and the “Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The “sign” Jesus performs at the wedding feast is an “epiphany” (manifestation) of Jesus’ divinity to be celebrated.flickr-3699162219-hd

With these epiphanies in mind, awareness of Jesus’ Passion and death looming future on the Holy Cross is ever present in John’s Gospel.  Even in today’s narrative of Jesus’ “first sign”, the language used by John anticipates Jesus’ future Passion.  When Jesus says to His “mother” that “His hour has not yet come”, Jesus protests against her wishes in words John used again when describing Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples in John 13:1.  When introducing the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet [also only found in John’s Gospel], John writes that Jesus knew His “hour had come”.  Per John, Jesus is very much in command and extremely aware of ALL that is to happen to Him, from the very beginning.

Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is never mentioned by name, but is referred to instead as “the mother of Jesus”.  Mary is overridingly influential in Jesus’ first “sign”.  She will never abandon her Son, even being present at Jesus’ Crucifixion.  Mary was (and still is) a faithful and constant witness to the final manifestation – – “sign” and epiphany – – of Jesus’ divinity.

John’s Gospel describes seven “signs” indicating Jesus’ true divine nature and identity to His disciples.  He never speaks of these “signwordsandeedslogosas miracles because their importance is not in the deed – – the action – – which Jesus performs, but instead in what these deeds indicate in regard to Jesus’ true nature and identity.  In today’s reading, Jesus’ disciples are said to “begin to believe”.  However, no mention is made as to whether the other wedding guests are even aware of what has happened.  (But, they thought the wine was heavenly in deed!)

Here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-define and fulfill God’s promise to “Israel”.  Jesus is establishing the New Covenant promised to the Water_Wine_Renderprophets.  A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in His deed – – the action Jesus performs.  Asked to do something about the awkward situation that a lack of wine at the wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miraculous “sign” produces vast quantities of wine: six jars overflowing with over 180 gallons of superior wine.

This overflowing response to a simple human request is a vision for us – – a “sign” – – about the vast abundance of God’s kingdom.  It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with our needs, and others’, today.  Responding as best as we can, fully confident that, like the mother of Jesus, God can transform our efforts, brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us here and now!

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We. conclusionddings are magnificent and breathtaking celebrations.  We go out of our way to make the occasion festive and extraordinary.  People work hard to please one another with a special kind of JOY.  What better image of the Kingdom of God can there be than070114_weddinggift a wedding feast!  Wedding celebrations are not an everyday occurrence.  ut we can anticipate the Kingdom of God each and every day through our kindness, attention, and care to one another’s needs.

Reflect about weddings and other feasts and HOW they are used as images in Holy Slove others_t_nvcripture for the Kingdom of God.  Consider how these festive occasions are images of God’s tremendous, overflowing, love for us – – and examples of how we can show our love for one another.  Think about Mary’s attentiveness to the needs of the wedding hosts, and about Jesus’ response to His mother’s request.  What can you learn from today’s Gospel story?  Reflect on, and consider ways – – actions or deeds – – in which you might show these same sort of generous and loving values in your daily life.  Create your own “sign” for God’s plan in your life and for His kingdom on earth!!

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Reflecti. prayer sfon Prayer: 

Prayer for Generosity

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity. generosity-revolution-revisited-graphic
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.”

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♫“All We Need is (fill in the blank), Dah, Da, Da, Da, Dah ?!”♫ – Mark 12:28b-34†


31stSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2012

 

General Intention: For ministers of the Gospel.

That bishops, priests, and all ministers of the Gospel may bear the courageous witness of fidelity to the crucified and risen Lord.


Missionary Intention: For the Pilgrim Church.

That the pilgrim Church on earth may shine as a light to the nations.

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Next Tuesday, November 4th, is “Election Day”.  I believe this is probably one of the major events of Christendom.  This date will literally effect how are community of faith will be allowed to identify itself, and how we, as individuals, will be able to practice our faith in our private and public lives. 

I fear for my Church and my ability to show my faith!!  It is being attacked overtly and covertly from many fronts today – – both secular and political.  There are two things we all MUST do for our own sakes, and for the sake of our Catholic faith: we need to pray (especially the Holy Rosary), and we need to vote with true Catholic values, virtues, and faith in mind.

Remember, are you saying to God, “Thy will be done” when it really means, “My will be done“?

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by a Scribe about the greatest commandment.  How well do you know – – and LIVE – – this “greatest of commandments”?

(NAB Mark 12:28-34) 28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whoa, last Sunday, we were reading about the “blind man” who receives his vision through his faith, from the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  And now, today, we have jumped way over to the end of the twelfth chapter.  If we were to read Chapters 11 and the first part of Chapter 12, we would hear about:

  • Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem;
  • His cleansing the Temple of merchants; and,
  • Previous questions of His “authority” and interpretations concerning “paying taxes” and “resurrection of the dead” by the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders. 

The context, therefore, for today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ growing exposure and popularity with the pious Jews before the Jewish Temple leaders.  Thus, Jesus is being questioned and tested by the Jewish authorities, attempting to find a weakness to exploit in Jesus’ teaching of faith.  Surprisingly, the Scribe who addresses Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be (or has become) an admirer.

Jesus’ “Words” are very simple and beautiful.  He tells us we should have a faith of inclusivity and welcome, not that of rules and regulations – – EVERYONE should be welcome!!  We are told in today’s reading of Jesus’ teaching on two commandments: loving God and each other.  How hard is Jesus’ “Words” to truly abide by?  Well, I sense that many times in our lives, our faith is based NOT on loving each other as God loves us, but instead, on deciding who is IN and who is OUT of our lives.

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Today’s Gospel reading is a dialogue between Jesus and a Scribe who is impressed by the way in which Jesus has conducted Himself in answering the question asked of Him:

Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mark 12:28).

This devoutly pious Scribe (a “scholar [or interpreter] of Mosaic Law”) compliments Jesus for the answer He gives him (Mark 12:32).  This Scribe is said by Jesus to be “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

The Temple Leaders prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament), along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries THEY created.  I believe this particular Scribe – – this inquisitor – – was on a mission from the Pharisees, testing Jesus by asking his specific question, a question the Pharisees believed would be impossible to answer correctly.  However, Jesus’ response or answer, by repeating Moses words, caused NO conflict whatsoever with the Scribes’ Jewish religious teaching.  The Scribes reaction to Jesus’ is one of praise for Him.

Why would the question asked by the Scribe be impossible to answer correctly?  Well, for the devout Jew, ALL the commandments (and there were 613 of them) were to be kept with equal obedience and care.  There really is NO “first of all commandments” for the pious Jew.  This question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses.  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments, numbering 613 precepts or laws.  For a devout Jew, adherence to the Mosaic Law is a continuous, life-long attempt at expressing one’s faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel through very specific behaviors.  The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of Mosaic Law: but ALL laws were treated as equal in observance.

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Jesus startled the Pharisee with His profoundly simple answer; and, with His obvious mastery of Mosaic Law – – Jesus’ answer revealed its true purpose.  So, Jesus is revealing that God simply requires of us to love as He loves, and that God is pure love; and that everything He does flows from His love for us!  God loved us first and our love for Him is a response to His personal, uniquely intimate way of expressing His exceeding mercy, grace, and loving kindness towards each of us. 

Interestingly, Jesus was not the only Jewish religious teacher – – rabbi during this time – – to connect these two commandments: first, the “love of God”, and second, the “love of neighbor”.  Both of these commandments were (and are) central elements of Jewish religious tradition from which Jesus learned in His youth, from His foster-father and the rabbi of Nazareth.  So, Jesus, along with ALL observant Jews (and still today), were educated on this specific precept from Deuteronomy regarding the love of God:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

Since the “Lord alone” is God, “Israel” (the Jewish “chosen” people) need to love Him with an undivided heart, being, and strength.  Indeed, even still today, this commandment (and the other love commandment) continues to be the central aspect of contemporary Jewish religious understanding.  

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The second commandment, “love of neighbor”, is a precept from Leviticus:

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

Jesus’ response to His questioners proposed a fundamental and vital connection between these two precepts from Mosaic Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression IN OURlove for neighbor”.  I suspect however, that this integral linking of these two commandments was perceived in a newly rejuvenated and fresh way when Jesus taught on this issue in today’s reading.  There had to have been at least one “Ah-ha” moment for this Scribe during this discourse with Jesus.  The “love of God” comes first, and the “love of neighbor” is firmly grounded IN the “love of God”.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what He loves   and reject what is harmful, hateful, and contrary to His loving will and plan for each of us.  

For this curious and discerning Scribe, Jesus illustrated, through His answer, the superiority of love over legalism from God’s (and from Moses’) point of view.  The “love of God” must engage the total person (heart, mind, and soul).  However, Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him, joining to the greatest and first commandment, a second commandment, that of “love of neighbor”:

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

The double commandment is the source from which the “whole law” flows.

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A part of the Scribe’s reply to Jesus puzzled me:

“‘To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

I believe the Scribe was alluding to Psalm 40:

Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, ‘See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!’ (Psalm 40:7–9).

Obedience to God’s law of love is far better than any “burnt offering and sacrifice”.  I believe that Saint Paul understood this law of love taking precedence over the laws of “burnt offerings”.  Here is what he writes:

 “For this reason, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.  Then I said, “As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”’  First He says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.’ These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’  He takes away the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:5-9).

Notice, Jesus identifies Himself as the “ONE” “written” about “in the scrolls”; Jesus reveals the primacy of loving God (and neighbor) over the value of “holocausts and sin offerings”, which (Jesus reveals) God really “did not desire” nor “delighted in”.  So, Paul understood God, through Jesus Christ, was taking away the first laws of legalism to establish the NEW law of LOVE!!

Therefore, Jesus Christ is taking away the “burnt offering and sacrifice”, establishing Himself as the new “Sacrifice”, redeeming ALL from the sin of this world!!!  This is AWESOME!!!

No wonder then that with the last verse in today’s dialogue, the debate with the Jewish authorities comes to an abrupt end:

No one dared to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).

Were the Temple leaders finally humbled by Jesus’ “Words”?  I don’t think so.  Envy still had a tight grasp on many of the Pharisees and Scribes, as we will see when Jesus is arrested after the “Last Supper”.

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The Scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel engaged in a positive dialogue with Him, giving Jesus the opportunity to express an important – – the MOST important – – precept or law of, from, and about God!.  What is interesting for me is that most Catholics (and other Christians) today believed Jesus was hated by all the Temple leaders; absolutely NOT TRUE!!  I suspect Jesus had MANY friends and advocates among the three groups of Temple leaders: the Pharisees, the Scribes (who were the interpreters and lawyers for the Pharisees), and the Sadducees.

This Individual Scribe agreed with Jesus’ teaching about “loving God” and “loving neighborbeing the first and greatest of commandments.  He agreed with Jesus that these two “connected” laws or precepts even surpass the 613 commandments having to do with certain behaviors for surviving in the desert and other laws pertaining to animal and other sacrifices in the Temple.  

From Jesus’ response to the Scribe’s question, we learn that faith in God – – and hope in His promises – – strengthen us in expressing our “love of God”, for God, and for our neighbor (and even for ourselves). Faith, hope, and love are essential for a good and proper relationship with God.  Faith, hope, and love unites each of us with Him in a unique and intimate way.  The more we know of God – – the more we love Him – – and the more we love God, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

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Jesus Christ, through the grace and actions of the Holy Spirit, gives to each of us a new freedom to love as He Himself loves!!  Is there anything keeping you from the “love of God” and the JOY of serving others with a generous heart?    If so, remove it for your existence, for nothing is more important than the “love of God”.  Let us remember what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5

As Catholic Christians, our moral behavior should be guided by the two-part commandment taught by Jesus in today’s Gospel: “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I believe many of us use this “love” framework within the “greatest of the commandments” as an examination of conscience each night and during each Sacrament of Reconciliation.   By examining our lives through the auspices of these two universal commandments, we learn of the challenges in following these precepts as well.  We often desire to NOT follow these coupled laws; but in our capacity as faith-filled Catholic Christians, we need to attempt at consistently honoring these commandments in our daily lives, renewing this commitment DAILY, and sometimes even moment-to-moment.

So, here is a challenge for each of you; let me know how successful you are in executing this challenge.  For one week, identify and collect news reports of how Christians (not just Catholics, but ALL Christians) show their love for God by loving and serving their neighbor.  (This will definitely be a challenge with our present secular news agencies and their anti-religious bias.) 

Think about ways in which you might contribute to the examples of “Christian service” which you hopefully found in the news reports.  Choose one of the actions you came up with or discovered in your search, and do the action yourself.  Let me know what action you came up with, and how you executed that action in your life and area. 

Finally, let us pray together in asking for God’s help in showing our love to our family, friends, and others we meet.  IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!!!

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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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“Jesus, Can I Be The Right-Hand Servant, And My Brother The Left-Hand Servant?!” – Mark 10:35-45†


29thSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:


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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches that those who wish to be great must be the servant of all.  Jesus came to serve.  What about YOU?

(NAB Mark 10:35-45) 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 He replied, “What do you wish [me] to do for you?”  37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  39 They said to him, “We can.”  Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.  42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  43 But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is still journeying to Jerusalem (3 weeks now).  Last Sunday, Jesus taught about the specific challenge to confront, and surmount, for those with many possessions, in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  Jesus then foretold of His passion to His “Twelve” close and faithful disciples, who then become “amazed and afraid” at His prophetic vision.  Jesus’ “Words” to His closest of His followers, I believe, are intended to prepare them for events that will occur in Jerusalem at the time of Passover, and also in their future lives and paths to martyrdom.

James and John, in today’s reading, ask to be given seats of honor when Jesus “enters into His glory”.  It seems that once again, the disciples are selective in what they hear Jesus say.  (It must be a male trait because my wife accuses me of having selective hearing quite often.)  James and John want to share Jesus’ “glory”, but do not appear to understand that Jesus’ glory will be preceded by His suffering and death.  James and John, though truly loyal and constantly dutiful followers to Jesus, were “wet behind the ears” – – inexperienced and idealistic – – in the understanding of Jesus’ specific mission.  Jesus notes their lack of understanding and foretells the suffering that they will also undergo for the sake of His “Word”, the Gospel.  

Jesus concludes today’s reading by saying that the “honor” they seek is not His to give.  When the other ten disciples hear what James and John have asked, they become “indignant” towards them, probably wishing they had asked first!  It is interesting that these twelve bickering men are the group to whom Jesus will entrust the entire leadership and “authority” of His community of believers and followers, the future Catholic Christian Church. 

Rather than scold His twelve “special” disciples, Jesus turns their squabble into a lesson about “servant leadership”.  Jesus takes the opportunity to teach all of them about the importance of service and sacrifice in the life of EVERY disciple.  In actuality, Jesus seems to be preparing the “Twelve” [Apostles] for their leadership roles in the emerging Catholic Christian community.  

Echoing the Gospel which we heard several weeks ago (cf., Mark 9:33-37), Jesus acknowledges that His teaching is deliberately very different from the cultural values of our earthly society and materialistic world.  His “WAY” in life is countercultural.  Jesus goes on, in today’s reading, to contrast and distinguish the dynamics – – the change producing force – – within the community of His disciples to those of the “rulers of the Gentiles”.

Mark’s description of this event is somewhat different than what is written in Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew has the mother of the two disciples approaching Jesus:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something.  He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’  She answered Him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.’” (Matthew 20:20–21).

These two men (or their mother) boldly asked Jesus to promote them to the top positions in His kingdom.  I think their desire for greatness seems to be inherent in all of us.  After all, who truly wants to be last or least in the group?  

The reason Matthew’s Gospel has “the mother” petitioning is not made clear.  Some bible scholars suppose that Matthew wanted to allude to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon (cf., 1 Kings 1:11–21).  Bathsheba, as we all know (hopefully), was the wife of King David and the mother of Solomon.  In David’s old age, Bathsheba secured the succession of her son Solomon to the throne, instead of David’s eldest surviving son Adonijah.  James and John, and Solomon it seems, had good Jewish mothers who wanted the best for their children and “lent a hand” in facilitating the best position possible for their children.

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Jesus replies to the brothers (and probably their mother as well):

Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38).

Jesus is using a metaphor, a figure of speech, for the “drinking from the cup” used in Jewish Scripture, which refers to acceptance of the destiny assigned by God the Father:

 “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, hates those who love violence, and rains upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone, a scorching wind their allotted cup. (Psalm 11:5-6)

This “allotted cup”, given by God the Father to drink, is a common figure for destiny throughout both the Old and New Testaments:

LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure” (Psalm 16:5);

“Yes, a cup is in the LORD’s hand, foaming wine, fully spiced.  When God pours it out, they will drain it even to the dregs; all the wicked of the earth will drink” (Psalm 75:9);

Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’  They said to him, ‘We can.’” (Matthew 20:22);

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39);

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice, ‘Anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand, will also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath, and will be tormented in burning sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb’” (Revelations 14:9-10).

Jesus’ “cup” is filled with the divine judgment on sin.  Jesus Christ – – the innocent one – – is to drink of this cup on behalf of the guilty:

“He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many’” (Mark 14:24);

Jesus was well aware of the Jewish Scripture prophecy found in Isaiah, chapter 53, in regards to drinking from this cup of salvation:

He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.  He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus’ destiny is to be crucified and die for the redemptive salvation of the human race, “His baptism”:

There is a baptism [His death] with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50).

So, you see, the request of James and John to share in Jesus’ “glory” (Mark 10:35–37) must also involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings as well – – their individual, personal, and intimate endurance of trial, tribulation, and suffering for the sake of the “Word”, the Gospel.

 Jesus ends His lesson with James and John by telling them that the “authority” of assigning places of honor in God the Father’s kingdom is solely reserved to God the Father Himself, and to NOONE else:

To sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:40)!!

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As I stated earlier, the other “Apostles” became rather upset, offended, and resentful toward James and John for making such a request of “honor”.  How dare they (or their mother per Matthew) have the nerve to ask for special treatment from Jesus!  Too bad they did not realize that eventually, they ALL, plus many more followers of Jesus’ WAY would be included in the drinking from Jesus’ “cup” – – dying for their Christian faith in horrendous and cruel ways.  They ALL would come to sit WITH Jesus – – in the seats allotted to them by God the Father.  And, ALL of them would be the Grade “A”, primo seats, for eternity.  

Dissention, it seems, was looming amongst the group, and the “boss’s son” knew.  So, Jesus called the group together in order to talk to them:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

Wow, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  Later, Jesus will again dramatize this very important lesson on the night before He dies, at the Last Supper, when He washes the feet of the Twelve Apostles.

Jesus is telling these future leaders within His group that whatever “authority” is to be exercised by them (and by US today), it needs to be in the example of Jesus’ service to them.  Their “authority” is to be rendered AS SERVICE to others (Mark 10:45).  Their “authority” is NOT to be for personal enrichment or embellishment (Mark 10:42–44).  

Saint Francis of Assisi understood this lesson of Jesus intimately well, and practiced it ALWAYS!  In his “rule of life”, Saint Francis stresses that the ministers – – the leaders of the Friar Minors (little brothers) – – should be:

“Admonish and encourage them with humility and love.… The ministers are to be servants of all.” 

Additionally, St. Francis wrote:

“No one is to appropriate any office or ministry as if it were a personal right.”

The same lesson holds true for today’s secular and religious leaders.  Leaders must give their “authority”, priority, energy, abilities, and commitment to the service of ALL others.  

Jesus stated, in a direct manner, that He came to serve His Father in Heaven by His passion and death – –  NOT for His sake – – but for the sins of the human race!  Later, at the “Last Supper”, He will again say of His service:

This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

In both today’s reading and in the future “Last Supper” event, Jesus is AGAIN referring to prophesy found in Isaiah, chapter 53:

“Because of His anguish He shall see the light; because of His knowledge He shall be content; my servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear.  Therefore I will give Him His portion among the many, and He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because He surrendered Himself to death, was counted among the transgressors, Bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:11–12);

Jesus, what a man, what a leader, what a Lord He truly was AND IS!!  I can never say this little prayer enough:

“I adore you Jesus, I hope in you Jesus, I love in you Jesus, I trust in you Jesus!  You are my Lord, my God, and my ALL!!  Amen.”

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Following Jesus’ example of sacrificial love continues to be “countercultural” today.  Some days, I feel this difference between our societal values and that of God’s values is excruciatingly painful – – both physically and spiritually.  True Catholics, full with God’s grace, are truly at battle with the forces of evil in this world.  All of us need to keep in mind, during this time of spiritual warfare, that we already know the outcome of the war – – GOD WINS!!  And, I know that I personally want to be on the winning side with YOU!  Let’s take this opportunity, given to us by God, and consider our known models of “authority”, and compare them to our OWN use of “authority”.  Whose model of leadership are you using: Jesus Christ’s, or, the “rulers over the Gentiles”?  I know that in my life, I have used BOTH examples in the past, and I prefer the former than the latter.

Jesus did the unthinkable!  He reversed the path to gaining true greatness and glory, literally turning the ladder of success we climb upside down.  If we want to be first and great, then we must place ourselves at the disposal of others by putting their interests first and by taking on their cares and concerns as if they were our own.  Jesus attached “authority” to “unconditional love and service” – – to total sacrifice – – a willing sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of another.  In doing so, our service to others brings about, in ours and others lives, the model of perfect JOY:

J     –       Jesus first;
O    –       Then others.
  And finally; 
Y    –       Yourself last.

Authority”, without sacrificial love, is simply degrading and self-serving.  Jesus used blunt language to explain the kind of sacrifice He expected of Himself and for His disciples.  His disciples need to drink from His “cup” if they expect to reign with Him in God the Father’s kingdom.  The “cup” He described is a bitter one – – involving pain, suffering, and crucifixion – – laying down one’s life, even to the point of shedding one’s blood for the sake of Christ and His “Word”, the Gospel.

What kind of “cup” is prepared for each one of us?  For some, such a “cup” entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom.  However, for most of us, it entails the long routine of a pious Catholic Christian life, with all its monotonous daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  

Christ offered His life for our sake, and He calls us to freely offer our lives in a daily sacrifice of love and service for others.  What makes sacrifice a JOY – – rather than a burden – – is love; the kind of joy-full love which has the power to transform and change our lives, as well as the lives of those around us.  Saint Paul tells us that this special kind of love is a pure grace which “God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).  If we allow God’s love to transform our lives, then no sacrifice – – no pain, no torment, no death – – will be too great or too difficult to endure.

Pope John XXIII – – who opened the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago this past week (October 11, 1962) – – was a true “servant leader”.  If parents, priests, bishops, politicians, and business leaders are to lead according to the Gospel, they must learn what the Gospel has to say in their particular circumstances, as Pope John the Great had done.  Only in this way can they exercise “servant leadership” in the manner of Jesus Christ.  

As we prepare to elect our nation’s leaders on November 6th, we should pray for all candidates that they may seek NOT political power and prestige, but the ability to be “servant leaders”, especially to those who are in greatest need.  It is also appropriate for us to ask of them – – to DEMAND of them – – that they BE “servant leaders”! 

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In the daily routine of life, power struggles are unavoidable.  Whenever two or more people are together, there will be occasions of disagreement and attempts to exert influence over each other.  However, when two or more are together, in HIS name, all there can be is LOVE, even during dissension:

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

Today’s Gospel is an invitation to reflect on how “authority” is applied in your life.  There is a temptation to use our “authority” in order to show power over others.  When conflicts emerge, many of us even rely upon the power we believe our role in life gives us in order to facilitate the situation to “our” favor.  However, Jesus teaches us that there is a more persuasive form of leadership to follow – – servitude.  In our daily “challenges” we have the opportunity to practice and teach the kind of service leadership Jesus modeled for us in His ministry, AND, in His passion and death.

Realize that conflicts based on “power struggles” seem unavoidable in our secular lives.  However, Catholic Christians are to display their authority over others in a unique, some may say unthinkable, way.  Think about Jesus’ unique message to His disciples (and to US) about how He wishes for us to apply “authority”.  Think about ways in which you might apply Jesus’ “Words” in your own life and in others lives.  We all need to remember a somewhat famous expression from the Church itself:

“To serve is to reign with Christ”.

Pray that we ALL may receive honor in God’s eyes by learning to serve others in love.  We share in God’s power, authority, and kingdom by loving others as He has loved us, AND, by laying down our lives in humble caring service for the sake of our neighbor’s welfare.  With God, all is possible.  Father Jacque Philippe, in his book, “Interior Freedom” said:

We do not all have in us the stuff of sages or heroes.  But by God’s grace we do have the stuff of saints

Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?  I believe I do, even if it means for me a slow martyrs death by way of the everyday monotonous and drudging routine of a normal Catholic Christian life, with all its dull, repetitive, boring, and tedious daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and ever-present temptations.  How about you?

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Reflection Prayer: 

PARDON PRAYER of FATIMA

 

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee!  I ask forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee!  Amen.

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“The True Path To Greatness Is Being The Lowest On The Rung Of Success In Society!” – Mark 9:30-37†


 

 

25th 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:

 

I am certain that all of you reading this blog have heard the news about the numerous attacks on our embassy throughout the world, supposedly over a private citizen’s ill-advised, AND totally false, short video from several months ago.  I personally believe the reason goes far beyond this reason, especially since the attacks started on the anniversary of the horrible, devastatingly unwarranted attacks on September 11, 2001 by 18 well-organized terrorists, using 3 hijacked airline commuter jets. 

Prayers are desperately needed for ALL involved, directly or indirectly.  I found the prayer below on a site about Medjugorje apparitions.  This is the beginning prayer for a “Patriotic Rosary-For the Healing of our Nation”.  Please pray this prayer daily, and at least until the dangerous situation in the Middle-East subsides.

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Prayer for America” 

O Merciful God, we cry to Thee for pardon and for mercy.  We are ‘an unbelieving and perverse generation’.  We are disobedient, disloyal and ungrateful to Thee.  We have excluded Thee from our homes, our schools, our business places.  We are no longer worthy to be called Thy children.  But Merciful God, spare my country! Forgive us!  Save us from the scourge which we justly have deserved, especially for the killing of the innocent unborn babies.  Teach us Thy law and to live Thy law always abiding in You, and move our hearts to serve Thee, henceforth.  Merciful God, please spare America! Remember your mercy through your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and through His passion and death on the cross! 

God Almighty, Lord of all nations, bless us all with lasting peace; give us strength in tribulations; may Thy blessings never cease.  We shall always sing Thy praise: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.  

We know You are justly irritated with us but we beg and plead for forgiveness through our repentance from our hearts.  We realize our nation is headed toward disaster by so many signs You have given us.  Do not look upon what we truly deserve in your just anger, but see us through the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Whose heart was pierced with a lance, and Whose heart floods the world in His Mercy and grace.  Remember your just Son Jesus Christ, did not come to condemn the world but to save it!  Holy, Holy, Holy God, grant our requests through the powerful intercession of Your Blessed Mother who unceasingly prays for us, so that we may again be Your people, not a nation above God but one nation humbled and under God. Amen. Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us!

http://herschooloflove.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/patriotic-rosary-for-the-healing-of-our-nation/

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Today is the Feast of Saint Pio (Pius) of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap., (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968) was a Capuchin Catholic priest from Italy.  He was born Francesco Forgione, and given the name Pius (Italian: Pio) when he joined the Capuchins, thus he was popularly known as Padre Pio. He became famous for his bearing the stigmata. On 16 June 2002, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II. 

Padre Pio then became a spiritual director, guiding many spiritually, considering them his spiritual daughters and sons. He had five rules for spiritual growth, namely, weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. 

He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.

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Quote of the Day:

“Remember what Jesus Christ said about celebrity in the Gospel of Luke? The greatest Teacher said that those who humble themselves will be applauded. So be willing to be the least of all. That is true greatness.” ~ Carmen Acevedo Butcher, “A Little Daily Wisdom”, Paraclete Press

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches His disciples that the greatest are those who serve all.  How well do YOU serve ALL others, especially those you do not like, and the marginalized of society.

(NAB Mark 9:30-37)  30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.”  32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.  33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  34 But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

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Gospel Reflection:

Today’s event in Mark’s Gospel is immediately after Jesus’ “Transfiguration” (Mark 9:2-13) and the “Feast of the Tabernacles”.  Along His way, prior to today’s event, Jesus even healed a boy “possessed by a demon” (Mark 9:29). 

In today’s reading, we hear Jesus again foretell His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Today’s geographical setting is important to this story, and to the message Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples – – which includes US, two millennia later.  Jesus and His disciples were preparing to journey through Galilee, a Jewish territory in which Jesus had already encountered problems with the Temple leaders, especially the Pharisees.  Perhaps this is why Mark points out Jesus was trying to travel in a secret manner.  Jesus obviously had reason for wanting to remain unnoticed while traveling:

 “Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him” (John 7:1).

Now, here’s MY question, “How does one man, traveling with “Twelve” close friends, followed by a horde of men, women, and children, plus animals, achieve being UNNOTICED?!  Jesus was a first-century icon, a star of the divine type, thought of as a prophet by most people of His day.  He WAS noticed, and closely watched by both government officials and Temple religious leaders – – out of fear – – and, at all times!!  Both groups – – Temple and Roman government – – were waiting to pounce on, and to destroy, Jesus – – out of personal, societal, and financial fear!!  So, how did Jesus react to this threat to Him and His disciples?  Surprisingly, with a simple, humble, love – – even for His “enemies”!!

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In predicting His passion, Jesus is acknowledging the danger they ALL will face, and is trying to preparing His disciples for the danger lurking ahead for them as well as Jesus.  So, how exactly did Jesus pass on His knowledge and plan for our salvation and redemption.  As a rabbi (which He was), He “taught” them:

 “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Mark 8:31;

Now, remember from last week’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus’ disciples already realized He was truly the “Son of Man” (cf., Mark 8:27-35).  Today’s reading is the second time they heard Jesus Himself say:

The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” (Mark 9:31) 

It did not make any sense to His disciples when Jesus prophesied His own betrayal and crucifixion because it did not fit their understanding of what the “Messiah” came to do for the Jews.  And, further, they were afraid to ask questions when confused!  I suppose their reaction is similar to someone who receives a bad test result and diagnostic outcome from a doctor, then refusing to ask further questions.  These devout men also didn’t want to know about the situation Jesus was foretelling.  They were in the first state of grief – – denial.  

With their hearing of Jesus stating this ominous warning, a foretelling of His great suffering and death, they closed their ears.  They were hearing Him, but not appreciating or comprehending Him.  They could not grasp and understand Jesus “Words”. 

Bear in mind, these were the men whom Jesus’ hand-picked, the future leaders of our Church!!  In realizing this fact, do not stress yourself when coming across something you cannot understand such things as a particular dogma or teaching in the Catholic Church.  Just do as the Apostles did; let Jesus Christ teach you, through prayer and faith.

What is strange to me about the “Apostles” and their reaction to Jesus’ statement is their hesitation in NOT responding to Him, remaining quiet.  Quietness is something not characteristic in their usual behavior.  In reality, at times, I think they seemed to jump at opportunities without thinking.  As an example, Peter had no fear about “rebuking” Jesus in last week’s Gospel:  

Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32).

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Mark definitely likes to paint a vivid picture.  Having arrived at Capernaum, in Galilee, Jesus’ “business headquarters”, He and His disciples enter a house (probably Peter’s).  In this private setting, Jesus asked His disciples about the argument they had “among themselves” while they were travelling.  Again, the disciples are uncharacteristically silent, again afraid to answer Him.  Uh-oh, they were found out in regards to their “argument”; they were caught!  (He, he, he, he!!)  Jesus summons the Twelve (yes, teacher), and teaches them (a rebuke of sorts) that those “who would be first” in God’s kingdom “must be servants of all”.

Let’s all realize a basic fact of faith: we ARE just like the disciples!!  We routinely compare ourselves with others, and we desire praise from others – – even if both the comparing and the praise are in our own minds.  Our desire for glory and greatness appears to be genetic in us – – that darn “apple” enters into the picture again!  After all, who hasn’t cherished the ambition to be “somebody” others admire, rather than being a “nobody” standing in the crowd?

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Jesus’ work – – His ministry on earth – – was one of loving service to ALL regardless of race, occupation, or social standing!!  His disciples’ role is of continuing His loving service, especially to the poor, the lowly, and the marginalized – – the “Anawim!”**

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:27).

**(“Anawim” are the outcaste and persecuted in society, who are seeking God for divine justice and help.  The term “Anawim” creates a link between poverty and humility, thus signifying a spiritual movement of sorts (and a strong Franciscan charism).  Anawim is a characteristic trait of humility separating the notion of poor from the economically poor.  For more information, here’s a great link: http://www.coriesu.org/pretheo/Site/Scribes,%20Publicans,%20Anahuim.html)

After teaching about “the first being last and last being first”, Jesus calls to Him a child.  He goes on to teach the “Twelve” that to receive a child in Jesus’ name is to receive both Jesus and the “One” who sent Him [God the Father].  Jesus, being a rabbi, used a common sign in His community, to teach this aspect of loving service – – CHILDREN:

Taking a child He placed it in their midst, putting His arms around it [the child]. (Mark 9:36) 

He makes a dramatic motion, an action, by embracing the child in order to show His disciples who are truly “the greatest” in God’s kingdom.  Hmm, what can a little child possibly teach us about greatness?  Well, first-century Jewish children had no rights, no position, and no privileges of their own, in their own society.  They were socially on the “bottom rung” and at the service of their parents.  They were treated like household domestic servants.  

Jesus used Children as a symbol for the “anawim”, the poor in spirit, and the lowly in the Christian community.  While holding this “lowest of low” in society, Jesus said:

Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)

So, what is the significance of Jesus’ dramatic gesture towards this child?  He elevated a little child in the presence of His disciples, placing the child in a privileged position of honor.  From Jesus’ action, who is the greatest in God’s kingdom in Jesus’ mind?  The greatest is the one whom Jesus loves for their humble innocence – – the child, and the “child-like” of faith.  Jesus want us to surrender our personal, materialistic, and worldly rights – -willingly empty ourselves of pride and self-seeking glory – – taking “the lowly position”, that of a servant or child – – an “Anawim” posture.

We might also easily fail to understand the significance of Jesus’ action in linking service with a child.  Jesus is teaching His disciples – – and us – – that when we serve the “least ones” among us, we are serving Jesus Himself.  In serving the marginalized, we are not only doing as our Lord Jesus Christ did, we are doing TO our Lord!!

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For His disciples, and for ALL of US, Jesus never lets a teachable moment pass.  Jesus tells us what His, and our, path to greatness truly is:

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the servant of all (Mark 9: 35).

Jesus always practiced what He taught, reaching out to children, women, those on the fringes of society.  To illustrate His point, Jesus calls forth – – picks up and hugs – – a child.  In doing so, Jesus teaches all of us that whoever receives a child in His name receives Him, and the “One” who sent Him.

We live in a society and culture wherein most often, “greatness” is measured by the size of one’s bank account and house, by the prestigious and/or glamorous “successful” job, or even by the numbers of games won in professional sports.

What dreams and desires of greatness do WE nourish in others, especially our children?  Do we set up unrealistic, “worldly” goals of success for them?  Or, do we encourage them to be honest, generous, considerate, and loving to ALL?  Do we show them – – by our example – – that whether they become wealthy or not, true greatness lies in their character?  Our “character” is fashioned in the image and likeness of our Creator and Redeemer.  Jesus Christ walked His talk, and His talk was about the character of His Father.  Do we “Walk the Talk, or just simply “Talk the Walk”!!

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Dialogues between close individuals, such as the interchange described in today’s Gospel, are common in family life and with extremely close friends.  Recall a recent dispute about household or work responsibilities, or maybe even a simple example of bickering among family members or friends.  What was at issue in the disagreement?  Imagine Jesus entering the room just as the dispute ended.  What would you tell Jesus about the disagreement, and what might Jesus say in reply?  How was this dispute like the “discussion” among Jesus’ disciples?  And finally, what might you do to remember that those “who are greatin God’s kingdom are those who “willingly serve others”?  Pray that your life will reflect your commitment to serve one another with love.  All of us need the moral and ethical prompt found in today’s Gospel: To be great in God’s Kingdom is to be the servant of ALL!!

Who are the people without power or status in our society today – – the “anawim” – – the “lepers” among us?  Who is Jesus calling us to serve NOW?  And, are YOU WILLING to serve?  There are no fans in God’s kingdom on earth – – only participants!!   God’s judgment of us will be based on the principle revealed by His comment about children and services.

Jesus Himself is our model for action; He came not to be served, but to serve, and so should we do the same NOW:

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:28).

The Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, states that Jesus truly and fully “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant”:

He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

If we want to be filled with God’s life, grace, and power, we need to be willing to let God empty ourselves of everything which stands in the WAY: pride, self-seeking glory, vanity, celebrity-ship, etc.  God fills empty vessels – – earthen vessels.  He can then fill them with His own glory, power, and love; by His command:

be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Remember, it is God who said:

“’Let light shine out of darkness’; this light has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.’” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Let me leave you with this last thought: as a young man, Francis of Assisi sought greatness as the life of the party – – a festive, partier and troubadour – – as well as a noble knight crusader.  However, after his dramatic conversion event, he achieved a “true greatness” by following in the footprints of the humble, compassionate, and mercifully loving Christ.  He chose to follow a Christ who sacrificed ALL out of love for ALL – – even the lowly “lepers” of society!!  St. Francis of Assisi went from being a fan to being a follower.  Have you “spiritually” hugged a modern-day “Leper” of society lately – – an anawim?  On a daily basis, choose to humble yourself; choose to serve ALL as Jesus did for ALL – – including me and you!!  There are no fans in God’s kingdom on earth – – only participants – – His anawim!!

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“On a whim, become an anawim” 

Reflection Prayer:   

“Prayer for Generosity”

 

“Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will. Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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


    

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

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

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

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

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

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Today in Catholic History:

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

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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

 

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

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Gospel Reflection:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, then from Mark:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew says:

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

Now, Mark says:

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

And, Luke says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

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

Consider John’s following statement:

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

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

… and the Word was God.“  (John 1:1)

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

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

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

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Consider the following verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

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

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

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

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

Purgatory:

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

He was beatified in 1975.

Comment:

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

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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

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“If Jesus Saw His Shadow On Leaving the Tomb, Would We Have Had Six More Weeks Of Lent?” – John 20:1-9†


    

 

EASTER SUNDAY 

Today’s Content:

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI for seven years, today, of his being elevated to Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ.  May his role as shepherd and teacher of the faithful bring all of us to a greater understanding of Jesus’ love, trust, promises, and magnificently splendid paradise on earth and in heaven.

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Today in Catholic History:

†   1093 – The new Winchester Cathedral is dedicated by Walkelin.
†   1149 – Pope Eugene III takes refuge in the castle of Ptolemy II of Tusculum.
†   1378 – Bartolomeo Prignano elected as Pope Urban VI
†   1455 – Alfonso de Borgia elected as Pope Callistus III
†   1808 – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore was promoted to an archdiocese, with the founding of the dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown (now Louisville) by Pope Pius VII.
†   1974 – Death of James Charles McGuigan, Catholic archbishop of Toronto (b. 1894)
†   Feasts/Memorials: Saint Walter of Pontoise (d. 1099); Saint Constance; Saint Julie Billiart of Namur (d. 1816).

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

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection is about Mary of Magdala finding that the burial stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb.

 

(NAB John 20:1-9) 1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”  3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.  4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.  6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today we begin the Easter Season, a 50-day period of meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. (Yep, Easter lasts for nearly two more months.)  Today’s Gospel reading relates the discovery of the empty tomb. It ends by telling us that Jesus’ friends, His disciples, did not yet understand, at this point, that Jesus had actually “Rose” from the dead.

The story of the empty tomb can be found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, along with John’s, who’s is presented today.  However, for me, John’s version seems to be a fusion or blending of both Matthew and Luke’s.  (Sorry Mark, you had a Resurrection narrative as well, but John seemed to ignore yours.)

I believe John’s narrative details are not necessarily meant to offer proof of Jesus’ Resurrection happening on a particular “Easter” Sunday morning.  After all, John writes with a poetic, revelational, and “conceptual” thinking and writing style in order to make a specific point – – a Van Gough-ish sort of approach in creating an image for his audience.  John’s unique style of relating detail invites each of us to reflect upon a most amazing grace; a grace founded in a faith in Jesus Christ and in His Resurrection.

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The disciples thought that everything had ended in the tragic events with Jesus’ death.  He was dead, wrapped in a burial shroud, and secured in a tomb.  It seemed the only thing yet to do was to finish the preparation of His body for a final internment as soon as the Sabbath was over.

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while, “still dark” on “that” day after the Sabbath in order to finish preparing the body for Jesus’ final burial.  John’s Gospel has the time as “still dark”.  However, Mark has the sun already raised, Matthew describes the day as just “dawning”, and Luke’s book refers to the time as being “at daybreak”, an early dawn.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1);

Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2);

And,

At daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1).

Each of these words or phrases – – “was dawning”, “sun had risen”, “at daybreak”, and “still dark” – – are simply subjective statement’s about the day beginning, probably around 6 AM or the “first hour”.

All four Gospels tell us that Jesus’ empty tomb was first discovered by “women”.  These women are denoted differently in each of the four Gospels:

Matthew’s Gospel:  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary;
Mark’s Gospel:  Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome;
Luke’s Gospel:  The women who had come from Galilee with Him;
and, John’s Gospel:  Mary of Magdala.

John uses the plural “we” in the second part of Mary Magdalene’s announcement to Simon Peter and the other disciples about Jesus’ disappearance from the tomb:

They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2).

This plural word, “we”, might reflect a Jewish tradition of women going to the tomb as a group.  Solely for safety reasons, I am sure women did not travel without company throughout the countryside of first century Palestine.

This is notable because in first-century Jewish society women could not serve as legal witnesses.  A woman’s role was literally to give birth, (preferably to a male heir), and to take care of all the household activities.  In fact, women were considered less tangible than the livestock of the area.  There were NO equal rights in first century Palestine (then, and still today)!!  So, to mention women in this special way was quite broadminded and freethinking in ideology for the time period.

As just stated, in John’s Gospel, the only woman attending the tomb is “Mary of Magdala”.  Magdala was a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles north of Tiberias.  Mary [Magdalene] arrives at the tomb, and sees the stone removed.  In John’s Gospel, she does not go into the tomb (yet, in others, she does), so she does not know with absolute certainty whether are not the tomb is empty.  My question is: “Where are the Soldiers?”  (I surmise that they ran off with the appearance of the angels and the Risen Jesus Christ.)

Is there a significance of the stone being rolled away from the tomb entrance?  Well, for one thing, – – a significant matter of fact – – the stone closing the tomb was extremely heavy!  It would have taken several strong people to roll away such a stone from its place of function, sealing the tomb entrance. To move the stone would either have to be a group effort, or of divine origin.

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Unlike the Synoptic accounts, John’s Gospel does not describe an appearance of angels at the tomb for the reading at Mass.  (A reference to angels show up in John’s Gospel at John 20:12.)  Instead, Mary naturally assumes that Jesus’ body had been removed, stolen.  Please keep in mind, at this point Mary of Magdala did not consider that Jesus has been “raised from the dead”.  So, seeing the stone moved, she ran away from the tomb and back to the disciples, the people she truly trusted.

Mary Magdalene is the first to report the startling news of the empty tomb!  In John’s version, she is not as directed to go tell others by an “angel” or “a young man”, as is written in all the synoptic accounts.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7);

“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”‘” (Mark 16:5-7);

and

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.” (Luke 24:4,9).

I was once told by a priest friend (Yes, this is not an oxymoron term, Priests can have friends.) of mine about a linkage or comparison between Jesus’ closed tomb and Mary, His mother.  As Mary’s virginal womb was closed, so was the tomb closed.  Yet Jesus entered the world through her closed womb, and He left the world through the closed tomb.  What an awesome revelation, at least for me.

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When informed of His vanishing, Simon Peter, and Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John, this Gospel writer) raced to the tomb in order to verify Mary’s report of His disappearance.  The “beloved disciple” arrives first at the tomb first, but does not enter until after Simon Peter arrives and enters before him.  His hesitation paints a vivid picture, as does the detail provided about the burial cloths.  Did John wait out of fear, not being the first one going into an unknown event? … Or, was John waiting out of respect, knowing that Peter was now the earthly leader, the first Pope?

John testifies to a special feature about the status of the burial cloths, the way they were found in the tomb, causing “the beloved disciple” [John] to “believe”:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8).

I also see something in the details of Jesus’ burial clothes placement in the tomb.  The burial wraps were discarded without concern.  However, the “cloth” placed over Jesus’ head at His burial, I believe to be His Tallit, Jesus’ prayer garment or robe – – a special and revered item for any pious Jew – – was carefully, reverently, and meticulously folded (or rolled) and then placed carefully on the hewn rock ledge Jesus’ body was placed upon.

For the pious Jewish person, the Tallit with attached Tzitzit (the four knotted strings; one at each corner), was (and still is today) considered as sacred and uniquely special to them, as the Holy Eucharist is for us Catholics.  To the dutiful Jewish person, it is the “true” physical presence of God’s soul, divinity, and promises – – and not just a representation or symbol.

I believe the details of the tomb description, in John’s Gospel, leads one to recognize the grave had not been robbed.  Some scholars believe the presence of the burial cloths in the tomb offers essential evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been stolen.  Grave robbers would most certainly take the burial cloths along with the body.  The wrappings would make it easier to carry the body.  The wrappings would keep all the valuables with the body.  And, any tomb raider would not waste their time removing all the wrappings, thus increasing time at the scene and their chance of getting caught.

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The last verse of today’s reading was thought inspiring for me:

For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

Today’s reading concludes with a perplexing message, for me at least.  Even after having seen the empty tomb and the burial cloths, Jesus’ disciples still did not yet understand Jesus’ Resurrection had occurred.  In the passages immediately following this Gospel reading, Mary of Magdala actually meets and interacts with the “Risen” Jesus Christ, yet mistakes Him for a simple gardener.  How could she mistake a person she had grown to love – – in such a very special and intimate way – – for being a stranger?  Was His physical presence changed that much?!  Obviously, Mary of Magdala was not yet prepared to meet the “Risen” Lord who revealed Himself to her while she later lingered in the garden near the tomb (cf., John 20:11-18).

Is it significant that ALL the disciples had to deal first with the empty tomb before they could start to understand Holy Scripture’s foretelling that Jesus would die for OUR sins and then rise on the third day?  Is it significant that they ALL refuse to accept His “Rising from the dead” until after they saw the empty tomb?  I cannot answer these questions; can you?

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John the Evangelist, “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, wrote his Gospel as an eye-witness to the “Word of God” becoming flesh, living among us in human form, then dying and rising, solely for OUR salvation.

John was the only of Jesus’ Apostles who stood with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He was the only Apostle who witnessed Jesus’ death on that day we now distinguish as “Good Friday”.  And finally, John (together with Simon Peter), was the first Apostle to see the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?  It wasn’t a dead body for there wasn’t one.  Instead, it was the absence of a “dead body” that allowed him to believe.  In reality, the presence of Jesus’ dead body would have disproven the Resurrection prophesies. His body being present in the tomb would have made Jesus’ death merely no more than a tragic event; a conclusion to a remarkable career as a great teacher, healer, and miracle worker.  When John saw the empty tomb, did he recall Jesus’ prophecies of His rising again after three days, and then to:

rebuild His Church in three days” (John 2:19).  

Through the grace freely given to us of faith, trust, and love, John realized that NO tomb, NO death, NO anything could contain Jesus Christ, Our Savior and life giver.

In the weeks ahead, the Gospel readings from our liturgy – – our Mass – – will show each of us how the disciples, over a period of time,  came to believe in Jesus’ Resurrection through His various appearances to them, both individually and in groups.  Our Easter faith is based on their witness to both the empty tomb and their continuing relationship with Jesus – – in His appearances and in His gift of the Holy Spirit to all of them (and us), individually, personally, and intimately.

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In summary, today’s Gospel reading relates how the disciples found the tomb empty three days after Jesus’ death.  Also told to us is their “not yet understanding” the Holy Scriptures or Jesus’ being truly “raised” from the dead.  Their understanding of the Scriptures and Jesus’ Resurrection gradually unfolded (grew) for the disciples as they began to experience the “Risen” Lord in His many appearances to them, and to others.

Similarly, our understanding of Jesus’ Resurrection unfolds (grows) for us throughout our lives and experiences.  In the weeks ahead, we will see and go in the understanding of how the first of His disciples moved from confusion, doubt, and skepticism to one of faith, trust, and hope in Jesus Christ.  The first of Jesus’ disciples events and experiences can teach each of us how we also might receive this special and unique gift, – – this special and unique grace, – – of faith, trust, and hope from God.

Reflect on what you know about the events surrounding Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem for the Passover meal, His arrest, His trial, His scourging, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection.  Imagine being among Jesus’ first disciples.  If you had been there, and heard the stone covering had been removed from Jesus’ tomb entrance and that Jesus’ body was no longer there, what would you have thought?  What did Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” think had happened to Jesus’ body?

Remember that this experience was the first indication to His disciples, that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.  So, just as the first disciples learned over a period of time, throughout this Easter season, we also will learn more about “how to” believe that Jesus had been “Raised from the dead”.

The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection is the prime, central, and essential fact of OUR Catholic faith.  The greatest joy we can have is to encounter our living Lord- – Jesus Christ – – in an individual and personal way.  Are you ready to continually grow in that faith?  Remember, from the tiniest seeds of faith can grow a massive tree producing much fruit for all.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Easter Prayer of St. Hippolytus of Rome

 

“Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever.  Amen”

 St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

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 Catholic Apologetics:

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

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

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

Purgatory

“For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:44-45) RSV.

 

The two books of Maccabees are not in the KJV.  It was removed, after 1000 years, by Martin Luther. 

**

“Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26) RSV.

 

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:25-26) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816)

 

Born in Cuvilly, France, into a family of well-to-do farmers, young Marie Rose Julie Billiart showed an early interest in religion and in helping the sick and poor.  Though the first years of her life were relatively peaceful and uncomplicated, Julie had to take up manual work as a young teen when her family lost its money.  However, she spent her spare time teaching catechism to young people and to the farm laborers.

A mysterious illness overtook her when she was about 30.  Witnessing an attempt to wound or even kill her father, Julie was paralyzed and became a complete invalid.  For the next two decades she continued to teach catechism lessons from her bed, offered spiritual advice and attracted visitors who had heard of her holiness.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, revolutionary forces became aware of her allegiance to fugitive priests.  With the help of friends she was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart; she spent several years hiding in Compiegne, being moved from house to house despite her growing physical pain.  She even lost the power of speech for a time.

But this period also proved to be a fruitful spiritual time for Julie.  It was at this time she had a vision in which she saw Calvary surrounded by women in religious habits and heard a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.”  As time passed and Julie continued her mobile life, she made the acquaintance of an aristocratic woman, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who shared Julie’s interest in teaching the faith.  In 1803 the two women began the Institute of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists.  The following year the first Sisters of Notre Dame made their vows.  That was the same year that Julie recovered from the illness: She was able to walk for the first time in 22 years.

Though Julie had always been attentive to the special needs of the poor and that always remained her priority, she also became aware that other classes in society needed Christian instruction.  From the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame until her death, Julie was on the road, opening a variety of schools in France and Belgium that served the poor and the wealthy, vocational groups, teachers.  Ultimately, Julie and Françoise moved the motherhouse to Namur, Belgium.

Julie died there in 1816. She was canonized in 1969.

Comment:

Julie’s immobility in no way impeded her activities.  In spite of her suffering, she managed to co-found a teaching order that tended to the needs of both the poor and the well-to-do.  Each of us has limitations, but the worst malady any of us can suffer is the spiritual paralysis that keeps us from doing God’s work on earth.

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

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Article #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

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

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

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09.  The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call.  She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.  The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

“Pass the Lamb, and Grace Me with a Little Mint Jesus!” – John 1:35–42†


 

Second Sunday of Ordinary

Today’s Content:

 

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

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Congrats to Cardinal-Elect Timothy Dolan, a St. Louis Native.  I knew him when he was in St. Louis, and believed then he was destined for this position and honor.  Maybe, with God’s grace, he could become the first American-born Pope.

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I received this from a Facebook friend, Ray Sullivan, and simply had to pass it on to you.

We are the Cup:

The “empty cup is our “soul” before baptism; lacking Sanctifying Grace.  “Water” represents God’s “Sanctifying Grace”.

The act of pouring water into cup is the infusion of Sanctifying Grace through the “act of baptizing” the person.

 Commission of a “Venial Sin” causes the waterin our cupto become “dirty”.

 Commission of “Mortal Sin” causes the water to be poured out of our cup.

The “Act” of True Repentance via the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” allows pure water to be poured back into our cup.

In “Purgatory”, our water is poured through a heavenly-divine “filter” and “cleansed” (purified).

Finally, our “purpose” in life is to let Jesus’ water be in our cup.  If there is no water in our cup”, there is NOSALVATION”.

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   570 – Death of Saint Ita, Irish nun (b. 475)
†   708 – Sisinnius begins his reign as Pope (dies 20 days later)
†   1535 – Henry VIII declares himself head of English Church
†   1844 – University of Notre Dame receives its charter from the state of Indiana.
†   1909 – Death of St. Arnold Janssen, S.V.D., missionary (b. 1837).  He is best known for founding the Society of the Divine Word.
†   1918 – Birth of Édouard Gagnon, Canadian Roman Catholic Cardinal (d. 2007)
†   1920 – Birth of John J “Cardinal” O’Connor, Philadelphia, Roman Catholic Archbishop of NY
†   1973 – Pope Paul VI has an audience with Golda Meir at the Vatican
†   2000 – Death of Georges-Henri Lévesque, Canadian Dominican priest and sociologist (b. 1903)
†   Feast/Memorials: St. Abeluzius in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

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

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Quote of the Day:

 

“Remember that God, under the Law, ordained a Lamb to be offered up to Him every Morning and Evening.” ~ Thomas Ken

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Today’s reflection is about John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.  Jesus also receives His first followers (Apostles).

(NAB John 1:35–42) 35 The next day John [the Baptist] was there again [Bethany across the Jordan] with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”  They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).  42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from John’s Gospel immediately follows John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.  Having been baptized by John [the Baptist], Jesus begins to gather His followers.  The first followers actually “sought out” Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

In today’s Gospel we also learn about a “sibling” relationship appearing among Jesus’ first disciples.   Andrew was the brother of Simon, whom Jesus renamed “Cephas” (meaning “Rock” or “Peter”).  In next Sunday’s Gospel, we will learn about another sibling relationship between the brothers “James” and “John”, the sons of Zebedee.  We know from the letters of Paul (and other sources) that it was a common occurrence for an entire household to be “baptized” together.  From the very beginning of the Christian Catholic Church, families helped one another to know and follow Jesus Christ.  WOW, I hope and pray that this virtue of helping others to find Christ in their lives continues to be true in your personal life, personal mission, and personal avocation.

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We are familiar with the “title” John the Baptist used for Jesus Christ – – the “Lamb of God” (verse 36).  We hear it weekly at the “breaking of the bread” at Mass, just after the “sign of peace”.  The title, “Lamb of God”, recalls key themes from Old Testament Scripture.  It alludes to the “paschal lamb” offered as a sacrifice when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the event commemorated at, and by, the Jewish Passover celebration.  The designation, “Lamb of God”, also recalls the prophet Isaiah’s description of the “suffering servant” of Israel (cf., Iasaih 52:13 – 53:12):

“… It was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.  We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted …” (Isaiah 53:4).

Let’s put this into perspective.  The blood of the “Passover Lamb” rescued the Israelites – – in Egypt – – from death (cf., Exodus 12).  Today, the blood of Jesus, the “true Passover Lamb” rescues US from everlasting death and destruction:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” (John 1:29). 

In using this “title” for Jesus, John the Baptist predicted Jesus’ “Passion” and death on the Cross.  John the Baptist also foretold a new interpretation and understanding of “Passover”, beginning with Jesus’ “Last Supper”.

John the Baptist was eager to point beyond himself – – to Jesus Christ.  He did not hesitate to direct his disciples to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, the true “Messiah”.  When two of John’s disciples began to seek Jesus out, Jesus took the initiative to invite them into His personal company and fellowship.  Jesus did not wait for “Andrew” and “the other disciple” to come to HIM; Jesus actually met them halfway. 

It is significant that John the Baptist was the son of a priest, “Zachariah”, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (cf., Exodus 29).  In Jesus Christ, John the Baptist saw the “true” and “only” sacrifice delivering us from the death of sin. 

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Who were The two disciples” referred to in verse 37 of today’s reading:

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” (John1:37) 

We know the one disciple was “Andrew” (John 1:40).  Traditionally, the other disciple was “John”, son of Zebedee.  “John” (the other disciple) is also the disciple believed to be the one whom “Jesus loved” throughout John’s Gospel:

One of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.” (John 13:23).

This same person, “John”, is mentioned through the Gospel of John as “the other disciple” or “another disciple”:

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.” (John 18:15);

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’” (John 19:26);

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’” (John 20:2);

And,

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.” (John 21:7).

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Jesus asked Andrew and John the fundamental question concerning themselves and everlasting life: “What are you looking for?”  What were they looking for – – in Jesus Christ, and, what were they aiming to get out of their (and His) personal life?  Do you realize Jesus asks each of us the very same question: “What are you looking for?”  So, what are you aiming for in your personal life; and what are you trying to get out of life?

Besides the statement, “What are you looking for?”, why did John stress “the time” in today’s reading:

Four in the afternoon” (John 1:39).

Well, “four in the afternoon” is literally the “tenth hour” of the “day”, when daytime starts at 6 am.  Sunset was considered the start of a new day – – the common way of determining when a day started and ended during Jesus’ time period.  So, with this in mind, the next day – – Saturday beginning at sunset (at 6 pm) – – was the Jewish “Sabbath day”, making travel impossible for the devout and pious Jew.  Thus, Andrew and John would have stayed with Jesus in order to avoid breaking Jewish law by travelling on “the Sabbath”.

Jesus invites each of us to “come and see” (verse 39) for ourselves that His word is true and everlasting.  “Come and see” is God’s personal invitation to each of us, for coming together and being in communion with the “One” who created us – – in love – – for love itself!!  It is God the Father who initiates contact with us, regardless of our disposition to His invite.  It is God the Father who wishes to draw us to Himself.  Without His grace, mercy, love, and help, we cannot find Him!

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When we discover something very important and valuable, it is natural to want to share it with those closest to us.  Andrew immediately went to his brother, “Simon”, telling him the “good news” of his discovery, Jesus, the true “Messiah”.  It didn’t take much to get Simon to “come and see” who Jesus was.  Jesus reached out to Simon in the same way he did to Andrew earlier.  He not only addressed Simon by his personal name, but also gave Simon a “new” name which signified the “call” and “covenant” God the Father had for Simon himself. 

Andrew, in today’s reading, tells his brother, “Simon Peter”, that he had found the “Messiah” (John 1:41).  What was he actually saying by this “word”?  “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for the “anointed one” promised in Holy Scripture:

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:11),

Among some first-century Palestinian Jewish and Christian factions, the title “Messiah” was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel:

When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (see Acts 1:6).

In John’s Gospel, the word “Messiah” appears only here and in John 4:25:

The woman said to him, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” (John 4:25).

Elsewhere, John uses the Greek translation “Christos” (Christ) instead.

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“John” is Hebrew for “God is Gracious”.  However, Jesus changes “Simon’s” name to the Aramaic, “Cephas” (Peter), which translates to “the Rock”:

So I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

Interesting for me is that neither the Greek equivalent “Petros” (Peter), nor “Cephas”, is used as a personal name prior to Jesus Christ’s time.

Cephas” or “Peter” literally means “rock”.  To call someone a “rock” was one of the greatest compliments in Jesus’ earthly time period.  An ancient rabbinic saying declares that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  Through Abraham, God the Father established a “chosen nation” for Himself.  Through faith, love, and hope “Cephas” understood who Jesus truly was – – the “Anointed One” (Messiah and Christ) AND the Only-Begotten “Son of God the Father”. 

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How did John know the true identity of Jesus as the “Messiah”?  The Holy Spirit revealed to John Jesus’ “true nature” as being the literal “Son of God”.  How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the “Christ”, the “Son of the God”?  The Holy Spirit makes Him known to us through the same gift of faith, hope, and love which He gave to John, Andrew, and the other “Apostles”.  God the Father gives His Holy Spirit freely to us, so that we may know and understand the “great mystery” and plan of God the Father in uniting ALL His creations in, with, and through His Only-Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament describes the Catholic (Universal) Church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as “living stones”:

Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into “living” rocks or spiritual stones.  The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith, love, and hope to know, understand, and realize Jesus uniquely, personally, and intimately.  The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live the “Good News” of Jesus Christ – – the Gospel – – faithfully.  The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the Jesus’ “Good News”. The Lord Jesus Christ is ever and always ready to draw us near to Himself.  Do you seek to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus OUR Lord?  I know “I DO”!!!  I believe YOU do as well!!

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In conclusion, we learn in today’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered.  The first two, “Andrew” and “another man” (Simon Peter), were initially followers of John the Baptist; but after hearing John’s [the Baptist] testimony, they became disciples of Jesus Christ.  

If you heard Jesus cal your name today, would you respond, “Here I am“?  Would you say, “I’m listening“?  Would you be able to answer clearly and readily if Jesus asked you: “What are you looking for?”  Would you try to pretend you didn’t hear Him?, or respond: “I’ll get back to you later!”?

The two disciples (Andrew and John) in today’s reading did not respond directly to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?”:

 “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’  They said to him, ‘”Rabbi”, where are you staying?’”  (John 1:38).

However, they did accept Jesus’ personal invitation to “Come and you will see“:

He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.” (John 1:39).

They were so attracted by what they saw and heard, Andrew hastened to his blood-brother, “Simon”, declaring he had found the true “Messiah”.  He took Simon directly to Jesus, who recognizing Simon as a leader, changed his name to “Cephas” (Peter).  This was a life-changing event for these disciples who listened, who responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”, and who found what their hearts, minds, and souls were looking for.

During their time with Jesus, “Andrew” and “the other follower” realized and truly believed that Jesus was the prophesied “Messiah”.  Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  This makes three disciple followers: Andrew, John, and Simon).  Immediately upon meeting Simon face-to-face, Jesus gave him a new name, “Cephas”.  This renaming of “Simon” to “Cephas” (Rock, or Peter) is reported in all four Gospels (A true rarity indeed!).

In the dialogue between the first two “Apostles” (“Andrew” and “the other disciple” [John]) AND Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, we see an example of the usual “pattern” for first-century Jewish Rabbinical schools.  In this pattern, Jews sought out Rabbis they “connected with”, and established themselves as disciples of this particular Rabbi.  Jesus appears to have been truly “unique, noticeable, and distinctive, for He “sought out” individuals as well, inviting them to be His followers – – again, another “opposite” to the established “tradition”.  In the passage following today’s reading, John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus took the initiative in calling Philip and Nathanael (Apostles to be: five and six).

In verse 3 of today’s Gospel Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?”  I have already written that this is a “fundamental” question.  I now also see it is also a significant and revealing question: one which we might often ask of ourselves.  John the Baptist testified to Jesus’ identity, the “Lamb of God”, using the framework of the Old Testament to do so.  Andrew, Simon, and the other four disciples were looking for the true “Messiah”, whom they also came to know as the “Son of God the Father”.  What do you look for and what do you find in Jesus Christ, the true “Son of God”, OURMessiah”?

Look around your house and gather some items reminding you of your faith.  Perhaps you have a cross or crucifix displayed in your home, a statue of Mary, other statues, or other art depicting saints.  In today’s Gospel we learn about how Andrew led his brother, Simon, to Jesus.  In a true Catholic family life, we also help to lead one another to find and keep Jesus Christ in our hearts, minds, and souls continuously.  Look at the items you have just gathered.  What do these items mean to you?  How might you use them in your personal prayer life?  Pray that you will continue to help all you meet to grow in hope, love, and faith, in and for Jesus Himself!

Since we are human, therefore imperfect and sinful, it may take us some time to get the right message into our “closed” minds.  However, as Paul reminds each of us:

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Both our body and soul are magnificent gifts from God the Father.  Saint Francis is accredited with the following:

Consider, O man, how great the excellence in which the Lord has placed you because He has created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son according to the body and to His own likeness according to the spirit.” (Saint Francis of Assisi, “The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi” [1906], Admonition #5)

As we reflect on today’s readings, we ought to use our “ears” for listening to God’s voice present in our hearts.  We should hear His “voice” in the cries of the poor and marginalized.  We should use our eyes for seeing Jesus in the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, the violated, and the oppressed.  May the Holy Spirit – – present within us – – inspire us to cry out loudly, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will, and to serve you always!!”  May our hearts continue to grow to learn, to understand, and to know the following:

We have already found – – what we seek!!

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.
Grant us Peace.

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 Catholic Apologetics:

 

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

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

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

The Trinity:

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

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

*

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

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

*

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians. 13:14). RSV

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.” (2 Corinthians. 13:14) KJV

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Paul the Hermit (c. 233-345)

It is unclear what we really know of Paul’s life, how much is fable, how much fact.

Paul was reportedly born in Egypt, where he was orphaned by age 15.  He was also a learned and devout young man.  During the persecution of Decius in Egypt in the year 250, Paul was forced to hide in the home of a friend.  Fearing a brother-in-law would betray him, he fled in a cave in the desert.  His plan was to return once the persecution ended, but the sweetness of solitude and heavenly contemplation convinced him to stay.

He went on to live in that cave for the next 90 years.  A nearby spring gave him drink, a palm tree furnished him clothing and nourishment.  After 21 years of solitude a bird began bringing him half of a loaf of bread each day.  Without knowing what was happening in the world, Paul prayed that the world would become a better place.

St. Anthony of Egypt [January 17] attests to his holy life and death.  Tempted by the thought that no one had served God in the wilderness longer than he, Anthony was led by God to find Paul and acknowledge him as a man more perfect than himself.  The raven that day brought a whole loaf of bread instead of the usual half.  As Paul predicted, Anthony would return to bury his new friend.

Thought to have been about 112 when he died, Paul is known as the “First Hermit.”  His feast day is celebrated in the East; he is also commemorated in the Coptic and Armenian rites of the Mass.

Comment: The will and direction of God are seen in the circumstances of our lives.  Led by the grace of God, we are free to respond with choices that bring us closer to and make us more dependent upon the God who created us.  Those choices might at times seem to lead us away from our neighbor.  But ultimately they lead us back both in prayer and in fellowship to one another.

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:

 

Preaching

 

What topics did Saint Francis tell his “friars” to preach about?

(Poverty, Obedience, the Gospel, Love, etc.)

Are these topics foundational for the “universal call to holiness”?

Is our generation in need of such “Words”?  WHY?

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 Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule Article #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

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

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